David Allan Coe, Penitentiary Blues (Shout! Factory/Hacktone). Out of print for three decades, Penitentiary Blues is the most compelling blues release in recent memory. Written while this country outlaw was cooling his heels in the clink for the eighth time, Blues more than backs up David Allan Coe's assertion that "the blues isn't a black thing or a white thing. It's a black-and-blue thing. You have to experience it." -- Dave Herrera
Swords Project, Metropolis (Arena Rock). Metropolis? Try Megalopolis. Or why don't you just call it The Entire Fucking Galaxy on One CD? This Portland ensemble puts the awe back in orchestra with a disc that's somehow catchier, weirder, more vast and more grounded than the best of Broken Social Scene. Look for Swords' next album to cause the cosmos to implode. -- Heller
Heston Rifle, What to Do at Time of Accident(Ernest Jenning Record Co.). Combining lopsided punk spirit with mathematical precision, the instrumental post-rockers in New York's Heston Rifle present fifty dark minutes of puzzling, contrapuntal guitar scorch, wandering violin lines and a drummer who sounds like he was born with a few extra limbs. Want cathartic release? Try Heston Rifle's cold, dead fingers. -- La Briola
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The Lovetones, Meditations (Tee Pee). These Aussies, led by singer-songwriter Matthew Tow, color their evocative pop rock in umber tones. Songs like "Mantra" deliver winsome hooks swaddled in vocals as dark and rich as the finest chocolate. One title asks, "Was I There in Your Future?" Based on this retro-but-right disc, the answer should be "Hope so." -- Roberts
Adult. , Gimmie Trouble (Thrill Jockey). "Adult. grows up" might be too pithy a statement, but it fits. Not that the group has toned down its bratty electro attack much. But with the move to Thrill Jockey, it's tapped deeper into the post-punk brainpower of Erase Errata and Cabaret Voltaire. "Disappoint the youth," hiccups Nicola Kuperus -- and she just might mean it. -- Heller
Saxon Shore, The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore (Burnt Toast Vinyl). Sprawling. Expansive. Textured. Ethereal. Atmospheric. Lush. On its latest effort, Saxon Shore works to completely exhaust the entire epigrammatic rock lexicon as it runs through (insert any of the above modifiers here) instrumentals that share DNA with Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Tristeza and the Mercury Program. Less talk. More rock. -- Herrera
Ennio Morricone, Crime and Dissonance (Ipecac). Morricone remains best known for the twisted soundtracks he contributed to Clint Eastwood's spaghetti Westerns, but the music he's made for more obscure European films is enthrallingly weird and eclectic. This two-CD comp, with notes by John Zorn, is an introduction to an artist most Americans only thought they knew. -- Roberts