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How to Destroy Angels, Chelsea Light Moving, Son Volt 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Welcome Oblivion CD

How to Destroy Angels

Welcome Oblivion

Columbia

File next to: Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin

Trent Reznor has always had an ear for melody. Despite the omnipresent despair and angst in Nine Inch Nails' catalogue, there were moments of release and poppy interjections. Even the screaming choruses were generally tuneful. How to Destroy Angels, Reznor's new project fronted by his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, is a highly melodic and pleasantly accessible affair. Though the arrangements on their debut album, Welcome Oblivion, frequently have nervous, glitchy flourishes, the album's best moments — like the bouncy, pizzicato-string-led "Ice Age," the glistening electro-soul of "How Long?" and the quietly majestic duet "On the Wing" — are built around Maandig's crystal-clear voice and winsome melodies. Less-successful moments occur when she tries to echo Reznor's gasping, declamatory vocal style, but luckily her natural delivery generally serves as the centerpiece of the arrangements. All in all, How to Destroy Angels is a fresh, enjoyable new outlet for Reznor's formidable talents. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Chelsea Light Moving CD

Chelsea Light Moving

Chelsea Light Moving

Matador Records

File next to: Mars, Germs, early Sonic Youth

Thurston Moore's 2011 solo album, Demolished Thoughts, proved the former Sonic Youth frontman knows how to make quiet melodic music. But Moore is still best known as curator and creator of very edgy noise, as evidenced by last year's boundary-breaking collaboration with ex-wife Kim Gordon and Yoko Ono. Insiders have described Moore's new band, Chelsea Light Moving, as a raucous noise project, citing the inclusion of drummer John Moloney from Boston racket-masters Sunburned Hand of the Man. So it's surprising just how straight-ahead hard rock this debut album turned out to be. CLM resembles classic Sonic Youth of the Daydream Nation period, with a few more punky elements thrown in. The album even closes with a cover of the Germs' "Communist Eyes." This is a no-holds-barred party album with a side of found-sound elements, but with Moore and Moloney collaborating, one might have wished for something a little less conventional. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Honky Tonk CD

Son Volt

Honky Tonk

Rounder

File next to: Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons

More so than former bandmate Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar has, for better or worse, always had his output compared to his time in Uncle Tupelo, a band that earned great accolades for its synthesis of traditional country and rock. Unlike Tweedy's Wilco, Farrar has remained largely in the country-rock realm throughout Son Volt's career, and on Honky Tonk, the band shrugs off the "rock" in the moniker. While this may be disappointing for fans of Farrar's squalling electric guitar work, Honky Tonk is an understatedly charming album, filled with gentle waltzes and shuffling, mid-tempo ballads that compare favorably to Uncle Tupelo's downtempo output. Fiddles, pedal steel, accordion, close harmonies and organ all back up Farrar's world-weary vocals to great effect, especially on the devastatingly lovely "Angel of the Blues." This is an irony-free country album that can be embraced by fans of Buck Owens and Ryan Adams alike. — Collin Estes

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