It's a jungle out there in the music world, so I try to be a good musical guinea pig for anyone that will listen. My tastes are varied. My thirst is unquenchable. Here's a few from the vault that I'd like to take the time to analyze.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

It seems like an eternity since Broken Social Scene released "Windsurfing Nation" in 2005. Sure, we got the BSS Presents series. Both the Kevin Drew fronted BSS effort and Brendan Canning fronted BSS effort had their moments. After all, the core members have remained basically the same throughout. But, apparently, once every 5 years, the Canadian collective will gather all their soldiers, from the farthest reaches of the world, to get together to work on an album.

Since the BSS supergroup's inception, nearly all members have experienced some success. Feist might have been the first to blow up, landing some monstrously huge licensing deals. Metric reached a similar tier of success with their most recent album as well. Even Broken Social Scene itself has gathered an ever-increasing fan base.

So the stage is set for BSS for an epic release after 5 years of waiting. Do they deliver? Pretty much. The classic guitar-army sound is back, with the wall of guitars sounding sharp as ever. The band's solid foundation remains, and the album meanders along at just the right pace, showcasing the many faces of BSS. Nearly everyone has their moment. There's fantastic Kevin Drew songs ("World Sick") and Brendan Canning numbers ("Water in Hell"), of course, but they are accompanied by songs driven by the others as well. Apostle of Hustle get their presence in "Art House Director." Emily Haines (from Metric) gets her soft ballad, "Sentimental X's", per BSS protocol.

The band is back together again, and you can sense the joy and fun of old friends seeping from the record. Makes you feel good all over.

Circa Survive - Blue Sky Noise

Circa Survive is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. Their first album, Juturna, turned some heads and got them a pretty big cult following. Their second album, On Letting Go, got them indie famous and able to headline their own tours. Their music has inspired more than a few copy cat bands with soaring Anthony Green style vocals (Tides of Man, Broadway). Now, they have a captive audience ready for a new album.

So we have Blue Sky Noise. From the first song, "Strange Terrain," its clear that we're dealing with a new and distinct vibe. The sound seems focused with an ear for pop sensibilities. Anthony sounds immaculate of course. A new style of falsetto background vocals is layered behind the chorus. The production is smooth and glossy.

The second song, single "Get Out," finds the band reaching for a new type of pop... A head-bobbing, guitar-driven style with fierce vocals. Green seems to push his voice to new heights on this song, not afraid to cause some damage. The screams don't sound screamo. They are on a high register not many screamers dare enter. Dude's got pipes.

After that, Blue Sky Noise heads to familiar territory, semi-prog atmospheric (if at times boring) rock. Some of the songs (Frozen Creek) just don't have the immediacy of the band's former work, and wander along at a slow pace. Some of the vocal work seems like it is no longer catered towards Anthony himself, but more towards what he thinks his primary audience (teenage girls) wants to hear. Lines like "I fell apart in your arms for the last time and I felt free to do what I want because of the things you told me" sound forced to me. It sometimes feels like a string of generic lines pasted together, the sum of which don't seem to say anything of importance. Don't get me wrong, there's some nice moments ("Dyed in the Wool") mixed in. The guys still got chops, but they've traded in Juturna's razor-sharp edge for a happier, milder sound.

The band seems to have found their niche. Thousands of teenage girls at Warped Tour will sing along every word with tears streaming down their faces this summer. Even though Circa Survive isn't entirely my cup of tea these days, I can't help but respect the position they've gotten themselves into.

Miike Snow - Miike Snow

Miike Snow is riiding the hype wave.

As the world has had a year to play out Passion Pit, a void is starting to open up in summer playlists far and wide. Welcome, Miike Snow. I had heard opener and single "Animal" a bit earlier this year as it crept across the blogosphere. I dug it. Then I got to see Miike Snow at Coachella. They managed to keep their smooth electronic sound crisp in a live setting with 5 live band members (in white "Phantom of the Opera masks"). I was impressed.

Miike Snow's debut album, Miike Snow, is pretty darn good overall. Standouts like "Sylvia" showcase the dark and brooding styles the band can whip out at times. The production is spot on. Songs like "Black and Blue" and "Cult Logic" will make their mark on the Summer playlists, perfect successors to the Passion Pit falsetto space-disco sound. However, not every song is a winner ("A Horse is Not a Home"). But, hey. Not a bad debut at all. Kudos, Miike.

The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly

I was privileged enough to see The Ruby Suns a few years back at a tiny club in Phoenix called Modified Arts. The New Zealand 3-piece looked like they belonged around a beach campfire down under, donning bright colors and sunny smiles. Their songs sounded exactly how they looked... Breezy, tropical, fun. The electronics used only highlight the organic sounds used.

The band's new album, Fight Softly, takes the sunny tropical elements from the first release, Sea Lion, and strips them down to a dancier, electronic base. The drums seem to be exclusively electronic, although it sounds as though some live congas were used. The band's lead, Ryan McPhun, is now the only one singing.

All in all, I really enjoy the album. It makes me feel like I'm on a beach thousands of miles away with a Pina Colada in my hand. The album's standouts like "Cinco" and "Dusty Fruit" are formidable conga line worthy beach classics. Even the lesser tracks on the album that suffer from being too trancey and hypnotic "Two Humans," are still enjoyable. Pretty irresistable album.



Due to some unforeseen complications, I was only able to make it to Coachella for Sunday, but I definitely packed in all the acts I could. All and all, Sunday was one of the better days on paper anyway. Coachella is a festival of sound and lights unlike any other. Here's what I saw:

The first act I caught was Local Natives. Their debut effort, Gorilla Manor, has definitely grown on me since my first spin with it. I knew they would be something special live, but they definitely surpassed my expections. They played in one of the tents and had a pretty good crowd for that time of afternoon, with great crowd reactions. The fans seemed to feed off their crisp harmonies, which echoed across the tent smooth as silk. The band members definitely had a "I can't believe we're playing Coachella, this has been a dream of ours" moment, and damn near gave me goosebumps in 95 degree heat.

After that, we rolled down to Deerhunter on the mainstage. It was interesting seeing them in the light of day (I had only seen them once in a small club), their form of music seems like it would benefit from the cloak of night. But, surprisingly, the summer sunshine seemed to give them a surfier vibe I hadn't picked up on before. The set's highlight came when Lockett's guitar was malfunctioning and frontman Bradford Cox filled in time with an impromptu acoustic ditty about Coachella and the probability of various children being conceived as a result. Classic.

The choice between Julian Casablancas (from the Strokes) and Jonsi (from Sigur Ros) was tough, but the group went with Julian. He kept up his typical machismo and swagger by donning sunglasses and a leather jacket (in the desert.) Only Julian could make it look like it wasn't even contrived. Dude was probably born in a leather jacket. The set wasn't disappointing. His effortless croon kept things strutting along as they should. Fun. Plus they did a Strokes cover of "Hard to Explain" that rocked. Hard.

Miike Snow. Miike Snow's album has some killer tracks on it. I wondered how the band would present itself live and how electronic the setup would be. Turns out, they perform as a 5 piece live band (with some backing tracks). They really sounded clean and looked sharp. They were wearing white "phantom of the opera" type masks. Classy.

Phoenix. I've seen Phoenix before so I know they can throw down live. There crowd was absolutely massive. I mean huge, the biggest I saw all day (besides Gorillaz). The crowd seemed to know a ton of lyrics and the band seemed to be having the time of their lives. Total victory.

Pavement. Phoenix pretty much jacked Pavement's crowd. I guess even an epic reunion like that can't pull the people from a hype machine like Phoenix. I've always heard that Pavement was never a festival band, and I kind of get it now. Their brand of quirky indie songs are best enjoyed alone in your room as opposed to a big outdoor venue. But still, mad respect for Pavement.

I went to the festival with some friends that are great fans of electronic dance music (EDM.) Although this isn't my particular cup o' tea, I will say that I appreciate electronic sounds and hey, lets face it, sometimes dance music is flat out fun. The Sahara Tent at Coachella is about as fun of a venue for such a thing as you can imagine. A massive sound system that wraps the whole tent. A stage set with lighting rigs beyond comprehension. As the sun was setting, it was time to move to the dance tent.

Orbital put on a solid set. Solid beats. Solid lighting / visual stage production. Then came Plastikman. I guess this guy doesn't really do this performance too often and it was a highly anticipated show that cost many thousand dollars to put on. Whatever Coachella paid for this act, it was well worth it. The DJ was surrounded by a cylinder that covered his entire booth. The cylinder was lit with LCD type screens (or projections) that were not unlike a Winamp "Visualizer"... crazy psychedelic fractal-type images that seemed to ebb and flow with the music's every bend. The images never formed any real object, only colors, lines, swirls and shapes that were like an extension of the music, fascinatingly beautiful and diverse, morphing into different formations for each part / song. Some loonies were passing out kaleidoscopic glasses to everyone in sight for the show (Were they hired by Plastikman to do this as part of the experience? I'll never know.) Regardless, the result was unlike anything I've experienced. A masterful combination of sound, visual and kaleidoscopic madness. I now think I understand this wave of culture, this EDM experience. The EDM regulars seemed to understand how significant this performance was. They deployed thousands of glowsticks and formed a mound of them in the center of the crowd, swimming through them in delight. God bless Coachella. Haven for the crazies.

Thom Yorke. Of course it was amazing. It was Thom Yorke. Couldn't really get up too close cause it was massively populated, but this minimal techno low-key set was very calming after the intensity of the Sahara Tent.

We closed the night out with Gorillaz. It was the final act of the festival and was unrivaled by other performances at the end of the night, so I can't even imagine how many people stood before the great LCD screen that covered the entire Coachella mainstage for this monstrously huge production. Lord knows how much it cost to put on this show. The animations flowed through the entire set, giving the audience constant eye candy for the entire hour and a half set. Gorillaz has never been my thing, but I can honestly say that I was entertained and pleased throughout the duration. It would be tough to hate on.

Gotta make it all three days next year. It's an experience unlike any other. Yayyy Coachella.