Armin Amiri Brings Giddy Insanity to the Mondrian Soho

He’s only 39, but Armin Amiri has lived a life rich enough to fill a memoir—so he’s writing one. Tentatively titled The Price of Imagination, it details his escape from Iran as a young man, his journey through Turkey, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia to a refugee camp in Vienna, and his triumphant arrival in the United States in 1989, a place where, Amiri believes, dreams do indeed come true.

They certainly have for him, even if they’re not exactly what he imagined as a child. Amiri has been an actor, with roles alongside Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and Sienna Miller in Factory Girl. He’s been a bartender at New York’s once white-hot Lotus club. He was tapped by nightclub entrepreneur Amy Sacco to run the door at legendary Bungalow 8, where his keen eye for “casting” earned the club comparisons to Studio 54. He even ran his own nightclub, the West Village’s Socialista, which, at its peak, attracted an A-list clientele that included Madonna, Kate Hudson, and Ashton Kutcher.

Now he’s taken on a new role as the creative force behind Mister H, an intimate lounge in the new Mondrian Soho hotel that opened last February during New York Fashion Week. It’s a perfect fit for Amiri, allowing him to tap his limitless pool of industry contacts and to conjure a nightspot that reflects his fertile imagination.

“The concept, which I presented to the board, was a spot where Humphrey Bogart would have gone for a gimlet after work,” Amiri says. “He’d have gone to a place owned by a Chinese guy named Mr. Hong, and Mr. Hong would have known how many ice cubes Humphrey liked in his drink.” Add to that a certain “misty and mysterious 1930s Shanghai and San Francisco feeling,” and you’ve got Mister H, which has quickly become the preferred destination of a certain segment of Gotham glitterati.

The design owes as much to Lewis Carroll as it does to Bogey, with beaded curtains, potted palms, and a painting by New York artist Gregory de la Haba of a pole-dancing woman wearing a rabbit mask. A neon sign announces, “This is not a brothel—there are no prostitutes at this address,” lest the red lighting give patrons the wrong idea.

Amiri no longer mans the door. That responsibility falls to guys like Chad and Disco, who shoulder the difficult task of conferring entry to an always-significant line of hopefuls. “As hard as it is to get in, once you’re inside it’s pure hospitality,” Amiri says. “Whether you’re a famous actor, model, or musician, you’re able to roam around the room without being bothered. I want a place where people walk in and they’re ready to shake their butts.”

The stakes are high for Mister H, with huge sums of money and prestige to be imparted upon its partners should it be a success, but Amiri is surprisingly grounded about the whole affair. “Nightlife can be a breeding ground for a lot of insecure people, because it gives you the illusion that you have power,” he says. “Don’t buy into the hype. Just because your thing is hot today doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot tomorrow. And don’t ever let your imagination die, because if you’re not careful, this business can eat your soul.”

Photo by Victoria Will.

Tropic Thunder: Parceling Through Our Favorite Rums

While it’s among the most mixable of spirits, some of today’s finest rums have enough character to stand on their own. Established in Barbados in 1703, Mount Gay is the oldest brand of rum still in existence, and Mount Gay Eclipse Silver ($18) is a delicious and affordable introduction to the category, with bracing notes of peppermint and a citrus finish.

Mount Gay Extra Old ($50) is a blend of spirits aged 8 to 15 years that has a rich, oaky bouquet and a luxurious mix of vanilla, cinnamon, and grapefruit flavors. The Dominican Republic’s Brugal distillery goes back a mere 123 years, just enough time to perfect the workmanlike Brugal Añejo ($20), a mildly sweet amber-colored rum with a port-like aroma and notes of apple and chocolate. Straight out of Guatemala, the excellent Ron Zacapa XO ($100) is a smooth, dark, smoky spirit with hints of birch and ginger. Bacardi, the Cuban-born company that now distills its sunny spirits in Puerto Rico, has a rum for every occasion, but of particular note is the newly-released Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110), which is made from rums that have mellowed in lightly charred American white oak casks. Eminently sippable, it’s as smooth as silk and has an almost Scotch-like mouthfeel, with notes of lemon, orange, and Nilla Wafers. Most rum is made from molasses, but a handful are produced directly from fresh sugar cane juice, which imparts a subtlety to its Caribbean flavors. Trinidad’s 10 Cane ($30) adds just a touch of extra old rum to its sugar cane spirit to make it more versatile in cocktails, but it’s no slouch on its own, with a light golden color and pleasant vanilla flavor. Yet the ultimate expression of rhum agricole comes out of Martinique, whose Rhum Clément distillery produces some amazingly smooth and rounded rums. Clément Première Canne ($32) is simply sublime, with a sandalwood aroma, vanilla, coconut, and citrus flavors, and a silky finish. Which way to the beach?

After the Hype, the Arctic Monkeys Evolve Their Sound on ‘Suck It and See’

Before recording their new album, Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ lead singer Alex Turner swung by the small offices of Domino Records, the label that first signed the band in 2005. He was there to fetch a copy of their debut, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which he hadn’t listened to since it was pressed. What he heard next were kinetic, beer-soaked retellings of the band’s nocturnal misadventures: face-offs with bouncers, propositions from hookers, and boozy encounters with spray-tanned lushes. They were, after all, four teenage guys from Sheffield, England. What else were they going to make music about?

If the title of their forthcoming release is any indication, today’s Monkeys haven’t evolved much from the cheeky lads who recorded a 2006 EP titled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? “I suppose Suck It and See is a bit rude, innit?” says Turner between puffs of a Camel. “It’s an old English saying, like, ‘Give it a try.’ We’ve got some American friends, and when we were talking about calling it that, they were like, ‘You have to do it!’” But despite naming albums based on what their friends think sounds “fucking awesome,” the Monkeys—none of whom is older than 25—insist they’ve grown up.

Turner and drummer Matt Helders meet me on the outdoor patio of Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel one day in late March. The band is in New York for three days promoting their album’s June release, but guitarists Nick O’Malley (who joined the group in 2006, after original bassist Andy Nicholson left) and Jamie Cook have opted to stay in their rooms. Turner and Helders explain that fewer members will invite more fluid conversation, but intimations of a party in Brooklyn the previous evening call their reasoning into question. The Monkeys are also known for resisting the advances of journalists. Of their notorious aversion to the press, Helders says, “It’s definitely gotten easier to deal with, but talking about myself isn’t an easy thing for me to do.”

It shows. While Turner and Helders say they’ve come to terms with promoting their work, they still seem insular, hesitant, and more than a little distracted. When Turner speaks, Helders looks down, fiddling with a keychain or his iPhone. What was once a defense mechanism, a reaction to the sudden, thousand-watt spotlight thrust on the band even before the release of their first album, has become, four albums in, total ennui.

When Whatever People Say I Am was released, the internet had just begun to eclipse record labels in terms of influence on a musician’s career. Based solely on the strength of their demos, which went viral before “viral” was a part of the lexicon, the Monkeys experienced an unprecedented surge in exposure. The end result was the fastest-selling album in UK history, with 363,735 units moved in the first week. “You’re not going to blame that on us,” says Helders, about his band’s role in the music industry’s online revolution. And he’s probably right. It was their fans—enthusiastic about the Monkeys’ brash gutter-rock sound, which filled the void left behind by the collapsing Libertines—who distributed their songs across social websites like Myspace. In an age when the biggest artists on the planet have embraced the web as a tool for DIY self-promotion, the Monkeys have remained resistant to overexposure. “I’m still pretty disconnected from all that social networking,” Turner says. “It’s not something that any of us really uses.” image

Since the beginning, the Monkeys haven’t taken themselves very seriously. They decided to band together after receiving instruments as Christmas gifts; their first hometown gigs were played for a total of three people. “We were just having a laugh,” as Helders puts it. But when they became the biggest band in England almost overnight, they quickly formulated a blueprint for outlasting the hype. “After that first record, we went right back into the studio to make another one, and I’m glad we did,” says Turner of 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare. “Otherwise we might still be in there now, trying to write ‘Hallelujah.’”

Suck It and See marks a meaningful shift for the Monkeys, both in its recording process and in the finished product. For their previous album, 2009’s Humbug, the band, along with their producer, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, painstakingly narrowed down the 12-song track listing from the 25 they had originally recorded. This time out, Turner wrote most of the songs in the Brooklyn apartment he shared until recently with his girlfriend Alexa Chung (the couple moved back to London following the cancellation of MTV’s It’s On with Alexa Chung in December 2009), intending for each of the tracks to appear on the album’s final cut.

For Turner, Suck It and See—despite its title—is a more serious record. “In the past we shied away from traditional verse-chorus-verse structures,” he says. “Perhaps we’ve not done that before because that’s how everybody else does it, but you get to a point where you realize there’s a reason people do things.” That revelation gave them the confidence to expand their sonic arsenal. Suck It and See finds the Monkeys, a band who once specialized in stripped-down, blunt-force trauma rock, sounding almost lighthearted. Gone, for the most part, are the “faster, riffier” songs, as Turner calls them, replaced with echoing guitars, foot-tapping bass lines, and soulful choruses. Their post-punk garage-rock aesthetic—trumpeted by bands like the Hives and the Vines—has been eschewed in favor of something that sounds closer to Brit-pop.

But if the Monkeys’ sound has evolved, then what about their sensibility? Turner’s lyrics, which have developed in quirk since the Sheffield days, are known for their turns-of-phrase and cocky wit. But when it comes time to decode them for the press, he avoids specifics. He despises, in particular, the track-by-track breakdown, a safety net for stumped music writers. “It’s like, Oh yeah, this one’s all about pain,” he says. “When promoting the first record, I’d be like, Why the fuck are we breaking this down for you? It’s pretty obvious what each tune is saying.” The songs on Suck It and See won’t make interpretation any easier. “Bite the lightning, and tell me how it tastes,” Turner sings on “Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” the album’s first single. “Kung fu fighting, on your roller skates. Do the Macarena in the Devil’s lair, but just don’t sit down ’cause I moved your chair.” Appropriately, Turner, who’s busy squirming in his own chair, insists that those are some of the most accessible lyrics on the album.

Meet Burberry Acoustic’s Latest Lineup of Rising Stars

Now this is what we call a sound check. The faces of Burberry Acoustic, a fresh batch of Britain’s most brilliant bands, strike a pose in the venerable label’s finest duds.

image One Night Only, from Helmsley. Members: vocalist and guitarist George Craig; (not pictured) drummer James Craig, guitarist Mark Hayton, bassist Daniel Parkin, and keyboardist Jack Sails. Sounds like: Duran Duran. Essential track: “Say You Don’t Want It.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “My 1966 Gretsch Country Gentleman through a Vox AC-10 Twin with the volume up two thirds, tone in the middle, and vibrato barely on. Sounds like heaven.” Jacket and bracelets by Burberry Prorsum. Shirt by Burberry London.

image Kill It Kid, from Bath. Members (from left): vocalists Chris Turpin and Stephanie Ward; (not pictured) drummer Marc Jones and bassist Adam Timmins. Sounds like: The Black Keys. Essential track: “Pray on Me.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “The gusts of wind that blew outside the back door of the house I grew up in.” —CT Jackets by Burberry Prorsum.

image Avius, from Bath and London. Members (from left): drummer Bert Whitfield, bassist Adam DT, and vocalist Sebastian Brice. Sounds like: Jeff Buckley. Essential track: “Said and Done.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “Our new EP. Go check it out!” (From Left) Jacket by Burberry Prorsum. Shirt by Burberry Brit. Jacket and shirt by Burberry Prorsum. Shirt by Burberry Prorsum

image Misty Miller, from Wimbeldon. Sounds like: Kate Nash (with a ukulele). Essential track: “Remember.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “A heartbeat.” Shirt by Burberry Brit. Skirt and bracelets by Burberry Prorsum. Subject’s own ring.

image Sam Beeton, from Nottingham. Sounds like: Paul Simon. Essential track: “My Doll.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “Jeff Buckley.” Cardigan and pants by Burberry Prorsum. T-Shirt by Burberry Brit. Shoes by Burberry. Subject’s own socks and necklace.

image The Cheek, from Suffolk. Members (from left): vocalist and guitarist Charlie Dobney, vocalist Rory Cottam, bassist Thom Hobson, drummer Ali Bartlett, and guitarist Christian Daniels. Sounds like: Blur. Essential track: “Just One Night.” The most beautiful sound in the world is: “The tap tap tap of stones hitting a bedroom window.” (From left) Trench by Burberry Prorsum. Sweater by Burberry London. Subject’s own eyewear. Leather jacket and shirt by Burberry Prorsum. Jacket and shirt by Burberry Prorsum. Pants by Burberry London. Jacket and shirt by Burberry Prorsum. Sweater by Burberry London. Jacket and shirt by Burberry Prorsum.

Photography by Simon Thiselton. Styling by Christopher Campbell. Hair by Kenichi @ Caren. Makeup by Shama @ Clm. Photo Assistants: Jan Lehner and Rob Low. Stylist’s assistant: Lee Muston. Hair Assistant: Takahiro. Makeup Assistant: Pearl Wangkanai. Special Thanks to Natalie Rawling.

May’s Must-Have Droid Apps: Lapse It, Spinal Tap, Oprah

Lapse It [$1.99] Who doesn’t love watching a flower bloom in a visually delightful, the-passage-of-time-blows-my-mind kind of way? That’s what we thought. Try your hand at playing God (or Heidegger) with Lapse It. Shoot your own time-lapse videos using your phone’s built-in camera. With amazing resolution and daring eff ects, capture everything from a busy a ernoon on Madison Avenue to the sun setting over the Hudson.

Spinal Tap Soundboard[$.99] The Droid now goes all the way up to 11. Unleash your inner rock star with the new Spinal Tap Soundboard. Featuring the best quotes and sound bites from the film, the app delivers jokes, one-liners, and deadpan observations that are sure to have you reliving your days on the road with Motörhead. As Michael McKean’s David St. Hubbins famously said, “I’m sure I’d feel much worse if I weren’t under such heavy sedation.” We couldn’t agree more.

Oprah Mobile [$.99] Unless your name is Stedman, you can never have too much Oprah in your life. Spend more time with the queen of daytime television (and the world, really) using Oprah Mobile. Watch highlights from your favorite episodes (Tom Cruise’s public meltdown, anyone?) and backstage interviews with your favorite stars, and read articles from O, The Oprah Magazine, all while listening to Miss Winfrey’s radio show, featuring her favorite co-host, Gayle King.

Guitar Lessons [$.99] Everybody wishes they could shred like Steve Vai or Jimmy Page, but who has the time, money, or willpower to sit through proper lessons when you could be collecting groupies right this second? Now you can take your very own private guitar lessons using your Droid, without having to step out of the house. With tons of easy-to-use instructional videos to watch and learn from, the pros will help you perfect your plucking skills in no time. Wait a minute—Is that “Crazy Train” we hear?

Cookie Locator [Free] From Samoas to Tagalongs to the perfect, elegant Thin Mint, Girl Scout Cookie month is better than your birthday and Christmas rolled into one. But sometimes, as anyone who lives in a four-story walk-up knows, getting your hands on the goods can prove difficult. Not anymore! With the Girl Scout Cookie locator, find cookie sales in your neighborhood and discover who’s hoarding all the Caramel DeLites. Not sure what you’re in the mood for? The app offers a helpful quiz to determine your real cookie personality. (We just hope to god you’re not a Peanut Butter.)

Revolver TV [$1.99] If you’re looking for some serious rock reading, you’re in luck. With the Revolver TV app, get exclusive content from the loudest music rag around. Read articles, listen to tracks, and watch videos you can only find here. See your favorite artists perform live and go behind the scenes as you enjoy exclusive backstage access. New videos are constantly being uploaded, so you’ll always have the latest rock royalty right at your fingertips.

Google Sky Map [Free] Whether you’re staring up at the cosmic unknown from a city rooftop or contemplating the star-covered abyss in the mountains, let your Droid be your window to the sky. Using Google Sky, point your phone at the heavens and the app will show you stars, planets, and constellations visible (if it weren’t for all that light pollution) from where you stand. Learn to identify all the celestial objects in and out of view as you tap into your inner Galileo.

Dolly Parton Reflects: “Before Gaga I Was Ga-udy”

I’ve never considered myself a star. Other people call me a star, an icon, or a legend. I just say I’m an eyesore. I like to think of myself as a working girl. Every day I wake up thinking, I’ve got a job to do.

I’ve had to overcome a lot in this business. In the early days, people always used to tell me that I’d be taken more seriously as a songwriter and singer if I didn’t look so gaudy and outrageous. I’ve become known for the tits, the hair, the big mouth, and it all became part of who I am. Sometimes people can’t see past that stuff—they don’t really know how serious I am about my writing and my songs. But I’m happier when I look the way I look because I’m no radiant natural beauty. I found a way to make myself be comfortable with me, and it works.

If somebody said I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, I would write songs. I love thinking that there will be something in the world tomorrow that wasn’t here today, and that I put it there. Not all of my songs are great, but I know there’s a seed of something good in every song I write. It’s almost like having a baby. I never had children, but I always said my songs are my children; some of them are prettier than others, some of them do better than others, but they’re still your children, and you love the ugly ones the same as you do the pretty ones.

I’ve always been, at least somewhere inside me, the country girl who wants to be pretty. I make jokes about myself before other people can make them about me, and I think that must stem from some sort of insecurity. It’s like that song [“Backwoods Barbie”] on my last album: “I’m just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair. But don’t be fooled by thinking that the goods are not all there.” In the mornings, even when I’m not going anywhere, I get up and put on my makeup and my high heels—if only because I can’t reach my cabinets without them. People always ask me, “Do you think you’ll ever tone down your look?” And I say, Well, hell no! Why should I? I was gaudy when gaudy wasn’t cool. Before Gaga I was Ga-udy. I was being outrageous even before Madonna. Eventually people realize that there’s a brain under this hair, and a heart under these boobs, but I also like being a character that they can enjoy. It makes it kind of fun when I do get out on stage and tell my real story, and they get to see the real me. I’m a very artificial-looking person, but I’m a very real person.

Parton will debut Better Day, her fourth release on Dolly Records, this summer. She’ll tour the world in support of the album beginning June 17 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

DFA Artist Planningtorock Shows Us Around Her Berlin

When Janine Rostron enters the offices of DFA Records in New York’s West Village one afternoon in April, the Berlin-based Brit, who goes by the stage name Planningtorock, is without costume, makeup, or her most endearing new stage piece: a structurally imperfect and strangely haunting prosthetic nose. “We’re working on a new silicone version that has the perfect shape,” she says. “We first started making a clay nose, but it was really heavy and it took about two hours to prepare because we had to make a new one each time.”

The curvilinear proboscis has become a trademark of Planningtorock’s avant-garde live show, a whirlwind blend of theatrics and visual art that caught the eye of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who invited Rostron to join the group on their 2007 Sound of Silver tour. “It’s exciting to attach a visual aspect to what I’m dealing with in my music,” she says. “The prosthetic is quite conceptual. It’s like playing around with my gender a bit.”

This month, Planningtorock releases W, the follow-up to her 2006 debut, Have It All, and which she modestly describes as having “a bit more of a complicated arrangement” than her previous music. Carefully crafted over four years in her Berlin studio, the 12 tracks are littered with saxophones, synths, warped vocal melodies, and, on the song “Living It Out,” drums courtesy of LCD’s Pat Mahoney. Rostron, a producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, has created a spooky but euphoric body of work that she says is inspired by her time living in the German capital.

“Getting to Berlin was just an accident,” she says. “I visited, really liked it, and then months turned into years.” Those years have since turned into a decade. In 2010, along with Swedish musicians the Knife and Berlin-based DJ Mount Sims, she co-wrote the electro-opera Tomorrow, In a Year, a musical journey charting the work and personal experiences of Charles Darwin as he crafted On the Origin of Species. “Berlin is a very inspiring city to live in because I’ve met a lot of interesting artists and musicians here,” she says. “Being here has really freed me from who I thought I was, and has allowed me to focus on my music.”

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Zeiss Planetarium – Prenzlauer allee, 80 +49-3042-1845 On the outside it looks like what you would expect from a planetarium, but on the inside it’s very East German, kind of lo-fi and spacey while trying to replicate the universe. It’s amazing. There’s something really innocent about it, almost like a school project. It’s a daytime destination, but hardly anybody goes there. It’s sad because it really is a remnant of the former East that just sits there without many visitors. image

Musikinstrumenten-Museum – Ben-Gurion-Strasse, 1 +44-3025-4810 I like instrument museums all over the world—when I’m New York, for example, I’ll try to find one—but the one in Berlin is especially beautiful. They have some fantastic instruments, like these walking sticks from the 1600s that you open up and there’s an instrument inside. It’s really far-out stuff, inventive and strange. A lot of the pieces here are antiques. There’s another piece that’s a strange hybrid of two instruments—a violin with a trumpet attached so that it amplifies the sound of the violin. You couldn’t buy that kind of thing even if you wanted to.

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Schneiders Buero – Skalitzerstr. 135 a, +49-30-9789-4131 They sell remade analog gear and support a lot of people who are making their own oscillators or synthesizers—people who aren’t making mass- produced products or effects. You can find some really unique sounds here, but I try not to come too often because then I ending up spending all my money.

Tajikistan Tearoom – am Festungsgraben, 1 +49-302-041-112 I don’t have much social time or downtime because I’m usually busy with my music, but this is a cozy Russian teahouse near the Brandenburg Gate. It’s like a crazy secret—you go into this big, white building that feels like an embassy, then you go down a set of stairs and suddenly you’re in this really dark, intimate Russian teahouse. There are no chairs, just carpets. It’s incredibly cozy and they have all of the teas you could ever want.

Pulse Percussion Graefestr., 4 +49-306-233-794 This is an upscale place, which is strange because the street is so quiet. I used a lot of percussion on the new album, so this store came in handy. They sell Chinese drums and all kinds of stuff. I live in Kreuzberg, which is not in East Berlin—it’s actually West, but it was very close to the wall, and when the wall was up all of the punks and squatters lived there, so it’s famous to this day for having a strong music scene.

Photography by Goodyn Green.

May Music Reviews: Okkervil River, Fleet Foxes, Cults

Austra, Feel It Break (Domino) The debut album from this versatile Canadian three-piece has a singular sound, at once electronic and danceable, but with minor keys, austere chord progressions, and rainy-day vocals that sound goth at first, but are actually operatic—lead singer Katie Stelmanis (center) is classically trained.

It’s almost as if the band—named after the Latvian goddess of light—takes it as a personal challenge to imbue electronica with gravitas, a weight that can be heard on tracks like “Beat and the Pulse,” a sinister yet poppy song reminiscent of New Order at its best, and lead single “Lose It,” which showcases Stelmanis’ plaintive voice. The final track, “The Beast,” begins with an artful piano riff and builds to full classical orchestration. Feel It Break is a delicate balance of power and restraint. —Victor Ozols

Okkervil River, I Am Very Far (Jagjaguwar) On I Am Very Far, lead singer Will Sheff shepherds his Okkervil River brigade into new terrain. Influenced by contemporaries like the National and the Decemberists, this Austin-based indie outfit has revamped their usual parabolic folk rock, delivering a surprising amalgamation of paradoxical forces—joy and sorrow, order and chaos. “Rider” is a rock anthem that zips along tight guitar lines and snapping snare, while “White Shadow Waltz” is a chamber pop explosion big on keys, horns, strings, and choral arrangements that never seem to unfold the same way twice. —William Kangas

Jessica 6, See the Light (Peacefrog) The outstanding debut album from this Brooklyn throwback act recalls a time when the city shone with glitter and cocaine. And it’s no wonder: Bassist Andrew Raposo, keyboardist Morgan Wiley, and singer Nomi Ruiz all met while touring in nu-disco figureheads Hercules and Love Affair’s live show. But Jessica 6 is first and foremost a house act, with Ruiz’s lush, androgynous vocals soaking up the beat on standouts “Fun Girl” and “White Horse,” in which Ruiz beckons, “Let me see you dance.” Not a problem. “Good To Go” slams on the brakes, a slow, candlelit jam that that would make Sade blush. —Caroline Seghers

Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Matador) Thirty seconds into Thurston Moore’s new album, you’re transported to the outskirts of Los Angeles back in the fall of ’94. With Beck as the record’s producer, this latest solo effort from the Sonic Youth iconoclast toggles between grace and weighty emotion. Experimental violinist Samara Lubelski elevates each track to soulful new heights. On “Benediction,” for example, Moore ponders the torments of human connection, while “Circulation” invokes in its listeners a blustery instrumental trance. With Demolished Thoughts, Moore proves just how fun wreckage can be. —Hillary Weston

Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) The second album from this Pitchfork-approved band of brothers proves their success will be anything but fleeting. Gentle, tickling guitars and baroque chimes are portals into a sun-drenched daydream. The title track emphasizes the band’s refusal to play by any set of rules, as lead singer Robin Pecknold cheekily croons, “Bow down and be grateful, and say, ‘Sure, take all that you see’/ To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls, and determine my future for me.” The Foxes don’t exactly break new sonic ground here, but fixing things that ain’t broke is a fool’s errand. —CS

Cults, Cults (In The Name Of/Columbia) Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion have established a cult-like following in mere months. Their full-length debut includes “Go Outside,” the hooky, insouciant lo-fi tune that focused the internet’s ever-roaming gaze on the Brooklyn duo. The NYU film students—Follin sings, Oblivion slings the guitar—are purveyors of that brand of mysterious, old school rock ’n’ roll swagger. On songs like “Abducted,” their swooning, ’60s-era girl group melodies are undercut by heartbreak. Others, like “Bad Things,” are interspersed with speeches from notorious cult leaders, adding a sinister undercurrent that teeters on the edge of depressing. —Nadeska Alexis

Cat’s Eyes, Cat’s Eyes (Cooperative Music USA/Downtown) The Horrors’ frontman Faris Badwan and instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira’s mutual passion for iconic ’60s girl groups like the Shangri- Las is easily reflected in their debut effort, Cat’s Eyes. With the aid of Zeffira’s classically trained soprano voice, the twosome chart a torrid love affair, beginning with the wide-eyed ode “Best Person I’ve Ever Met,” to the pre-marital sex woes expressed on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” An abundance of dreamy vocals, a hearty helping of strings, and twinkling piano keys contrast sharply with Badwan’s down-low baritone and menacing horns on “Sooner Or Later,” the album’s darkest moment. By the time the closing track, “I Knew It Was Over,” rolls around, the album has already transitioned back into mistyeyed nostalgia. Serenity now. —NA