S, ‘Cool Choices’ (Hardly Art)
Fall is a good time to blast cathartic rock music through headphones — or a Bluetooth Beats pill, whatever works. In that vein, “Cool Choices” excels, a steely, hushed album from Seattle singer-songwriter S (Jenn Ghetto of Carissa’s Wierd). It carries the thrill of this indie-rock-guitar player pushing into synth pop and piano ballads — and writing her best songs, with unflinching lyrics about failed/failing relationships. Highlights include the oceanic “Loser,” about how some people were born losers, will die losers and how you lose friends as you get older. Another track, “Tell Me,” is cutting and confidently chilled with electronics: “Did you [ …] tell her the same things? And when you were through, did you find out the same things about you?” Ghetto keeps it more real than other writers, and has less time for her characters’ hangups. The way she arranges songs from tense to release is cleanly highlighted by producer/engineer Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie. They make a good team.
King Tuff, ‘Black Moon Spell’ (Sub Pop)
The new King Tuff album features guitar player Kyle Thomas in demon mode, inhabiting an Id-driven character somewhat like Eminem’s Slim Shady or Madlib’s Quasimoto, mixing cigarette butts with bubble gum (and sex and drugs). The music sounds like the Ramones, Exploding Hearts, T. Rex and, um, Stone Temple Pilots, full of righteous electric guitar riffs and nasally vocals. “Eyes of the Muse” is his glistening entry into the temple of song — totally majestic and sophisticated. His transitions between tracks are also perfect (“Headbanger” into “Beautiful Thing,” for instance). He’s thought of everything, down to the sequencing. With production by Bobby Harlow at Studio B in Los Angeles, the sounds are in their right place, giving great heft to high school (anti-) jock jams (“Black Holes in Stereo,” “Eddie’s Song”). Drums tumble and guitars get louder exactly when they should, hand claps are expertly placed. This might be too derivative to be a classic album, but it frequently transcends earth to rock heaven.