One month of summer to go, and there truly hasn’t been a knockout music release to celebrate, Radiohead or no. I still haven’t been able to figure out why people love those guys so much, but it’s a free country, like they say. In any case, I stumbled -- well, maybe a bad choice in words, because they’re no secret, after all -- upon a recent release that takes most of what Radiohead and similarly bombastic groups have been trying to do and one-ups the ante. And then I found a couple of other nuggets hiding behind the chain store promos for that tired Beyonce release.

Mars Volta, De-Loused in the Comatorium

The concept album is making a huge comeback, what with Black Heart Procession’s Amore Del Tropico and almost every Radiohead album released in the last few years. But no one has nailed that volatile experiment as hard as Mars Volta, a supergroup of sorts formed by Omar Rodriguez and Cedric Bixler from the ashes of their previous band, At the Drive-In. While ATDI was a punk-funk hybrid that stood out like a sore thumb, Mars Volta is even harder to categorize.

Think Led Zeppelin, Rush, Queen, Radiohead and Tool in a head-on crash with Steely Dan and Brian Eno and you’re halfway there. Insanely rough drums, cryptic guitar threads, and Omar’s shrieking vocals buttress a solid offering of songs that don’t settle for the conventional three to four-minute formula. These tunes are epics and operas, and definitely something you won’t hear on the radio. I know this isn’t much of a glimpse into what Rodriguez and Bixler have done, but by the time you’re done listening to De-Loused, you’ll be having a very hard time putting it into words too.

Parliament, Up for the Down Stroke

It’s about funkin’ time! George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic syndicate not only ruled the groove roost throughout the entire ‘70s, but their irresistible hooks helped build the foundation for the hip-hop that has more power over your kids than you do. From the oft-sampled title track to the silky scats on “The Goose” to the creepy backing vocals of “All Your Goodies are Gone,” there is no shortage of reasons to praise Universal’s decision to reissue not just this classic, but also Mothership Connection and Chocolate City as well. Do your ass a favor and pick up this funky triptych; it’ll shake so hard that you’ll be looking for sweets to eat when all is said and done.

Various Artists, State of the World

The indie hip-hop label of the moment is Tableturns, which started out as a small DJ collective throwing down at cloistered events but has now become a fledgling enterprise interested in maintaining turntablism’s health and well-being. Their newest joint, State of the World, is a decks-rich rumination on our jacked up sociopolitical situation, featuring guest turns on the mic from conscious undergrounders like J-Live and Cannibal Ox, as well as beats and scratches from legends like Rob Swift and DJ Quest. If you’re looking for a heady intro to hip-hop’s true social spirit, State of the World is the alarm clock you’ve been looking for.


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