Chris Forsyth, “Solar Motel” (Paradise of Bachelors). Guitarist Chris Forsyth crafts a profound instrumental composition in four parts with “Solar Motel.” The piece offers a brilliantly orchestrated electric guitar symphony, as themes are introduced, are evolved over time, and then finally reiterated with increased harmonic complexity as each movement progresses. There are echoes of the work Jimmy Page commenced with Led Zeppelin’s yet-to-be-topped “Achilles Last Stand,” in which electric guitar overdubs were interwoven in a through-composed manner to create dense, lush layers of grandeur. But Forsyth’s biggest influence here is certainly Television’s Richard Lloyd, with whom he studied as a younger man. Lloyd and his partner in Television, Tom Verlaine, wrote the template that “Solar Motel” expounds upon with their seminal ’70s prog-punk epic “Marquee Moon.” Forsyth has crafted something both singular and remarkable here. Its audience may be limited to none but the brave listener, but so be it – someone needs to do the difficult work. ΩΩΩΩ (Jeff Miers)


Against Me!, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” (Total Treble). Everything and nothing has changed on the new Against Me! album, the Florida group’s sixth. The band still traffics in full-throttle and full-throated punk rock, deploying buzz-saw guitars and shout-along choruses for overt sociopolitical purposes. But on “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the quartet has a new rhythm section and, in some ways, a new leader: the former Tom Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace, and most songs address her transformation in explicit, often profane language. The vocals are still a gravelly bark, especially on the terrific title track, which opens the album with “Your tells are so obvious/ Shoulders too broad for a girl/ Keeps you reminded/ Helps you to remember where you come from.” Grace and fellow guitarist James Bowman still share anthemic riffs inspired by the Clash, Billy Bragg and NOFX (whose bassist sits in on a few tracks), but there’s a bit more of the Thermals and Gaslight Anthem here. The guitars have more gloss than grit, while the lyrics are unvarnished (and often unprintable). This fascinating, brief album flags a bit in its second half, but it’s provocative throughout. ΩΩΩ (Steve Klinge, the Philadelphia Inquirer)


Michael Nyman, “The Piano Sings 2” (MN Records). There is, of course, a school of thought that composers who are decidedly non-virtuoso pianists are doing their own music an immense disservice by playing it in public and, heaven forbid, actually recording it. And then there’s another, rather better school of thought, that says that when you’re hearing the composer himself at the piano-playing some of his favorite music, you’re hearing something quite special indeed, even if there are far more agile and better pianists who might have brought all of their powers to the job. Michael Nyman is one of the most fascinating figures in world music – a good deal more so, I think, than his American equivalent Philip Glass. As a critic, he was the first to apply the word “minimalism” to music. As a film composer, he has written scores for “Gattaca,” “The Piano,” “The Draughtsman’s Contract” “The Libertine” and others. Here are themes from his film music performed on the piano by Nyman himself. He’s a good enough pianist to force you to hear this music in new way no one else would have done. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Simon)


Roussel, Piano Music Volume 1 performed by Jean-Pierre Armengaud (Naxos). You’d think Albert Roussel (1869-1937) would have had a far greater impact on the world of international performance than he has. At the Schola Cantorum in Paris, he taught counterpoint to Satie and Varese (a fact which must have indicated an inner rebel somewhere). He lived in a house at Vasterival, in a landscape that Monet, Pisarro and Renoir loved to paint and where Debussy loved to hang out. His piano music here is absolutely fascinating for music that has had so little prominence outside France. Included here are pieces from all Roussel eras - the early Sonatine, the neoclassic late period “Trois Pieces” Op.49 and “Prelude and Fugue” Op.46, which have a nice relationship to jazz. It’s grand to hear such an influential composer in the beginning of a piano music cycle performed so well here by Jean-Pierre Armengaud. (J.S.) ΩΩΩ


Schubert, “Der Wanderer,” Florian Boesch, baritone, Roger Vignoles, (Hyperion). Hyperion’s Lieder releases are always of high quality. Their perpetual Schubert series, spanning decades, has spotlighted a parade of distinguished singers, many accompanied by pianist Graham Johnson. If you disagree with something, then, it’s almost certainly subjective. People who love Schubert songs develop intense feelings for them. In “Der Wanderer,” D. 489, the singer has to have just the right space, dignity and gravity when he sings that haunting first line: “I come from the mountains …” “Der Wanderer,” D. 649, needs a certain simplicity and melancholy. On the other end of the spectrum are the thrilling adventure songs, like “Der Schiffer” – a portrait of the sailor who revels in fighting life’s storms – and the triumphant “Auf der Bruck.” In these mighty songs, Boesch misses some opportunity for drama and thrill. He also might still have to grow into the first “Der Wanderer” that I mentioned – though I am an extreme case, if the wanderer in that song does not sound at least slightly supernatural, like someone out of “The Lord of the Rings,” I am just not happy. But he is a sensitive and intuitive singer and brings satisfying insights to the songs that lie somewhere between these extremes. His voice is beautiful and packs tremendous power, and he handles it well, giving a glowing, intimate, ultra-quiet performance of the famous Goethe song “Meeres Stille.” I liked the album’s theme – so many of Schubert’s songs explored the romantic wandering life. It’s great to hear the brooding, mercurial “Waldeinsamkeit,” a song I loved when I was a teenager. Also, the dense liner notes are a Schubert fan’s delight. ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)