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Chris Black
Jericho
Shamrock Record Co.

Jericho is a dark trip, an 11-track bender, a 48-minute dunking in murky waters vibrating with upright bass, growling vocals and perfectly placed four-letter words. It’s a little Tom Waits, a little Nick Cave, a little Scott Walker and, at its most upbeat, a little Reverend Glasseye—and it’s a little hard not to fall prey to its sinister charm.

Chris Black, of Austin, Texas, is one tortured soul and we get to reap the rewards on this debut. It starts with “Everything Pass Away,” just Black and his bass singing a song of death begetting death, before exploding into the title track, where he’s playing electric guitar, a kick drum and a tambourine and screaming about everything—his heart, the walls, etc.—going “Boom, boom! Boom, boom!” The album wallows in the stripped-down arrangements, though, all the while emanating a very real sense of bitterness. The momentarily uplifting “All Along the Way” and the delicate “Where Did I Go?” (featuring Black on acoustic guitar) are worth the trouble alone.

I wish the album maintained its momentum throughout—it slows down substantially toward the end—but Black ends up telling a story more than churning out tunes. And it’s definitely worth listening to. (Skylar Browning)

Chris Black plays The Loft Saturday, March 3, at 10 PM. Arrows to the Sun and Good Neighbor Policy open. $5.

Hella
There’s No 666 in Outer Space
Ipecac Records

Calling the Sacramento-based Hella prog-rock, or mathy, or even maniacal is kind of like calling salt “salty.” This band plays with composition and time signatures like they invented the whole thing, and its latest is a playground of dirty rock, psychedelic, noise, soul and a smattering of old-time punk. It’s straight tunes gone haywire, video game soundtracks with quirky glitches and sprawling drum beats that seem like they’re trying to reach every corner of every note.

“Hand that Rocks the Cradle” is a coked-up rock piece combining the symphonic antics of Yes and a blustering wind of funk. Aaron Ross has a pretty voice, but his use of it seems menacing, at least when he’s not being coquettish. The best part of this new album, besides hearing how so many threads of sound can be woven into the mix, is that the band doesn’t make you wait. Most prog-rock bands love their long intros and outros—those details no doubt add to the grandiosity—but Hella is good about getting to the meat of it, quickly and with a precision that’s confident without being pretentious. (Erika Fredrickson)

Hella plays The Other Side Tuesday, March 6, at 9:30 PM. $12/$10 in advance.

Coretta Scott
Red Delicious
self-released

As it turns out, Coretta Scott is a band of four boys, not a female singer (nor civil rights activist). But with a hot chick plastered on the cover of their new album and the whimpering falsetto of frontman Josh Albright, it’s a distinction you might not pick up on right away.

The Spokane quartet serves up fluffy, saccharine-flavored emo-rock with songs about breaking hearts and angsty relationships, and how hard that whole business is. Within this format they tend toward bubblegum pop titles like “Touch Me” and “Don’t Stop Breathing,” and brooding lines like “I treated you so badly, I think about it constantly.” The smartest song by miles is “Dressed to Kill (on the Streets of Vegas)” because it’s the least self-consciously pensive and probably the most complicated, considering it’s a gloomy take on partying in the city that never turns out the lights.

At times the band pulls off sharp guitar riffs that evoke Australia’s The Living End, and in that sense they add a little add extra punch with both heavy metal and new-wave layers. The rest, unfortunately, overflows with shoe-gazer drama and prosaic predictability. (Erika Fredrickson)

Coretta Scott plays Higgins Hall Saturday, March 3, at 6:30 PM. The Sharktopus, Goodnight Sunrise, Glimpse and Gracer also play. $7.

Hell Razah
Renaissance Child
Nature Sounds

On this solo debut, Wu-Tang Clan affiliate Hell Razah proves that street hip-hop is still an intelligent and relevant antidote to the bitches-and-bling style of rap that dominates MTV. What makes this street-smart album so potent is that, as with his work with Wu-Tang offshoot Sunz of Man, Hell Razah fills Renaissance Child chock full of cultural and religious references and mindfully elaborate lyrics.

Take tracks like “Chain Gang” and “Runaway Sambo,” where he raps about the struggles of his black ancestors, comparing their challenges to those of current inner city blacks. He balances this stark portrait by imploring his peers to educate themselves and to rise up from injustice by combining spirituality—he makes a few references to the Nation of Islam—with radical, left-leaning politics. He also slips some esoteric lines into the mix, including a nod to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in “Smoking Gunnz,” a rap about who he thinks is responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

You might not agree with all of Hell Razah’s views, but Renaissance Child establishes this East Coast rapper as a standalone talent for his clever and cryptic flows. (Ira Sather-Olson)

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