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Vegas music had good year

Lots of good music came from your backyard this past year.

Vegas acts dropped many fine records in 2010, and these are chief among them:

A Crowd of Small Adventures, “A Decade in X-Rays”: ACOSA spins epic tales in often epic-sounding tunes — and they can do it in less than three minutes. Their numbers frequently start small, as a plaintive shuffle with tendrils of acoustic guitar, before gradually working themselves into full-bodied, brightly hued singalongs with violin flourishes and pitch-perfect harmonies that are the indie rock equivalent of a film shot in CinemaScope.

Spun in Darkness, “Feast of the Undead”: Cro-magnon primitive and caveman barbaric, this is perfectly devolved death metal. No arpeggio sweeps or look-at-me-ma peacocking here, which undermine much of the genre’s contemporary offerings, just a blood-and-plasma spattered abundance of catchy, crushing riffs, songs with a body count higher than that of the black plague and a frontman who sounds like Satan with indigestion. These dudes breathe new life into death.

Moksha, “Mammal or Machine”: Funkier than morning breath, “Mammal or Machine” is a sweat-slicked snapshot of a band in perpetual transition: See ’em live nowadays, and Moksha has already pushed past the bounds of their excellent debut with singer Sam Lemos, who appears on but one track here, now more of a presence in the group. For all the heart-palpitating horns and wrist-spraining organ freakouts, Moksha’s jams are well constructed and never wankery, meaning you don’t have to have logged any time playing hacky sack in a Phish parking lot to dig this one.

Red State Soundsystem, “Ghosts in a Burning City”: Like one of the vagabonds who populate his tunes, Joshua Ellis sounds like a man who has never known peace as he maps the dark streets of this hard luck “City.” Technically released in late 2009, but too late to make the best-of cut last year, this equally cinematic and seductive disc is worth revisiting for its well-crafted, warm-blooded, noir-ish slow burn, which manifests itself in peels of ricocheting guitar, pulsating electronics and Ellis’ husky whisper, which sounds as if he was breast fed with a bottle of bourbon.

HighDro, “The Time is Now”: Proletariat hip-hop that’s like an Abrams tank on the class warfare front lines, “The Time Is Now” is so incendiary, it could double as kerosene. Here, HighDro comes with blue collar, business-minded rhymes targeting income inequality, apathy and the plight of the leather-tough working man, which he proves himself to be on this rugged, righteous disc.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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