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by Luke Baumgarten and Darcy Caputo & r & The Thermals & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & The Body, The Blood, The Machine & lt;/a & 4 STARS & r & The Body, The Blood, The Machine find the Thermals pulled in two directions simultaneously. By turns poppier and more downbeat than the simple, feedback-laden post-punk of previous efforts, it's a turn toward a more accessible, more melodic and, in some ways, less unique sound. Lyrically, though, they're perhaps at their most unabashed and divisive.

True, F---in A had that one song that asked people to "pray for assassination," but what was one thread among many there has become a pervasive, multi-dimensional tapestry here -- a cloth weaving hatred of conservative politics with a distrust of religious fundamentalism. "A Pillar of Salt" showcases both the turn toward pop and the turn away from ideological equivocation. A very melodic song about government/religion (is there a difference anymore?) meddling in our bedrooms, it finds singer Hutch Harris playing the modern-day Huguenot, fleeing persecution. "That's why we're escaping, so we won't have to die / we won't have to deny / our dirty God / our dirty Bodies," he wails. It's riveting. -- Luke Baumgarten & r & Check Out: Pillar of Salt

M. Ward & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Post-War & lt;/a & 4.5 STARS & r & This last year of touring has paid off for Portland based singer/songwriter Matt Ward. For those who fell in love with Ward via 2003's Transfiguration of Vincent, this is the follow-up you've been waiting for. While last year's Transistor Radio was more of a record-it-for-the-sake-of-recording-it album, Post-War is Ward in true form.

His signature style abounds. His songwriting sensibilities range from a Southern gospel influence to deeply rooted traditional folk to the likes of non-traditional guitar virtuoso John Fahey. His voice recalls the spirit of Louis Armstrong.

With numerous standout tracks, this is one record that you will have on repeat. Songs like "Poison Cup," "Magic Trick" and the title track are entirely infectious -- as is Ward's affectionate take on Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home," with the piano a-poppin' and the drums a-stompin' and the familiar siren, Neko Case, bleeding through on the chorus: "I'll be true to you forever or until I go home." With records like this, it appears that fall is on its way. -- Darcy Caputo & r & Check Out: Chinese Translation
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