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Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012

The 2012 Great Demo Review

Our annual critique of local music submissions

Garbage Beach

The first track, “Happy When I’m High,” is the fluffy and dissonant standout on this five-song electro EP. A close second is “Sun Go Away,” which calls to mind The xx. But after that, the set descends into the trendier trenches of computer-generated music, where synths are used for synths’ sake and vocal effects rival those of T-Pain. I am so close to liking “Everyone Talks Too Much” but just can’t commit. And, I have to say, “Living Dreams” sounds way too much like the song from that old Internet video “Aicha, Aicha,” in which that acne-covered white kid sings and dances in his bedroom.

—Sammi Skolmoski

The Last Years

Simply put, The Last Years is loud and fun. This album gives you the urge to mosh, or just do some slight head-banging. It’s probably most suitable for drinking beer at warm-weather barbecues and skateboarding.

—Kaitlin Perry

Latex Grenade
Latex Grenade

First of all, I need to describe Latex Grenade’s logo: a severed hand holding the Earth in the shape of a water balloon. Yep. Anyway, the music is more straightforward: Pennywise-style punk melodies roughed-up with some thrash-metal riffs. Plus, there’s a song called “Tits on a Stick.” San Diego has produced about 5 million bands just like Latex Grenade. Here’s another one.

—Jeff Terich


Oldest Boy & Girl
Get What You Give

Photo by Tev Locke

Oldest Boy & Girl’s folk-pop is deceptively simple. On Get What You Give, brother-sister duo Jesse and Cristina Evans mostly strum acoustic guitars as they sing tales of love lost, love won and love unrequited. Every so often, though, they’ll emphasize their desperation with a frantic guitar solo that seemingly comes out of nowhere. The warm, bluesy guitar and simple lyrics of “Nowhere Left to Go” shows how willing this duo is to leave everything behind for love: “I just want to be on the floor / and lay with you,” Jesse sings. It all comes off as incredibly honest, especially considering that the duo got their start busking on the streets of Dublin for potatoes and cheap whiskey. After trekking around the globe, this humble band has finally settled in Carlsbad, and we’re lucky to have them.

—Andrew Scoggins

James St. Laurent

Folk singer-songwriter James St. Laurent has a pretty bland voice, all of his songs sound the same and this hour-long video (featuring live performances by Laurent and some other unknowns) is about 45 minutes too long. Still, there’s something endearing about his easygoing folk tunes—it’s like he doesn’t care if you think he’s cool, which itself makes him kind of cool.

—Peter Holslin

Leigh Taylor’s Watermark Tribe
The Tribe’s Live Studio Tracks Volume 1

Inspirational, Christianity-themed pop fusion usually makes my ears bleed, but this band’s saving grace is frontman Leigh Taylor, who lends a dollop of much-needed grit with his raspy voice.

—Peter Holslin

Lillian Lefranc and the Proper Villains

This generic rock ’n’ roll / doowop / rockabilly outfit is unintentionally strange because they don’t at all sound like they could have come out of the ’50s. Rather, you can imagine them at home playing some smoky, empty bar in 2012 in a scary town with a population of 250. Also, their singer is consistently slightly out of tune.

—Aaron Carnes

The Lovebirds
3 Song Demo

With a name like The Lovebirds, I expected some middle-aged ex-hippies playing stale freedom-rock. Instead, they turned out to be a lesbian duo who sing dreamy love songs. With a guitar (and an occasional harmonica or keyboard) and lots of gorgeous vocals, the songs are all sugary-sweet and endearing, providing an almost surreal tranquility. Their lyrics would be corny (“I’ve got such a good love / That is why I have such a good life”) if they didn’t sound so sincere.

—Aaron Carnes


Undernourished pop-rock and kinda-sorta funk figure strongly in Lovesoul’s four-song demo, a sampler of this duo’s forthcoming EP. Donny Taylor makes an adequate if unimpressive lead vocalist while Rebeca Lopez’s voice is energetic and bright but reduced to backup duty—the duo should really give switching roles a shot. They manage a few memorable hooks (the nimble, fun “Lot Like U” is a high point), but their uninventive rhyme schemes (“desire / fire”) almost derail the whole thing. And it doesn’t help that one track is dedicated to the hokey notions of “rocking” and “grooving.”

—Reyan Ali

Documentation Beats Conversion 

Cleveland native M-double-a-l throws a lot of curve balls at you on this hip-hop record—whether it’s the unusual swinging beat (“STFU”), the weird vocal processor (“Prince Charming”), the big sporadic orchestral bursts (“Brink Truck”), the oddly placed high-energy backbeat (“Patience”), the overly distorted mix (“Jeans Off”), the surreal samples (“Revel8”) or the abrasive electronics (“All Alone”). While M-double-a-l’s lyrics and flow are fairly remedial, with a little work he could be on par with the experimental originality of the production.

—Aaron Carnes

M&M Blues

On 7even, M&M Blues mix blues, psych, garage and ambient rock into a bizarre sound. They begin with a lulling drone, transition into raucous jangly rock and then go all out with blazing, feedback-heavy riffs. In the second part of the three-part suite “I Am a Dog,” they even incorporate a long spoken-word passage recited in what sounds like Indonesian. After too many scrambled-circuits riffs, 7even grows grating, but its early eruptions are thrilling.

—Reyan Ali

Mack N Biz
The Tree House

Straightforward, well-produced, rich-white-kid party music. There are moments of cleverness in this hip-hop collection, but the gratuitous rhymes about weed are all we seem to have in common, and the overarching theme of “I’m a kid and I just like to have fun!” quickly gets tiresome. This duo is like Pacific Beach, personified. So, if you like P.B., enjoy. If you like music with substance, look elsewhere.

—Sammi Skolmoski

Martian Horses
All You Monarchs & Music for a Film

At their best, Martian Horses ride a cool wave of dreamy indie-pop, like a band on Barsuk Records. The secret weapon may be the his-and-her harmonies that have spelled success for any band from Fleetwood Mac to She & Him. As long as they keep the tempos up, the band stays entertaining. It’s only when they hit the brakes too much that they begin to drift.

—Dryw Keltz

Matthew Walker Project
Primero EP

The impressive thing about the Matthew Walker Project is that two guys—Walker and his drummer / recording engineer, Alexander Dausch—are able to produce a contemporary blues album that sounds like they’ve got a full lineup. Other than that, though, this duo sounds like G. Love with slightly less special sauce or a second-class Citizen Cope.

—Dave Maass

The Mike Michaels Program
Demolicious Too

The first track on this three-song demo does a great job evoking a truly palpable mood—something like a dangerous, border-town bar a la From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. And while the guitar work is strong throughout, the spotty lyrics on the next two songs can’t evoke anything more than distraction.

—Scott McDonald

Misspent Warhead Premise
Come on and Take One

Simple, straightforward indiepop. These are the kind of songs that grow on you after a while. Hasn’t happened for me yet.

—Jim Ruland

Mohammed Qiang
Moon Shoes for Your Fish Feet

There is some gold on this new project from John Paul Labno (Grand Ole Party, The Hot Moon) and girlfriend Sasha Evangelista. First, Evangelista has a sexy coo on tracks like “Paradiso” and “Our Lady of Space” that’s all but unrivaled in town. Still, the tracks feel skeletal and need to be fleshed out with a full band. If that happens, you just might find a full feature on these guys in next year’s issue.

—Seth Combs

Paul Moeller

An admitted George Winston fan, Moeller is shooting to soothe the savage beast here. I’m sure these 12 instrumentals would make the new-age maestro proud. Grab the lavender candles and your little waterfall machine—let’s get this party started.

—Scott McDonald


Not every song on this EP gels with equal success—it’s hard for indecipherable spoken words to make an impact on a track already thick with wailing funk guitars. But when everything comes together just right—opening track “LttleBter,” in particular gets strength from a minimalist approach and Megan Carlson’s guest vocals—the resulting dark, atmospheric beats invite repeat listens.

—Sasha Orman

The Mosaic Quartet
Color Me In EP

The cover of this EP features the musicians high-fiving in outer space, which just goes to show how positive this band is. Their eclectic style drifts from super-earnest, upbeat Maroon 5-style dance jams to power piano ballads. Swelling synths and harmonies tie their big sound together.

—Sasha Orman

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