Privet list Pinback and Radiohead among their many influences, and the similarities throughout this album are undeniable. On many songs, a perfunctory listen could easily mislead someone into thinking they had stumbled upon a B-side from one of Privet's aforementioned influences. Unfortunately, in this case, imitation as the sincerest form of flattery could also be viewed as Privet's biggest downfall. The band's four members are evidently talented musicians, but when it comes to writing in a style that's distinctly their own, they need some time to marinate.
Rebar and Plums
Simple Glass Brackets for the Dark Dark Heat
The most interesting thing about this melodramatic folk EP is that every song is "untitled" except for the final track, "Skippy returns from College." It adds an air of mystery to what is yet another entry in the tired genre of breathy, acoustic singer-songwriter folk musings. It's original, but it also seems to wander around directionless. If the singer had a little more confidence, maybe there'd be something here.
The Red Starts
Fuzzed-out, garage-y rough cuts done by yet another group of folks from the Velvet Underground fan club. Impossible to determine true potential this early in the race, but no doubt it's there.
Countless Kyuss and Sabbath-worshipping stoner-metal bands have come and gone in this great country of ours, and Red Wizard is yet another one. However, much to Red Wizard's benefit, the age-old formula of bong-rattling low-end and crunchy, blues-based riffs hardly ever grows old. There's nothing particularly surprising or innovative about Red Wizard's brand of chemical-addled doom 'n' roll, but they're pretty damn good at it.
Remain in Vain
Someone to Watch Over Me EP
Hardcore punks Remain in Vain put on a blessedly sloppy performance on this breakneck EP, but they clearly have some soul-searching to do. "Grind My Teeth" and the title track both hark back to the artsy hardcore of Gravity Records, but "Remember When" is a bro-friendly, Fat Wreck Chords-style skate-punk anthem. What, so you guys think you can divine gold from fire and ice? Either get your "Spock rock" haircuts or go back to the skate park.
Ricky Small and The Talls
Ricky Small and The Talls
Mr. Small's website uses the following terms to describe his music: "Feel-good, inspirational sound" "pop-friendly folk" "heavy grooves" "funky jams" and "whirlwind of talent." Ordinarily, such characterizations would make me throw an album out without even one listen. Alas, I've been tasked with giving every second of Mr. Small's album my undivided attention. Mission accomplished. All I want to know now is whether John Mayer realizes he has a bastard younger step-brother running around San Diego who's been creating hideously unlistenable music even more gag-inducing than his own. (Tweet me, John!)
Right Now Tomorrow
The note enclosed with Right Now Tomorrow's laid-back hip-hop demo says, "These are very rough mixes" Rough, indeed. The beats are super quiet with the vocals overpowering the mix. The beats are kind of cool, but obviously incomplete. The rapping is awkward at times, and the hooks just don't fit very well. It could be a nice little EP, but they'd need to produce the shit out of these tracks and rehearse those vocals like mad. Then, maybe.
You've got to love any album with dulcimers on it! This earthy, organic, feel-good instrumental music sounds like it was a lot of fun to make. Clearly, Robinson did a lot of overdubbing: There's tons of percussion, a bunch of different acoustic guitars, keys, synths and horns (and lots and lots of dulcimers). Play this on your iPod while you go for a hike in the woods and contemplate your purpose in life.
Cadillac and Trailer
There's something to be said for dad rock when it's done well, and Larry Robinsonódespite his best efforts to convince me that he's a total goofballóactually has some good tunes. Album opener "Next to You" is one of them, a '70s-style tune a la Jackson Browne. The title track isn't, however, and sounds as if his aim was just to get one of his songs on Car Talk. Alright, so maybe Robinson is a goofball, but when he's not mired in bar-band cliches, he's got some chops.
Rodello's Machine play nauseatingly happy-go-lucky "adult-alternative" that's completely empty inside. Think calm acoustic guitar, soothing male voices and lyrical gems like "The grass is green / the sky is blue" and "Let your light shine / without holding it in" Ugh.
For the most part, these cool, well-produced instrumental hip-hop beats aren't really "get up on the dance floor"-type hip-shakers. Mostly, they've got a trance-like quality that's more appropriate as trippy background music while you're hanging out in your apartment and getting high.
Rum for Your Life
Cassette Tape Demo
Wow, this came on a real demo cassette tape! That's awesome. You know what else is awesome? The three songs on the tape. So damn close to being an "EXTRASPECIALGOOD"selection, these guys play some kind of fantastically weird pastiche of Sonic Youth, Spiritualized and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It kind of meanders after the opening track, but I'm definitely planning on checking these guys out live.
A wise man once cautioned never to trust a fellow with two first names, but I trust Tommy Ryan because he makes me feel as if the Friends era never ended. This five-song EP is all commercial sunshine pop that would've fit perfectly on the FM dial between 1997 and 2001. It's a throwback to a carefree time, for sure, and that's never a bad thing.
The Sand Devils
The Sand Devils
Surf music tends to live on mostly through the proliferation of sci-fi or Austin Powers-themed novelty bands. I even saw one group of surf-rockers whose entire shtick was pretending they were German submarine fighters from World War II. Kudos to The Sand Devils for breaking the mold and just playing some original surf songs, even though they're unremarkable and a little boring.
Music created by couples can often feel precious, and this four-song sampler (culled from the forthcoming album Monarchs) occasionally drifts into such territory. The acoustic duoócomposed of record producer Sven-Erik Seaholm and violinist Brooke Mackintoshóemploys a hodgepodge of obscure instruments (glockenspiel, banjuke, shirt sleeves, their dog Max), varnishing it all with cozy guy-girl harmonies. But to write off the band based on their cutesy elements would be to miss out on some rustic narratives that draw from a rich tapestry of classic American songwriting.
Lullabies and Warcries
Roxy Jones transport you back to a time when alternative music was truly alternative, not the slightly edgy pop that bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Vampire Weekend wallow in today. There is true weirdness all over this disc, intermingled with exploding guitar choruses, well-timed episodes of manic screaming and, of course, memorable hooks. Opener “Downtown Tokyo” sounds like it could have been a hit on 120 Minutes around the same time that “She Don’t Use Jelly” broke through to the mainstream in the early ’90s. The band’s closest kin seems to be oddball alternative acts like The Flaming Lips, Tripping Daisy and The Butthole Surfers. Songs such as “Atom Bomb Singalong” will make you wonder whether a new album or a six-month stay at a mental institution are on the horizon. And that is certainly a good thing.