('MS' = myspace.com)
White dudes with dreads solicit guest spots from the likes of C-Money (Slightly Stoopid), Chali Tuna (Jurassic 5), Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest and G Love & Special Sauce, only to end up with an album that's remarkable mostly for how unremarkable it is given the relative star power and production value it employs. Set behind a hybrid mix of hip-hop, rock, funk and folk that delivers largely overwrought messages with curiously bland vocals, the guest spots simply underscore how much help 3rd Borough needs just to be average. MS/3rdborough.
Abandon the Raft
Over these seven, well-produced, almost-metal tracks, ATR does a pretty fine job of capturing the essence of Therapy? and Tool. One might also compare them with Led Zeppelin—in the sense that it's rare for a rock band to have a prodigious singer and a virtuoso guitarist who soar and moan together rather than drown one another out. The only problem: The tortured poetry printed on the CD insert appeals only to angsty teenage girls painting their nails black for the first time. MS/Abandontheraft.
Dovetailing contemporary jazz with world music and aided by an impressive array of flute-sounds, Adrienne Nims plays music that will please the average jazz fan while flitting under the conversations non-jazz fans will have on elevators and in lobbies. www.adriennenims.com.
—Ian M. Rick
Not One for Words
Succeeding in its portentous effort to match Dan a.k.a. Dan's tough-guy rapping with Jaimie Block-Smith's soaring vocals and Brian Figueroa's romantic keyboards with Keane Aranita's ham-fisted power chords, Afterschoolspecial have found their place alongside rap-rockers like Linkin Park with this EP. “Bad Education” makes for a fine fist-pumping rocker, but “Future Rock Stars of America” is kind of corny and “Forever” is sorely in need of a consistent melody. MS/afterschoolspecialband.
For Every Man Alive
F.E.M.A. is an uneven but polished collection from The Agency, a local hip-hop group that shows promise but whose 17-track opus proves that you can have too much of an almost-good thing.
—Ian M. Rick
Alan Silva & the Cosmik Originals
This is apparently what happens when you give an autistic kid a guitar for his birthday. Years later, he'll unleash a muddled album full of experimental lo-fi rock that ranges from confusing to dull to sorta interesting to damn near unlistenable. Simply naming a song “Plato's Allegory of the Cave” doesn't make you smart. Nor does distorting your voice so that it sounds like RuPaul doing spoken word after suffering a massive stroke make you artistic. Torturing a guitar instead of playing it also doesn't make you creative. Mostly, these things just make the people who listened to your album want to punch you in the nutsack. MS/alansilva.
With a name like Anita Lee, I was expecting to hear another girl with her guitar singing me songs about dreams of love, puppies and pretty flowers. I was wrong. Anita Lee isn't a person; it's a four-person band. With a male vocalist. WTF? Save for the confusing name, they're actually pretty good if you like alt-country bands like The Old 97's or Drive-By Truckers. But seriously, Anita, that name has got to go. MS/anitaleemusic.
If you're like me and an album offering “[a] raw orchestrated blend of rock, blues, soul, reggae and hip hop” seems beyond the pale, you may still admire how comfortable Anson looks on his album's cover, kneeling in front of a car while rolling a pair of red dice. And if you're not like me—and this amalgam of genres is palatable—you'll probably enjoy Anson's after-party angst, abundant hooks, post-UFC-Fight-Night introspection, myriad San Diego shout-outs and passionate singing. MS/ansonmusic.
—Ian M. Rick
Unfortunately, this was—literally, not aesthetically—mostly unlistenable because the recorded volume was so low. Turned all the way up, though, there was some perfectly enjoyable instrumental guitar work to complement a tropical evening breeze.
Communication in Cases for Which No Other Form is Applicable
Communication for those who love slow, boring, high-school-garage-jam bands. MS/architectsketch.
In Search of Chin
This guy can actually rap, and the beats are alright. But, sorry, dude—I didn't like Atmosphere very much the first time around. It's still better than 90 percent of the hip-hop around here, and he has shows lined up with members of Living Legends and Visionaries, so I guess that counts for something. MS/yourmotherlovesmyspace.
Author & Punisher
If you've ever wondered what it must be like to inhabit the deepest depths of Hell—the underworld's boiler room, where pedophile priests shovel serial killer brains into the burner to keep Hell's gears moving at a steady pace—then listen to Drone Machines. Performing under the moniker Author & Punisher, Tristan Shone uses precision-built “sound machines” of his own invention to produce mechanical doom metal that crosses Einstürzende Neubauten with Sunn O))) while sounding more fearsome than both. The crushing melodic patterns anchoring tracks like “NTG Part 1 – Time” rang in my ears long after they ran their course, which is as much a testament to this album's force as it is to its originality. MS/authorandpunisher.
You know the joke: What was the last thing the drummer said before being fired from the band? “Let's try one of my songs.” While there's a healthy amount of sun-drenched psychedelica on Malicious Compliance, the overwhelming drum proficiency reinforces the notion that just because you can play all the instruments doesn't mean you should.
The Band That Wouldn't Die
The Band That Wouldn't Die
OK, so “Sad Day” is like Meat Puppets recording over a drum machine, “Where the Weird Looking Fish Live” is like early Cure over a drum machine and “Ambushed” is like The Pretenders or The Cars over a drum machine. Here's the equation: '80s influence + drum machine + awkward lyrics + tone-deaf vocals + basement production = poor listening experience. Actually, ditch the singer for a young guy in skinny jeans and—voila!—you're the next lo-fi superstars!
Featuring two-thirds of defunct indie-rock band Channing Cope, this new project sounds more like David Yow fronting Soundgarden. It's pretty startling to hear them get the Led out, considering the melodic indie prog of Cope, and the barely two-minute songs seem rushed and incomplete. Given some time, though, the band could find a healthy middle ground between where they were and their desire to just rock out with abandon.
Behind the Wagon
11 Songs by Behind the Wagon
Behind the Wagon are adept at churning out all things rootsy and rough-edged on this 2009 release. Lead vocalist Jonny Wagon's cadence and throaty delivery calls to mind Paul Westerberg on upbeat barroom romps like “Have Some Fun Tonight” and “Shakekickers.” But more delicate moments, like the fiddle-laced “Battle and the War” and the moody, Pink Floyd-esque down-tempo number “The Road,” make this a stylistically diverse collection of gritty alt.country-tinged roots rock. MS/behindthewagon.
Birds Ate My Face
It's Tom Waits circa Swordfish Trombones meets Violent Femmes meets Mr. Bungle on methadone meets the Arcade Fire's gypsy cousins. All that in just four songs. And at the end of the day, if you told me the demo was David Byrne's new side project, I'm pretty sure I'd have believed you. I still can't get the chorus to “Prisonhead” out of my head: “Who's gonna get that toothbrush shiv tonight and dream forever?” Strange, evocative and catchy as hell, I'd definitely go see this band perform live. MS/birdsatemyfaceband.
Crunchy guitars? Check. Affected vocals? Check. Testosterone overload? Check. Black Seven say they combine nu metal with nu punk, but they sound suspiciously like an early-'90s hair band at their head-banging best. Only Black Seven's lyrics are better, and by “better” I mean unintentionally hilarious: “Now I see that the wolves that you run with have kicked you out of the pack.” Listening to “Torch in the Mob,” it's easy to imagine them sandwiched between Skid Row and Ugly Kid Joe at a club in Aurora, Ill. MS/blacksevenrock.
Black Oak Hymnal
Hand Drawn Map Through a Killer's Heart
Undoubtedly the weirdest CD I received this year. From what I can tell, it's some kind of death-rock / country hybrid concept album about a killer's journey through places like “Rose Lodge, Saskatchewan” and “Lake Manitoba.” If you like Nick Cave's Murder Ballads or Johnny Cash's darker stuff, then this La Mesa duo just might be up your alley. Even if it's not, this still sounds pretty damn cool. MS/blackoakhymnal.
Black Sea Storm
Black Sea Storm
With a sound reminiscent of Vincent Gallo's recordings from the early 2000s—melancholic minor chords, dissonant harmonies and a handful of quaaludes—former Channing Cope frontman Ali Ozkan has created a gorgeous album loaded with multi-layered vocals, Middle Eastern-influenced drones and a delicate yet driving beat that sneaks in and out throughout all of its 11 heart-wrenching tracks. MS/blackseastorm.
While Robert Bondurant has a reasonably nice voice, plays his guitar with competence and offers earnestness in bulk, his songs are indistinguishable from those of virtually every open-mic performer whose influences run the gamut from Mayer to Mraz. But, as countless inoffensive white boys with acoustic guitars and huge bank accounts can testify to, there is an audience that really enjoys this type of music. MS/rbm18.
—Ian M. Rick
Excruciating jack-off session by three 'tards who have pretty much stalked me to write about their band for the last two months. So, here you go, boys: Your music is the worst white-boy funk / reggae hybrid I've ever heard. Expand your horizons beyond O.B. and Sublime, take two doses of fuck-off and call me in the morning. MS/boomsnapmusic.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
A local “super-group” of sorts culled from some six different bands all united under one curious gastronomic moniker. The menu is mostly country, roots and Americana, but even with the relative simplicity of those genres, the album feels disjointed, unconvincing and unfulfilling. These are clearly musical vets at work, but their ensemble—like fried Twinkies, pancake sandwiches or bacon-wrapped sausages—sounds like a better idea than it actually is. MS/bldcuntry.
A Little Illusion
Xu's rich songwriting skills are evident in every track on A Little Illusion. With a country lilt that sneaks in when you least expect it, Xu opens with a driving beat underneath a velvety-smooth, Suzanne Vega-esque voice and transitions into a captivating combination of acoustic guitar with an ethereal production that sounds almost as if it were being played in reverse. Leaving behind her delicate nature from previous songs, she tears a hole in the album with the standout track, “Count to Ten,” in which she growls under a slapping percussion with a voice seemingly influenced by PJ Harvey. Xu's abilities as a vocalist on this album appear to be wide-ranging, if not boundless. And joined by the talented musicians with whom she's surrounded herself, Xu has found a combination that will undoubtedly lead her to success—or at least the attention and acclaim of alt-weekly freelancers. Nicely done! www.brendaxu.com, MS/brendaxu.
Brendan B and the Breaks
Assault & Battery
This collection of live-band hip-hop suffers at times from a dull production vibe and disconnected performance moments, but Brendan B's subtle, laid-back rhymes and colloquial story-telling style go a long way to salvaging the effort. Standout track “Mother Russia” floats on a great melodic hook reminiscent of TV on the Radio and features guest vocals by San Diego-via-Cleveland rapper and sample artist M-Double A-L. Unfortunately, though, that hook shows up late, and Battery has few similarly inspired moments. MS/brendanbreaks.
4 Song Demo
Pretty much what happens when the seemingly innocent girl from your church's youth group decides she wants to rebel and slut it up a bit. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but when that includes making generic songs with trite lyrics sung in a faux-punk seductress voice that comes across more like a poor man's Gwen Stefani, then, I'm begging you, go back to Jesus or just work at Hot Topic or something. MS/bricklayerbosh.
Can't Stop the Night
Bobby's fantasy is making an album that sounds straight outta '82 and will satisfy both the '80s new-wave kids and the future Bar Pink crowd. What it really reminded me of was the meld of indie pop and cheesier new wave that OK Go went for on their new disc. Enjoyment levels will probably depend on tolerance of synthesizers. If it's Friday night and you're nursing a Beam and Tab while watching Tron, you need this disc! MS/bobbyfantasymusic.
It's All Happening
The name Broken Dreams certainly says a lot about this rap trio's outlook on life, but It's All Happening is neither doom-saying nor didactic. Making references to blunts and “bitches”—not to mention Almost Famous and the John Denver tune “Leaving on a Jet Plane”—producer C+locious and MCs Brek 1 and MoodSwings keep it real with solid beats and inventive rhymes in highlights like “It's All the Same” and “We Get Down.” MS/brokendreamssd.
“Daygo” is Too-Shortish fun with a sub-par chorus that seems to infect most of the disc. Even well-produced collaborations (including two with Daddy Plush) are often bogged down in too much freestyle without rhyme, a lack of hook or melodic intrigue. Matched with a producer with more hit-making knowledge, there'd be lots of potential here. Then again, “potential” is easily a euphemism for “ain't shit yet.” Better collaboration with a pure songwriter is recommended. MS/brookstyle22.
—Will K. Shilling
Side Streets EP
These songs would have fallen flat in the hands of another gal with a guitar and big dreams, but lucky for us, Brown delivers a solid, sure-footed set of alt-country and folk tunes that's anchored by a unique voice. A tad too earnest at times and sometimes lyrically redundant, but still looking forward to the full-length. MS/suziebrownsongs.
Radio Afro Mexica
Local Latin-jazz stars B-Side Players are all over the place on this album: Some songs have the cutting-edge musicality and political outlook of Manu Chao; others approach smooth-jazz territory; certain points of “Radio FM” have a hint of prog, while the closing minutes of “Concrete Jungle” veer into punk rock. But consistent throughout is the band's sexy, sumptuous Latin percussion, making this an irresistibly danceable affair. MS/bsideplayers.
Erroneously labeled in the iTunes music database as “Hip-Hop / Rap”—egregiously erroneous—Buddhafunk has produced a sickly sweet blend of quasi-reggae pop music filled with bongos, slap bass and more inspirational lyrics than should ever be allowed onto one disc. Suffering through repetitions of “Cultivating good vibration / Celebrate in every nation” and “Stars in the skies / Don't believe in the lies,” I can't help but feel like I'm being asked to drink Buddhafunk's Zoloft-infused Kool-aid. Unfortunately, I think Celine Dion's toilet water might taste better than this syrupy drivel. MS/buddhafunk.
City of Dirt
For a couple of white guys from Normal Heights, this ain't bad hip-hop. At least it's not too embarrassing. Of course, this is coming from a white guy from University Heights. Word.
What's the danger in basing your music on '60s bands like Jefferson Airplane? Well, the people who enjoyed that kind of music were on a lot of drugs—so many drugs that they mostly don't remember what music they like anymore. That doesn't leave you with much of a fan base. That said, vocalist Ricardo Beas does have a nice, clear voice, and I sort of secretly like the track “I Don't Know”—I have a mental picture of hippie midgets skipping through a meadow when I hear it. www.cafepeyote.com.
The Canton Mudders
If Comic-Con abandons San Diego, hopefully it'll take this fan-pop band with it. Don't get me wrong: I love sci-fi as much as the next nerd, but there's little place in this universe for novelty songs, even if they're catchy ditties on the subject of the short-lived TV series Firefly (“Reaver song,” “Mal v.s. Inara,” “Browncoats Rule”). Bai tuo, an jing yi dian. MS/thecantonmudders.
65 More Miles EP
Sweet, authentic bluegrass with a San Diego twist. Check out this lyric: “We shared a week in Mexico it must have been a dream / She flew back to Reno and I drove back to El Cajon / And I left my heart below the borderline.” Reno, El Cajon and Mexico all in one song. Now, that's a misery trifecta! This guy may be a real-life Bad Blake. MS/billcardinal.
The Time is Now
Carson sings classic songs like “Pennies from Heaven” and “Over the Rainbow” set to jazz arrangements. I'd be more excited if more of the songs were originals, but only three of nine were written by Carson. Still, she hits one way out of the park with a live performance of Billy Strayhorn's “Lush Life.” MS/karincarson.
The Cathryn Beeks Ordeal
Strong vocals, genuine lyrics, great musicianship: Cathryn Beeks and her “ordeal” create Americana / alt-country music to remind you that decent country songwriters actually still exist. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Shawn Colvin and Neko Case, Beeks' music sounds skillfully produced and ready for the stage, which might be perfect timing—isn't Lilith Fair coming back this year? MS/cathrynbeeksordeal.
This is a mild, lovely reverb-fest. But can bands do reverb-heavy folk anymore without being compared with Bland of Horses or My Mourning Jacket? Chairs Missing might just pull it off on their own. Check out “Most of the Time” for the jackpot hymn. MS/theflyingbook.
Andrew S. Chavez
Songs for a Girl
Guitars can do a lot more than the traditions of rock would tend to suggest. In his instrumental-guitar demo, Chavez gives a taste of what a bit of traditional Spanish style can do to the familiar guitar solo but ends up wandering too often into well-worn '80s-power-ballad territory.
The Clovertones play bar music that gets better with each shot. First drink in, and you note how well the clean guitar melds with the keyboard without sounding wussy. After a few rounds, they bust out their fast stuff and you're spilling beer while fist-pumping to the beat. Solid songs, but what's with the jarring volume levels? Was the microphone on a Roomba during recording?
Coco & Lafe
Café Loco / Uncovered
I see a couple of names from the San Diego coffeehouse folk scene have popped up in the credits for Café Loco. That's cool. Far be it from me to say bad things about talented musicians who want to get together and make a few tasteful records for the 40-plus crowd. Not my thing, but I respect it nonetheless. And, they cover Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt and J.J. Cale on Uncovered. Right on. Ms/cocolafe.
Closer Than You Realize
The breezy disposition and bouncy beach strum of Matt Commerce's music undoubtedly gets its unfair share of Jack Johnson comparisons, but there are things that set this great-sounding EP apart. Commerce is originally from Virginia, and, lucky for us, he didn't leave too much of his Southern roots behind. A slight bluesy drawl and funky backbeat introduce “Running from the Police” before the band takes it to church and bursts into an irresistible gospel shuffle. It would be hard to find another artist, local or otherwise, who exudes as much straightforward uplift in such a believable way. MS/mattcommerce.
The Cottager Minstrels
The Cottager Minstrels EP
Holy crap! You know those LARPs (live action role players) that take over areas of Balboa Park on Sundays to sword fight and practice their Old English? They just found their soundtrack. Five songs of Renaissance-era ditties complete with lutes and Irish penny whistles that should be perfect for when your buddy accidentally shoots you with a Nerf arrow. The woman singing has a gorgeous voice, but unless you have a thing for Renaissance Faires and the dorks who work there, steer clear. MS/thecottagerminstrels.
The Creepy Creeps
Fink About It
Manic garage-rock hopped up on a Moog-altering substance and trapped inside a soundtrack to a monster movie. Nice mix of instrumentals and songs with vocals and the occasional harmonica number, which I'm not too crazy about. The Creepy Creeps stay in character with the spook shtick, but it doesn't get old because they bring it on every song. The Creeps are to monster-movie rock what Man or Astroman? is to space surf. MS/thecreepycreeps.
And I Was Like, and They Were All
Recorded by Mitch Wilson of No Knife, The Dabbers' album pins down garage rock like Mel Gibson nail-guns a South African drug trafficker in Lethal Weapon 2. Being a two-piece, you don't have to move Dad's workbench to fit them in for a live gig. Similarly, recorded, you don't have to install a wall-mounted system to enjoy their abrasive distortion and crashing drums. To stick with the handyman metaphors for this boy-girl duo, I'll let you insert a do-it-yourself White Stripes comparison here. MS/wearethedabbers.
Dana Reason Trio
Wow, I want to see this performed live. Dana Reason is the piano player at the core of this instrumental trio, and from the sound of it, she's going crazy at that keyboard. I have visions of her playing so fast her fingers start to smoke, then kicking off her shoes and jumping straight onto the keys and dancing a one-person flamenco. Alicia Keys this ain't.
If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was listening to an old, unfinished and discarded demo from Deee-Lite's first album. This one-track demo is nothing but dull, monotonous, washed-up and regurgitated trash-disco. Please excuse me while I call Lady Miss Kier to let her know what blasphemy her followers have been involved in recently.
Married to the Dashboard
Oh, Daphne, I really want to like you. It seems like you know your way around the guitar, and you have a few good stories to tell, but your staccato delivery and the way you fit something like 17 extra syllables into a verse that only has room for three makes me want to marry the dashboard of the car that ran over this album. Sorry, dear. MS/darkwhiskeyonabackroad.
Crystal-clear guitar melodies and dreamy, brilliant vocal harmonies dominate this plush four-song demo from Encinitas' De L'amour. Heather Leilani Green's voice elegantly drifts into the opening track with a haunting beauty paralleling that of Dolores O'Riordan's in the initial minutes of The Cranberries' first album. (Seriously. Listen to it again. The similarities are unbelievable!) Green and musical partner Justin Froese have succeeded in injecting an impossible level of emotion into every second of Salt, an overwhelming sense of love, and, conversely, a feeling of palpable desperation. The calm and serene tenor of the songs begs for them to be listened to in a dark room, maybe under the light of a single candle. But what these four songs want more than anything else is another eight equally amazing songs to join them on a full-length album. So, De L'amour, just when will these songs get their wish? MS/delamoursounds.
Tongue in Cheek EP
I have to admit, after seeing DeRose's kinda-crazy-looking handwritten lyrics—in red ink, no less—and her sorta-insane-looking head shot (think Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter from the new Alice in Wonderland movie), I was really worried about having to write a negative review. But you know what? She's actually pretty good at this “female-fronted indie rock” thing—“Grrrl rock,” if you will—complete with heartfelt, emotion-drenched lyrics and some awesome guitar abilities. She's no Ani DiFranco, but I'd probably still check out her live show—incognito. MS/laurenderose.
You know the guy who plays dreamy new-age music on a keyboard at the mall? Get him in the studio with guitar, bass, drums and exotic percussion (or at least MIDI versions thereof) and you'll have this 59-minute track. Even the most avid mallrat may find the sappiness hard to stomach—unless, of course, that's why they go to the mall in the first place.
Version B Squared
Textured and organic, but lacking any hook to grab onto. This is kind of like an incomplete drum circle—half a drum circle that badly wants to be fulfilled.
Three New Songs
Man, I missed the boat on local band Demasiado. Who's to say if they'll ever play again, but in the mean time, singer Jon Piotrowski has these little bedroom ballads to show off his fantastic pipes. If there's a more vulnerable, heartfelt ballad released recently than the demo for “La Fin Est Loin D'ici,” then it must have been recorded by one sad sack. MS/drpopsicle.
One Hit Wonder
Mid-tempo rock that instantly reminds you of just about everything. Seems they're angling for something of their own but have been unable to find it. Look deeper—it's in there somewhere, guys.
Don't Bore Nina
If Rivers Cuomo knocked up Siouxsie Sioux, their offspring might make music like this. Keep in mind that star spawn are rarely as talented as their parents, but these guys have potential—the music is catchy, but the lyrics could use some work. Case in point: “Surfing on a Train”—just the title makes me cringe. MS/dontborenina.
.... —- ..- —. .... / - .... . / -... .- -. -.. / -.-. .-.. .- .. — ... / .—. .-. —- —. / .. -. ..-. .-.. ..- . -. -.-. . ... —..— / -.. —- - ... / ..-. —- ..- .-. -....- - .-. .- -.-. -.- . .-. / .. ... / ... —- .-.. .. -.. / ——. ——- ... / .-. .. ..-. ..-. -....- .-. —- -.-. -.- —..— / - .... . / - -.— .—. . / —- ..-. / - .... .. -. —. / - .... .- - / .-.. . -. -.. ... / .. - ... . .-.. ..-. / -... . ... - / - —- / - . . -. .- —. . .-. ... / .-.. . .- .-. -. .. -. —. / —. ..- .. - .- .-. / - .... .-. —- ..- —. .... / - .- -... .-.. .- - ..- .-. . .-.-.- MS/dotdotdot.
If the popular blog Stuff White People Like focused less on a particular post-grad, ironically self-aware, NPR-listening, pseudo-hipster subset of Caucasians and more on an antiquated but still veritable form of whiteness marked by activities such as wearing socks with sandals and pointing at the ceiling while dancing, it would feature a longish entry on Driver Ed. The band members all play their instruments well, and they're surely swell people, but this collection of mostly unmemorable, mid-tempo adult-alternative songs is performed with the joyless and clinical precision of a group of studio musicians tracking their 10th jingle of the day. www.driveredband.com.
—Ian M. Rick
If I were at a bar and three drinks deep and this band started playing, I'd be psyched. The rock-out tracks like “Holding On” are good fun, but they lost me on some of the mellower tracks, which got a bit eighth-grade whiny. Speaking of eighth grade, I also wish this band's name didn't remind me of an AOL screen name. MS/eclipse79music.
The latest from this pop-soul outfit is a solid collection of laid-back, organ-driven grooves. What sets it apart from most modern mellow white-funk is the old-school touches. Muted trumpets, Tin Pan Alley melody lines and nice guest spots from an all-star team of local gals (Molly Jenson, Anya Marina and Saba) give it an occasional bit of timelessness. MS/Emersen.
New Blood, Old Soul EP
Trite lyrics like “We're like puzzle pieces, fit but missed the emphasis on true life” make this disc sound like every other short-lived local band with AAA-radio dreams. It's not offensive, but it's certainly not groundbreaking. Did I mention they like the sax? There are so very few decent uses for the saxophone, and this disc definitely isn't one of them. MS/endoxi.
J. Eret, E.S. Boyce, D.G. Johnson
This isn't bad, it's just not at all relevant. These men must have been sitting on these songs for 25 years before recording them, which explains how they were cryogenically frozen in Mark Knopfler's saliva. If “Wall St. Man” isn't a sign of the times (the times being 1982), the guys can always land a gig as a Dire Straits cover band at Humphrey's Backstage Lounge.
The Filthy Lads
Blackout rock 'n' roll with a garage-punk edge. The Filthy Lads serve up a double-fisted combo of plodding bluesy bass lines with caterwauling vocals. The production's a little shoddy, but how can you go wrong with a song called “Charles Bukowski's Piss Bucket”? You can't, even if the singer sounds like he's hollering from the bottom of a well.
Based on its name, I feared the worst—a dour collection of late-'90s hard rock performed by a group of angst aficionados with soul-patch-dominated visages. But I was pleasantly surprised to hear a band owing a stylistic debt to The Stooges and to the bands on Dischord Records. None of these songs grabbed me, per se, but with some time spent honing their craft at The Radio Room, Firethorn might become a band worth checking out. MS/firethornrock.
—Ian M Rick
This Will Dissuade Me
FMera (pronounced “ephemera”) describes its influences as “post-shoegazeresque.” I'd put it closer to actual shoegaze than post (whatever “post” is). The influences of bands like Spacemen 3, Pale Saints, Flock of Seagulls (in a good way) and Joy Division are all over this five-song EP, the band's first (maybe a little too much Joy Div, guys). Decent use of effects here, but at times I wished the music had more heft. Maybe take some cues from Ride's “Dreams Burn Down”—the phattest shoegaze tune ever recorded. MS/fmeraband.
This band's one-quarter local, but it's the right one of the four—lead singer / songwriter Charlie Wilmoth is a grad student and music instructor at UCSD (his three bandmates are in West Virginia). There's good stuff here. Nothing groundbreaking, but what the band lacks in originality it makes up for in solid songs that were recorded and mixed really, really well. These tunes are damn catchy, too. “Window Closing” is stuck in my head and, now, in my iPod rotation. Also, a big high-five to Wilmoth, whose lyrics are some of the most creative and interesting I've come across in a while: “I used my trust fund to bomb abortion clinics, but I had to quit / My heart wasn't in it.” MS/foxjapanband
I'm not denying that J Fro has a pretty decent voice in that “I'm the guy from N'Sync who couldn't get his solo career going” kind of way. But the subject matter on these guitar-anchored songs is of the trite, overused and cliché-as-shit variety. “I can't turn it off / I can't make it stop / It's how my heart beats / It's how it should be / For you,” he sings on “For You.” I'm sure that song got you laid, dude, but Jesus! Why not cover “You Look Wonderful Tonight” while you're at it? MS/justinfroese.
From the Hips
Three songs by two guys who like The Doors—including one who just might be the long, lost brother of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth. Not quite there, but not that far away, either. MS/fromthehips
Gary Walker's GreenTree World
Nurture Your Nature
Gary loves the plants, the trees, the animals, the mountains, the hills, the baseball-sized hail that destroys windshields—the guy loves nature. He confesses his love via a series of non-threatening, Beatles-esque, light rock songs on Nurture Your Nature. Gary's style is that of the hippie with musical talent who never sold out, a breed dying off faster than the rare California Smurfberry Giant Pine. It's a li'l soft and preachy, but the better stuff reminded me of Jason Falkner, which really, really surprised me. I shall consider my nature nurtured.
Amador Avenue / Alex Fritz Demo
Perhaps a little late in the punk / ska / reggae game, Amador Avenue is extremely cohesive nonetheless. Between the faster tracks, Alex Fritz's scruffy vocals are genuine enough to give the folksy parts some real tenderness. Not to downplay the band, but his demo begs for real listener-connection rather than being an exercise in musical vanity. MS/goodintentionsofsandiego.
James Gossett (with Four Way Street)
Died and Gone to Heaven
Just one song on this demo, a freewheelin' little country ditty about slamming back shots of Bacardi Gold and getting a lap dance from a g-string-clad former Playboy Bunny at a titty bar in Phoenix. The musicianship is fair enough, but the lyrics make me cringe.
Austin Mixes 2009
Full disclosure: Gramps is a friend o' CityBeat, and his next mix will feature drums by a spouse o' CityBeat. That said, this paper tends not to fraternize with suckjobs, and the job he did with these seven tracks is far from sucky: Folk songs for voice and guitar in the vein of Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson (or the much-covered “If I Were a Carpenter,” in the case of Track 4, “Letter from Prague”), combined with the vocal inflections of Morrissey. MS/Grampadrew.
The MYXZLPLIX Sessions
Thirty-eight sexy minutes of funk-infused hip-hop beats; sultry, smooth vocals; a plethora of samples from all over the musical spectrum—jazz, samba, dub and disco, to name a few—and an intense Latin flavor underlined with an effortless electronic groove. If you can't dance to this, then you have no soul. MS/grownfolkbiz, MS/djmyxzlplix.
The Sons of Furley Demo
This two-song demo definitely wins the “Best Song Titles” portion of the competition, with “Seamus, Don't Piss on the Corn” and “15 Days on a Nazi Train.” Other than that, ever wonder what it sounds like to fart into a harmonica? Bingo. I think I'd opt for the “15 days” in question rather than spend another three minutes on a Guzzle song.