With a few notable exceptions, local bands have never had much luck with the major-label machine. But with the release of You're Awful, I Love You, count Ludo among those who dodged the cut-out-bin bullet. The hard-working quintet recorded Awful with Matt Wallace at Sound City Studios (Weezer, Nirvana); the result is a solid, cohesive disc of catchy tunes that span the rainbow-spectrum of pop – from ska ("Lake Pontchartain") and rock ("Please") to power ("Such As It Ends") and quirk ("Love Me Dead"). (AZ)

Peat Sounds, the fabulous punk-rock album by the Pubes, is a frenzied, high-energy blast of raucous infectiousness. Most songs hover around 90 seconds long, although the band doesn't hum along at one speed the entire time. Distinctive style shifts in songs such as the bouncy "Tree Named Fukyew" and the evil old-school metal trudge "The Skull Island Pop" — coupled with an abundance of catchy hooks and plenty of sharp-witted sarcasm — make this album stand out. (SM)

Much like the Van Halen album to which it (sorta) pays homage (that'd be 1984), Riddle of Steel's 1985 features the strongest songwriting of its career. Jimmy Vavak's hollowed-out basslines writhe around Andrew Elstner's silver-plated riffs and drummer Rob Smith's propeller-fast beats. Standouts include the pogo-friendly rocker "Quiet Now" – which bounces along with the sensation of bare feet pricking needles — the stoner-rock slow-burn "Who's the Fella Owns This Shithole?" and yes, the Van Halen-esque "It's Called a Turbo." (AZ)

Had Gogol Bordello had roots in the wilds of Missouri instead of soaking up Eastern Europe influences, the band might have produced an album like the Monads' Ornery. Buoyed by nimble electric fiddle and barnstormin' banjo – along with thumping upright bass and sterling harmonies – the quartet's old-time saloon-rock and gypsy-twang is a hootin' and hollerin' good time. (AZ)

As hip-hop becomes increasingly faceless and homogeneous, the effervescent, personality-laden Earthworms are a breath of fresh air. Cartoonish and playful (but not reliant on shtick) Bourbon boasts Technicolor beats, breezy soul-jazz and sizzling vinyl scratches. A cameo from the Urge's Steve Ewing helps the horn-funk jam "Get Up" kill — although the title track, with its smooth lyrical flow and sinister beats, steals the show. (AZ)

Best Local Release {self-released}

Fans of the Basement Tapes-esque Americana of Jon Hardy's early work were right to be surprised and stunned by Working In Love. The record isn't the work of a Midwestern alt-country band; it's the sound of blue-eyed soul in love with pop music, from the resonant chime of guitars to the unflagging rhythm section to the horn section that blares hook after undeniable hook. It's a break-up album, for sure, but it's never mopey or self-indulgent. Hardy keeps the lyrics simple and straight from the heart, letting the pure pop-craft of his melodies and arrangements tell the story. (RK)

It's always great to see a band realize its potential and find its identity through the process of making a record. That's just what the Hibernauts seemed to accomplish with last year's tightly wound EP Periodic Fable. The seven songs on Fable pack a punch, their jangly guitars and perfectly textured vocal harmony arrangements sett the disc apart from average indie-pop fair. "Into the Storm/Out to the Sea" is an epic tune that dances along on a perpetual hi-hat bounce, thick harmonies and vintage synthesizer accents — before a sweetly romantic breakdown section that conjures Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips sets up a driving, hopeful ending. (SM)

Dark-wave synths and post-punk guitars meet, shake hands and slow-dance to Bauhaus records on the Bureau's first full-length record. Bassist and singer Mike Cracchiolo writes tight, kinetic songs that suit his rich tenor voice, and We Make Plans in Secret captures the mix of punk and electronic rock & roll. The band's love of '80s pop bubbles up from time to time, from the Human League-esque synth chords of "White Girls" to the syncopated guitar strokes on "Cabin Pressure." Where a lesser band would labor under endless doom and gloom, the Bureau operates off of a still-beating heart, however black it may be. (CS)
Cicero's, 9 p.m.

When was the last time you listened to an album (let alone a hip-hop one) and didn't skip a single track? If you downloaded a copy of Northside Phenomenon (it wasn't released in stores), that was probably it. Knuckles establishes a blistering pace on the album's title track opener and never looks back. His imposing baritone voice, flawless flow and thought-provoking lyrics, combined with the guitar-heavy production of local legend Kenautis Smith, make for the rare album where you can simply press play and walk away. (KH)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 8 p.m.

Nick Acquisto hosts "The Space Parlour" on KDHX (88.1 FM), a program that specializes in slightly off-center rock & roll from at home and abroad. Last year Acquisto asked some of his favorite St. Louis bands to drop in and record live, in-studio sessions, and the best tracks came to be collected on the first Live in St. Louis disc. By compiling songs from artists specializing in folk (Casey Reid), punk (Ded Bugs) and rock (That's My Daughter), Acquisto's comp serves as a document of St. Louis talent — as well as a tip sheet for many of this city's best bands. (CS)

« Previous Page
Next Page »