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The Hold Steady

Boys and Girls in America

4 stars

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s a general rule, making Jack Kerouac references is a clear sign that you're not as smart as you think you are. It's initially terrifying, then, to see the Hold Steady referencing him in the title of their third album. That isn't to say the similarities implicitly there (driving around America debauched, doing shots and pushing off in a continuous lit-drenched fog of bad times with good friends), but to make them explicit 1) gives Kerouac too much credit and 2) disservices the music.

The Beats were at once more insular, more isolated and more self-deceptive than Craig Finn and Company are, who get themselves in a way that Kerouac didn't until he had the DTs, and they do so in a far more accessible format: big, riffy, keyboard-laden bar rock.

Here's a better comparison: Finn understands the mindset of his Minneapolis the way Springsteen got New Jersey, the way Faulkner understood the South. That is to say archetypally and in sometimes myopically, but always beautifully.


DOWNLOAD: "Stuck Between Stations"

The Skygreen Leopards

Disciples of California

4 stars

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & G & lt;/span & lowing, shimmering, dreamy, ethereal, pastoral, pop. These are just some of the adjectives that spring to mind when attempting to describe the first studio outing of psychedelic folk experimenters the Skygreen Leopards since their inception five years ago.

Built upon the success of last year's eight-track recordings -- Love & amp; Life in Sparrow's Meadow and its companion piece, Child God in the Garden of Idols -- Disciples of California takes that unique vision to new planes of consciousness and invites the listener along for the ride, through sweet dreams, dark clouds and twisted gardens.

On tracks such as "I Remember Sally Orchid," "Hollow Tree" and "Places West of Shawnapee," the sheer sense of sentimentalism is enough to bring tears to your eyes. And track 8, "Jesus Was Californian," is sung so decisively that one wonders what exactly these guys are tapped into that flew over your proverbial head.

It's enough to make you want to ditch the city to become a Leopards disciple. Living out of the northern Californian woods never sounded so willowy and appealing.


DOWNLOAD: "I Remember Sally Orchid"
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