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Mini Mansions: Mini Mansions

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Artist: Mini Mansions Title: Mini Mansions Release date: November 2 Label: Ipecac

One of the biggest musical curveballs of the year has to be the debut record by the Southern California trio Mini Mansions. I say it's a curveball because I wouldn't have guessed such a Beatles-esque display of psych rock to come from a member of Queens of the Stone Age.

Bassist Michael Shuman's side project has put out a real solid record, full of John Lennon-esque double-tracked vocals, some Kinks-ian whimsy, some Brian Wilson-inspired lushness and harmonies, and even a harpischord. And lest you forget this is a QOTSA-affiliated act we're talking about, every now and then, the band puts done the hammer and rocks hard, with Zach Dawes laying down some awesome fuzz-bass runs.

Though this 40-minute record sometimes sags under its own weight, I can't think of too many recent debut records that are as strong as Mini Mansions. That this is a side project of a guy whose full-time job is in a big-time rock is all the more remarkable. And given the sheer number of indie bands that attempting to tap into the Lennon/Wilson/psychedelia thing right now, it's pretty clear to me that Mini Mansions is doing it better than most. And they know how and when to rock, too.

The Mini Mansions - Thriller Escapade by Vlady Turner

Best song: "Majik Marker," which I think may be about cocaine and Evel Knievel, and "Crime of the Season," which I think may also be about cocaine. Rotation: Medium-high Deja Vu: The rare side project that may be better than the primary project. I'd rather be listening to: The intro to the Dickies' "Walk Like an Egg" Grade: B+

Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment hereThe "Nothing Not New" Archives:

December 8 -- Sun City Mariachi: Funeral Mariachi (B+) December 7 -- Daft Punk: Tron Legacy (C) December 6 -- The Parting Gifts: Strychnine Dandelions (B)

December 3 -- Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (D+) December 2 -- Sharon Van Etten: Epic (B) December 1 -- OFF!: First Four EPs (A-) November 30 -- Robyn: Body Talk (B+) November 29 -- Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Northern Aggression (A-)

November 16 -- Stereolab: Not Music (B-)
November 15 -- The Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange (C+)

November 12 -- Podcast #10

November 4 -- Salem: King Night (B+)
November 3 -- Matt & Kim: Sidewalks (C-)

October 27 -- The 88: The 88 (B)

October 26 -- Warpaint: The Fool (B+)

September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)

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