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Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012

The 2012 Great Demo Review

Our annual critique of local music submissions

Shamu Soul

Squeaky wheels, brown-note rumblings and hemorrhoidal moaning are the hallmarks of Kronos, the six-song release from experimental act Shamu Soul. The SeaWorld-inspired name is appropriate—the whole thing sounds like it was recorded inside the belly of a whale. It's slow-moving and formless stuff, but if you imagine your own horror movie to accompany the spooky sounds, this can be a frightfully fun time.

—Chris Maroulakos

Sick Balloons
Farewell to the Swagger Kids

Sounding like Mark Lanegan circa Screaming Trees fronting Crooked Rain-era Pavement, this is a pretty solid debut LP, filled with poppy post-punk anthems and slacker ballads. Listen to tracks like "1974"or "Worst Ideas"and try not to imagine Spike Jonze or Richard Linklater directing the music video. Good stuff.

—Seth Combs

The Sickstring Outlaws
Sampler 2012

Rootin', tootin', knee-slappin' country licks that ol' David Allen Coe would be proud to have influenced. These outlaws have done an impeccable job of reconciling the two opposing faces of classic country music—the solemn and the sillyóto deliver a lively set with killer harmonies, menacing fiddles, heartfelt honesty and odes to whiskey.

—Sammi Skolmoski

Simeon Flick
Sub Rosa Demos

Remember that scene in the movie Singles when Matt Dillon is sitting at the table with the guys from Pearl Jam reading a review for their fictional grunge band, Citizen Dick? Yeah, well, I could very well describe the grunge-worshipping halfwits in Simeon Flick the same way. Here's a link:

—Seth Combs

Simon Bar Sinistar
4-Song Demo

If this band had fallen into the hands of the right Pitchfork reviewer, they may have proclaimed it to be some lo-fi, return-of-stoner-rock masterpiece. To me, it sounds like an overzealous Joe Satriani fan who just discovered GarageBand. Fans of that horrendous Lou Reed / Metallica album should check this out.

—Seth Combs

Skull City
Skull City

When an artist writes "Dare Ya 2 Like It"on the sleeve, it means the artist is really cocky or leading with his or her chin. I've listened to these instrumental electronic dance numbers a half-dozen times and I still can't figure out to which camp they belong.

—Jim Ruland

Sledding with Tigers
The Arrested Cats

Sledding with Tigers have a unique name and a unique sound, with band members describing their music as a hybrid of folk, punk and bluegrass. The description fits, and the lyrics are both relatable and powerfully angsty. I might recommend this for fans of Matt & Kim and/or The Elected, meaning the songs are fun to yell along to.

—Kaitlin Perry

The Smart Brothers
Live on the Golden Hour Radio Show WOKC 1929

Full of energetic, heartfelt, twanging love songs, this live album is nostalgic, fun and uplifting. This old-fashioned country duo pulls off some impressive harmonizing, as well. All in all, a truly happy experience.

—Kaitlin Perry

3-Song Sampler

Snakesuit can't decide what they want to be. The band dabbles in trance-y glitch-pop on "Truly Amazing" Muse-aping arena-rock belting on "Celebration" and Album Leaf-evoking bedroom electronica on "The Hangover." They do a fair enough job with each foray, though singer Howard Goldstein's marble-mouthed Britpop impersonations are often tiresome or outright laughable. Affectations aside, there's some real talent at work here. If Snakesuit can commit to creating one thing, instead of stealing from everything, they might just become a band to watch.

—Chris Maroulakos

3-Song Demo

There are three things worse than this half-assed, all-crappy attempt at blues-rock. The Holocaust, human slavery and forced female circumcision. Yep, it beat out AIDS and sweatshops. Deal with it.

—Seth Combs

Some Guy
The lovelorn Musings of…

This EP should be re-titled "The Insane Ramblings of Some Guy." The first line goes, "Mary Anne, I fucking hate you / You're such a fucking goddamn fucking little bitch"and the singer goes on to explain that he hates her because he loves her and loves her because he hates her. This is all happening over happy, Elvis Costello-style pop, mind you. I don't know if it's intentionally or unintentionally funny, but either way, it's delightfully bizarre in the "I bet this guy's actually weird in real life" kind of way.

—Aaron Carnes


Shiva Trash
Shiva Trash

Photo by Peter Holslin

Shiva Trash are catchy, contemporary and complicated. They do lots of time changes, and they’re hard to pin down. “Bleach Bath” starts with a surf-rock platform and takes off from there. Did I say “takes off”? I meant rockets into the fucking stratosphere. “Gnarly Thirst” changes tempos so many times that it’s like a medley of songs. It’s got a bright, brisk beginning, throttles down in the middle and then goes full bore at the end. “Residual Backwash” is somehow both poppy and full of jangly reverb at the same time. It’s an exotic, druggy clash of styles that culminates in a rock ’n’ roll apotheosis of wasted nights and wasted days. The epic pop of Shiva Trash makes the majority of music being made today sound downright pedestrian. If there’s a limit to where Shiva Trash can go, it’s not evident here. More, please.

—Jim Ruland

South Psycho Cide
Pacman Anthem

For a Filipino-Mexican rap group whose name boasts of craziness, the moralistic rhymes of "Pleasure and the Pain"come off as disappointingly sane. But I'm fine with "Pacman Anthem" a bombastic tribute to boxing champion and politician Manny Pacquiao that bursts with Filipino pride.

—Peter Holslin

Space Town Savior
Starfields and Cityscapes

Space Town Savior's Facebook page describes their sound as "dance music that doesn't believe in the existence of MDMA." But even if MDMA did exist in this band's world, people still wouldn't be able to dance to their music. This isn't dance music; it's an amalgamation of sounds that conjure up memories of sore thumbs; dry, bloodshot eyes; and the echo of your mom's voice insisting that you stop playing that damned video game and clean up your room already!

—Justin Roberts

Special Delivery
“Rock & Roll Princess”

Essentially the male version of Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi." "Rock & Roll Princess" combines the cool-guy posturing of Good Charlotte, the nasally vocals of blink-182 and the teachings of Songwriting for Dummies into one horribly obnoxious pop-punk ditty.

—Peter Holslin

Submarines & Astrophysics
Double Dip Recession Demo

Seriously, this is the kinda shit that happens when there's a recession. I can only assume that this is an out-of-work bohemian collecting unemployment and spending it on musical equipment he doesn't know how to use. "I Closed My Mouth & Made a Billion Dollars" sounds like a malfunctioning Fisher-Price keyboard taking a dump on Robert Moog's head.

—Seth Combs

Subterranean Horses

I once saw the Subterranean Horses play a show at Scolari's Office in 2004. Their singer was half-naked, drenched in beer and intent on making everyone in the audience totally uncomfortable. Needless to say, it was a pretty awesome show. Color me pleasantly surprised, then, that the band has resurfaced. Their five-song demo is just as menacing and hedonistic as their live show, with its jerky guitar riffs and start-stop rhythmic dynamics. They do Jesus Lizard-style churn right, which is entirely appropriate for a group whose leader has been known to drop trou.

—Jeff Terich


This seven-piece soul / funk combo just doesn't sound that soulful on this two-song demo. But they still lay down some solid grooves, and singer Peach has a lovely, sweet voice.

—Peter Holslin

The Suicide Chords
11:11 (The Prelude) EP

I thought nu-metal died six or seven years ago, but The Suicide Chords are here, and they're carrying the melodramatic groove-metal torch passed on by bands like Godsmack and Staind. If you were a fan of this over-hyped, over-played genre 10 years ago, maybe you'll be a fan of this band, but hopefully this isn't a sign of some nu-metal renaissance.

—Aaron Carnes

Sundrop Electric
Sundrop Electric

This promising rock five-piece isn't afraid of instrumentals, channeling Joy Division or meandering into the realm of shoegazy dream-pop. Their name may scream Winstons, but they're Casbah through and through.

—Scott McDonald

Sunrise at Duck Pond

It's hard to tell anything from just one three-minute song, but there are some interesting ideas happening here. The moody atmospherics and crafty sampling make me want to hear more.

—Scott McDonald

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