Nine Inch Nails
Album: Ghosts I-IV (NIN)
In stores: Now
Why we care:
Staccato static, hissing steam, vengeful guitars, doomy piano: Welcome inside Trent Reznor's brain, the creepy confines of which sound like a disco of the damned. On this 2 CD, 36-track epic, the NIN leader shuts his yap and unleashes a torrent of booming instrumental angst.
Why we like it: These depressed, delirious concoctions are seemingly endless. But they're never boring, and they're often thrilling, especially when you find yourself tapping your feet to the torment. Reznor first made the tracks available online; now he's selling the album himself, another star ditching a major label.
Reminds us of: If Philip Glass soundtracked Saw VIII: Jigsaw Takes Manhattan.
Download these: Ghosts 3 & 4
Album: Keep It Simple (Exile)
In stores: Now
Why we care: At 62, Van the Man releases a twilight special about rocking into your golden years. With a crack backing band and Sunday morning sincerity, the Irish icon grooves through 11 tracks with wistful words and a mighty holler.
Why we like it: This is his 35th album, and his first full-length of self-penned stuff since '05. With easy-going charm, he covers such topics as sobriety-at-a-price and his ever-present spirituality. Kudos to organist John Allair for the waves of nightclub cool that gently crash against Morrison's bluesy crescendo.
Reminds us of: "We were born before the wind / Also younger than the sun . . ."
Download these: School of Hard Knocks and Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore
Album: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)
In stores: Now
Why we care: With a hang-dog delivery slathered in twang and tough luck, this eccentric Texan traverses the backwoods distance between the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan (with a little Roger Miller thrown in for comic relief). Singer-songwriters don't get much more eccentric than this hopalong.
Why we like it: "There's a girl downtown with freckles on her nose / Pencils in her pocket and ketchup on her clothes." Joshua Hayes Carll is a storyteller with a knack for oddball characters and life on the fringe. He also loooves whiskey. Even when he covers a classic (Bad Liver and a Broken Heart) he makes it his besotted own.
Reminds us of: Happy hour at the Mucky Duck
Download these: Drunken Poet's Dream and A Lover Like You
SONG OF THE WEEK
Song: I'm Not Drowning
Album: Nine Lives (Columbia)
In stores: Tuesday
Why we care: After a prodigious start with such bands as the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, Winwood's career turned into a series of lite-beer commercials for great chunks of the '80s and '90s. But after reconnecting with Eric Clapton for a recent reunion, and signing with Tom Petty's summer tour, the blue-eyed Brit is looking to sturdy his legacy.
Why we like it: I'm Not Drowning is reminiscent of Blind Faith's Can't Find My Way Home (which featured Winwood on lead vocal). The hypnotic song shuffles along on a prickly guitar line and the singer's soulful moan.
Reminds us of: My second concert ever, when high-school girlfriend Natalie swirled around me during Gimme Some Lovin'. Hot, very hot.