Grind and Bare It
So close to being an “EXTRASPECIALGOOD,” this two-track demo is creepy as all hell, but I just can’t turn away. “More Possibilities” pulls me in with gloomy electronics and an intricate hip-hop beat, but it’s the cryptic vocal samples and twisted vibes of “To Paradise” that leave me breathless and clawing for air—you know, in a good way.
Even if some cataclysmic event manages to wipe out the majority of Earth’s population, there will still be two living things left: cockroaches and Steve Vai-worshipping dudes who want to plague us with their awful, seven-minute instrumental guitar rock songs. Wow, man, you can move your fingers really fast and look affected while you do it. I feel badly for the cockroaches.
H-eyer Level Poets (H.E.L.P.)
Reboot the System
all middle-of-the-road. The rappers are decent, but they’re not
interesting writers (a guest rapper, Tory-T from The Concrete Project,
actually has the album’s best verse). The beats are serviceable but lean
toward being over-produced. Some ideas are obvious (the weed song is
reggae-tinged? That’s crazy!). Some just aren’t executed well
(“Hypnotic”). Their worst idea, though, is the album’s underlying
concept: that they are space-y weirdos with “alien” flows. The concept
amounts to little more than some extra electronic sounds and a few
references to stuff you’d see at Comic-Con. They should hear weirder
the vein of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Hail Hail successfully navigate
the geography between the drone-y sludge of psychedelic rock and the
off-kilter jangle of garage folk. A band to watch if they can put
together a dynamic live show.
Out of Mankind
Khalsa’s story makes him marketable as a musical novelty (he’s a
big-bearded American Sikh who had a song in the John Lennon doc Strawberry Fields), but his music is schmaltzy pop-by-numbers fare that would only appeal to weekend environmentalists and chick-flick aficionados.
Real Talk, Vol. 2
MCs on this street-rap mixtape have lots of character. “So Sick Of…,”
about scrounging up change for cigarette money, is as hilarious as it
is funky. And I can’t help but appreciate “’Til We Meet in Heaven,” a
heartfelt ode to a fallen momma replete with flowery acoustic guitar.
The Heart Beat Trail
in 2010, we reviewed a demo by this band when they were known as
Nautical Disaster. While the new name might not be much of an
improvement, this demo absolutely is. Before, the group was producing
tracks that could pass as Lucy’s Fur Coat b-sides. But on Dusty Totems, they’ve
nailed their unique groove. It’s slow, dark and bluesy—the right
jukebox selection for a desperate game of billiards with the devil. But
the biggest improvement is in Berkeley Austin’s hoarse and
Blue Fires Away
EP is a late-’90s time warp. Each song so fully evokes a different
artist from that era that the track listing should read like this: Stone
Temple Pilots, Hootie & The Blowfish, Korn, Alice in Chains,
Soundgarden, System of a Down, Staind. So, 91X will probably play them.
Everything about Homeless Sexuals’ Snake Nipples seems
like a highly orchestrated effort to be as obnoxious as possible—from
their name to the crude snake illustration on the album cover to song
titles like “Anne Frank Sinatra” and “Walking Jesus Like a Dog.” And
yet, there’s a surprisingly minimal amount of bullshit here— just some
high-energy, Stooges-style rock ’n’ roll sleaze featuring a singer who’s a
dead ringer for Nation of Ulysses’ Ian Svenonius. Their ass-kicking
tunes may not be work- or mother-appropriate, but they definitely rock.
Hugh Gaskins & The G-String Daddies
Working at the Booty Trap
With a name like that, I was expecting some raunchy rock ’n’ roll, but this is actually a tame rockabilly record that might’ve been edgy 50 years ago. The instruments are too clean, and everything is really over-produced. It takes all the muscle out of it.
five songs on this EP are annoyingly all over the place stylistically,
but it seems like these guys have more going on than their ability to
come up with clever song titles (“Ted Dancin’,” “In the Cervix of the
Queen”). It’s rough, but there’s some gold in the acoustic ditties that
close out the EP. Now, about that name.
Just when I thought electronic music had become the enemy, Erleen Nada handed me a glittery treaty of irresistible pop gold. A sassy synth-master, Nada’s avant-garde space tunes carry a sense of colossal power and urgency. Cooing dark and hilarious nonsense over warped, beautifully coarse synth jaunts, she seems to tell the listener, “Freak out, or perish.” “Psychedelic Space Ship” is this demo’s oddly addictive standout track, with a pulsing beat and twangy guitars that—when isolated from the vocals—sound like the best of Queen. Nada might have much more psychedelic tastes than the average electro-songstress (think Santigold or Peaches), but she also sounds much more authentic.
iD the Poet
instrumentals Vol. 1:
the plural “instrumentals” in the title leads you to expect some sort
of Madlib-esque assortment of loose beats made for rapping over.
Instead, this is a cohesive instrumental project that stands on its own,
a meditation on death and dying (the demon “Thanatos” represents death
in Greek mythology) that evolves from chaotic fury into peaceful
acceptance. It’s highly informed by the Low End Theory beat scene. The
beats are angular, warped and eclectic, incorporating everything from
the RZA and dubstep to reggae and blues piano.
iD the Poet & Dusty Nix
type of hip-hop will probably go over well with the indie-rock crowd.
While it’s not exactly guitar-driven, guitars feature more prominently
than usual along with other live instruments. There’s also a stronger
emphasis on melody. All hooks are sung and both rappers frequently use
sing-song flows in their verses (Dusty Nix could be a voice twin for
sing-songy rapper Pigeon John). The lyrics explore the same themes as
iD’s previous work, namely the industrialization of society. Think of an
Office Space-meets-The Matrix, “we are more than cogs” spirit.
John Wayne Gacy Daycare
John Wayne Gacy
down the most disturbing album art of the year—imagine a vomiting
teddy bear bleeding from its anus. Like Stormtroopers of Death, only
slower, weirder and meaner. In other words, not like S.O.D. at all.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Light
This promising rap album is full of surprises, from the synth-punk vibe of opener “Bend the Mind” to the Chimpunkified diva samples of “A Limb” to the dystopian class warfare theme of “Journey.” Oceanside rapper Karma can get a little too preachy at times, but he has talent and plenty of interesting ideas.
On and On
straight-ahead vocal covers of artists ranging from The Beatles to
Mose Allison. Karrant is pleasant enough and the arrangements are nice,
but I worry about (even capable) jazz vocalists without any originals.
Does anyone under 50 care?
Surprisingly good for a group of KIDS., this Poway five-piece fronted by Nature Fejarang doesn’t take itself too seriously on this album but manages to pull it off anyway. With their punk-meets- ’60s-girl-groups-meets-hipster sound, KIDS. could benefit from a proper mix and a subtler drummer, but they have the right idea.
The New Kinetics
The New Kinetics kick your teeth in for 44 minutes straight on Contact. This
is unpretentious, straightforward rock ’n’ roll, geared to get the
crowd moving and the drinks flowing. But about halfway in, you’ll be
begging for a break from these grueling jams. You don’t get one, which
is both the best and worst thing about the album.
3 Song Demo
so they have a pretty badass name and even more badass song titles
like “Gnarmegeddon” and “Tigerstriped Delorean.” And while there’s
nothing wholly original on this demo that couldn’t be heard on any
Motorhead album, Kodiak’s music still kicks a whole lot of ass. If
they’re not headlining Eleven soon, I’ll be very surprised.