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CIMS Recommends - April

The Decemberists -
The Hazards Of Love

PJ Harvey and John Parish -
A Man, A Woman Walked By
Island Records

Mastodon -
Crack The Skye

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears -
Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!
Lost Highway

The Decemberists' fifth album, The Hazards of Love, represents the most glorious kind of messing around. It's the most ambitious and most accomplished project to date from the Portland-based quintet of Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen-a full-length song cycle rooted in ancient language and imagery, yet entirely modern and accessible. What else would you expect?

A Woman, A Man Walked By is the second collaborative album from PJ Harvey and long-time associate John Parish (in case you forgot, their previous outing was the lovely Dance Hall at Louse Point). The album was mixed by Flood, another old friend with whom Parish and Harvey last worked together on White Chalk.   The three collaborated for the first time more than a decade earlier on Harvey's third studio album, her 1995 break­through To Bring You My Love. Do you need this? Yes. Yes you do.

Rare is the artist who achieves that critical balance coupled with the level of fan support Mastodon has attained. Their last sticker album, Blood Mountain, helped them attain both - finding the band at the height of its powers and performing loads of legendary shows, including a few with the one-and-only Neurosis. With Crack The Skye, Mastodon takes their epic songcraft and storytelling to startling new heights. This is Metal as its best... And you need it.

To paraphrase Ike and Tina Turner, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is gives Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears the chance to play nice and easy as well as nice and rough. He and his bandmates take the latter route more often -- as on the fiery, brass-laced opener "Gunpowder" and the unabashedly horndog anthem "Big Booty Woman." But there's far more than one trick up their collective sleeve, as borne out by the dark New Orleans march "Master Sold My Baby." The spontaneity that was evident on the Honeybears' self-titled EP -- which spotlighted the band's controversial, tongue-in-cheek concert staple "Bitch, I Love You" -- is even more at the fore of Tell 'Em What Your Name Is...

Peter Bjorn and John -
Living Thing
Almost Gold/Star Time

Indigo Girls -
Poseidon and the Bitter Bug
IG Recordings/Vanguard

Les Claypool -
Of Fungi and Foe
Prawn Song

Elvis Perkins -
Elvis Perkins In Dearland

As cool as it is, Peter Bjorn And John's latest album, Living Thing, should get you hot and bothered. Check out the single "Nothing To Worry About" and be impressed by the Lennon-esque sweet / toughness within. It's cute, it rocks, and it's for the folks both young and old (if you know what I'm sayin'). Let's hope Kanye is (once again) paying attention. Dig it.

Now, after entertaining millions of fans with their 10 major-label studio albums, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have come full circle with the independent release of their new album, Poseidon And The Bitter Bug. These ten songs, five by Ray and five by Saliers, retain the indelible melodies and silvery harmonies that have become their trademark, but they also display the growth of two intelligent, empathetic artists devoted to always evolving in their craft. As a bonus, Poseidon includes a second CD that features acoustic versions of all the songs, plus a bonus track, "Salty South."

Les Claypool's latest album Of Fungi and Foe is a collection of songs inspired by the projects he has been working on over the past few years. It's flotsam and jetsam that is finally getting put to good use and, thusly, is now among some of Claypool's weirdest work.  Among the detritus is a jam session with Eugene Hütz the charismatic frontman of the band Gogol Bordello that turned into the track "Bite Out Of Life" which, of course, you're going to love.

Elvis Perkins' new eponymous album feels very much like the second line to his exquisitely melancholic and much-hailed solo debut Ash Wednesday. There are still plenty of private moments on Elvis Perkins in Dearland, but Elvis is now joined by the same trio of friends that toured with him in support of Ash Wednesday to expand Dearland's sonic palate live. Put these elements together and you have an album sterling beauty that will easily compel repeat listening. Check it out!

Great Lake Swimmers -
Lost Channels

The Airborne Toxic Event -
The Airborne Toxic Event

Razorlight -
Slipway Fires
Mercury Records

Alela Diane -
To Be Still
Rough Trade

The singular voice of Great Lake Swimmers summons ghosts from times past, capable of conveying heartache and comfort all in the space of a single phrase. To record Lost Channels, lead swimmer Tony Dekker and company went upstream on the St. Lawrence River to the Thousand Islands, halfway between Toronto and Montreal, a historic and picturesque area that straddles the Canadian/American border, and has been designated a World Biosphere Region. These special environments make their way to the album and reinforce the stirring beauty of the songs herein. Check it out.

The Airborne Toxic Event, named after a section of the book White Noise by Don DeLillo, began with just one member, novelist Mikel Jollett. Bombarded with a fistful of bad news, he was inspired to turn his attention from writing prose to writing songs. Four band members later, Airborne had created a harmony of string instruments, keyboards and a standard rock lineup of guitar, drums, and bass. Garnering comparisons to everyone from Modest Mouse and The Arcade Fire to the Clash and U2, the band has become a fixture on the Los Angeles music scene and can only be expected to find its way to the top of the heap - and now with it's eponymous, self-released debut getting a big push, you now have reason to take notice.

 Slipway Fires broadly displays two very different sides of Razorlight. There's the detached, pointed observer of today's social scene, who trenchantly comments on the ruling upper class in such delectable power pop rock as the Who-like "Burberry Blue Eyes," the driving, irresistible "Tabloid Lover" and the scathing "North London Trash." But then the band changes gears with the epic, emotional swells of such songs as the Nick Drake-like  "Hostage of Love," the poignant, haunting  "The House" and first single, the delicate "Wire to Wire."  Put 'em together and you have one helluva record!

To Be Still is the follow-up to Alela Diane's critically acclaimed 2006 debut The Pirate's Gospel. That record brought the Nevada City, CA-reared musician a dedicated following across the globe (especially in Europe, where she recently finished a tour of mid-sized concert halls). Considering that early copies of The Pirate's Gospel were given away to friends in hand-sewn covers just a few years ago, this is not only quite a leap, but a well-deserved one. To Be Still was created throughout 2007 & 2008 and is filled with more emotional depth and musical filigree than its charming predecessor. The results are stupendous and deserve your undivided attention.

Van Morrison -
Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Listen to the Lion Records

Silverstein -
A Shipwreck In The Sand

Marianne Faithful -
Easy Come Easy Go

Fall From Grace -
Sifting Through The Wreckage
Fontana North/Bunk Rock

Recorded in 1968 when the Belfast-bred, blues-rock music legend Van Morrison was just 22 years old, Astral Weeks immediately received critical acclaim and continues to be cited as one of the greatest albums of the rock era. On November 7th and 8th, 2008, four decades later, at the age of 63, Van Morrison revisited Astral Weeks live in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl, and delivered a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring performance. The first half of the show featured Morrison playing timeless classics that have made him a legend, while the second half was the breathtaking performance of the Astral Weeks album.  Dig it.

Silverstein's latest magnum opus, A Shipwreck in the Sand, is the record fans have been waiting for them to make. Produced by Cameron Webb (Social Distortion, Pennywise, Motörhead), A Shipwreck in the Sand is the result of a yearlong process of looking back and focusing on Silverstein roots in punk, hardcore and heartfelt rock. It is a concept album full of the sound that made fans first fall in love with them along with the maturity of a band that has been through good times and bad.

The twenty-second album of her fabled career, Easy Come, Easy Go reunites Marianne Faithfull with legendary producer Hal Willner.On the aural evidence, the passage of time has only strengthened Marianne's abilities as a vocal interpreter and enhanced Hal's formidable talents as a song selector and recording director. Hal and Marianne ranged over nearly a century of pop music for Easy Come, Easy Go: Billie Holiday's brooding classic "Solitude" and Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home" (featuring Keith Richards) blend seamlessly with contemporary songs by Espers ("Children of Stone"), Morrissey ("Dear God Please Help Me"), and The Decembrists ("The Crane Wife 3"). Listen and learn.

Fall From Grace outperformed over 7,000 bands nationwide during the Fuse TV Music Battle of the Bands to win a $1 million record contract with Bunk Rock Entertainment. Having already appeared on the 2008 Vans Warped Tour, the band continues to look up and bring their gritty punk-rock sound to the masses. Faced with all these challenges, Fall From Grace now has one goal: to rock your face off... And, with Sifting Through The Wreckage, they do just that.

Other Lives -
Other Lives
TBD Records

Fist Of God
Dim Mak/Downtown

Green River Ordinance -
Out Of My Hands

Vienna Teng -
Island Territory

Based in the college town of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Other Lives has been playing music together for the past five years in various incarnations. They began as an avant-garde instrumental group, then added vocals and eventually evolved into Other Lives. The album (and the EP that preceded it) was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Joey Waronker (the Eels, Lisa Germano) and engineer Darrell Thorp (Radiohead, Outkast, Beck). It's on the same label as Radiohead, so if you're into music that is both ecstatic and haunting you need look no further.

Fist Of God is the highly anticipated new album from the Canadian duo MSTRKRFT's massively successful 2006 debut The Looks. Fist Of God features contributions from N.O.R.E., Ghostface Killah, bay area hip hop icon E-40, Freeway, Lil' Mo and John Legend. Jesse Keeler and Al-P revisit the raw influences of their early punk roots with a nod to the house styles from Chicago and Detroit on Fist of God - but this is by no means a "retro" record. Expect your hands to be in the air and waving like you just don't care.

Now, listeners everywhere will be able to discover what people in Fort Worth, Texas already know, with the release of Out Of My Hands. Green River Ordinance's major-label bow follows its independent debut, The Beauty of Letting Go - a record that sold well online (reaching #2 at retailer and firmly put the band on the map. Green River Ordinance expertly blends emotive vocals, guitars-to-11 and anthemic choruses to deliver moments certain to move crowds, with lighters (or phones) inevitably waving in the air. In need of a few big-ass choruses? Here you go.

Vienna Teng's fourth album, Inland Territory, is a tour de force musically and lyrically -  a complex and deeply thoughtful work from an artist cut loose from limitations. Recorded over five months and in four cities, with instrumentation ranging from orchestral percussion to found-object loops to polyphonic choirs, it's without question her most ambitious work yet. Teng has always been a songwriter of enormous potential, and this album is that promise come to full fruition. This is, as she sings in the final verse, "an old world made new." A late bloomer, sure, but it's been well worth the wait.

Gomez -
A New Tide

Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks -
Tangled Tales
Sufdog Records

Chris Cornell -

Maria Taylor -

Gomez's latest album, A New Tide, marks a return to the always-freewheeling British band's more experimental roots - with songs like "Win Park Slope" and "Airstream Driver" evincing a spirit born of boundless imagination and a longstanding collaborative relationship. As ever, a wide range of styles is incorporated into Gomez's matchless musical brew. Flavors of Delta blues, psychedelia, and Krautrock all come into play, resulting in a musically mischievous and remarkably forward-thinking collection. In short, A New Tide is Gomez at their inimitable, incomparable best.

Tangled Tales mashes the outlaw swing music, insightful charm, and brilliant melodies that have endeared Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks to audiences and fellow artists for four decades with his signature understated melancholy that could only be born from a creative genius. Featuring a world-class collection of musical talent including instrumental virtuosos David Grisman and Charlie Musselwhite, Tangled Tales delivers 8 great new original tunes that feel like instant Dan Hicks classics (and some choice cover tunes too). Tangled Tales is calculated to keep your toes tappin' and your synapses zappin'.

Always eclectic, always experimental, his new collaboration Scream with super-producer Timbaland [insert audible "WTF?!?" here] - who calls the album "the best work I've done in my career" - takes former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell into fresh territory, establishing a new sound and marking the creation of a masterpiece that breaks all musical boundaries. Only one thing's for sure - Chris Cornell will continue to break rules, make history and challenge everyone's expectations. Give it a spin.

Though much of the deliciously diverse LadyLuck - the latest album from Maria Taylor - is inspired by the end of a relationship, it's not dripping with sadness and grief, nor is it in-your-face empowering. Rather, Taylor strikes a stunning balance of melancholy (aching strings, hushed vocals) and uplifting (rolling rhythms, shimmering keys), highlighted by sharp lyrics that draw optimism out of sadness. This is not a woman down on her luck. LadyLuck, Taylor's third solo effort, is about "personal growth and the change that comes with it."

The Thermals -
Now We Can See
Kill Rock Stars

Various Artists -
Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm

Duff McKagan's Loaded -
Century Media

Wavves -
Fat Possum

Rumors of The Thermals death have been greatly under-exaggerated.  Though NOT a concept record and NOT a sequel, Now We Can See picks up right where The Thermals left off, at the end of their last LP, 2006's The Body, The Blood, The Machine, when The Thermals were either obliterated by nuclear war, or walked the earth as the last living souls, until they dropped dead of quite unnatural causes.  I don't know, the plot was a little hard to follow. Either way, the story continues... from beyond the grave!  With catchy choruses!

Doug Sahm was a child prodigy in country music, starting his professional career singing and playing guitar, mandolin, pedal steel and fiddle as "Little Doug" when he was only nine years old. He went on to form the 1960s influential group the Sir Douglas Quintet, scoring a Top 10 single with "She's About a Mover." He was also a sought-after session musician, appearing on other releases with Willie Nelson, the Grateful Dead, Uncle Tupelo and many more. Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm celebrates the life of a true American music visionary. You need this.

Duff McKagan is a man with a big reputation through his involvement with major bands -- Guns n' Roses and Velvet know the drill. But this isn't about mega headlines, superstar status and volcanic egomania. Loaded isn't a band merely to fill in time or to allow the famed bassist to massage a hyper publicity drive. This is all about music! Chances are you're gonna like this more than Chinese Democracy. Check it out.

Filled with silly synths, California harmonies, Sonic Youth guitars, and enough silly weed references that will make you ache for the only fun Sebadoh songs, Wavves brings lo-fi fun to the digital age... And, in a way, fulfills the promise of what that movement offered: To make great music without a lot of fuss while simultaneously giving a brazen middle finger. If you're not a jaded old (well, in his late thirties) indie putz, you'll do nothing but delight in the fuzzy joy that Wavves has to offer and, again, the promise within: Fuck being a rock star - you'll have more fun having fun with the tools you have at your disposal. And that's the joy that makes music great. So dig it... And do it yourself.

Capone-N-Noreaga -
Channel 10

Glasvegas -
Columbia Records

Neil Young -
Fork In The Road

The Whip -
X Marks Destinations
Razor & Tie

Capone-N-Noreaga met on kitchen duty while they were both serving time. When they got out Capone-N-Noreaga led the way for New York's resurgence in the mid-'90s (Queensbridge!)... Well, that is when one or the other wasn't doing a bid - how's that for street cred? Now, holding true to the promise of their two classic Gold albums (The War Report and The Reunion), the Capone-N-Noreaga reunite to finish what they started with Channel 10.  Channel 10 features production by DJ Premier, Alchemist, Ron Browz, Havoc of Mobb Deep and others, and the one and only Bustah Rhymes guests on the first single, "Rotate". CNN couldn't sound any better.

Glasvegas is a quartet from the tough East End of Glasgow who just seemed to appear one day in a flash of smoke and celluloid. Donned in black leather and plenty of hair product, Glasvegas fuses a wall of sound noise that is equal parts Jesus and Mary Chain, Elvis, and Phil Spector combined with a pop sensibility inspired by 60s girl pop and Doo Wop. Naturally, the U.K. music press (and its Anglophilic disciples across the pond) went crazy. So crazy that now this - the band's highly anticipated self-titled debut album - is getting the stateside release it so richly deserves.

I know, I know, you - like everyone else - have been waiting patiently for the Neil Young Archives. Well, you'll have to wait a little longer, because ol' Shakey wants to sing about, er... electric cars. This recent obsession comes courtesy of a retooled 1959 Lincoln Continental that runs entirely on alternative energy and serves the inspiration behind Fork in the Road. How is it? Loud, Bluesy, and Bitchy... But I suppose you wouldn't want it any other way. I wonder if he can find a solution to power his amps?

Between that bewildering news bite and the bitter breakup of New Order, one has to wonder: Who the hell is making important music in Manchester these days? Well, The Whip, for starters. The Whip was initially conceived as a duo, but the complexity of their songs demanded a full band in a live setting. The newly minted foursome "became a gang" quite quickly. Between classical training and years in critically-acclaimed bands and various members' own experience bashing out live beats in club settings, it's easy to see why The Whip's chemistry is so combustible - they're not your everyday dance act, they're a living, breathing band! The result is one of the more stunning dance records of 2009. Load up and have a ball!

16 Frames -
Where It Ends

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles -
The Stars Are Out
Sugar Hill

The Tragically Hip -
We Are The Same

Precisely 35 seconds into the opening track of 16 Frames' debut album, the clouds part and a monumental chorus breaks through. At once intimate and overwhelming, it's a breathtaking passage, one the listener isn't prepared for, not only because it happens so quickly, but also because such transcendent moments are so uncommon in 21st century rock. As it turns out, conjoined musical and emotional crescendos are plentiful on Where It Ends. If you like your pop music in widescreen, then 16 Frames is the band for you. Produced by Matt Serletic (Matchbox 20, Santana's "Smooth").

As the great thespian Patrick Swayze once said, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." The same is true of Sarah Borges. On the basis of her critically lauded early work, particularly Diamonds in the Dark, some pundits decided they know exactly where the Boston-area rocker and her cohorts, the Broken Singles, belong in the musical spectrum. They were mistaken. Her new record, The Stars Are Out, is about to stun them with a more vibrant, far-reaching display of what Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles are all about. And yes, there will be dancing.

Recorded in 2008's year of continental excess and governmental spending gone wild, The Tragically Hip's latest album, We Are the Same, brings its listeners something beyond the unexpected: actual hope. We Are the Sameisn't only levity and light, though. The band exposes our black eyes and our crushes, the struggle of the worker in places as far-flung as New Orleans and Athabaska or as close as a Lake Ontario shore is to the shore of Chicago. A trio of "Depression Suites" examines people trapped in menial jobs. Part of the magic, however, is that The Tragically Hip has never lost its "working man's" roots.

The Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) is a group of some of the best independent music stores in America. CIMS was founded in 1995; its current membership is made up of 29 accounts that handle 47 stores in 21 states. Many of the accounts have been recognized by the music industry and their local communities for their outstanding dedication to customer service and developing artist support.

Each member is bound by its shared love of music, a reputation for great selection and customer service in its community, yet each CIMS account is as unique as the market it represents. Most importantly, CIMS member stores continually seek to challenge the jaded, color-by-numbers advertising and marketing of other retailers.