Air, Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks). After spending a couple of albums trying to broaden their palette, the French duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel have gone back to their original color scheme, and thank goodness. On Pocket Symphony, up-tempo and mid-tempo are one and the same, and beauty is accompanied by a distinctive chill. The result is a breath of fresh Air.
-- Michael Roberts
Elliott Brood, Ambassador (Red Eye Distribution). If Jane's Addiction singer Perry Ferrell had dropped acid and joined a band in San Francisco instead of moving to L.A., there's a good chance that whatever music he went on to create would have sounded something like the output of Canada's Elliott Brood.
-- Brandon Daviet
Damiera, M(us)ic (Equal Vision Records). There are few things more enjoyable than an album that slaps you in the face as soon as it hits the speakers. Formed in frigid Buffalo, New York, Damiera delivers an assault so unrelenting that it almost makes the album's ridiculous title forgivable.
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Saliva, Blood Stained Love Story (Island). "Ladies and Gentlemen," this disc's first cut, is goofy enough to suggest that these nu-metal vets aren't hopelessly stuck in the past -- but two songs later, "Never Gonna Change," an assembly-line power ballad whose name should be taken literally, quashes such hopes with extreme prejudice. Love Story means having to say you're sorry.
Various Artists, Ed Banger Records Volume 1 (Vice Records). Something about the digital-only release of this CD speaks to its quickly faded pleasure.
Brought together by the much-touted French glitch-hop-and-electronic label Ed Banger, the compilation blends into one extended stammer of squelching synths and beats cut in so many stuttering false-start stitches that the only way to dance to it would be to induce seizure.
-- Terry Sawyer
Various Artists, We All Love Ennio Morricone (Sony Classical). It's a valiant endeavor to have a vastly dissimilar cast of musicians pay tribute to maestro Morricone, but sandwiching Metallica between Andrea Bocelli and Yo-Yo Ma is downright disturbing. While this project attempts to showcase the diversity of Morricone's followers, putting them all on a single disc is far too ambitious.
-- Jon Solomon