Bass Drum of Death crank out a sound that's as fearsome as their name, which is even more impressive considering singer John Barrett started as a one-man band. Expanded now to a trio, the Oxford, Mississippi, group begins with a garage-rock foundation, but songs such as "For Blood" are pumped with grungy power chords as Barrett sneers over it all with punky aplomb. "Better Days," from BDOD's new album, Rip This, changes things up with acoustic-guitar strumming and woozy violin. The band returns to fuller rock power on "Left for Dead," with Barrett howling through a filter and bolstered by stadium-rock guitars. "We're not coming down," he insists, as the song's video plays a montage of hot rods, knives, guns and beautiful women in casts and bandages. FALLING JAMES
The name isn't blasphemous -- at least not intentionally. In fact, Zola Jesus (sometimes known as Nika Roza Danilova) combined French writer Émile Zola with our Lord and Savior's name to alienate her peers, not to piss off the pious. But it seems now Zola has more friends than she ever could imagine or she sure works well with others, having collaborated with artists ranging from M83 to Fucked Up to Prefuse 73, not to mention the time David Lynch remixed her song "In Your Nature" or the time avant-garde composer J.G. Thirwell helped her remix her hits in the neo-classical style.
What's the attraction? First and most obvious are Zola's vocal stylings, which have grown into her own distinct technique -- owing to Elizabeth Fraser as much as Ian Curtis -- and were honed over 10 years through classical opera training. But perhaps deeper than that is Zola's masterful command of mood, atmosphere, and environment, which are woven into her dark, raw dirges. With her latest album, Taiga, Zola explored pop-star territory, but whatever she does is a welcome relief from normal. TROY FARAH