Hail to the Thief



Thank Christ the guitars and drums are back. I like Radiohead's Kid A drear just fine, but I also want them to just lay into it once in a while. Now, years and years since they last did so properly on an album, they do it here. They're still dancing with slow pianos, electronic beats and archaically futuristic effects, but instead of devoting entire albums to them, they've reconciled them with the angrily urgent textures of, say, The Bends. And, yes, both you and I know: Radiohead could release anything and it'd still be hailed as "brilliant" and "innovative," but yes, even so: Hail to the Thief is both of those things, and it's also sociopathically lovely, and hauntingly lurching--just as you probably knew it would be--just as it should be. ERIK HENRIKSEN


Six Soviet Misfits

(Temporary Residence)


With glowing blurbs from Four Tet and Manitoba emblazoned on the retail sticker to this double-disc collection of Icarus' rare vinyl releases, Six Soviet Misfits has much to live up to before you even slice through the shrink rap. While the abovementioned producers' enthusiasm is a bit over the top, Sam Britton and Ollie Brown's scrappy, lo-fi production techniques and defiantly mutating structures do recall fellow Brit iconoclasts Squarepusher and Third Eye Foundation, as well as Can ca. Icarus' microscopic sound design, full of pointillist tones, insectoid textures, and incredibly intricate percussion, is a subliminal mindfuck best heard on audiophile gear and headphones (the duo's ideal audience seems to be other margin-dwelling musicians). With music this abstract and precise, the artists' obsessive/compulsiveness isn't a disorder, but rather a creatively fruitful state. DAVE SEGAL


Soul Journey

(Acony/Soul Journey)


What is she to do with all of this useless beauty? Soul Journey is either the fourth full-length album from Nashville enchantress Gillian Welch, or the four hundredth--seriously, homegirl, it's getting hard to tell. Last time Welch sat down on the porch swing with y'all to reminisce about the moon and the stars and the jerk from the bar, it was with 2001's stunning Time (The Revelator), and it sounded, well, a lot like this. Heavy on the bluegrass twang and Carter Family yearning, Soul Journey shouldn't surprise anyone in Welch's know. (Especially when this sweetest nightingale is singing a tune called "I Had A Real Good Mother And Father.") Shoot, I'm not one to complain, neither. I'll gladly ride shotgun with Gilly as long as her car wheels roll down this gravel road. Even if we are just driving in circles. TREVOR KELLEY

**** Beastmaster

*** Snackmaster

** Thighmaster

* Stairmaster