Sound Bites

Brief reviews of current releases

Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold (Parlaphone). Ethereal and haunting, Natasha Khan's songwriting echoes the best moments of Roxy Music, Sinéad and Björk without spiraling into Switchblade Symphony melancholy. Fur's signature song, "What's a Girl to Do?" drowns in harpsichord and heavy downbeats before grooving into a pop number worthy of a Hammer horror film. Rob Williams

Brothers of a Feather, Live at the Roxy (Eagle Records). The brothers Robinson recently ditched their band for a short acoustic tour while developing material for the next Black Crowes album. The stripped-down performances of classics and covers are moving, but the new songs are less than stunning and suggest the siblings are suffering from a nasty case of complacency. Brandon Daviet

The Bumblebeez, Prince Umberto and the Sister of Ill (Galaxy). This Australian psychobilly-rap-jam band has more members than the Mothership and songs that are just as funky. From the rambling buzz balla "Dr. Love" to stadium rocker "Freak Ya Loneliness" to the sing-song lyrics of "Spaceships," this disc is sure to become a house-party favorite. – Williams

Felix Da Housecat, Virgo Blaktro (Nettwerk). DJ/producer and all around jukebox, Felix Da Housecat has an uncanny ability to snag every retro-futuristic sound of the moment and throw it together for some of the best pillow-talk, porno-walk records imaginable. As an urban skuzz-beats compilation that brings its own party, drugs and lingerie models, Virgo never fails to disappoint. – Terry Sawyer

Hard-Fi, Once Upon a Time in the West (Atlantic). Richard Archer's combo has come up with an intriguing stylistic amalgam, fusing punky sentiments and often-political lyrics with defiantly slick production and arrangements replete with dramatic keyboards and faux strings. This oddball combination proves surprisingly effective on "Suburban Knights" and "Tonight," which sport male harmony vocals that seem to have been contributed by the world's best-behaved soccer hooligans. – Roberts

Various Artists, The Roots of Chica: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru (Barbès Records). The Peruvian subgenre known as chica, which surfaced in the late '60s, is an aural bastard, merging traditional rhythms with electrified rock instrumentation. This engaging sampler introduces listeners to its twisted pleasures, as exemplified by Los Mirlos' trippy/wobbly "Sonido Amazonico" and Los Diablos Rojos' "Sacalo Sacalo," a dance number set to the sound of things falling apart. – Roberts

 
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