June 27 2012 02:38 PM

Electro-pop duo flirts with Maroon 5 and dubstep

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Hyena WeAreHyena (self-released)

Hyena has moves like Maroon 5. They have bass like Skrillex. On their new EP, WeAreHyena, they seem to have exactly what a band needs to make it in the "Electronic Dance Music" world.

It wasn't always like this. In a CityBeat feature back in October 2010, the electro-pop duo touted its ability to bridge the gap between North Park indie kids (or "scraggle-muffins," as drummer Michael Cooper so amusingly called them) and Downtown club-goers (aka "balloon boobies"). But times have changed; "Moves Like Jagger" is a hit, and so-called "EDM" has blown up big-time. And while WeAreHyena—a six-track sampler of a forthcoming full-length LP—does have scraggle-muffin-friendly guitar, some tracks come across like a shrewd attempt to attract balloon boobies and their EDM-loving, Maroon 5-listening ilk.

Just listen to "Never Enough," in which a dollop of robotic sub bass has "dubstep" written all over it (though, to the band's credit, the bass never gets loud or crazy enough to really match Skrillex levels of spectacle). And then there's "One Eye," which rides on a whistling hook that sounds like it could've been cut straight from Maroon 5's much more famous whistling hook. Indeed, when I first put the song on, I thought I was listening to a remix.

I'm not sure what Hyena's trying to do here. Are they looking to capitalize on EDM's popularity and maybe rake in some of those big festival bucks? Or are they wearing their influences on their sleeves, probably a little too obviously?

Fortunately, the duo keeps a cool head even at its most ham-fisted. Cooper's straightforward beats are nice and tight.

Bryan Stratman never goes overboard with his multi-layered mix of vocals, synths and guitar. The result is often quite sexy: With its glimmering textures, candy-coated hooks and pulsating bass, the dreamy EP highlight, "Sweet Lies," is as silky-smooth as Astroglide.

The duo's 2010 debut, We See You, is still the stronger effort. In terms of sheer infectiousness, nothing on WeAre- Hyena quite tops bangers like "Anyone's Guess" or "Kiss it Off." But it's still better than half the stuff the balloon boobies Downtown listen to—and some of those scraggle-muffins might just dig it, too.

Hyena plays at El Dorado on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1.


Email peterh@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.

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