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Valerie June, Pond, Jim Jones Revue 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Pushin' Against a Stone

Valerie June

Pushin' Against a Stone

Concord Records

File next to: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Amy Winehouse

It's evident from the cameo-style profile on the cover of Pushin' Against a Stone that Memphis blues and roots singer Valerie June wants to take the professionalism up a notch. The production assistance of Dan Auerbach from Black Keys, along with stellar performances from Booker T. Jones and Barabas Lorinc, give much of this album the feel of an early-'60s Stax recording. Nevertheless, it's the simple unadorned Tennessee songs like "Twined & Twisted" that call to mind the magical performance she gave at the Shove Chapel John-Alex Mason tribute. A few traditionalists may ask if success will spoil Valerie June, but when polished production and refined backup musicians can raise the bar this much, it's fine if our lady of the Medusa hair gets a little spoiled on her path to world domination. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Hobo Rocket

Pond

Hobo Rocket

10 Spot

File next to: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Casper & the Cookies

Few musicians are brave enough to pursue truly clever rock parodies. Spinal Tap tended toward the obvious, while the Mothers of Invention grew too prurient. Only a few proudly uncommercial bands like Thinking Fellers Union carried some hope for the genre into the 21st century. Pond, unabashed lovers of psychedelia from Perth in Western Australia, may not be the most clever goof-rock band in history, but they're certainly droll enough for our post-tipping-point century, as evidenced in the opening track of Hobo Rocket, "Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide?" The members of Pond love the groups and sounds they deconstruct, enough to almost sound identical to Black Sabbath or Pink Floyd at times. Still, the satire is always apparent. In a world drowning in multi-layered tragedy, Pond provides relief by acting like idiots. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge The Savage Heart

The Jim Jones Revue

The Savage Heart

Play It Again Sam Records

File next to: Iggy & the Stooges, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

The Jim Jones Revue delivers nine cuts of primal rock on its third album, The Savage Heart. Opening with the glam stomp of "It's Gotta Be About Me," the English band ramps up the intensity of its Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, MC5 and Stooges influences, while broadening the sound to be both punkier and more rooted in proto-rock R&B. Jones delivers the songs in a biting, roaring howl, with Rupert Orton's guitar revving up the '50s-rooted rave of "Never Let You Go." "7 Times Around the Sun" rolls on the New Orleans-style piano of Henri Herbert, who winds up being the star of the show. Then there's the raw grind of "Chain Gang," the rumbling rock 'n roll noir of "In And Out of Harm's Way," and the swaggering '70s glam punk roar of "Catastrophe." All that plus bluesy yelps and dark doo-wop make this album the band's best yet. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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