Aaron Ross- Shapeshifter (2007)

Aaron Ross wields a magical voice. The folk singer, anyway; not the defensive back. He's undoubtedly well known for his short stint as the vocalist of Hella's transcendental sci-fi math rock record, There's No 666 in Outer Space. There was some great anticipation from the hardcore kids over whether or not he'd return for a follow-up album, but it's very unlikely as Zach Hill and Spencer Seim are returning to the Hella roots of playing as a duo.
Fret not, for Ross has been recording his own solo albums for years now. It most likely won't satisfy your craving for universal space jams like on 666, but if you're willing to come back down to earth and listen to Ross play his psych-folk ballads by fireside, you'd forget all about the ungrateful dead, free-spirited anarchists, and those weird dudes who do things when they think nobody's looking.
Shapeshifter is probably Aaron Ross's greatest musical collective so far. At first glance, you'd be confused at how the guy could fit over an hour's worth of pure barre chord guitar strumming into nine tracks, but by the time you get to Elevator Blues, it'll start to make sense. The verses are long, the melody structures are cohesive, but what ties it all together is Ross's ever expansive lyrics and vocals. If this were the product of some other guy, it would easily lose more than half its charm; Ross displays pure soul in his compositions. It's hard to accept how much of an underground talent he is post-Hella. Maybe that's how he likes it, but it's surely something to treasure for the audience that he has.

1. Pass the Peace Pipe
2. Mama Lonely Wolf
3. Elevator Blues
4. Looking Glass Mass
5. Mississippi Burnin
6. Sin Is a Spell
7. The Mountain
8. Made in Stone
9. Speak the Truth

Shapeshifter (2007)


Hawnay Troof- Islands of Ayle (2008)

Coming off of the joint release of Dollar and Deed/Community EP, Mr. Cooler began to record his most eclectic offering yet during the massive world tour that led him everywhere and nowhere. Spastic hip pop laced with LSD is what this album sounds like, but don't take my word for it—you'd be surprised how many areas of music Cooler touches upon here. The bouncy glitch of "Front My Hope" starts the album off in top Troof form. "Water" is a bizarre head-nodding cruise that leads into "The Gods Are Crazy," which displays the damaged pop sensibilities in the best context available on Islands. The aptly titled "Out of Teen Revisited" closes the album, effectively showing the ongoing progression of Hawnay Troof's music by taking a previous Dollar and Deed track and rehashing it into a peppy chiptune anthem.
If you're bored with the standards of pop music and sick of amateur hardcore MySpace bands abusing Auto-Tune, this could be worth your time. Vice Cooler is going places as an artist and deserves the recognition for all the time, effort and passion he puts into his craft. Did I mention he's already got another record coming out this year? Get it on!

1. Suspension and Conclusion / Finale
2. Front My Hope
3. Underneath the Ocean
4. Two Week Bruise
5. Zhou Zhong
6. Connection
7. Water
8. The Gods Are Crazy
9. Oblivions
10. Venus Venus Piper
11. Bizarre Triangle
12. Feelings
13. Out of Teen Revisited