Staff Trax: Crystal Castles, Galaxie 500, BrakesBrakesBrakes, Christina Aguilera Covering John Lennon and The Bouncing Souls.
It's not that I've been deliberately resisting Toronto's Crystal Castles' second album, Crystal Castles II. Rather, I haven't cared enough to consciously make an effort to get my hands on it. After last years sold-out, very-last-minute cancellation at the Granada Theater, I hadn't felt the need to really give the electro act the time of day. Eventually, they slipped from my mind entirely--only to return after seeing their name mentioned on Twitter. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor recently tweeted something about how good the act's second album is. And that was nearly enough to propel me into giving Crystal Castles II a proper listen. Until it slipped my mind once more. Thanks to a friend, the album ended up at my house and I finally popped it into my stereo over the weekend--and that's where it has stayed since, pretty much on repeat. The moral of the story: If you haven't already done so, give Crystal Castles II a listen. It's worth it. --Catherine Downes
At times, I "discover" a band only to realize they haven't only been around for a while, but that they're more a thing of the past. It's cool, though. In certain cases, such a missed opportunity turns out to be the key to a veritable gold-mine of tunes that are readily available, and not delivered album by album, years apart from one another. After catching Ben Stiller's latest movie, Greenberg, I found myself enjoying the James Murphy-intensive soundtrack, especially since his movie tunes are all very un-LCD Soundsystem-like. A song that forcefully caught my attention, in the midst of Murphy's score, was "Strange" by the now defunct (they broke up in 1991) slowcore group, Galaxie 500. Hello, treasure trove. Originally presented on the dream-pop group's 1989 LP, On Fire, this spaced-out folk anthem has a ramshackle energy that deftly displays the softer, more acoustic side of shoegaze. The New England trio have a couple of other releases that I'm also currently making my way through now. I might need a pail to carry all this gold in. --Kelly Dearmore
Since there was already a band in the U.S. called The Brakes, these four chaps from Brighton, England, who decided to call themselves The Brakes had to triple the moniker in order to avoid legal hassles. But, by whatever name you want to call them, Eamon Hamilton and crew are a top-notch collection of rogues who can jump from punk to alt-country with amazing ease. I think the band's 2006 effort, The Beatific Visions, is a hell of a party record, and the single "Hold Me in the River" is a frothing two minutes of hilarity. Hamilton used to play keyboards in British Sea Power. But with BrakesBrakesBrakes, he's more in his natural element. --Darryl Smyers
It was a damn shame to see Aguilera filed under the same lame category as Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson. She has so much more to offer. Her curse? She's too beautiful. It distracts from her monumental talent of having a real, soulful R&B voice. If only she was born in a different time period. Me? I put her in the category of soul singers, instead of Top 40 pop tarts. A perfect example? This John Lennon cover, which is exciting to hear because it lets you hear how incredible she sounds as a rock singer. Try it on for size and tell me you don't get chills--especially at the end. --Alan Ayo
If you haven't read my review of this year's Warped Tour date yet, well, let's just say that I had a good time. I saw plenty of good bands--among them Face to Face, the Dillinger Escape Plan, the Bouncing Souls, and Motion City Soundtrack. During their sets, I didn't feel like a 31-year-old guy trying to recapture my college joy of listening to fast pop-punk and emo. Rather, I felt like a person that never stopped liking this kind of music. Hearing "True Believers" by Bouncing Souls was a nice little reminder as they closed their set. --Eric Grubbs