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New albums from Neil Young, The Invisible Hands, and Deerhoof 

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click to enlarge Neil Young

Neil Young

Storytone

Reprise Records

File next to: Tim Buckley, Elliott Smith

Neil Young is very aware that hardcore fans appreciate rough-cut albums like Tonight's the Night more than the heavy orchestration of Harvest. That may be why the two-CD Storytone's primary disc consists of stripped-down acoustic performances, while versions of the same songs with a full orchestra and brass band are relegated to Disc 2. All 10 songs are as passionate as anything since Greendale, warning of environmental devastation while chronicling his divorce from Pegi, his wife of 36 years, and his new relationship with Daryl Hannah. There are some maudlin lyrics, to be sure, but that's nothing new for Young. There's a certain legacy-artist appeal to a string-augmented battle hymn like "Who's Gonna Stand Up?"and the horn-accompanied "Say Hello to Chicago." But the stripped-away versions will resonate more with fans who prefer their Neil Young straight, no chaser. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge The Invisible Hands

The Invisible Hands

Teslam

Abduction

File next to: The Plastic People of the Universe, Sun City Girls, X

On their second album, Egypt's Invisible Hands stand out as one of the last outlets for dissent in a nation stifled by repression. President el-Sisi may have a point in blaming outside influences, since the center of the band remains American musician Alan Bishop, founder of Sun City Girls. Teslam's lyrics are more political than on Invisible Hands' first album, and the high harmonies led by Aya Hemeda are slightly reminiscent of Exene Cervenka in later X albums. Songs are tailored for maximum riff effect, but there's still room for some silliness on tracks like "Weasel Down." If there is a fault in Teslam, it's that crafting three-minute pop gems deprives the listener of the psychedelic jams and Arabic lyrics of the first album. But if that can gain Invisible Hands a wider audience while angering the Egyptian government, so much the better. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Deerhoof

Deerhoof

La Isla Bonita

Polyvinyl Records

File next to: Shonen Knife, Melt-Banana

The problem with being an innovative fringe artist is that, after you've been around for 20 years, it's hard to sound fresh and unusual on each outing. Deerhoof faced this after its four members moved to four different cities, releasing the sluggish Deerhoof vs. Evil in 2011, which was only partly redeemed by Breakup Song a year later. This time around, the band brings back its fire by stripping down the sound and going for minimalist elements. Greg Saunier's percussion comes first, usually using unfamiliar time signatures. Then Satomi Matsuzaki's incomparable squealing voice is added, with the atonal and weird-rhythm guitars piled on top. There's excitement at every turn in fast and quirky songs like "Doom" and "Paradise Girls," recalling the band at its late 1990s peak. La Isla Bonita proves that even when Deerhoof's members are geographically dispersed, the weird energy remains. — Loring Wirbel

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