Sound Advice 

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Of Montreal

Skeletal Lamping

Polyvinyl / Release date: Oct. 21

Sounds like: Someone is horny

Short take: Their own Sign o' the Times

Feeling obviously prolific of late, Of Montreal visionary Kevin Barnes has followed up the 2007 concept album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? with Skeletal Lamping. Frisky and playful aptly describe this highly theatrical new album, which keeps right in line with the band's penchant for experimental pop stylings, over-the-top vocal histrionics and fantastical voyages. The majority of the 15-track affair comes across with a Queen-meets-Prince vibe. This is specifically the case with "For Our Elegant Caste" (as a falsetto Barnes declares, "We can do it softcore if you want / But you should know I go both ways"). Then on "And I've Seen a Bloody Shadow," the frontman laments, "They really poison my sexuality." Indie rock in its own flamboyant universe is the point behind Montreal's Skeletal Lamping. John Benson Various Artists

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We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year

Armoury Records

Sounds like: The best album of 2008

Short take: Just kidding

After reading Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City, I listened to '80s hair metal bands like W.A.S.P. and Poison to learn what I'd missed. Not a lot. So I was momentarily relieved that the era is pretty much ignored by this collection of "metal" Xmas songs, apart from, say, Stephen Pearcy and Tracii Guns tackling "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer," which is every bit as pointless as you might imagine. King's X vocalist dUg Pinnick fares better on, of all things, "Little Drummer Boy," with crafty backing by Billy Sheehan, Simon Phillips and George Lynch. The presence of Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl ("Run Rudolph Run"), Ronnie James Dio ("God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen") and Alice Cooper ("Santa Claws is Coming to Town") does little to improve a whimsical but overpriced stocking stuffer. Bill Forman

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Taj Mahal


Heads Up Records

Sounds like: Contagious explorations from a musical master

Short take: Taj Mahal can make you happy

Taj Mahal may have started his career singing blues-rock with Ry Cooder in the Rising Sons, but soon he took off for the territories. The musician bounces from blues to reggae to African music to soul without blinking, infusing everything with a big-shouldered power that is completely contagious. Who else could take the varied group of players he does here Los Lobos, Ben Harper, Ziggy Marley, New Orleans Social Club, Phantom Blues Band, Toumani Diabate and Angelique Kidjo and shape them into an album so seamless? From Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back" to Bo Diddley's "Diddy Wah Diddy" to the funky shenanigans of his own "I Can Make You Happy," this new album collects all his strengths. Mahal is celebrating 40 years in music, and there are very few artists who've stayed so true to their vision. Bill Bentley


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