No calendar year is complete without at least a handful of insurgent, crit-consensus staples that can't quite win over the populace. M.I.A, Strokes, Liz Phair we're waving sadly back at you from a future where even Maroon 5's label status is uncertain. Among 2007's more deserving memes is Battles, the zany, four-headed demon spawn of former Lynx, Don Caballero, and Helmet members. Mirrored, the band's debut full-length, suggests what Tortoise might produce were that group locked in a dungeon and forced to power through eight-bit Mega Man marathons while subsisting solely on a diet of Jolt and 'shrooms. On Oompa-Loompa math-stomper "Atlas," a melody-bearing Lilliputian mob actually the voice of singer/guitarist Tyondai Braxton, neutered and splintered chants incomprehensibly along with some unholy percussive union of a beatboxed grunt, John Stanier's pounding drums, and the slap-crack of handclaps. "Bad Trails" marries post rock's matte-black surfaces to Animal Collective's tribalist cheer, while "TIJ" seamlessly shifts from hyperventilating whumps to cartoon car-chase soundtrack. Battles' breathlessly whirlybird churn can momentarily turn anyone within range into a living, bug-eyed bobblehead, which explains (and reinforces) all the hype they're attracting.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.