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Sound Advice

click to enlarge Local Natives

Local Natives

Hummingbird

Frenchkiss Records

File next to: Blitzen Trapper, Grizzly Bear

Local Natives' first major-label excursion in 2010 was derivative of Tapes 'n Tapes or very early Talking Heads — so much so that the band covered David Byrne's "Warning Sign" (quite decently). For its second album, Local Natives have expanded the production considerably, stressing high, soaring tenors with tight harmonies that are more akin to My Morning Jacket or Fleet Foxes, but without the latter's tendencies toward barbershop-quartet. On a full-range stereo system — or a good set of headphones — Hummingbird offers some of the best layered production and artificially orchestrated sounds in recent memory. But it's fair to ask if some of the tension and mania of earlier Local Natives has been lost in achieving the smoother sound, as is sometimes the case with Grizzly Bear. Songs like "You & I" and "Wooly Mammoth" seem exceptional, but an hour later, you might forget the bulk of the album. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Tomahawk

Tomahawk

Oddfellows

Ipecac Recordings

File next to: Melvins, Twin Peaks soundtrack

Despite decades of prolific output, vocalist Mike Patton is best known to many for his late-'90s tenure with funky metal-heads Faith No More, which combined memorable riffs, maniacal humor and deft genre-blending. Tomahawk, one of several bands among which Patton now splits his time, co-stars guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard, Hank Williams III). After a half-decade hiatus, the group's fourth album, Oddfellows, recalls Faith No More's eclecticism with a darker atmosphere that shifts between smooth vocal hooks and menacing noise. "Stone Letter" has an anthemic chorus that deserves airplay, though Denison's gnarled riffs defy comparison with more radio-friendly contemporaries. Another standout, "Rise Up Dirty Waters," features fluid, jazzy interplay between bassist Trevor Dunn (Melvins Lite) and drummer John Stanier (Battles). A fun, compelling nightmare of an album. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Eels

Eels

Wonderful, Glorious

Vagrant Records

File next to: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Local Natives

Eels' Mark Oliver Everett loves making hard-to-categorize albums that manage to do many different things. (For proof, check out his concept trilogy: Hombre Lobo, End Times and Tomorrow Morning.) Wonderful, Glorious tries to continue that trend, albeit less successfully. The downtempo guitars and sedated, melodic vocals on "Accident Prone" are unusual, and Everett channels Johnny Cash on the dreamy guitar-driven "On the Ropes." But "Peach Blossom" and "Kinda Fuzzy" replicate the classic Eels sound —groovy, distortion-drenched and creepy — to the point where they sound derivative and tired. Wonderful, Glorious feels directionless in its search for the wonderful and the glorious, and maybe that's the idea. But it also feels disingenuous in its delivery, so much so that even Everett's oddball charisma can't save it from being a disappointment. — Brian Palmer

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