Infighter – S/T (Independent)

Sporting former members of Oasis tour-mates Red Autumn Fall and current Mint records buzz-band Novillero, Toronto new-wavers Infighter deliver their first self-titled independent release. A collection of saucy, romantic Brit-influenced rock anthems, Infighter is a solid start for these veteran scenesters. Fronted by self-styled “blazer-boy” Simeon Ross, who spent part of 2004 walking across Canada to raise funds for cancer research, Infighter also benefits from contributions by co-vocalist Ami Spears. Combining spiky guitars, retro synth lines and lyrics that actually mean something, the record is anchored by a killer rhythm section featuring Gail Thompson on drums and Scott Hildebrandt on bass. Like a sonic tour through the best of brit rock, Infighter will definitely garner comparisons to contemporaries Editors, Metric, Keene and old-school classmates Shed 7 and Pulp, to name a few. Standout tracks include, opener “Regret,” “The Actor” and dainty duet “Deserter.” -J.B.

Infighter play the Mod Club this Friday with Tin Bangs and Stirling.
Rating: VVVV

Jay-Z – Kingdom Come (Roc-A-Fella)

Back in 2003, Jay-Z announced that The Black Album would be his final recording. But in the world of hip-hop, where getting murdered doesn’t even stop top artists from producing new releases, it was silly to think someone as talented (and alive) as the Jigga would stay down for the count. His return, Kingdom Come, is a daring, if expected, effort. But despite being a considerably tight offering, it is unable to reach the heights of The Black Album.

The record begins on a high note, featuring Jay-Z as energetic as ever, flowing effortlessly over the Just Blaze-produced tracks “Oh My God,” “Show Me What You Got,” (the album’s first single) and the dark “Kingdom Come.” Jay-Z then gets personal in “Lost Ones,” one of the album’s best cuts, where he delves into his intimate relationships with Damon Dash and Beyoncé. After these initial stellar cuts, the album sags, with Jay rhyming alongside out-of-place R&B crooners John Legend and Usher on “Do U Wanna Ride” and “Anything,” respectively. Dr. Dré and Swizz Beats later provide hard-hitting backup in “Trouble” and “Dig A Hole,” leading into the Ne-Yo-assisted “Minority Report,” where Dré’s piano-heavy instrumental complements Hov’s narrative about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kingdom Come finishes with the long-awaited collaboration between Hov and Coldplay’s Chris Martin. It doesn’t fail to impress, as Jay, Martin and Dré provide the album’s most creative and original cut with a surprisingly strong colab. In a genre where commercial releases rarely hit this level of quality, it’s easy to forgive Jay for coming back. -S.S.

Rating: VVVV

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (Capitol)

Every indie band has to have a gimmick, but on The Decemberists’ senior album The Crane Wife (which marks their the move to EMI-owned Capitol Records from seminal label Kill Rock Stars) they leave behind the sea shanties and folksy ballads of yesteryear for a schizophrenic mélange of progressive rock (example: the keyboard part halfway through “The Landlord’s Daughter”), grunge-like guitar, call-and-answer strings and disco bass lines that, oddly, mesh well with frontman Colin Meloy’s fake British accent (the five-piece hails from Portland, Oregon) and his pseudo-Victorian lyrics.

Whereas 2005’s Picaresque focused on over-romanticized production with heavy emphasis on klezmer (think: Fiddler on the Roof for people who shop at American Apparel), The Crane Wife is a sophisticated and well-tempered record, a perfect combination of everything that makes the quirky quintet rock. It’s accessible, but still makes one feel like a Gauloise-smoking grad student listening to an upbeat, accordion-accompanied tale about stolen moments shared by a bayonet-carrying soldier and his pregnant wife at home. Now on more commercial ground, it seems as if the five finally found their sea legs.

Rating: VVVV

See our print edition for reviews of The Cliks, Sean Lennon, and the Born Ruffians.