Matmos' The Civil War
Most electronic artists are content to watch shadows on the wall of their underground lairs. Matmos, though, struts down the sun-drenched road less traveled. This time, MC Schmidt and Drew Daniel sport puffy-sleeved Renaissance shirts and patchwork pants by Charles Ives. Scoring "Stars and Stripes Forever" for emergency alarm system, smoothie and leather coat is my kind of Patriot Act. But it's the sound of the hurdy-gurdy, underrated for half a millennium, that best defines The Civil War. Early Mod, delightfully odd. -- C.B.
Radiohead's Hail to the Thief
Equal parts Kid A and Amnesiac, Radiohead got spacy without spacing out this time 'round with Hail to the Thief. Thom Yorke's paranoia shines through all the bleeps and blips, sounding scared honestly shitless on "A Wolf at the Door" and convincingly diseased on "Myxomatosis." The best moments, though, come during "A Punch Up at a Wedding," an uncharacteristically funky number tempered by Yorke's wry British humor. -- B.J.K.
Kid cyberpunks know their snot
Every other Saturday, middle school PC gamers take over the back room of EJoy Café in Tempe and download the music they need for their 12-hour Counterstrike marathon (which the staff deletes later). Naturally, a lot of Blink-182 songs end up in the recycle bin. On a recent Saturday, though, one of the 13-year-old cyberpunks, wearing a Sex Pistols tee shirt, loaded his MusicMatch Jukebox with something more old-school: classic snot anthems from The Clash's London Calling, mixed with cuts from Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' posthumous 2003 release Streetcore. Fire in the hole! -- J.M.
The liberal Welsh come through in the protest clutch
American wimps, take note: The best anti-Bush song all year came from the Super Furry Animals, the eclectic Welsh pop leftists. How pathetic is that? We should still all be thankful for Super Furry front man Gruff Rhys, who penned the beautifully literate, deceptively jaunty "Liberty Belle," in which America becomes the Jezebel who ruins lives for sport -- and deserves her comeuppance. -- C.O.
Neil Young reissues On the Beach
How in the world did On the Beach stay out of print for almost 30 years? Thankfully included among four reissues of long-lost Neil Young records for Reprise, the 1974 album is a masterpiece of reflection and loneliness, of creepy vocals and weepy guitar licks. "I hear the mountains are doing fine/Morning glory is on the vine," sings Young in a tired voice on the acoustic ballad "Motion Pictures." It's the perfect stewing-in-your-dreams-in-bed-on-a-Sunday-morning kind of sentiment. -- C.O.
A child and her real "Satisfaction"
Walking toward the dairy aisle in Wild Oats Market with my 4-year-old daughter, I was surprised to hear the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" piped in for ecologically conscious shoppers. I was even more surprised to hear Skylar singing along. I knew she'd never heard that recording. Then I realized that she'd learned the words from Cat Power's spooky chorus-free cover from a few years back. The spirit of classic rock, then, seems more likely to live on in Chan Marshall's splintered voice than in Sir Mick's ermine-draped stroll. Coincidentally, Cat Power's melancholy You Are Free is on Skylar's Top 10 list. -- C.B.
Enon's Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus is the perfect college radio station packed onto one disc, a Cadillac Seville flattened to the width of a candy bar. I love how the angular outbursts of John Schmersal (Brainiac) play off the tick-tock honey of Toko Yasuda (Blonde Redhead). And just when you worry that the record is reeling out of control, Matt Schulz's drumming fuses with the warm and fuzzy sampled beats to steady the helm. I can listen for hours without getting bored. The single that wasn't, "Daughter in the House of Fools," is sticky enough to score a foreign car commercial. -- C.B.
Bob Dylan goes Masked and Anonymous
If you can forgive the sophomoric drivel for dialogue and take it as a two-hour Bob Dylan "song," then Bob's cult flick Masked and Anonymous becomes instantly enjoyable. It's sprinkled with moments of absurdity, intentional or otherwise. Witness Dylan as Christ/Leader of the Revolution back phrase some great one-liners, imbued with resonance because he stays silent through most of the film. Watch famous actors call each other silly names (John Goodman's character is "Uncle Sweetheart" and Dylan's is -- are you ready? -- Jack Fate!). Or rent the movie when it comes out and buy the soundtrack, which features world-music takes on Dylan classics. -- J.B.