I have to admit, I was worried.
When CityBeat began planning the sixth annual all local music issue and Great Demo Review, I said I wasn't anticipating as many demo submissions as in years past. Surely, the recession had hit everyone hard, including musicians. Boy, was I wrong. We received about 25 percent more CDs than we did last year.
I could see this as an anomaly, a result of a bad economy that more people are picking up guitars now that they're out of work, but I think there's more to it than that. The fact is that the local music scene has never been this exciting. Not only are there more bands and artists, but there are also more good ones. Sure, some legendary groups are reuniting, but it's the new discoveries that are really going to make waves this year. Labels are already looking here for the next-big-thing.
The local music issue is a very big deal to me. Not only is it my favorite issue of the year, but it just so happens that the very first one CityBeat did back in 2004 was also my first time writing for the weekly. Now that I'm on staff, I may have to be a bit more diplomatic than I have in the past, but you can always depend on CityBeat to tell you about the best new local bands and artists first. And, of course, the ones that suck as well. Some things never change, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope you enjoy reading it as much we like putting it together.
(“MS” = myspace.com)
If you're into Three Doors Down and Hoobastank, or you're in the military, you'll probably dig these guys. A little too much cock-rock for my taste, though there's hope in the ska-influenced third track. More of that, perhaps?
Scarecrow + Criminal Mixtape
Truth be told, this wasn't sent in. I downloaded it from Addiquit's MySpace page for the sole purpose of reviewing it for this issue. Why? Because San Diego's answer to M.I.A. deserves your attention. Cop it for free right now, just like me! MS/addiquit.
I can't put my hand on a dictionary at the moment but I'm pretty sure “aepnia” means “relentless pursuit of mediocrity.” Give them some credit: They somehow manage to sound both pretentious and nondescript. MS/aepnia.
Maybe I'm gettin' soft in my old age. Back in the day, I would have given this 16-year-old's CD one spin before throwing it out the window. But with a lovely voice and Ex-Friend Joanie Mendenhall behind the boards, songs like “One Last Kiss” and “Push Me Out” speak to my inner Michelle Branch. I may be old, but a hook's a hook, and Allan's got a bright future. MS/alexisallan.
Amateur Pool Party
Musical Lap Dance
This CD came with a warning: “Do not listen to whilst under the influence of illegal substances. Wat [sic]… It is necessary to listen while.” Sorry guys, but not even Moroccan hash would make this tolerable. MS/amateurpoolparty.
The Ambassador Presents
Though I'm usually not one to swoon over reggae, this four-song demo really held my attention, especially the first song, “A New Season,” a five-minute-plus exercise in impressive musicianship, tasteful guitar soloing and well-placed effects. MS/theambassadorsite.
If you aren't familiar with crust core, don't worry—most people aren't. But if you're into guttural screaming and railing against corpo-fascism, it might be time for you to learn. The Americans (ironically, natch) will be glad to instruct you. MS/theamericans.
Communication in Cases for which No Other Form is Applicable
Instrumental is always tricky, and unfortunately Architect Sketch fails to construct the kind of comprehensive soundscape that renders lyrics unnecessary. As it is, I just keep waiting for the vocals to kick in. MS/architectsketch.
They go from good old-fashioned, pin-your-ears-back punk rock (especially on the title track) to solipsistic dick drizzle in nothing flat. MS/armsentwined.
All-over-the-place goodness, from relaxed jazziness to brief psychedelic freakouts. The more straightforward rockers fall into the middle of Pretenders Road, but it doesn't stay there long before singer Layne Sterling and producer/guitarist Mike Kenneally take it somewhere completely different. MS/theassumptions.
Living Large: The Pacific Coast Demos
These songs were recorded in 2004, but that still leaves a 17-year gap between them and the arguable relevance of the kind of histrionic metal that had Tawny Kitaen doing the splits on the hood of a car in that Whitesnake video. MS/dml5353.
Save, and Save Often EP
Too much time in El Centro will make anyone a little crazy. Instead of shooting highway signs or cooking bathtub meth, Batwings turned their tumbleweed ennui into experimental post-punk cacophony. There are moments of fractured inspiration here, but a loose interpretation of the line between noise-as-music and noise-as-migraine suggests the band should worry less about remembering to “save” and more about knowing when to hit “delete.” MS/batwingskillyou.
Extra Special Good
The Bankhead Press
Self-TitledYou can call it funk, or soul, or R&B, but, really, it's a true combination of all three. The entire band punches in and goes to work on the six nicely varied tracks, and Tim Felten's keys ooze cool. Singer Rod Hubbard's solid delivery occasionally channels Andy Bey while effortlessly changing with each tune. These guys are for real. MS/thebankheadpress.
Like the diluted answer to piano jockey Ben Folds, The Bigfellas' 14-track second album is twice too long and half as witty as it thinks. If you're playing pop songs, passing the five-minute mark is usually a no-no, much less doing so four times on one disc. Even if tracks like “4:20” display deft musicianship, it feels like something your dad would play on repeat after burning out his Barenaked Ladies albums. MS/thebigfellas.
MASSIVE Mix CD
Technically, there's loads going on with this mix, and most of it's good. There are great anticipatory buildups before each track's climax, and the flow between songs is nearly seamless. But—you knew it was coming—Bishop's mix makes me feel like I'm mainlining speed, and not in a good way (is there a good way?). I'm sure there's a crowd for Bishop's music—I see them every time I venture out in the Gaslamp—but I can't say I'm looking forward to my next “MASSIVE” outing. MS/djjonbishop.
Bitter Sober EP
Whining girls singing about “wings and unicorns”? Did you have one too many hits of nitrous before you recorded this, Bitter Sober? In all honesty, the musicianship on this EP isn't too terrible, especially on “Is It Over?” (a question I asked myself many times during this review), but the vocals are about as appealing as pouring white-hot shards of glass into my open eyes. I can think of better things to do—like taking hits of nitrous. MS/bittersober.
A promising sketch. Imagine a lazier Black Keys fronted by Grace Slick—blues guitar, languid “I chew drugs in the high desert” tunes and a girl with a booming voice she channels from somewhere near her duodenum. They need to give the songs more structure, release her inner ape-shit and get on a bill with Grand Ole Party and Earthless. MS/blackhondo.
Tour EP Winter 2009
The brothers Milgaten are all over this issue, but little bro Keith takes a back seat on this project and lets Aimee Sanchez's voice take over. What Hope Sandoval's solo album might have sounded like if she had kept dating the dude from The Jesus and Mary Chain. A little repetitive but a lovely sampling, indeed. MS/blackmambasongs.
Singlehandedly making it OK for white men to sing reggae songs about children wanting peace on Earth. Wah-wah guitars, drum solos and simple “spiritual” lyrics add up to something heard all over Ocean Beach at any time of the day. MS/bloomliquidspace.
Not a Clue
If Bob Dylan and David Gray were somehow to mate, there's no telling what that unholy progeny would look like, but it would probably sound a lot like Ryan Blue. Harmonica-drenched melodies and earnest, soulful lyrics make for pleasant, if not altogether original, listening. MS/theshowbizsuits.
The Paul Bolton Project
One Foot In The Grave
Upon first listen, especially the David Lee Roth-esque “OWW-OWWW-YEAAAAHH-YEAAAHH-YEAH” yelp at the beginning of “Now or Never,” I was thinking this sounded kinda dated. Then I saw the 1996 copyright on the back cover. Thank heavens for the two-decade grace period for the CityBeat Local Music Issue.
Give & Take
According to their bio, Boomsnake is a two-man band that “maintains the accessibility of The Beatles with the eccentric-ism [sic] of Animal Collective.” According to their MySpace page, they're single, female and a Capricorn. True to their ram sign, this album is both practical and prudent. Their sound can best be described as a catchy amalgam of uncomplicated, folksy songs that would prove to be a great soundtrack for Grey's Anatomy. MS/boomsnake.
Burn the Day
Fans of Jack Johnson and Macy Gray might like this girl-guy, acoustic-guitar-accompanied stuff. Though at times it's toe-tapping and energetic, it's also heartfelt and earnest throughout, which doesn't exactly distinguish itself in its genre. The random phone ring in the second track added flavor, albeit unintentionally. The fourth track should be scrapped.
This is the Letdown demo
For some it's when British group Crass released the ominous 1978 anthem “Punk is Dead,” while for others it was in 1995, when Hot Topic opened in Mall of America. Whatever the case may be, people have been predicting the aggro-anarchist genre's demise since its inception. But local quartet Cabrón! never got the memo, and that's a good thing. This is a seven-song roller-coaster ride through the angst-ridden perils of life. MS/cabronsd.
This experimental band's sound can best be described as Guns N' Roses-meets-William Orbit at a Hare Krishna temple while dropping acid. Expect quite the trip—from serene birds chirping in “Das Ende” to spacey guitar and speed-metal drum beats in “Die Entscheidung,” which I believe is German for “cluster-fuck my brain and give me a bad rash in the process.” MS/cabuloan.
Textured acoustic space rock that needs time to marinate. MS/cafepeyote.
65 More Miles EP
Who knew a San Diegan could pull off such charming honky-tonk? I've never seen Cardinal live, but I'm guessin' it's a good time. MS/billcardinal.
Cumbias de la Cucaracha
The soundtrack to the really awesome Mexican beer party commercial in my head. Where my señoritas at? MS/37p037a.
The music is all over the map. From pop-punk to rock- but somewhere between Beach emo and flip-flop-gazer, Chaz has created a sound all its own. Kinda grows on you. MS/maninlimbo.
Extra Special Good
Hot DreamsThis ambitious disc uses a different set of musical colors on almost every track, whether it's dark atmospheric stuff or upbeat '60s pop-meets-Americana. Sharp production on warm acoustic guitars, organs and pianos clash with drums and vocals that sound like they're coming off of a 1920s wind-up record player in a big empty church. All-star affairs usually are cluttered when too many cooks are in the kitchen, but members of Scarlet Symphony, Red Feathers and The Vision of a Dying World came up with something full of space, even when there's a lot going on. MS/charlesmusket.
Children of Nova
Queensryche turned a choir-dork into a groupie-humper, so anything's possible. Children of Nova's singer has an equally pretty wail. If Coheed & Cambria converted to Scientology at the behest of John Tesh, this would result. They'll do medium-well at shows where Red Vines and energy drinks are sold. Lay off the Sci-Fi Channel and never, ever sing as high as you do on song three. Unless you genuinely are a eunuch. MS/childrenofnova.
Judging from this demo, Cookoo (aka Tha Hater Terminator) is obsessed with sucka MCs who don't know shit about real rapping: “Suckas in this rap game / you feelin' my flame / I'm ready to bust in my chucks / till you don't like Cobain.” It's unclear what the expired Nirvana frontman has to do with any of this, and I wanted more interesting subject matter from someone who touts his own lyrical genius. The beat's there, but the groove isn't; it's somewhat generic, but not bad. MS/cookoospc.
Extra Special Good
Eyes in the Back of my HeadThis jazz foursome are still together after more than a decade in a town that kind of ignores them, even though they consistently make some of the most vital and exciting music around. Abundant skills, ethereal communication, wild flights of chaos and sustained moments of fleeting beauty comprise this work of art that takes cues from the approach most often known as free jazz. There is hardly an audience for it, but I'm right the fuck in the middle of it.
One to watch. Dakotafish isn't all there yet—but Mike Fish crafts intricate indie-pop melodies that are part Pinback, part Thom Yorke wearing party pants. The one thing holding Fish back is that he undoubtedly pleasures himself to a signed copy of The Eraser more than he ought to. MS/mikefishmusic.
I've never been to one, but this is the kind of music I imagine playing at a white-supremacist rally. In fairness to the band, I can't decipher the lyrics to the point of knowing what they're actually singing about—but I do know that I'm now a little angrier about something for having listened. MS/deathcrisis.
Without question, one of the best hip-hop groups in San Diego. With two male MCs and a female singer, you might be tempted to throw them in that Black Eyed Peas subgenre, but these cats are as hard and as volatile as they come, even if they also have the party jams to help balance it out. MS/deeprootedent.
Demo & Birth of a Worm in the Inner Ear
Dude, where did I leave my flannel shirt and syringe? Oh yeah, at Demasiado's practice space, where it's always 1992 and Soundgarden is the shit. Like baking a bowling ball inside a cake: absolutely pointless. Their dirty little secret? They yearn to be a Tears for Fears cover band. MS/demasiadomusic.
The Devlin Jones Band
Unrequited E.P. Love and Dirty Words
The Devlin Jones Band's variety of bland soul and Southern-rock stylings (from La Jolla!) could best be described as sufferable. Jones' high tenor voice and the competent guitar and drum work behind him make this band completely adequate to making a room non-silent in a non-annoying sort of way. MS/thedevlinjonesband.
Free All the People
Roots reggae that's solid sunny-afternoon-on-the-stoop mood music. Enjoy your water-pipe products and be glad you live in a town where people will always play this music. MS/thedevoteesroots.
Diana Death Band
If you're a fan of The Powerchords and Wild Weekend, then meet the new queen of the punk scene. If you're not, then chances are you've heard DDB's brand of '70-inspired garage-punk before. MS/msdianadeath.
Often considered a good Tylenol PM substitute, one could argue that ambient is the Rodney Dangerfield of the local music scene. But acts like DJ Dibo are on a mission to change that. With his self-described “moody but mellow, ethereal yet grounded, dark without being a total downer” sound, this is a well-structured, wall-of-ssound-like introspective piece that will no doubt finally earn the down-tempo genre the respect it deserves. At least locally. www.djdibo.com.
One might begin to worry when Saved by the Bell's Kelly and Zack and “used Tampax” are referenced in the first song. Not all the tracks are spectacular, but almost every one is a bonafide bootie shaker. MS/therockstar.
Radio Hospital Singles
This fusion of hip-hop and breakbeats is a combination that must be taken on carefully, and, unfortunately, it seems DMProgress still has some practice to do in his lab before hitting the streets with his product. The elements are there, and with a little more effort, DMProgress could make some, um, progress. MS/dmprogress.
Nicely produced dual-vocal shoegazer pop with emphasis on the dream, not tiger, part of their name. Sounds a bit like Ulrich Schnauss producing a Belle & Sebastian record. MS/dreamtigermusic.
This is good, gooey electronic dub-funk—somewhere between Nortec Collective and music for Spanish-language pornos starring pasty nerds with lots of moles. They will be my house band at my cool lounge with mid-century modern furniture. I will name a martini after them. I will, however, ban them from singing. MS/dubus.
Incredibly earnest, mellow folk-rock for lovers. I want this boy to squire my sister. Or I want to nuzzle him myself. But I really want him the fuck off my stereo.
3 song demo
Even Tool and Smashing Pumpkins had to start somewhere, and it probably sounded a bit like this. Not a bad start at all. MS/eclipse79music.
6 song demo
“You are my awesome nectar blossom.” Really? Mediocre singing and playing on quite plain rock songs. MS/edubpoetband.
Jesus Christ, this guy sent us seven different CDs! El Poeta is one half of DJ/performance crew Dub Traffik Control, who mix electro-infused reggae. Poeta also makes his own music, ranging from electro-acoustic instrumentals (Save Changes?) to ambient-esque head-bobbers (The Maximalist). He might have sent in too many discs, but all of them were good. MS/37p037a.
New Blood Old Soul EP
This EP features acoustically driven pop with traces of reggae, Bradley Nowell-soundalike vocals and some nice horn bursts. It's a soulful, upbeat blend that's more straight-ahead rock than rasta, which suits these light-skinned groovers just fine. MS/endoxi.
Extra Special Good
EP 2Boys, are you even old enough to have Nowhere in your CD collections—because this is the damn closest thing to Ride I've heard in a long time (with a little Swervedriver thrown in). Tremolo'd guitars? Check. Loads of drum fills? Check. Reverb dripping from just about everything? A big, fat check to that. Could this be the start of a new generation of shoegazers? Perhaps. It's just too bad Creation Records folded in 1999. MS/evervess.
War on Terror
Politically inspired songs of protest you can play in your backyard in a proto-Goth, early-Ministry, Crash Worship kind of way. Not quite rad, but getting there. MS/extinctanimals.
On Surfari Sessions Volume One
This is professional-ish music that was created for the soundtrack of a TV show that I think is about Christian surfers who travel all over the world trying to save people from Hell with their good vibes. If that sounds like fun, enjoy. Personally, I would rather listen to surf wax being applied to my eardrums. MS/chadfarran.
Soft Pipes, Play On
These guys run the gamut of hard progressive rock. Just when you think you're ready to peg them as At the Drive-In brethren (“Maximum Castles”), they flip it on you and start playing what sounds like old-school Death Cab. Either way they slice the bread, I reckon they put on a hell of live show. Dig it! MS/feversleeves.
Hidden Door Sessions
If Digable Planets decided they had too many fans, they might do this. Good musicians, no doubt (vets of Los Able Minded Poets and P.O.D.), but they're mired in the narcoleptic no-man's land between hip-hop and crystal-consulting Deepak poetry. “I'll take ‘Song Hooks or Any Semblance of an Ass-Shaking Beat' for $100, Alex.”
Sounds like every other band you hear on your FM dial, which might mean the future is bright. MS/fmrevolver.
Feeling of Hate
Tight, metalish rock that doesn't make you hate anything. MS/feelingofhate.
Folding Mr. Lincoln
Within My Reach
Nancy and Harry Mestyanek have been making music together for 35 years, and their synergy is apparent on their latest full-length. It's the kind of modern country-rock that belongs on the radio, even if it'll be overlooked in favor of overproduced American Idol finalists. Particularly impressive is the bluegrass twang of “The Cuckoo,” which wouldn't sound out of place alongside Alison Krauss. OK, maybe it's not that good, but there's plenty here to enjoy. MS/foldingmisterlincoln.
How can you resist two-minute punk songs? They get in, get it done and get out: Mission accomplished without a bunch of bullshit. And how can you argue with lyrics like “I don't want to / I don't have to / You can't make me / Try and take me.” This is lo-fi stuff with some catchy guitar licks that I'd really like to check out live. MS/francisbaconrocks.
From the Hips
Sometimes, you get something you don't even know you want. In this case, it's a male Patti Smith-sound-alike. Alright, maybe I don't want it, but these three songs from North Park duo Brandon Appleton and James Petti aren't half bad, and with some voice lessons, a little polish and a couple more members, they could be San Diego's answer to Cold War Kids. MS/fromthehips.
The Jon Garner Trio
…and the happy accidents
How dare these proponents of mushmellow not only cover Toots and the Maytals' “Pressure Drop” but actually open their posturing, soulless CD with it. What does John Garner know about shantytown poverty, crime or violence? What's completely lacking is any sense of how trying to sound like John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz all rolled into one super-casual multigrain mayo sandwich might seem like a good money-making scheme, but as a musical concept it's grounds for destruction. MS/jongarnertrio.
Get Back Loretta
Over The Wall
Here's another batch of catchy, upbeat products from one of San Diego's finest pop-hook factories. There are heaps of harmonies and smiley sing-along bits that spread happiness without being cheesy, which is one of the rarest things on Earth. MS/getbackloretta.
The Ghost Orchid
The Ghost Orchid
Apparent students of electronic artists Múm and Telefon Tel Aviv's tutelage, The Ghost Orchid compress short, ethereal interludes and random flourishes of energy in the form of well-orchestrated music that lends itself to early, early morning listening. You know, the kind you do when it feels like you might be the only person in the world who's awake. MS/theghostorchid.
This is a crazy amalgam of Beach Boys, J Giels, associated yacht rock and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Giese recorded everything himself—on a computer! If he's joking around here (and has a partially nude, self-mutilating theatrical routine to accompany this music), he's my new god. If not, then Steve Jobs is a criminal enabler. MS/eddigiese.
The Gifted Idiots
This demo smells like dog piss and Cheerios. By the sound of these three tracks, it makes me wonder if that's all this duo has eaten for the past several months. In between smoking rocks, of course.
The Gladstone Bags
This three-song demo of folky campfire sing-alongs came in an old film-reel canister along with illustrations, vintage photos and various artsy trinkets. If the Bags spent more time on the music rather than the package, I wouldn't get the impression they're just goofing off. Less freak, more folk! MS/thegladstonebags.
Come With Me If You Want To Live
The semi-satirical metal side-project from Pinback wizard Rob Crow has some things going for it that most fledgling acts don't, not the least of which is talent. Heavy enough to satisfy but light and tight enough to digest, the brooding grind of songs like “Loch” and “Ode to Billy Jack” land the band closer to Tool territory than anyone would rightfully expect from a group that might as well have called itself Choking on Penis. MS/goblincock.
Love in America
With the album name and song titles like “Pat Buchanon on Fire,” you'd think this was some kind of hard riot-punk band, but instead they offer the kind of electronic music that could have been a much-improved soundtrack for Ladyhawke. MS/summerfuncollective.
With you in Mind
Appealing, inoffensive acoustic and electric jazz piano (and a little melodian) over mostly Brazlian-inspired grooves. The talented Green writes lyrical melodies and surrounds himself with other excellent musicians, whom he graciously allows to stretch out. The overall effect is engaging and pleasant, if not terribly exciting. MS/dannygreensd.
GN's utopia includes “Five million empty pools and not a single cop!” These are six good skate-punk songs in less than eight minutes. If you have open wounds on your arms and legs, occasionally evacuate on hoods of squad cars and view dark alleys as a ripe place for commerce, Gross Negligence is for you. MS/grossnegligencehc.
Michael Dean Grulli
My Heart in my Head Demos
Remember the music from the Dracula puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Well, maybe if there were puppets singing this tripe, I could get into it, but anyone who starts their CD with “Do you take what you can get? / Do you get what you can take? / By the powers vested in me / These are the songs that I make” deserves to be anus-raped by Michael Bolton. Seriously, it would be one of the worst things I've ever heard if it wasn't so unintensionally funny. MS/michaeldeangrulli.
Extra Special Good
It's...Guava BellyAt first glance, this quintet might seem like yet another beachy Sublime/Nickelback hybrid by way of Jimmy Buffett, but look closer and you'll find a versatile band with a well-balanced mix of styles appealing to both the martini and the Jack Daniels crowds. Led by Dan Hammer, an A/V professional-turned-rock star, their sophomore recording ranges from heartfelt ballads (“River View”) and unapologetic rockers (“Somewhere in South America)” to the aptly titled “Cashing Out, which, with its tales of heartbreak and cocaine, would have made the Man in Black himself crack a smile. If that weren't enough to pique your interest, “Time Tells All” introduces us to the beauty of scientific gangsta rap, hating on atmospheric physicist Fred Singer, who's called a “poser faker,” and warning us about the perils of uncontrolled carbon emissions: “Fuck MTV cribs, check my global warming channel / Ain't gots a pool, but I got 10 solar panels / n' I insulates my house with cris soaked flannel.” Al Gore, eat your heart out. MS/guavabelly.
The Power of Human Failure
A raucous, low-fi, bottomed-out eight-song assault. Like a cross between the Mono Men on meth and the Tyrades out of Chicago. If you're a lazy vampire or an apathetic zombie, Gurtrudestein will help you get in the mood for some wholesale slaughter. I'll be honest, these guys scare me a little bit. MS/gurtrudestein.
Remove the H, replace it with a C followed by an r and you'll get a pretty fair assessment of this album, which features such misogynous ditties as “All She Needs is a Spanking” and “Sick of Her Shit,” the latter being an ode to washed-up strippers. MS/happyron.
Seventies rock swagger and crunchy guitar hooks abound on this rock trio's polished debut EP, recorded at Velvet Revolver's studio. Sounds like a band that would also claim L.A. as a home, which they do. MS/heavyglowmusic
Breaking Point demo
“Tight but generic” was my first response. Then I saw the “Thanks, CityBeat” on Hialeah's MySpace page, for making them an “ExtraSpecialGood” in 2005's Local Music Issue. Sigh. But I just can't get excited about this demo. Don't hate me, guys. MS/hialeah.
Hotel St. George
Hundreds & Thousands
I want to like Hotel St. George more than I actually do. But, try as I might, they're still relegated to that vast purgatorial nebula in my mind where good, not great, indie rock bands go to die. There seems to be a conscious effort to up the ante (and creative energy) of previous efforts, and there's more of a serrated edge to the polish on their pop-rock but, in the end, Hundreds & Thousands just gets lost in the crowd. MS/hotelstgeorge.
Extra Special Good
Practice Session—11/29/08Sheeeit, if this is a practice session, then what happens when these guys play for real? If you miss the days when DJ Shadow was cool and trip-hop wasn't just some forgotten, played-only-on-Big Sonic Chill subgenre, this trio is for you. As far as I can tell, the group consists of three knob-twiddlers and a turntablist, all forming like Voltron to make one amazingly chilled-out sound. Anyone who can sample the guitar jangle from Sonic Youth's “Bull in the Heather” and the “oww-ee-oww” chant from The Wizard of Oz is on the short list to play my next house party. MS/illuminauts.
On An Island
This disc is exactly what you'd expect from a self-proclaimed singer/songwriter/seasider that carries his own potted palmtree and bucket of beer on his album cover. If he's never heard of Jimmy Buffet or James Taylor, I'll buy you dinner. Luckily, there's a slew of contributions from well-known local musicians who add some Hawaiian/Bacharach gloss to the beach fiesta. MS/crimesofmusic.
Crucified for Our Beliefs
Basic but energetic, well-arranged but standard '80s throwback hardcore fare. The best song is “Nasty Cough.” It's funny, and singer Ugly Lenny stays on key (unlike the rest of the record). True, it was hard to get past the ridiculous lyrics, but if you're a fan of Adolph Hitler or Rush Limbaugh, there's lots of hate to love here. Oh, and guys: No, you are not going to “burn this city to the ground.” You are going to work at Home Depot. MS/incitingriots.
4 Song Demo
If you like your indie on the clean, poppy side, à la Pinback, you'll prolly dig this bunch, but if you prefer a little crunch to munch in your sonic stew, these neighbors may, indeed, come off as incomplete. MS/incompleteneighbor.
Israel Bissell imagines a world in which Cat Stevens wears billowy Renaissance pants and walks about Ireland serenading lasses. Celtic spirits may or may not assist them in their quest, but they're a shoo-in for the next round of Irish Spring soap jingles. MS/israelbissell.
It was inevitable that the space created by Ben Harper and Lenny Kravitz would be filled. Everything is faithful and serviceable, but there isn't much new ground being covered here. MS/JAC.
He has a San Diego phone number, sings about Los Angeles and, according to his MySpace page, moved to Iowa City. Sorry, Iowa, but now you're stuck listening to his derivitaive pop-folk. MS/nathanjamesmyspace.
Do you miss the Lilith Fair? Vanja James would be playing the opening slot on the side stage if it were still 1998. The only distinguishing characteristics are the lyrics, which sound like excerpts from Sarah McLachlan's 11th-grade diary. MS/vanjajames.
4 Pop Hits & 1 Reggae Classic EP
Eighties-inspired electro R&B for the hipster set. If “Dick in a Box” and Empire of the Sun are your idea of romance, then this side-project from Keith Milgaten of The Vision of a Dying World is your new bump-and-grind soundtrack. MS/jamuelsaxon.
Taps Taps Lights Out
This 2006 release is a shoegazery opus that draws up plays from the Sunny Day Real Estate and Pinback blueprint, sneaking in the occasional Death Angel riff when no one's looking. MS/japanesesunday.
The Jazz Project
Big Band: The Music of Ken Downing, Thanks For The Memories
Thank God there are enough people alive that appreciate this music to be able to form a band big enough to do it justice. Most aging music lovers know Downing through the album's title track (thanks to Bob Hope adopting it as his own), but the other tunes will make you swing, jump and hold yer gal close (on the slow jams).
Girls who dig female songstresses such as Sheryl Crow and Jewel will surely latch onto this well-produced full-length, a candid peek into the complex emotional cycle of yet another talented singer-songwriter. Guys will probably just figure they heard the songs in a Tampax commercial. MS/mollyjenson.
Fun for a backyard barbecue, but if you want to play formulaic countryish blues rock and make it beyond the tent, you need to add something fresh to the mix. You also need a better singer. Play parties. Have fun. Stop making demos. MS/jinxking.
This CD reissue sounds like it was remastered in a dumpster on the back of a truck, if at all, but it's classic '80s punk in the vein of early Replacements from a band that did it better than any others at the time—and even some around today.
Playing your instruments at mismatched tempos doesn't make your music more psychedelic—it just makes it bad. MS/kinome.
Grew Up Too Soon
Three-piece, lo-fi, garage-rock delivered with expediency and a punk-rock whine. Suited for heavy drinking or college radio, if we had any. MS/theladyvain.
Alive on Law St.
Everybody wants to be Ryan Adams, and understandably so: One man and an acoustic guitar churning out soulful music to seduce and be seduced by. This stuff is more melody and less despair, and you'll be humming it for days. Good or bad, that's up to you. MS/jesselamonaca.
Laservülf and Thunderböldt
Mex Offender In Sexico
Born from the prosthetic vagina of Spinal Tap, mankind shall now behold these warlocks of rock. “Smoking crack with your Loooord, driving in my Ford—FAST!” MS/laserwolfandthunderbolt.
Aim For the Eyes
Like any seasoned El Cajon Boulevard hooker can tell you, when things get rough, aim for the balls. Electro duo Le Coquette—with their hipster good looks—want you to aim up north, so that adversaries can admire your perfectly feathered side-swoosh hair and barely buttoning toddler jeans before they go down for the count. Just when you think they're yet another dime-a-dozen North Park sound staple, they get down and dirty and hit you with the bare-knuckle, punk-sprinkled “Fuck Your Cruiser.” MS/lecoquette.
The production on these mid-tempo, by-the-numbers singer-songwritery songs sounds like a million bucks, and big-deal bluegrass instrumentalist Dennis Caplinger gives it some great music moments. However, this is a solo affair, and Lenhart doesn't really impress with lines like “Dreams / I've got dreams / Don't you know what that means? I love you… in my life.” MS/eddielenhartband.
One of my favorite Clem Snide lyrics of all time is “The beautiful were never meant to suffer.” Lerner has pipes aplenty, but her piano-based music is as vapid and fleeting as her good looks. MS/jessicalerner.
Punk-ska stuff with big shout-along choruses, cool traditional-sounding organs and beginning band horns. The shouting is better than the singing, but it's hard to not love. MS/localred.
Three December EPs
Jame Musselman (aka “Long-sleeves”) apparently had a long December. The first of his three EPs, Black Swamp, is sparse folk fare that bogs down in a mire of heart-on-sleeve dreck about “weeping willow trees” and the like. In contrast, the subdued electronica of follow-ups The Rift and Wire Fraud suggests that Mr. Sleeves should spend more time with his laptop and less time with maudlin introspective masturbation. MS/longsleeves.
Loves Cruel Malady
Christian Death meets Smashing Pumpkins. More distortion than drama, and that's a good thing. MS/lovescruelmalady.
They claim to play “gypsy reggae rock” but it's more global catastrophe than world music. Somebody very stoned must have raided the percussion section at Guitar Center right after composing a series of pseudo-trippy poems. Still, I could imagine them going over well at the O.B. Street Fair. MS/maderamusic.
What Love Will Do
Next time my mom comes to visit, I'm taking her to see Janiva Magness. A couple vodka tonics into the evening, we'll be snapping our fingers and shaking our asses like we did when I was a kid listening to her Carole King and Bonnie Raitt albums. While Magness may not be quite the same caliber, she's well on her way. And knowing my mom, after a few drinks, she won't know the difference. MS/janivamagness.
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