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Disc of the week

Board Up This House (Relapse/Koch)
With metal morphing and finding new directions at an incredibly rapid rate, Genghis Tron can definitely boast of being one of the genre’s most important new faces. Mixing their trademark electronic elements with bone-breaking ballast, the Tron are just devastating on this new one. The 11 songs here will shake you to the core and, like all great records, won’t guarantee satisfaction in a single sitting. Once this scorcher puts down roots, though, it makes its mark with teeth-grinding aggression never sacrificed for innovation’s sake. 9/10 (Johnson Cummins)

The B-52s
Funplex (Astralwerks/EMI)
A decade and a half after their last album, Good Stuff, the astro-nuts from Athens, Georgia seem frighteningly well preserved. Innovative oddballs the B-52s, whose “Rock Lobster” remains a definitive new wave nugget, have dialled down their shag-carpet kitsch and lava-lamp drollery for a rather rockier routine on
Funplex. That said, they certainly haven’t jettisoned the gaudy, goofy, sex-positive sci-fi fun that’s been their stock in trade since ’76, any more than Fred Schneider’s adenoidal alternations with the jackhammer harmonies of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. 8/10 (Rupert Bottenberg)

Panic at the Disco
Pretty. Odd. (Fueled by Ramen/Warner)
Perhaps tired of being the lightning rod for any criticism associated with the whiny, disingenuous and misogynist emo generation, the Las Vegas quartet have transformed themselves into a neo-psychedelia pop machine à la latter-day Zombies or Cowsills. Writing sugary sweet music suits them, although too often they resort to gaudy coats of strings, harmonies, horns, chirping birds and neo-hippie sunshine so it’s hard to tell if they believe in their stylistic change or merely dug the new clothes. “Nine in the Afternoon” and “That Green Gentleman” are whimsical, but the concept loses its appeal over a lengthy 15 tracks. 5.5/10 (Erik Leijon)

She & Him
Volume One (Merge)
Sung and mostly written by actress Zooey Deschanel, produced and mostly played by M. Ward, She & Him was born of a shared nostalgia for the ’70s radio of their childhoods in L.A. It’s a setting where the crooners and roots musicians of the previous generation shared the dial with ’60s pop stars, Laurel Canyon rockers and folky gals with waist-length, ironed hair. And so we have Motown, pastoral love songs, hippie sing-alongs, Beatles covers and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” augmented by lightly oiled, luminescent arrangements. It’s a bit of a lullaby, but pleasant dreams are assured. 7/10 (Lorraine Carpenter)

The Ruby Suns
Sea Lion (Sub Pop)
Mid-Pacific psychedelia washes over the sophomore record by this Shins-approved New Zealand band, led by a California native, abetted by a legion of players, a wealth of instruments and a turbulent waterbed of reverb. If the Beach Boys had lobotomies, if Phil Spector’s wall of sound was a salty, crusty sea wall, if Hawaiian hula dancers were dosed with Valium and LSD, and if the whole scene was overrun with keen, Kiwi music students, this is the steamy, meaty broth of sound that might emerge. It’s not genius, but it’s a compelling, cohesive record. Too bad about the ill-fitting, hidden closer, a reminder of synthpop’s shark-jump. 1986, so much to answer for. 7.5/10 (Lorraine Carpenter)

Girls Sing (Geometriya)
Over a quarter-century that saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of a worrying new Russia under Putin, Muscovites Auktyon have built themselves up as a cult band at home and abroad with an approach that’s thuggish and theatrical, populist and peculiar. Following the juggernaut thunderfunk of opener “Profukal,” the band’s first album in a dozen years slips into unsettling dirges, freakish folk-rockers and bemusing art jams—like much East Bloc prog rock, there are echoes here of Quebec’s own odder entries of the ’70s. Thickening the plot are assists from jam-band icon John Medeski, gritty guitarist Marc Ribot and brass master Frank London. 7/10 (Rupert Bottenberg)

Obzen (Nuclear Blast)
When these Swedish math metallists dropped the massive and hugely influential Chaosphere in ’98, they single-handedly set a new watermark for tech metal. Over a decade later, Meshuggah once again prove to the rulers of polyrhythm and mind-boggling, stop-on-a-dime time changes. Obzen shows them at their technical zenith, able to smooth out tight transitions with ease. Guitarists Fredrik Thordenal and Marten Hagstrom’s angular arpeggios and massive chug are amazing, but it’s the return of the most devastating metal drummer in the world, Tomas Haake, that really cheapens their plastic imitators. 8.5/10 (Johnson Cummins)

Crystal Castles
self-titled (Last Gang)
A choleric and whimsical journey down the digital rabbit hole of console soundchip reclamation and bipolar bedroom disco, Crystal Castles’ debut LP is the point at which I stop hating this band. The tantrum howls of Alice Glass still irk, and the bit-crushed anachronisms fall flat for a Koji Kondo nut like myself, but the conceptual completeness and surprising intimacy of the album make for an engaging listen that drags the listener nearer to whatever existentialist crisis gives these kids their angst. Overly self-indulgent, ham-fistedly retro, repackaged 120bpm synth disco, Internet-hyped to the nines—not exactly a new formula, but a refreshing angle. 7.5/10 (Jack Oatmon) With Health at le Studio tonight, Thurs., March 27, 9 p.m., $17

What’s Happening (Invada)
With a record firmly rooted in big-band breaks, library record samples and turntablism, Australian producer Katalyst has reminded the rest of the world that hip hop is alive and well Down Under. Perhaps the massive tune “How Bout Us” featuring Steve Spacek had something to do with the noise around this record, but the truth is that Katalyst has a decade of experience as a DJ and a producer, and it shows. Seasoned MCs like Diverse and J-Live make appearances, along with vocalists Stephanie McKay and Katie Noonan, while Katalyst spreads his wings a bit on the upbeat James Brown tribute “May Have Been James Brown.” 7.5/10 (Scott C)

Eric Lau
New Territories (Ubiquity)
London-based producer Eric Lau finds himself at the centre of a lot of attention after the arrival of his debut album New Territories, named after the area of Hong Kong his family calls home, and the exploratory nature of the record itself. Rich, tangible grooves and future soul are no problem for this 26-year-old music rookie, whose gorgeous sound betrays his relatively short time at the controls, as heard on quintessential joints like “I Don’t Do It To” and “Confession Lounge.” After quietly lacing artists like Guilty Simpson, Lupe Fiasco, Wildchild and Tanya Morgan with the goodness, it’s great to see him come into his own. 8.5/10 (Scott C)

Lizz Wright
The Orchard (Verve/Universal)
Wright’s stunning 2003 debut, Salt, introduced an extraordinary vocalist who mixed blues, soul, gospel and jazz with careless abandon. With her 2005 sophomore effort, Dreaming Wide Awake, she added folk and pop influences to the mix. Her latest is a continuation of those trends, as always wrapped inside intricately written material—she penned all but three of the songs here. On tracks like “I Idolize You” and “Leave Me Standing Alone,” she lays her soul bare to her would-be lover, her supple voice exposing the vulnerability within. Elsewhere, she strikes a warmer tone on songs like the gently simmering “My Heart,” ensuring the right balance of sunshine and rain for her blooming orchard. 8.5/10 (Gerard Dee)

Kid Creole
Going Places: The August Darnell Years 1974–1983 (Strut)
A Montrealer by birth, Thomas August Darnell Browder stands out as a unique figure in the history of modern dance music. From his start with his brother’s outfit, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band (whose playful “Sunshower,” which opens this comp, was so deftly jacked by M.I.A.), through his efforts amid NYC’s cusp-of-the-’80s “mutant disco” movement (Cristina’s hilarious “Is That All There Is?” is a prime example) to his hit-making unit the Coconuts, Darnell displayed not only a knack for flavouring his jams with playfully anachronistic swing, Latin lightness and zoot-suit cool, but more importantly injecting a wry, smart, understated humour into everything he did. 8/10 (Rupert Bottenberg)

Madeleine Thériault & Wray Downes
Eclipse (independent)
Judy Wexler
Dreams & Shadows (Jazzed)
A pair of fine jazz singers with a Montreal connection. Ms. Thériault lives and teaches here, and Ms. Wexler is Montreal-born. The title piece from the former is the Mingus composition, and the CD also has material by Horace Silver, Randy Weston and Trane, as well as some great standards. A Canadian icon, pianist Wray Downes adds much to the proceedings, as do all the musicians involved. Ms. Wexler does a vocal version of “Delilah” as well as Rollins’ “Pent-Up House” and standards like “If I Only Had a Brain” and Blossom’s “Bye Bye Country Boy.” Pianists Alan Pasqua and Jeff Colella, and reedman Bob Sheppard, add to the CD’s value. Both 9/10 (Len Dobbin)

Mini CD Reviews

Claire Ritter Waltzing the Splendor (Zoning) Ms. Ritter is a pianist and composer of the first rank, and this CD dedicated to a great painter is a moving experience. Try “Four Jazz Serenades for Georgia O’Keefe” for starters. 10 (LD)

Flying Lotus 38 Cartoons (CDR) Sticking to the beat tape format of quick-fix beats up for grab, this 29-track whirlwind of 30-second blips and feces is sure to shape-shift into full tracks in due time. 9 (SC)

Under Byen & the Danish Radio Sinfonietta Siamesisk (Paper Bag) Danish chamber rockers and an esteemed orchestra achieve glacial grandeur and pacing, with flashes of breakaway ice-cap drama. 8 (LC)

Hate Eternal Fury & Flames (Metal Blade) If you think death metal has lived up to its moniker, Hate Eternal proves it can reinvent itself. 7.5 (JC)

The Victorian Gentlemen’s Club self-titled (Fantastic Plastic/Fusion III) The Buzzcocks, the Breeders and the White Stripes may be their holy trinity, but luckily these Welsh kids aren’t strict fundamentalists. 7 (LC)

Proof of Ghosts self-titled (Weewerk) Neil Young’s shadow looms over these Toronto folk-rockers, whose songs have a universal quality that could make them big, but not necessarily great. 6 (LC)

The Matches A Band in Hope (Epitaph/FAB) An elaborately produced emo-punk opera big on novelty and short on focused compositions. 5 (EL)