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!!!, Thunderbitch, and Keep Shelly in Athens 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge !!! (chk-chk-chk)
  • !!! (chk-chk-chk)

!!! (chk-chk-chk)

As If

Warp Records

File next to: Black Dice, Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem

Over five previous albums, !!! established itself as the most energetic and fun of the New York City underground dance bands, hardly suffering for being without the avant-intellectual veneer of Gang Gang Dance or Black Dice. The band milks that reputation to full potential on As If, launching with a tight version of the "All U Writers" single that the group released early this year. Baritone voices, falsetto screams and kick drums give this release the strongest sweat-equity potential yet. The extended chat-singing of the closing cut, "I Feel So Free," proves that !!! has the ability to laugh at itself. A skeptic might point out that the new album does not match the detailed song structuring of 2013's excellent Thr!!!er album, but everyone else will be too busy dancing their asses off to care. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Thunderbitch
  • Thunderbitch

Thunderbitch

Thunderbitch

Thunderbitch LLC

File next to: The Black Keys, Detroit Cobras, Alabama Shakes

Brittany Howard's intent behind her "secret" side project was not to double the output of Alabama Shakes in 2015. Rather, this ad-hoc band, assembled from members of Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks, allows Howard to let loose with a straight-ahead, blues-punk-rockabilly mix. Where many band leaders use side projects to introduce edgier music, Alabama Shakes is already so adventurous in its mix of styles that Thunderbitch ends up sounding more like a juke-joint novelty mashup of Lord Sutch and King Biscuit Boy. Tracks like "My Baby Is My Guitar" are keepers, even if predictable. Howard's name (like the real names of her band members) appears nowhere in the Thunderbitch liner notes, and photos of her with straight pixie hair and sunglasses reinforce the anonymity. Thunderbitch is ultimately a party album, devoid of truly memorable riffs, but fun nonetheless. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Keep Shelly in Athens
  • Keep Shelly in Athens

Keep Shelly in Athens

Now I'm Ready

Friends of Friends

File next to: Cocteau Twins, Beach House

With their gauzy, heavily reverbed ambience, Greek chillwave duo Keep Shelly in Athens sounds a bit like synthy Brit pop à la Cocteau Twins, crossed with a less-mannered Beach House. Clearly they'd prefer that listeners focus on the music rather than the personalities; shrouded in mystery, they reveal little about themselves beyond their names. The dreamy arrangements are strengthened by a solid, propulsive beat, and English-language vocals ride confidently atop the music. After a series of EPs, a compilation, and a 2013 album (At Home) that showed them searching for a sound, Keep Shelly in Athens come up with a winning approach on the appropriately titled Now I'm Ready. Equal parts retro and modern, it draws from the past — parts of the title track evoke warm memories of The Dream Academy — and looks confidently toward the future. — Bill Kopp

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