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Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

Teenage and Torture

Knitting Factory

Buy if you like: Patti Smith, Morphine, Grinderman

And on the eighth day, God created a woman with the punk-rock smarts of Patti Smith, the dreamy drone of Mazzy Star, and the emotional rawness of Polly Jean Harvey. Well, someone did. Teenage and Torture is Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers' second album, a collection of high-octane torch songs that could have been wrenched from the fresh-killed corpse of CBGB's. Growing up in New Jersey, Ray learned to play harmonium in an Indian household, and you can still hear the instrument pumping and wheezing away beneath the hymnal waltz of "Genie's Drugs." But what commands more immediate attention are Ray's street-poet lyrics and full-throated vocals that, even in their most feral moments, never lose sight of the song. From the slow-burn of "Venus Shaver" to the full-on frenzy of "Liquidation Sale," this is bracing stuff. Necessary, even. — Bill Forman

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Gurf Morlix

Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream

Rootball

Buy if you like: John Prine, Kris Kristofferson

Country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley didn't leave much of a recorded trail in his too-short life, but the list of posthumous releases and tributes continues to grow. It took his friend Gurf Morlix 20 years to do this one, but Foley fans will find it worth the wait. Foley, the troubled-genius subject of Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel," could write an easygoing ditty like "Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries" one minute, then a tear-jerker like "If I Could Only Fly" or the simple, affecting "Clay Pigeons" or the funereal, prophetic album closer "Cold Cold World." Morlix covers them all here, and gives them plenty of twang (with Kimmie Rhodes delivering a lovely harmony on "Fly"). Morlix's craggy, Prine-meets-Kristofferson voice conveys the heart of the man who wrote them — the "duct tape messiah" who was murdered at 39 while trying to protect an elderly friend, but clearly lives on in so many others' hearts. — Lynne Margolis

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British Sea Power

Valhalla Dancehall

Rough Trade

Buy if you like: Joy Division, U2

British Sea Power is compared to U2 for its anthemic orientation and to Joy Division for its dark approach to the world. Those comparisons still apply on Valhalla Dancehall, the Brighton band's fourth studio album. But the mix of soaring guitars and dourly literate lyrics is tempered with pop lightness here and there, creating a decent dynamic. The best poppier numbers are the breezy "Living Is So Easy" and the piano ballad "Georgie Ray." The top post-punk buzzer is "Thin Black Sail." There's a nine-minute number, "Once More Now," and a vocoder song that actually works. The lyrics take on topics from mindless, overly accessorized clubgoers looking for sex in "Luna" to the English student protests that are the background for the rage and stomp of "Who's in Control." It has nothing all that new or different, but Valhalla Dancehall will satisfy the band's fans and possibly win a few more. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, Gurf Morlix, British Sea Power

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