In your headphones

Dashboard Confessional
Alter the Ending
Now available

Two years after the release of Dashboard Confessional’s last studio album The Shade of Poison Trees, singer/songwriter Chris Carrabba slips further into his Christian rock-tinged emo-project with Alter the Ending, 12 more tracks about promiscuous women, loneliness and the sweeping feeling of summer love.

A free acoustic track released earlier this year — “Even Now” — gave fans a tease of the upcoming album and sparked debate over whether Carrabba was at work on an electric or unplugged endeavor. Turns out, both sides are technically correct.

Alter the Ending will be sold in a format similar to indie-band The Good Life’s 2004 release, Album of the Year.

Just as the The Good Life (side project of Cursive’s Tim Kasher) released its third CD as an electric album packaged with a bonus disc featuring all of the tracks’ acoustic versions, Carrabba’s Alter the Ending aims to bring together the two sides of his fickle fan base. Wavering between power chord-laden, fist-punching emo anthems and reflective, Jesus-praising slow jams, the band’s sixth album fails to recapture any of the raw songwriting found on its first two albums, 2000’s Swiss Army Romance and 2001’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most.

But neither the somber nor mildly upbeat renderings of Dashboard Confessional’s new songs do much to flatter Carrabba’s voice, which — despite obvious Auto-Tune assistance — still strains to reach the high notes.

Although Alter the Ending might disappoint those accustomed to the just-post-Further Seems Forever version of Chris Carrabba, listeners who signed on with their Spider-Man 2 soundtrack-contribution will appreciate both versions of Dashboard Confessional’s newest overproduced endeavor.

­—Sarah Bennett

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Rodriguez Lopez Productions
Now available

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez lives in a world of sound so avant-garde it is almost as if he wishes to be misunderstood.

Through his years playing with seminal bands such as At The Drive-In and its still-active successor The Mars Volta, Rodriguez-Lopez’ guitar-playing has developed into a sonic wall of dissonant harmonies, nondiatonic scales and manipulated tonal structures that have the capability to simultaneously eat your brain and lull you to sleep.

Since 2004, Rodriguez-Lopez has set up in various cities around the world and concocted concept solo albums at an inhuman rate.

But it is Xenophages, his 12th and latest full-length — which was recorded from his new hideaway in Zapopan, Mexico — that is, if possible, the musician’s most ambitious yet.

Although previous solo efforts have been mostly instrumental experiments with Mars Volta album rejects, Xenophages is a ship helmed entirely by Rodriguez-Lopez. The El Paso, Texas native not only masterfully shreds the album’s heavy progressive-rock riffs, he also wrote its foreign-language lyrics that spell out a sordid journey through psychedelic concepts.

Sung entirely in Spanish, each of the eleven tracks — with translated titles like “Losing the Art of Reason Without Moving One Finger” and “Bleeding Behind the Eyes” — represents one lifetime of the album’s constantly reincarnating main subject, a jilted female caseworker.

The album’s title, Xenophages, is also part of the recording’s high concept, referencing the Greek philosopher whose religiously critical conceptions were not widely accepted until centuries after his death. Ordinarily years in the making (or decades if you’re Guns and Roses), Rodriguez-Lopez’s concept albums are churned out faster than a McDonald’s drive-thru.

With another one already slated for release next month, fans better let Xenophages sink in quick, before it becomes usurped by the next barrage of incomprehensible genius.

­—Sarah Bennett

Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club
Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club Live
Vagrant Records
Now available

With grunge pioneers like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr coming out of the plaid-clad woodwork this year, releasing new material and conducting nationwide tours, there’s no doubt that audiophiles have a resurgence of garage rock on their hands. At the height of this revival — and faithfully following in the steps of its aforementioned influences — is Los Angeles via San Francisco garage rock and neo-psychedlia-infused band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Formed in 1998, BRMC has been fueling indie rock for more than a decade with its penchant for droning and distortion, which has led to well-deserved comparisons to everyone from the highly regarded shoegaze band The Jesus and Mary Chain to contemporary pysch rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

But it’s been more than a year since BRMC has released new material — unless, of course, you count a debut track on the The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack — and although a new album is due out in March 2010, that means quite a long wait for BRMC lovers. But for those of you who have too much self-dignity to be seen in Best Buy shelling out cash for a CD with a brooding Robert Pattinson on the cover, BRMC has been kind enough to grace its infinitely cooler die-hard fans with its first live DVD appropriately titled, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Live.

The three-disc DVD set features more than two hours of up close and personal concert footage from the band’s 2007 Baby 81 tour in Berlin, Dublin and Glasgow, as well as a 90-minute behind-the-scenes exclusive that includes both tour highlights and an intimate look at the production of its 2005 album, Howl.

Filmed mostly in black and white with sudden, hazy glimpses of color, the grainy recordings perfectly encapsulate the band’s rough and raw gritty sound, while the epilepsy-inducing stage lights and dramatic low angles maintains the concert’s larger-than-life scale.

The set also comes complete with a 48-page photo booklet and a 14-track CD, which includes songs from the concert film. Although the tracks aren’t new, the bonus album is sure to appease BRMC lovers through the winter.

—Lauren Barbato

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