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April 11, 2013

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Lost Coves/Rough Rope Until We Break Bone/Party Animals (Saw Her Ghost)

The new split LP—or double EP, if you prefer—featuring the Brooklyn duo Lost Coves and the Chattanooga trio Rough Rope pairs two bands who probably listened to the same rock bands during their formative years, but went into different sonic directions.

The side from the bass and drums twosome Lost Coves, entitled Until We Break Bone, evokes both the build/release crests of Slint and the sludge of Melvins with ominous minor keys. However, it mixes up the song structures in unexpected ways, injecting elements of heavy psychedelia with reverb and delay treatments and an echoing sample, willing to warp, manipulate and disturb its sounds. As the side progresses, the pace picks up, with the final “Ballad” ending with a fuzz-out maelstrom accented with some knob-twisting distortions. For listeners, the band’s vocal stylings may be a deal-breaker, sporting an odd singing approach that might resemble Mudhoney’s Mark Arm singing high, in a slightly child-like, sing-songy manner.

Rough Rope’s side, Party Animals, wastes no time to deliver the goods, providing instant satisfaction with a style clearly influenced by hardcore, punk and certain early ’90s indie hard rock from Chicago. Singer and guitarist Ben Roeske barks aggressively and ferociously, evoking Jon Spencer’s most furious moments, with big, dumb yet satisfying chords chugging away. The behemoth rhythm section of bassist Brent Joly and drummer Jerry Reed unleashes a brutal pounding to match, and the band’s sonic palette has widened just a bit since its last release, with a few details that occasionally grab a hold of the listener’s attention, ranging from spacey guitar effects to throaty white-noise vocal disintegrations.

It’s the group’s best batch of songs yet, with the members adding to their bag of tricks while maintaining the band’s intensity with gratifying hard rock pummelings.

Lisa Germano No Elephants (Badman Recording Co.)

The solo career of Lisa Germano is far away from her years as a violinist side-woman for John Mellencamp, having released a body of deeply moving, sometimes disconcerting material tackling her real-life demons like alcohol dependence (on Lullaby for Liquid Pig) or being terrorized by a stalker (on Geek the Girl). Germano’s most recent material has been finding its inspiration in surprising places; her 2009 album, Magic Neighbor, drew from cat-related stories—her own cat was a cancer survivor—and her latest, No Elephants, features a song cycle in part stimulated by her ruminations developed while working at a Whole Foods market.

The album’s title refers to the phrase “the elephant in the room,” suggesting that Germano is striving for complete honesty; indeed, it is sincere and honest in its attitude, but getting to the pith takes a little digging. It is not an album of outward consternation—the arrangements are mostly calm and contemplative—and in that respect it may seem deceptive. Like Germano’s last few albums, No Elephants is piano-centric, with a spotlight on her own breathy voice, which inhales noticeably. There’s a delirious and mysterious atmosphere, with occasional animal sounds and producer Jamie Candiloro’s synthetic glitches and flourishes lurking behind acoustic instruments.

The peculiar opener “Ruminant” turns a biology lesson about cattle into a metaphor about coping, with the paced lyrics “Ruminants / Four stomachs / Throw up / Start over / I need four stomachs to deal.” Described on paper, No Elephants might sound like it could be insufferably preachy. Apparently, “Apathy and the Devil” was inspired by her non-recycling co-workers, for example, and “A Feast” mentions foie gras and other gastronomical offenses. Fortunately, No Elephants does not come off as being self-righteous and manages to be affecting with an off-kilter beauty.

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April 11, 2013

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