Get your thermometers set for a hot summer, people. Good music is sprouting out of the ground as fast as flowers, and you’re gonna need a lot of shelf space to keep up with both. Plus, if there’s one thing that June has meant over the years, it’s this -- road trip! Time to fill up the tank, pop in a great disc, and cruise towards oblivion. Here’s some starters for the soundtrack of your life:

Caustic Resin, Keep On Truckin

For those of you unfamiliar with Resin’s dense, powerful chord progressions, there’s no time like the present to get acquainted. Like their more famous rock ‘n’ roll cousins, the immortal Built To Spill, these Idaho natives understand the inherent majesty of the guitar. There’s so much of it on Keep on Truckin that you’d think that frontman Brett Nelson -- who plays rhythm guitar in Built To Spill -- watched too much MTV and got so sick and tired of pop music’s synthetic beats that he decided to craft an album of six-stringed rage to compensate. But for those of you who love Jimi Hendrix, Doug Martsch or Neil Young’s extended solos, Caustic Resin is for you. They’re old-school rockers (Nelson comes off sounding like a carbon copy of Sabbath-era Ozzy, especially on the album’s best track, “Fry Like Ace Jones”) in best sense of that term; that is, they like to play long (some songs top out at eight minutes!), thick, pounding rock with a minimum of gimmick and attitude.

“Drive #49” and the Stones-like “Keep On Truckin” stick out like sore thumbs on that score, but “Fry Like Ace Jones” and the creepily beautiful “Viva La Causa” slow the disc down enough to keep things diverse. Bottom line: these guys are making rock the way it used to be made. Put this joint in your car stereo and just try driving under the speed limit.


Andrew Bird, Weather Systems

Once the virtuoso violinist for the underrated neo-swing outfit, Squirrel Nut Zippers, the deeply talented Bird is now a solo act with as many if not more albums under his belt than his more popular bandmates. Which is no mistake, because he is truly one of the most under-recognized musical talents on the planet. While nothing may eventually change that sad fact (people like dumb, disposable music they can trash, like coffee cups, after a few listens, you see…), Weather Systems will nonetheless give it the old college try.

This time around, Bird handles most of the instruments, taking only a couple of his Bowl of Fire comrades, like drummer Kevin O’Donnell, along for the ride. The refreshing title track experiments with what feels like a score of violins, while Nora O’Connor’s evocative vocal interplay with Bird on “Lull” is the album’s finest moment. Then there are Bird’s matchless lyrical talents, which unfortunately don’t receive as much attention as they should (his new indie label, Grimsely, neglected to print them). Enough can’t be written about Bird, so I’ll stop here with this modest reminder: you don’t what you’re missing by skipping on Andrew Bird. And although ignorance may be bliss, knowledge is power.


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