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Blitzen Trapper, The Junior League, and Battles 

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click to enlarge Blitzen Trapper
  • Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper

All Across This Land

Vagrant

File next to: Deer Tick, Dawes, Monsters of Folk

Blitzen Trapper's most interesting work comes when composer and vocalist Eric Earley fuses echoes of 1966-era Dylan with vintage electronics sounds, as on his band's unexpectedly experimental 2010 album, Destroyer of the Void. While there was a lot of extraneous chaos going on, each succeeding album has moved a little closer to folk-rock traditionalism. Earley has consciously set out to make All Across This Land a classic Americana album, winning him the sobriquet of "Portland's Tom Petty." That might be good for expanding Blitzen Trapper's fan base, but it also makes the new album less memorable. And while it's a style captured much better by David Rawlings' new album, this latest Blitzen Trapper still works as a tight, breezy compendium of 10 rock songs for the road. Try "Let the Cards Fall" for the most fun. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge The Junior League
  • The Junior League

The Junior League

Also Rans

Kool Kat Musik

File next to: Sloan, The dB's, Minus 5

Indie label Kool Kat Musik has carved out a solid (if exceedingly tiny) niche as a purveyor of power pop, that oft-maligned subgenre of music that features sharp hooks, strong melodies, and — say its detractors — a slavish lack of originality. But even listeners who aren't won over by powerpop's charms may find Also Rans an impressive release. Listeners might hear subtle country-rock shades of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and other exponents of that shimmering, jangly electric guitar sound. The Junior League manage that without the slightest whiff of retro-mindedness. Largely driven by J. Adragna with the able assistance of Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), The Junior League's top-notch songwriting and arrangement sometimes recall the best of '80s rock, as on the hypnotically alluring "On/Off." Easily one of 2015's best releases. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Battles
  • Battles

Battles

La Di Da Di

Warp Records

File next to: Hot Chip, Hella, Tortoise

Traditionalists get irate at electronic dance music concerts in which a Mac user with Pro Tools is adulated. So they may well appreciate a collective of traditional instrumentalists dabbling in EDM styles. Battles has lost a touch of experimentalism since founder Tyondai Braxton departed to make skronk-jazz in the style of his father, Anthony. But the release of 2011's Gloss Drop proved that turning to heavy rhythms was not such a bad idea. La Di Da Di fulfills that promise, coming across most emphatically in the linked tunes "Non-Violence" and "Dot Com." This is thrilling, exuberant music, created with as serious an intent as the most dedicated jazz or classical compositions, It's made for people who think that EDM festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival look like tons of fun, but can't stand the thought of computers doing all the work. — Loring Wirbel

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