Beginning with its third album, 1997's "Dig Me Out," Sleater-Kinney began to cross-fertilize its stark post-punk style with the swinging, tuneful sounds of the '60s Top 40. On its latest CD, "The Woods," the Pacific Northwest trio is still doing that, notably with "Rollercoaster," a springy where-did-our-love-go plea that's half art-noise, half "American Bandstand." The breaking news about "The Woods," however, is that Sleater-Kinney has gone heavy. The band rumbles like Blue Cheer through such songs as "The Fox," which opens the set, and "Let's Call It Love," which concludes with a five-minute guitar-and-drum stomp.
The all-female threesome handles this macho music with considerable poise yet ultimately fails to transfigure it. While the album will probably always be known for its musical brutalism, its most satisfying songs are not the most crushing ones. The highlights include "Modern Girl," whose harmonica and finger-picked guitar suggest a mutant strain of folk-rock, and "Entertain," the disc's most dramatic use of the band's signature element, Corin Tucker's stratospheric soprano. Thanks to new producer Dave Fridmann, "The Woods" has the chunkiest low end of any of the bass-less group's releases, but Sleater-Kinney still finds its essential release in the upper registers.
Washington's Dead Meadow has always been heavy, although its fealty to late-'60s metal is tempered by complementary interests in My Bloody Valentine and madrigal-style prog-rock. The title of "Feathers," the quartet's fifth CD, is only partially ironic. Such midtempo thumpers as "Let's Jump In" and "Heaven" hammer but also swirl and are followed by several songs that unabashedly feature acoustic guitars and pretty tunes.
Layered with trippy timbres, "At Her Open Door" and "Stacy's Song" are the lighter side of headbanging. It's telling that the song titles include numerous references to doors, gates and the afterlife: Whether the band pounds its way there or simply floats in, Dead Meadow is headed for some sort of Great Beyond.
-- Mark Jenkins
Both appearing Saturday at the 9:30 Club.