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The Runners Four
(Kill Rock Stars)

There comes a time in every freak's life when the freakiest thing they can do is go straight. Like a surly punk-rock couple suddenly throwing a formal, Christian, church wedding, the 'Hoof's finally gone normal. Where records like Apple O and the Green Cosmos EP tripped the light orgasmic, The Runners Four ignores things like avant-hardcore and lattice-like laptop production and turns in a clean-cut guitar record. (Green Cosmos may've sounded like it was recorded on Neptune, but this one coulda been laid down in the garage next door to your mom's house.)

Here, guitars are lean and go from the Velvets to the Who without letting their seams show. Still, it is Deerhoof, and a band this hyper-creative can't help but be unpredictable. Changes come out of nowhere. Songs end and begin where other bands would be working their way through the middle. Garage rock is deconstructed and reshaped. Guitar tones sound Micro-Machine tiny, and then rear up like the Jolly Green Giant playing a 30-foot-long silver-glitter Les Paul. And of course, Satomi is still Satomi and she still sings just as cute and weird and aggressive and cooing and animalistic and joyful and sly. It's nice to hear Deerhoof grow and evolve without strain or stretch marks. ADAM GNADE

In the Reins
(Overcoat Recordings)

Something seems inherently wrong with the notion of Sam Beam backed by a gleeful horn section. After all, he's this serious, sullen, pensive songwriter—not a glitzy showman... right? But within the context of the In the Reins split EP, the match-up actually works. Lush instrumentation from Arizona collective Calexico adds a sense of depth and presence to Beam's ghostly songwriting, but doesn't overpower it. "A History Of Lovers," the chipper horn song, keeps their lounge leanings at a safe enough distance that the comforting warmth of Beam's whispered vocals are preserved. Likewise, Beam's voice parallels Calexico singer Joey Burns enough that it makes sense in songs (such as opener "He Lays in the Reins") that carry more of the latter artists' eclectic roots aesthetic. Some moments could stand more embellishment, especially since Beam moved in a more studio-centric direction on 2004's Our Endless Numbered Days. The pedal-steel lullabies of "Prison on Route 41" and "Sixteen, Maybe Less," beautiful as they might be, safely sound too much like Iron and Wine for their own good. More engaging is Beam's concert staple, "Dead Man's Will," which washes its placid folksy harmonies in feedback and marimba. The standout "Burn that Broken Bed" puts both artists in foreign territory, coming off like a film noir soundtrack with a down-tempo groove and skulking back-alley saxophone. Both acts are not only reaching, but reaching together, clicking with one another's styles and effectively capturing the spirit of the split. JOHN VETTESE

Iron and Wine/Calexico perform Fri Oct 21 at Roseland, 8 NW 6th

Fall Heads Roll

I feel like Jann Wenner. Every decade, the Rolling Stones release a new album, and every decade the Rolling Stone publisher wets himself trying to explain that yes, this time, contrary to all expectation and sanity, this new album is a "return to form." Main difference, though? The Fall's Mark E. Smith has released over 75 albums in the last three decades, and Fall Heads Roll really is a "return to form." Honest. No kidding. Forget his '90s output: This is a return to the lacerating heights of the mid-'80s. The guitars are sharp, the tongue is laconic but not lazy, the songs are incisive, bittersweet, and nasty—never pompous, never pointless.

Squint your eyes and "Midnight Aspen" is like acerbic Scots Arab Strap only good; opener "Ride Away" is a melodica-led dub delight; the excellently titled "Early Days of Channel Führer" tackles acoustic folk, tired and forlorn; "Breaking the Rules" is sublime... man, this album is sweet. LISTEN UP DUNDERHEADS! THIS IS A RETURN TO FORM! (Sighs) Man, never thought I'd have any sympathy for Wenner. EVERETT TRUE

The Find

Portland's Ohmega Watts came out swinging—laying down an intro track that's no mere throwaway. It's two minutes, two seconds of solid, soulful hiphop introducing his shit with music that's something like Sly Stone having some glorious, liquidic, acid vision of conscious hiphop to come. It's smart, personal, heartfelt stuff, with even the liner notes asking questions. ("Jesus said he'd return when we least expect, but do you believe in him anyway, or is his life and God all fairy tales made up by Christians?" he proposes in the notes to track 17.)

It's autobiographical, heavily referential (and reverential) of the ghosts of hiphop past, and full of heady word play and kickass writing. "Groovin' on Sunshine" opens with shimmering tambourine—a hazy, stoned, funk mini-epic at just over three minutes. Throughout, Ohmega Watts never wastes time, as The Find is all economy: just enough wah guitar, only the right amount of Stevie Wonder piano on "Mind Power" to be completely effective enough without taking away from dude's storytelling. Best of all, there are no skits, and the interludes are just pure, grooved-out funk. And not the kind your older brother plays in that Parliament tribute band. Fuck that shit. ADAM GNADE

Ohmega Watts celebrates the release of The Find, Fri Oct 21 at Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside



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