Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez spent a couple of decades each on the roots-rock circuit before teaming up to form The Hacienda Brothers, with the invaluable input of country-soul legend Dan Penn, who produced the band's eponymous debut and the follow-up What's Wrong With Right (Proper American). The latter picks up where the former left off, presenting simple, gospel-tinged vamps with a plume of Southwest smoke, anchored by Gaffney's raspy twang and Gonzalez's resonant picking. The new album's statement-of-purpose cover is a swinging take on Gamble & Huff's Philly soul classic "Cowboys To Girls," which explores how western archetypes and sounds continue to affect us… A-

The authenticity of The Court & Spark has never really been in doubt, because the band began with the express purpose of infusing Gram Parsons-style Cosmic Americana with the way-out mood trips of Pink Floyd, which automatically put it outside the realm of the dilettante and into the category of "visionary." The Court & Spark's fourth album, Hearts (Absolutely Kosher) features the band's usual mix of sublime songcraft and aimless wandering, all unified by the deep hiccup of lead singer M.C. Taylor. As always, when the band hits, it hits strong, as on the slinky, horn-dotted "Let's Get High," and the Steely-Dan-jams-with-Crazy-Horse workout "Capaldi"… B+

The tight harmonies, clean guitars, and sweetly spiraling hooks of the Birmingham quartet The Rewinds make them sound like visitors from a late-'70s AM radio that never existed, where Big Star really was a big star, and all the corporate rock money was spent on polishing up likeable young rockers whose highest ambition was to write songs their girlfriends would like. The debut The Rewinds (Livewire/Ryko) sometimes comes off as too airless and pat, but the few change-of-pace Britpop-styled songs (like the Smiths-y "Fascination") and the uncommonly complex arrangements speak to a maturity and sophistication that's rare in regional power-poppers. This is an auspicious debut… A-


A year ago, on the fine album Bright Ideas, indie-rock godfather Mac McCaughan reinvented his sometime band Portastatic as an old-school power-pop act; now, with the jaunty, lightly orchestrated instrumental soundtrack for the as-yet-unreleased film Who Loves The Sun (Merge), it's clear that Portastatic has no firm identity aside from "not Superchunk." But that's only a minor quibble given how enjoyable—and surprisingly melodic for an indie film score—the flute-and-melodica-heavy Who Loves The Sun is. It's got such a nice sound, all autumnal and upbeat, that it doesn't even need a movie playing in front of it… B+

Conversely, Kaada's Music For Moviebikers (Ipecac) sounds like snippets of incidental music for films never made. Using an offbeat orchestra of classically trained players and avant-garde buddies, the Norwegian soundscaper crafts a series of evocative instrumentals that alternately drip and shine, as shapeless and breathtaking as nature. A-

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