It’s kind of amazing how much noise two guys can make with a drum kit and an acoustic guitar. Opener “Walking” is deceptively dreamy, but the rough transition to the staccato drum beat “Red and Purple” sets the real tone for the album. The second song, augmented by what sounds like toy piano and porno bass, is equally beautiful but nothing to sleep to. Subsequent songs, such as “Fools” and “Joe’s Waltz,” with their psycho-blues riffs, self-flagellating lyrics, and scream-therapy backing vocals seem to be exorcizing the same sort of personal demons as the heaviest Iron Maiden songs.
Panic at the Disco
(Fueled by Ramen)
Remember the first time you heard The Beatles? For the guys in Panic at the Disco, this was apparently about six months ago. The newfound Beatlemania - and the accompanying horns, harmonies, etc. - makes Pretty. Odd. better than the sophomore album you’d expected, but it’s no masterpiece. The lyrics are junior-high awkward, and the album seems more inspired by “When I’m Sixty Four” than “Tomorrow Never Knows.” This is what Sgt. Pepper sounds like in an era when LSD isn’t readily available, made by the group previously known as “Uglier Fall Out Boy.” But considering the state of modern popular rock, this’ll probably be Rolling Stone’s album of the year.
Nine Inch Nails
(The Null Corporation)
It’s easy for critics to write off this 36-track instrumental set as self-indulgent horse shit, but as an album self-released on the Internet, it’s made more money than any music critic will ever see. While about a third of the tracks do sound like overlong instrumental breaks that Trent Reznor forgot to sing over, the rest (considering all the songs are called “Ghosts” with a number in front of them, it’s probably pointless to try and differentiate them here) are actually worth a listen, ranging from industrial ambience to up-tempo noise jams suitable for running or freaky goth sex. Fans and others should grab the free download, but everyone should skip the $300 ultra-deluxe edition.