Times New Viking

After four albums of noisy, lo-fi garage-punk, Columbus, Ohio's, Times New Viking decided to finally use a real studio to record their fifth CD,

Dancer Equired.

The result: another album of noisy garage punk, with marginally higher fi. The guitars still blur with distortion; Beth Murphy and Adam Elliott still veer in and out of harmony when they sing at, rather than with, each other; the rhythms remain ragged, but right. But the slight difference in clarity brings out the sassiness in Murphy's voice and highlights TNV's strongest batch of songs yet. Whether that clarity translates into the trio's live show won't matter: The plucky "Ever Falling in Love" and the sharply resigned "California Roll" have hooks indelible enough for all fidelities. Of note also: openers the Babies, a side-project from Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls.

- Steve Klinge


Washington, D.C., post-rock trio Medications fits nicely into the Dischord roster: a DIY ethos, affinity for angular guitar melodies, math-rock influenced rhythms, and tunes that are aggressive yet tender - the original "emo." Since the band formed from the ashes of another Dischord act, Faraquet, in 2003, it has released two albums and an EP. Its most recent album, 2010's

Completely Removed,

saw the band less angsty and more mellow than in past years, with songs that were almost soothing, but melodies remained minimal and slightly off-kilter, like an East Coast version of a poppy Cap'n Jazz. Yet Medications has always prized musicianship, and while some tunes veer toward adult contemporary, they all bear the mark of conscientious, enthusiastic music nerds.

- Katherine Silkaitis

Gina Sicilia

Just 25 years old, Gina Sicilia, from Newtown in Bucks County, has been making a name for herself in the world of blues and R&B since her first album,

Allow Me to Confess,

earned her a best-new-artist nomination at 2008's national Blues Music Awards. Her third album,

Can't Control Myself,

shows the Temple University graduate continuing to transcend the boundaries of the blues and create her own voice with a striking blend of emotional maturity and youthful dynamism. That's evident not only in the way she harnesses the power of her rich-toned alto but also in the emotional depth of her songs. The result is an album on which just about everything is a knockout, from the rock-edged blues of Willie Dixon's "Crazy 'Bout You Baby" to the tender soul of "As Long as You're Here," the Latin-tinged "Before the Night Is Through," and the country-flavored "Once in a While."

- Nick Cristiano