Yrkoon, Ani DiFranco, Future Leaders ... 

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YYRKOON Occult Medicine ****

Yyrkoon render words like “disaster,” “tragedy” and “chaos” into awe-inspiring, anal-retentively organized sonics. Technical acrobatics dazzle the ear while hopelessness drowns the brain. Occult Medicine’s daemonic metal mixture is about 75 percent death, 25 percent black—Immortal’s primal Norwegian brew undergoes unholy matrimony with At the Gates’ sweeping riffs that raze everything in their path. Arch Enemy lion-heartedness and even some of Nevermore’s harder passages are close companions. In its sophistication, brutal elegance and flawless insanity, this album proves Yyrkoon are bested by few. (Osmose/The End)

ANI DIFRANCO Knuckle Down ****

Departing from her usual—but still good—vague poetics and abstract musical scribbling, Ani nevertheless shows with Knuckle Down that the best music is the kind that gets your groove on. Strong bass lines and stark, low-end guitar peppered with jazz and blues is effortlessly catchier, sexier and deeper than Ani often tries too hard to be. “Callous,” “Paradigm” and “Minerva” are back-to-back-to-back slow haunters that are more Nick Drake than prophet-poet. (Righteous Babe)


“Spotlight” charges in like a big black frothing bull, with heavy, surging riffs that buck and gore, sliced by intermissions of gloomy guitar picking. How can you fault a band for ripping off Nirvana and Local H—and pulling it off? However, after the opener, things quickly dissipate into so much pseudo rap-metal and Silverjam/Smashing Chains/Screaming Temple Pilots. The bull is killed in a flurry of plaid and dreads. (Epic)


Someone needs to tell Kenny that the ’90s are over—and with it, Lenny Kravitz’s initial punch (“Alive,” “Be Mine”). Also, that the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (“Ain’t Selling Out”) came first and did it better. Furthermore, even if you have arena-ready blues-based rock that’ll make 40-somethings everywhere shake their thang, and Kid Rock guests on your album, it can’t hide the fact that you’re a second-rate copycat. Takers? (Reprise)

TODD STADTMAN Only I Can Save You *

Hmm … which is worse, being gummed to death by a hippopotamus or listening to this CD from beginning to end? Well, one only takes about five minutes to endure. Despite mad digipack cover design, Todd Stadtman’s whiny, shallow yuppie yearnings backed by bright adult-pop music sounds like it was thrown together by a third-grader for a summer camp project, recorded on a Casio and mixed on a boom box. Pick the hippo. (Prix Fire)

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Rebecca Vernon

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