December CD Reviews
Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Night Castle
Released: Oct. 27 (Atlantic)

When one hears Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the term "Christmas band" comes to mind. Yes, the Orchestra has released multiple Christmas albums filled with symphonic rock versions of classics, but Night Castle proves TSO is more than a "Christmas band." Its latest release is better-suited for Halloween, with haunting melodies and an epic storyline built into the rock opera that takes up two-disks' worth of material. The story follows a young girl who sneaks out of her grandfather's beach house ("Night Enchanted") and meets a stranger building a sandcastle on the beach ("Childhood Dreams"). The album follows the stranger's experiences from when he traveled the world - something just as epic as the accompanying music. - Lindsay Patton-Carson

Rating: ****
Key Tracks: "Night Enchanted," "Another Way You Can Die"

Released: Nov. 10 (Swim)

Githead rocks. Not in the loud, long-haired, arena-filling, leather-clad rock exemplified by Metallica or Joan Jett. Githead rocks because it creates its own blend of lo-fi/indie/electro rock (think Raveonettes) that makes the idea of owning a pair of Ray Bans that much more enticing. But just when you think you've got the band pegged, it churns out "Over the Limit," a throwback to Brit punkers such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, or a Pixies-esque "Lightswimmer." - Lindsay Patton-Carson

Rating: ***
Key Tracks: "Landing," "Over the Limit"

The Very Foundation
This Restless Enterprise
Release Date: Dec. 2 (Unsigned)

For its third effort, Portland-based The Very Foundation raises the stakes with This Restless Enterprise. The sound achieved through the adroit hand of producer Pat Kearns (Guitar Romantic, Rise or Fall) has a mixed medium sensibility that pulls from all directions making for a dauntless rock album full of confidence, pipe organs, synths and snares. Sure there are traces of Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen, but trade in your detective kit and monocle for a good pair of headphones. This album was designed so one can get lost in between the spaces of what sounds like inspiration and what sounds like magic. ¬- S.A. Díaz

Rating: ***
Key Tracks: "My Sweetest Defeat," "Runaway to Tokyo,"

mr. Gnome
Heave Yer Skeleton
Released: November (El Marto Records)

If you've never heard a voice shift shape before, listen to the mind blowing sophomore set from Cleveland's mr. Gnome, a duo comprised of guitarist/vocalist Nicole Barille and pianist/drummer Sam Meister. In track after track of Heave Yer Skeleton, Barille is more muse than conjurer, and comparisons to the likes of PJ Harvey and Joanna Newsome lose their face value quickly in the shadow of her talent. This chanteuse is charming in her own right. Dark melodies swim with her voice and each track is a tidal wave, smashing the senses and leaving the listener sublimely suffocated. This album does more than haunt; it positively possesses the listener and bludgeons the face of anything beautiful beyond the sounds of this impressive effort. - S.A. Díaz

Rating : ***
Key Tracks: "Spain," "Slow Side"

Local Releases

The Effort
The Effort
Released: Nov. 30(Independent)

What The Effort does on its latest self-titled disc is meld pop and rock together to create songs that are nostalgic, yet fresh. The standout track, "It's Alright," is full of choruses, melodies and hooks that are straight pop/rock with a dash of New Wave. The album doesn't make the listener think too hard - it's a getaway album for long drives, or bounce-around moods - and it uses the winning formula of putting an emotional ballad ("Fall") in the mix, playing on a listener's every emotion. - Lindsay Patton-Carson

Key Tracks: "It's Alright," "Fall"

Lazy Genius
Strange Plains, Dark Grooves
Released: Sept. 11 (Broken Wing Records)

One would be surprised to hear that Lazy Genius is a local band. On "Let it Spill," the first track off Strange Plains, Dark Grooves, the band sounds more like it was part of the British Invasion. Immediately after, it switches gears and produces a gritty track ("Random Places") that one would swear came from Seattle. Lazy Genius plays with its listeners' ears throughout the album, switching from melodic, pop-tinged rock, to grunge and guitars, to opera-esque rock ballads ("Black & Blues"), the band keeps listeners in suspense with every track change. - Lindsay Patton-Carson

Key Tracks: "Let it Spill," "Black & Blues"