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'Chronicles' Marnie Stern's best to date

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

‘Chronicles of Marnia'

Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)


With guitar skills that are pretty much unmatched in all of indie rock, fun and heartfelt songs, and a unique voice you always know is her, Marnie Stern lands a knockout punch with her fourth record, the hilariously dubbed “Chronicles of Marnia,” her best album to date.

Stern recruited drummer Kid Millions (Oneida) who brings a different pace to the proceedings, and Stern both astonishes with her finger tapping mastery and ability to write songs you want to sing back to her on opener “Year of the Glad”; first single “Nothing Is Easy,” where she insists, “You don't need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes”; “Still Moving,” that has an old Stones feel at times; and moving “Proof of Life,” where she admits, “All of my life is based on fantasy.” If so, it's a hell of a fantasy.

‘Girl Talk'

Kate Nash (INgrooves/Fontana/10P)


British singer-songwriter Kate Nash always sounds like the epitome of strength and sass, even when she's wounded. That carries over to her third “Girl Talk,” where she takes an even bigger stand especially when it comes to her gender.

Nash also rocks out harder than ever on this album, and there is way less pop polish and more punk grime than she's ever shown. That makes for a really interesting listen, though not exactly her best record, and she's at her best on smoky opener “Part Heart”; the ‘60s biker rock feel of “Death Proof”; and damaged and weird “Sister,” that finds her reaching out her hand and also stretching her voice over this fun rocker.

‘Ensemble Pearl'

Ensemble Pearl (Drag City)


Combining members of Sunn 0))), Boris, and Ghost (the Japanese version), Ensemble Pearl compiles the best of all of those worlds on their debut album, that is full of doom and drone and will probably terrify you. And maybe even relax you.

Their six-cut album starts as a murky, dark shadow on “Ghost Parade,” and that continues into sweltering, simmering “Island Epiphany,” that's similar to Earth, and the 20-minute closer “Sexy Angle,” that builds off a consistent drum ricochet with surfy guitars, noisy feedback whine, and a melody that bubbles, shifts, and melts. Fans of any of the bands whose members are included in this project should feel right at home.


Ellen Allien (Bpitch Control)


Ellen Allien's new album “LISm” is her first that's a musical movement, a single track that lives and breathes in its 45-minute space and makes for one of her most interesting ventures to date.

The music starts on weird loops and strange noises but eventually slips into a dreamy terrain that puts the listener at ease. Throughout the track's life, the ambiance remains pretty chilled out, though sometimes club ready, sometimes cool as a nighttime drive, and when the song expires following a spacey, bouncy finish, it's hard to believe so much time has passed since you hit play. Great work.


Carmen Villain (Smalltown Supersound)


Carmen Hillestad adopted the stage surname Villain to distance herself from her modeling work and establish a new identity, but she could have achieved that simply on her music alone.

Her dusty, ‘60s-dressed debut album is a stunner, and she's got a promising future.

Villain's 12-track “Sleeper” might remind you of PJ Harvey, Frankie Rose, and Chelsea Wolfe, especially during the darker moments.

There are tons of noiry, shadowy good songs including slurry and weird “Easy”; the crushing ballad “Lifeissin,” where she asks, “Do you believe I'm going to hell?”; sinister “Made a Shell”; and loud, fuzzy “Kingwoman.”

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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