Rose Windows, Todd Rundgren, Neil Young 

Sound Advice

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Rose Windows

Rose Windows

Sub Pop

File next to: Black Mountain, Black Angels

Talk about promise only partially fulfilled. When Rose Windows released Sun Dogs, their 2013 major-label debut, the young Pacific Northwest group's tribal-psych groove seemed poised for greatness. So the news this March that they were disbanding was met with disappointment. But all is not lost; they leave behind this new self-titled disc, a parting shot that delivers on what Sun Dogs only suggested. Melodic yet full of heavy/light contrast that suggests (but rarely sounds like) progressive rock, Rose Windows sidesteps the "sophomore slump" curse. Hypnotic rhythms and stomping guitars are juxtaposed against folky (yes!) flute/synth lines, topped off by the expressive, yelping vocals of Rabia Shaheen Qazi. Now if they had only stuck around for a third album, who knows what fascinating musical journeys they might have revealed. — Bill Kopp

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Todd Rundgren/Emil Nikolaisen/Hans-Peter Lindstrøm


Smalltown Supersound

File next to: Utopia, Tangerine Dream

Todd Rundgren rarely collaborates with other artists and rarely revisits musical territory he's explored previously. But on Runddans, he does both. Those who prefer his pop-centric side (Something/Anything being the exemplar) might find Runddans a bit meandering. But listeners who enjoyed Initiation, Healing and/or the quirky A Cappella will delight in this. Runddans is mostly instrumental, but when Rundgren does sing — wordless vocalizing on "Solus" and proper singing on the "Put Your Arms Around Me" suite — it's deeply soulful and redolent of 1975's "Born to Synthesize." One can draw a straight line from A Wizard/A True Star to the delightful yet dizzying cut-and-paste psychedelic arrangements found here. Todd's guitar work on this lush, warm disc will conjure memories of pyramid-themed stagecraft and ankh-shaped instruments. A triumph. — Bill Kopp

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Neil Young & Promise of the Real

The Monsanto Years


File next to: Steve Earle, Deer Tick

Neil Young's real-world organizing is both focused and practical, as his 2013-14 anti-fracking work proved. And when he brings politics into the studio, subtlety is tossed away in favor of hellfire and brimstone. The Monsanto Years is not as depressing or rhetorical as its detractors claim — in fact, tracks like "People Want to Hear About Love" are downright funny. Still, the album has Monsanto stand in for all corporate crime (close to true), while GMOs represent all environmental devastation (less so). After three songs warning of seed control cheapening the gene pool, the listener gets the point. Promise of the Real, Neil's new band featuring Willie Nelson's sons, often echoes his most frequent backing group Crazy Horse. Young can craft deadly political albums, as he proved in Living With War. Maybe he needed a more subtle scalpel, though if Monsanto is to be gouged, it might as well be Uncle Neil. — Loring Wirbel


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