As you can see by the above photo, my workspace is a disaster area. It is the downtown Detroit of workspaces. I’m currently working on imposing some desktop order, which means doing something about the many unorganized piles of CDs all over the place. Which means listening to a lot of CDs–because unless it’s, say, something as dire-looking as a collection of Disney Christmas songs, I give every promo disc I get at least a cursory spin. Which means listening to a lot of shitty music–because there are, and always will be, far more shitty musicians in the world than good ones. But I’m digging up some fine stuff here.

The Size Queens are one of those acts that justify my listen-to-everything policy. The terrible band name and somehow even more terrible album art almost made their Magic Dollar Shoppe one of the few discs to go into the FAIL pile on general principle alone. But I gave them a shot and was pleasantly surprised–they sound like Hedwig & the Angry Inch, and “Can a Woman” is a lilting ode to female celebrities who’ve gone publicly, brilliantly nuts.

Lo Còr de la Plana, who came to Chicago for this year’s World Music Festival, are a French sextet who sing in a disappearing language (Occitan) accompanied only by percussion and foot stomps and sound like nothing else in the modern Western tradition. If I were directing a sci-fi fantasy movie I’d cast these folks as the village minstrels.

The Present‘s World I See isn’t anything you can sing along to, but their fractured little soundscapes–which apply modern composition techniques to a rock vocabulary–are agreeably dreamy and complex.

On the opposite end of the tonal spectrum are Miami’s Capsule, hardcore/metal fusionists and frequent abusers of time signatures. Headbanging to their Blue is likely to cause severe neck trauma. 

Helms Alee does a little of both, churning out brutal jams that tend to unravel into spacey, slightly proggy psychedelia. Their Night Terror is excellent, but then again so is almost everything Hydra Head releases.