Foals, Pinnick Gales Pridgen, Frightened Rabbit 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Foals


Holy Fire

Warner Bros.

File next to: MGMT, The Strokes

With its huge blocks of sound anchored by disco-informed beats, UK band Foals' Holy Fire is a larger-than-life album. Almost every track, no matter how introspective, builds from wiry Afro-funk guitars and driving basslines to dramatic crescendos with textured keyboards, strings and Yannis Philippakis' keening voice. Granted, 11 tracks of unabashed anthems sometimes veer into overly familiar, Coldplay-esque territory. But the formula works to great effect on the Krautrock-meets-Arthur Russell "Late Night" with its fiery guitar breakdown, and the more understated "Stepson," which recalls the best elements of latter-day Genesis. Most compelling of all is the single "Inhaler," a slow-burning, heavily distorted, and irresistibly catchy track with falsetto vocals that are equally hummable and menacing. Despite some generic moments, Holy Fire is infectious pop music for dancing and scowling. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Pinnick Gales Pridgen

Pinnick Gales Pridgen

Pinnick Gales Pridgen

Magna Carta

File next to: King's X, Living Colour

"Supergroups" tend to come in two flavors: those that thrill record companies with sales potential, and those that thrill fans with impeccable musicianship. Given that Pinnick Gales Pridgen consists of bassist Doug Pinnick (King's X), guitarist Eric Gales (Eric Gales Band), and drummer Thomas Pridgen (ex-Mars Volta), all renowned "musicians' musicians," there's little question to which camp this debut belongs. Technical fetishists and metal fans will swoon over the complex time signatures, scorching guitar solos, and glossy production, although Pinnick and Gales' blues and soul-steeped vocals are closer in spirit to Stevie Wonder than Yngwie Malmsteen. The explosive, bass-heavy "Lascivious," the close harmonies on the majestic, spacey "Hang On Big Brother," and the creepy, swampy epic "Black Jeans" highlight a collaboration that often surpasses the already impressive sum of its parts. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse

Atlantic Records

File next to: Arab Strap, Mumford & Sons

When Frightened Rabbit released last year's State Hospital EP, it was evident the band wanted to take epic sadness to a new level. The title track, which is reprised here, was a tale of depression and abuse, while "Wedding Gloves" found frontman Scott Hutchison joined by Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat for a morose-Scottish-folkie-drunkard fest. The promise is kept on Pedestrian Verse, its world-weariness so majestic that even upbeat tracks like "Backyard Skulls" and "Late March, Death March" can lead to cry-in-your-beer sessions. Frightened Rabbit's bounciest tunes hide a morbidity that's raised to the level of a new art form. They're well on their way to crafting a new Scottish template for music, akin to the one Robert Burns created for poetry, providing the band doesn't get so anthemic that they begin to sound like U2. Appreciate the exceptional music within, but be sure to bring along a box of Kleenex. — Loring Wirbel


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