Bear Hands, Golden EP (Freedom in Exile). With ironic wit, cautious optimism and plenty of nostalgic glances over the shoulder to the early '90s, this Brooklyn quartet hits the ground running with an irresistibly catchy and endearing EP. It's amazing that New York hasn't run out of practice spaces for nurturing little gems like this one.— Eryc Eyl
Bigelf, Hex (Custard Records). This instant classic was recorded almost five years ago and is just seeing daylight, but it sounds much, much older. Satisfyingly heavy, psychedelically disorienting and gorgeously melodic, L.A.'s Bigelf mines the best of '70s hard rock — even the keyboards and vocal harmonies — to produce a record destined for Valhalla. — Eyl
Floratone, Floratone (Blue Note). Floratone sounds like it could be a standard Bill Frisell album, except on this collaboration with Matt Chamberlain, Ron Miles, Viktor Kraus and Eyvind Kang, Frisell noodles less and puts more focus on melody and groove.— Jon Solomon
Charles Gatschet, Step Lightly (Barnstorm). While Kansas City-based jazz guitarist Charles Gatschet steps lightly on the title track, he swings hard — with help from the all-star Denver-based rhythm section of Eric Gunnison, Ken Walker and Paul Romaine — on everything else, including the original bossa nova number "Caracas" and Duke Ellington's "Azalea." — Solomon
Billie Holiday, Rare Live Recordings 1934-1959 (ESP-Disk). Even some Holiday obsessives probably haven't heard all the takes on this five-CD set — and not all of them will want to. Material from obscure radio and TV appearances sits side by side with rehearsal tapes made shortly before her death, complete with incidental conversations during which she sounds totally wrecked. Think of the latter as Holiday for voyeurs. — Roberts
Holy Fuck, LP (Young Turks Records). This FCC-flouting Toronto collective pours equal parts absinthe, LSD and Red Bull into its largely improvised lo-fi electro post-rock instrumentals, emerging from the lab with the test tube baby of !!!, LCD Soundsystem and Battles. You'll want to do the bump to Holy Fuck's orgiastic, fantastic musical mayhem. — Eyl
I-Wayne, Book of Life (VP Records). I-Wayne is an anomaly — a young reggae artist who draws from the genre's conscious/roots era rather than trying to make bread as a hip-hop toaster. This approach brings with it the danger of retro-snooziness, but the first-rate production keeps numbers such as the title track and "Need Her In I Arms" sounding thoroughly contemporary. Welcome to I-Wayne's world. — Roberts
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