Sound Advice 

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Secret Chiefs 3 Xaphan: Book of Angels Volume 9
Sounds like: Space-age Ethiopian surf funk played by Morricone-lovin' gypsies

Short take: Supergroup's best yet

If you've never heard Secret Chiefs 3, you really gotta. It's kinda like hearing every cool record in your collection within the span of a song. Made up of members of Mr. Bungle and an illustrious list of avant rock/jazz musicians from the Bay Area/Seattle axis, they effortlessly play any genre you can imagine. These songs were all written by John Zorn for his klezmer group Masada and, while unfamiliar with the originals, the Chiefs transformed them into their own. In fact, if you can picture an orchestral version of Naked City, the Zorn-led group of jazz daredevils, you'd be close to the bull's-eye. SC3 are truly jaw-dropping in their musicianship and the way they fuse such diverse worlds into a unified whole. Eastern European spaghetti western soundtracks with an Afro-funk groove never sounded so good. Dennis Yudt
To download music: Secret Chiefs 3

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The Black Angels Directions to See a Ghost
Light in the Attic
Sounds like: The unholy offspring of Joy Division and Black Sabbath

Short take: Not as fresh the second time around

Having refined a signature doom-laden dirge, the Black Angels rose to prominence with 2006's striking Passover. Two years later, the band still channels waves of feedback-drenched, portentous rock on Directions to See a Ghost, though the effect isn't as powerful. Though the Black Angels break out of their well-defined sound at points, showing more rhythmic flair than on Passover, what was compelling on that album bears the mark of stasis here. The Austin outfit shows some signs of progression; lyrics are more affecting and personal than on the Vietnam War-themed Passover, and the swaths of far-out psychedelic guitar are applied much more liberally. Still, considering how much promise the Black Angels hold, it's hard not to want the band to reach outside of its comfort zone more than here. Paul Davis
To download music: The Black Angels

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3 Doors Down 3 Doors Down
Sounds like: Every other 3DD album

Short take: Post-grunge omnipotence

Perhaps the most archetypical post-grunge band still kicking around in 2008, 3 Doors Down continues to defy critics with its straightforward guitar sound and shot-and-a-beer vocals, which over the past decade have made it a platinum-touring act. The Mississippi band is back with its self-titled release, which (surprise, surprise) contains more bombastic anthems. This includes the in-your-face "Train" and the emotionally charged ballad "It's the Only One You've Got," which contains the inane lyrics "You've got to live this life you're given / Like it's the only one you've got." Also included is the band's obligatory patriotic song, "Citizen/Soldier." What's amazing is 3 Doors Down doesn't seem to evolve at all on this disc, which is apparently fine with its fan base. Therefore, any criticism should be aimed not at the band but at the people listening to it. John Benson
To download music: 3 Doors Down


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