Black Francis, Blue Finger (Cooking Vinyl). What's in a name? Attitude. Under the Black Francis moniker, Frank Black returns with a gritty performance reminiscent of his earliest Pixies days. Angular guitars thrash against embattled basses, angry drums, spacey harmonies and creepy organ fills, backed by edge-of-scream vocals that cover Black's typical array of off-kilter subjects. — Glenn BurnSilver
Charlie Hunter Trio, Mistico (Fantasy). Never a member of the conventional jazz scene, eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, with his trio in tow, slithers down rocking corridors, struts through bluesy alleyways and shimmies across funked-up dance floors on Mistico. Nasty, raw and oh so gritty, Hunter's guitar work battles against stereotypes and, as usual, comes up a winner. — BurnSilver
Miles Davis, The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Columbia/Legacy). On the Corner, from 1972, separates listeners who hated Davis's electric excursions from those willing to follow his every weird tangent. The former will hate this six-CD set, and even some of the latter may be overwhelmed by its mad fusion of jazz, rock and funk. And the rest of us? We'll love every crazily indulgent second of it. — Roberts
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Earlimart, Mentor Tormentor (Major Domo Records). The Earlimart tandem of Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray puts sweet melodies to often sorrowful purposes. "Answers & Questions," which finds Espinoza "shaking hands with the one imperfect side of you," or the Murray-warbled "Happy Alone" are gorgeously melancholic — beautiful bummers that trap despair and passion beneath serene surfaces. — Roberts
Joe Satriani, Surfing With the Alien (Sony Legacy). The world will never know what stodgy geniuses like Beethoven and Amadeus would have thought about rock music, but they probably would've dug Joe Satriani. Reissued with a live DVD, the classic Surfing finds Satch coaxing various symphonic compositions out of his guitar while exploring the instrument's versatility. — Brandon Daviet
Tomahawk, Anonymous (Ipecac). Now a trio, Mike Patton and company turn their explorative sights on re-creating the darker recesses of traditional Native American music. The songs, though sonically engaging, were recorded piecemeal while the players were miles apart, and they lack the sweaty cohesiveness that a proper tribal experience should induce. — Daviet