SUNSET RUBDOWN & r & Random Spirit Lover & r & 4-1/2 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & o call Random Spirit Lover a concept album would be misleading. However, there has not been a pop album made with more references to things mythical and magical since the heydays of Led Zeppelin or Blue Oyster Cult. Singer-keyboardist Spencer Krug sets a new standard for his own creativity, expanding into territory far less confining than his work in Frog Eyes, Swan Lake or Wolf Parade. And the results transcend the grandeur of last year's immaculate Shut Up I Am Dreaming.
Opener "The Mending of the Gown" progresses as one expects: Krug's screeching wails punctuating the colliding keys and guitars. The next track, "Magic vs. Midas," indicates the transformation at hand. Without any breaks among the 14 tracks, the album indulges in soundscapes seldom explored. A kind of symphonic beauty coalesces around lyrics about goblins and unicorns and transformation and renewal. A near-perfect triumph.
-- CAREY MURPHY
DOWNLOAD: "Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days"
THE BLACK LIPS
Good Bad Not Evil
Not appreciating this Atlanta-based quartet is like saying you don't enjoy Christmas. Or cheese. Or gin. Not liking the Black Lips, in other words, borders on the blasphemous. The Lips possess everything that makes for great rock bands: youth, enthusiasm, self-destructive streaks, and a knack for writing outrageously catchy tunes.
Far more inhibited than any of their previous efforts, Good Bad Not Evil reveals gorgeous levels of restraint from a band known for nothing of the sort. The over-the-top thrash-and-trash antics of the past have been sublimated, not diluted. "O Katrina" avoids collapsing on itself, but just barely, as yowls and razor guitars collide. "Slime and Oxygen" succeeds for the same reason.
Intentionally controlling the chaos takes far more patience and vision than allowing the foolishness to run rampant. The six-minute "Transcendental Light" stands out for its simplicity and its narcissistic sense of hippy-dippy nostalgia. Bravo, boys.
-- CAREY MURPHY
DOWNLOAD: "Daddy Longlegs"