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Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012

The 2012 Great Demo Review

Our annual critique of local music submissions


Super Groupie
Just Another Sign of the Apocalypse

Super Groupie, did you really think we wouldn't notice that the girl on your CD label is, in fact, Swedish singer Lykke Li? Because we did. But that's not the only confusing thing about Just Another Sign of the Apocalypse. Its mixture of lo-fi chillwave and profane club rap makes this one a head-scratcher. It's not a complete failureat its best moments, it sounds like forward-thinking acts like Main Attrakionz. But they don't quite have the formula right just yet. Hey, at least it's not witch-house.


—Jeff Terich


Sweeteverafter
My Death

I imagine Sweeteverafter gets some gratification from playing these unnecessarily dramatic, self-examining Goth-rock songs, and I'm sure there's an audience out there for it. But I'd rather not listen to them work out whatever painful issues they're trying to work out. Self-examination is best served with some humor and a degree of distance (see: The Smiths, Magnetic Fields, David Bowie). It also helps if the music is pleasant to listen to.

—Aaron Carnes


Switchyard
The Secret Life of Spiders

Switchyard's Rachel Bellinsky sounds like a watered-down version of an artist who's playing the Milquetoast Stage at Lilith Fair. No aspect of her music sets it apart from the mediocre landscape in which it so plainly exists. She's a Paula Cole without the cowgirl passion, a Lisa Loeb without the cat-eye glasses, an atheist Joan Osborne, a Fiona Apple without the crazy. For some people (read: listeners of KYXY-FM), this safely composed, mind-numbing collection might be the perfect addition to their already lackluster day
just toss it back with another handful of benzodiazepines. www.myspace.com/switchyard

—Justin Roberts


Talk Like June
Untitled

Lead singer Suzanne Harper has some impressive pipes, her band can play and it was a pleasant surprise to realize that "Hallelujah" wasn't a Leonard Cohen cover. But let's not fool ourselves—this "Southerock" band is really just copying top-40 country, and that's unconscionable.

—T. Loper


Temblad
Mockery of the Fanatic

This is perfect music for repeatedly punching someone in the face, ritual sacrifice or preparing to jump out of a speeding plane into a volcano. The fact that the chaos contained in these four tracks is made by two dudes makes it that much more impressive.

—Scott McDonald


Tonto
2 Song Demo

There's not a whole lot to go on here, but the two synth-y pop gems on this demo sound like the beginnings of something cool. Get these guys some better keyboards and recording equipment and they could be opening for Jamuel Saxon in no time.

—Seth Combs


Trap Gold
The Chooser EP

The title tune showcases everything that's right about this four-track EP: It's a post-punk anthem with jangly surf-rock guitar, snarling vocals and a driving yet danceable beat. Much cheesier is "Hey Boy" in which the singer invokes Aretha Franklin by spelling out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." This band still has huge potential, though.

—Andrew Scoggins


Two Eyes Meet Redux
Energy Block

With its twinkling synths, spectral guitars and programmed beats, experimental dance project Two Eyes Meet Redux would sound right at home on your old CD soundtrack to The Matrix. This new four-song EP (available as a free download on their Bandcamp page) has enough deep-set grooves and gurgling bass for club fans to get their grind on to, but non-electronic devotees will be as lost as moviegoers were during the Matrix sequels.

—Chris Maroulakos


Uniform Victor
UV

Thirty seconds into Uniform Victor's demo, the harmonized shouts kick in and you realize: Damn, this would've been a fun band to see live
in 1995. "Just a Little Bit" would've fit nicely on the Empire Records or Mallrats soundtrack, while "Sage" is a longer, heavier, jammier trip that almost (and unintentionally) works as an alt-rock tribute medley. The final track, "My Life" needs to be junked altogether for ripping off the iconic lead riff of The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored."


—Dave Maass


Warring States of Mind
You Shame Me?

Backed by sludgy grunge riffs, vocalist Kevin Knecht pulls his best Eddie Vedder impression on You Shame Me?, on occasion letting out squeaky, cringe-inducing falsetto yelps. The guitar work here is solid, but the songwriting comes off as predictable. In all, Warring States of Mind successfully compiles all the worst parts of '90s alt-rock onto one disc.

—Andrew Scoggins


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Trouble in the Wind
No Work Dancing

Photo by Zack Nielsen

I was kinda hoping that these guys sucked, as their name is perfect for a creative slam. No dice. The skilled quartet filters things like Talking Heads and The Walkmen through a tattered Calexico cheesecloth, turning the 11 tracks here into dusty and original gems. Hard to classify and solid throughout, “No Work Dancing” deftly blurs the line between trainhopping sing-a-longs and quirky accordion rock without ever coming off as pretentious or straining. Nicely varied yet cohesive, it’s difficult to imagine this album benefiting from anything other than people taking the time to check it out. 

—Scott McDonald



Wicked Randall
4 Song Demo EP

All-American patriot tunes for the post-9/11 redneck Ratt fan. "Lost My Mind" is just him rhyming the word "rhyme" with itself for a minute-and-a-half, and I'm pretty sure the song "Panama City Blues" is a rape anthem.

—Sammi Skolmoski

Normandie Wilson
“Saturday Night Girl” 7-inch

On this two-song 7-inch, singer-songwriter Normandie Wilson plays the kind of Burt Bacharach-tinged '60s pop that you'd listen to in a mid-century-modecondo. The title track sets a vintage mood with a bossa nova beat, brassy trumpets and cool piano. Musically it's a fun listen, but Wilson falls short with her breathy-cool vocals. She does much better on B-side "Paper & Pencil," which features just her voice, piano and flute. It's her best Dusty Springfield impression, but it may be relegated to the airport lounge.

—Alex Zaragoza


Scott Wilson
Yoga Girl

It's hard to take seriously any artist who writes a song called "Yoga Girl" or lyrics like, "I hope you sit right next to me / I've seen you in a magazine / I hear you're in a movie." I could maybe put up with these terrible lyrics if the music were painfully earnest or maybe just avant-garde. Instead, Scott Wilson gives us the kind of funky, distortion-laden alt-rock groove that was popular, briefly, in the '90s and sucked back then, too.

—Aaron Carnes


Zillion Happy Volts
Tracks

Heavy as all hell, this three-piece harks back to the ear-shredding spirit of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid. Vocalist Davit Buck sounds as if his throat is lined with sandpaper. Niiiiice. Even the crazy, completely improvised track "Bruise" totally works. This isn't for the faint of heart, but for those willing to take the plunge, it's heavily rewarding.

—Dryw Keltz


Zombie Surf Camp
Reefbiter

This one comes with a couple strikes against it: 1) Not a demo. 2) Not new. Dig the '60s surf vibe, but not so much when they slow it down and the vocals get super-douchey. Surf-rock doesn't mesh well with flyover rock. Strike three.

—Jim Ruland



Got comments? Email our music editor, peterh@sdcitybeat.com, or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.

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