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Mojalet Dance Collective and Rhythm Talk Oct 01, 2014 The contemporary dance company teams up with Swiss percussion band Rhythm Talk to present a collaborative piece that celebrates both music and movement. 55 other events on Wednesday, October 1
 
Film
Errol Flynn biopic leads our rundown of movies screening around town
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A very loud Diversionary Theatre offering tops our coverage of local plays
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Chamber of Commerce, led by the former mayor, launches all-out campaign to regain control of San Diego
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One-woman San Diego Rep production tops our coverage of local plays

 

 
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Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013

The Great Demo Review of 2013

Behold and beware: It’s our annual critique of local music submissions

By CityBeat Staff
~demo-leadart

We got a lot of demos for this year's Great Demo Review. No, seriously. We got a lot—way more than we usually do. We got 223, to be exact. 

I think this may have been because we started accepting emailed submissions right off the bat this year (we accepted them for last year's Demo Review, but only a week or so after making our initial announcement). But I'd like to think that lots of people are just really excited about getting their music reviewed. As cruel as our reviews sometimes are, even artists that have gotten smeared in the past were game for another round. Courtyard Roots, I tip my hat to thee. 

Though I initially worried that we'd be paralyzed by the huge number of submissions, we CityBeat critics still did our jobs in 2013. As we do every year, we asked the public to send us music, and then we reviewed everything that came in. Always honest in our appraisals, we had to get nuclear with some artists. But we also deemed nine standout submissions to be "EXTRASPECIALGOOD."

Whether you're thrilled or not with what we wrote, we welcome all 200-plus of our submitters to hang out with us at our Local Music Issue party at The Griffin on Thursday, March 7.

—Peter Holslin, Music Editor


7hundercun7
7hundercun7

And the winner of my favorite demo-submission band name goes to—7hundercun7! Also, by a pretty wide margin, the maestros behind these eight tracks of incoherent noise take home the award for best band photo. But when the music sounds like an ill-fated cross between the TV from Poltergeist and a backyard pool party at the bottom of a pool, I can’t imagine anyone listening for long.

—Scott McDonald


10-19 The Numberman
Some Shit I Had Laying Around

Even when he’s just tossing off rhymes with his buddies, 10-19 The Numberman proves to be one of the city’s finer MCs. On this four-track collection, the deepvoiced rhymesmith (a member of hip-hoppers Parker & The Numberman) skewers white cops, says some nasty shit about Big Bird and offers up stunning verses about a troubled romance. Quality. 

—Peter Holslin


A Map of Chelsea Leaf
A Map of Chelsea Leaf

This band seems confused about what it wants to be. If they’re not strumming out crunchy riffs in a Weezer-style emo anthem, like in “I’m in Love (With a Dream I Once Had),” they’re imitating Animal Collective with primal screams and cheapo keyboards (“Eate”). They get somewhere on “Neverends,” laying down a heavy groove and adding some scorching guitar, but then some dude with a strange accent starts rapping, and I’m, like, WTF? 

—Peter Holslin


Chris Acquavella
Praeludium

This is a very pretty album of solo classical mandolin music. If you fell asleep reading that sentence, it’s understandable, so let me repeat: It’s a 20-song album (!) of classical solo mandolin music. wkdbDC Wwh sf asdnfasnf What?! Oh, sorry, I fell asleep and my head hit the keyboard. Yes, it’s very pretty music. Oh, and that cannot be your real name, dude! If it is, uh—condolences. If it’s not, perhaps consider adding the “topher” back to Chris or picking a stage name that doesn’t sound like a bad aftershave or a Jersey Shore cast-member 

—Seth Combs


Actions Most Ridiculous
Actions Most Ridiculous 

Oh. My. God. These outdated, cliché rock tunes sounds like a bad version of the worst part of the ’80s. They’re not even properly retro: It sounds like the kind of music an ’80s sitcom character would play during the one episode in which he decides he’s going to start a band. It’s that corny. Lyrically, they hit every cliché imaginable, with such a lack of irony that it’s almost admirable. The last song, “The Weekend You,” is the most listenable, but that’s not saying much.

—Aaron Carnes


Ad-Seg
Demo

It should take these hardcore punks about 20 seconds to get a mosh-pit going at a show. That’s the amount of time you get before the hammering riffs and frenzied drums kick in on this 11-track, 20-minute offering. There’s no turning back from there, so grab a 40 of Olde English and enjoy the ride. 

—Peter Holslin


Agave
Elegance and Decadence

“Nasty Reputation” is a hard rocker fit for a crummy dive bar. “Powdered” is a bland, sentimental arena rocker that might’ve sounded good on the radio back in 1999, but probably not. “Waste Your Time” is a laid-back ska rocker with some nice guitar. Nope, I don’t see myself seeking Agave out any time soon. 

—Peter Holslin


Amateur Pool Party
2B

Seriously, guys? The whole idea of this demo review is that you send in your shit after you’ve fine-tuned it a bit. Not recordings of you in your garage dicking around with the bass way too high. The only positive thing about this demo is that it might come in handy for interrogators when they torture terrorism suspects. 

—Seth Combs

Ana
Caverns

Wow. This is some serious drama. This is man-on-a-mountain-top-screaming-“Why, God?!”-level drama. Ana (which I believe is a band, not a person) has a staggering range of dynamics. The songs will go from the absolute quietest, atmospheric, barely audible sounds to a complete, fully encompassing primal scream. It can be pretty uncomfortable, in the same way a complete stranger at a bar telling you every detail about his divorce is uncomfortable. It’s just too intimate. I mean, I don’t even know you, Ana. 

—Aaron Carnes


Angel
6 Songs

This demo’s namesake has a gorgeous voice resembling Damien Jurado and Dolorean. It’s easy to see him opening at a local show for one of those artists, but if he wants to take it to the next level, he’ll have to step up the lyrics. The world’s over-saturated with sappy troubadour balladry like “Oh, you angel, can you teach us how to fly?” (is he talking to himself, I wonder?). Come on, Angel, you can do better than that.

—Seth Combs


Angelshade
“Catastrophe” / “Tell a Vision”

Metallica knockoff Angelshade is made up of four reasonably talented musicians, which should be fine for the Tuesday-night sports-bar circuit. In any other context, though, the music comes uncomfortably close to parody. On “Catastrophe,” bassist / vocalist David Marshall does his best James Hetfield impression, but it really just sounds like Tenacious D doing the back half of The Crow soundtrack. 

—T. Loper


Animal Steel
All the Wrong Planets

There are moments during Animal Steel’s album that feel downright propulsive, reminding me of The Walkmen at their most urgent. Singer Rodrigo Espinosa’s powerful croon is dynamic; he aims for the rafters, even on the more delicate tracks. While none of it is incredibly original—the Walkmen influence is obvious, in addition to some Radiohead jangle and Bloc Party time signatures—the result is purely enjoyable. The only gripe is when the band tries its hand at Black Keys-style garage-blues. Animal Steel are so good when they keep their sound clean, but it’s a shame to see them drag it through the dirt. 

—Ryan Bradford


Apache One Tribe
Apache One Tribe

A lot of Apache One Tribe’s work sounds similar to that of UNKLE, with its deep musical scoops, sturdy hip-hop beats and amazing samples. Notably present is an overarching FTP theme, which was prevalent in many of our hip-hop submissions this year. But whatever these guys have going on behind the meaning of their music, all I can say is that, sonically, it makes sense. 

—Justin Roberts


Joe Arrasmith
Joe Arrasmith

Joe! Do me a favor—take the clothespin off of your testicles. Now sing. That Owl City voice of yours is not going to win back these girls you’re whining about. You need to either find a style of music that embraces the high voice, or learn to lower it—because whining about love is never the answer. You’re an adept guitar player, and the caliber of plucking you’re capable of might lend itself well to country music. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Arrive Alive
Arrive Alive

Had these guys been around in the mid-’90s, post-Nirvana haze, they probably would’ve gotten a record deal. They have everything the labels were looking for: moody, guitar-driven alt-rock; songs with a lot of dynamics; tons of texturing; and a well-produced recording. However, they wouldn’t have lasted past two albums. All the songs sound the same, and they seem to be lacking in passion; besides, there were better bands playing this kind of music. It certainly doesn’t hold up these days, unless you’re feeling nostalgic and you want to get your sulk on. 

—Aaron Carnes


As Obscure as Enoch
Day One of Conquering the World

Grunge isn’t dead, or at least it isn’t for As Obscure As Enoch, whose punchy power-chord rockers hark back not to the halcyon days of Nirvana and Mudhoney, but the mid-’90s major-label clusterfuck that gave us Candlebox, Sponge and Seven Mary Three. Vocalist Gene O. Simmons (yes, his name is Gene Simmons) hams up his hunger-dunger-dang bellow to the point where his earnestnessto-the-extreme becomes a parody of itself. There aren’t too many bands doing this right now, but only because the ’90s have been over for 13 years. 

—Jeff Terich


Ass Clowns
PooTao

I’ll never know whether this was intended to sound like Alice in Chains jamming with the Magic Band (minus any of the talent) inside a toilet with the lid on. Look, I’ve been accused in the past of being a little too quick to say that certain demos sound like shit, or crap, or the aural equivalent of a skid mark, so even with song titles like “Sorry for the Poo” and the rather indicative album title, I’ll just say that Ass Clowns live up to their name and more.

—Seth Combs


Authentic Sellout
Authentic Sellout

This is SoCal punk rock that sounds pretty much like every other band that ever rolled through Anaheim’s Doll Hut around the turn of the century. According to their bio, Authentic Sellout started as a novelty act. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called leading with the chin. 

—Jim Ruland

Authentic Sellout
Demo

Every punk band since the ’70s has done what this band is doing, and they’ve done it a thousand times better. There will always be a market for this more aggressive breed of pop-punk, but it’s anything but authentic. 

—Seth Combs

Beaters
Jester

Spacey and echoic, this 7-inch captivates the body and mind with punk-rock synesthesia. The buzzing, electrifying undertones are bone-rattling. Choppy drums and droning vocals lead to a euphoric, pleasant sound attacking your ears in that “It hurts so good” kind of way. 

—Bethany Farrington


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Beatsmith Resist
Philthy Phalangez

Whether or not Beatsmith Resist is an official member of the local Kilowattz beat collective, he's tapped into their horror-movie aesthetic. This instrumental project is dark and ominous. The title track, with its relentless bass line and tense background static, feels like a trip inside the mind of a serial killer while he's on the hunt for his prey. But Philthy Phalangez wisely avoids the macho, "Look how dark I am!" posturing. Resist is on some other shit, toying with the very concept of otherness: Speaking for "savages" and the "wretched of the earth" (taken from two song titles), he portrays their darkness while also shedding light on their beauty. On opener "Garden of Heathens," a stand-up bass guides you through strange trails before soaring flutes and watery synths open up a full view of the strangely alluring world. Needless to say, Resist is a producer to watch out for. 

—Quan Vu


Belmont Lights
Telegraphs EP

If Coldplay and Fun. had weepy sex and got each other pregnant, Belmont Lights would be the doe-eyed result. The band’s arena-friendly histrionics aim for “sweeping and cathartic,” but mostly sound unearned. Middle-school-diary poetry like “Oh, I wish she’d feel the same / So I don’t have to feel insane no more” doesn’t help matters any. 

—Chris Maroulakos


Black Waat3r
Waat3r for Fir3

You know, if your computer’s “e” key is broken, that’s a relatively simple fix. Otherwise, please promptly stop writing in the style of an 11-year-old AOL user. This track, “Waat3r for Fir3” (ugh), is really strong—soulful vocals, a strutting guitar riff and funky drum fills that keep my head bobbing. Hey, the stupid spelling is confusing your vibe and makes me want to write you off. You’re worth taking yourselves seriously. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Bluebloodred
“Little Wing”

This is a well-trafficked cover of a Jimi Hendrix song. Having previously been covered by Sting, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Skid Row, it’s nothing terribly new or novel. But Bluebloodred have chops, and they pull their take off with soul and instrumental prowess. 

—Jeff Terich


Bo Revere
Hellnote Presents: Lost Tapes Vol. 1 (The Beat Tape)

Samples and machine beats. No hooks, no frills. Really good for what it is. Maybe this could be the backing track of a great Ice Cube album, but it’s missing someone or something to make it come together. The song on Side A of the cassette, which starts about 14 minutes in, could be someone’s hit single. If you’re an MC and you’re looking for a DJ, look this guy up. 

—McHank


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Bogsey and the Argonauts
Sampler Plate Special

Finally! Here, all the universe's greatest outsider interests have been rolled into one—Bogsey and the Argonauts. The subject matter of this punk-folk effort orbits tightly 'round science fiction without being kitschy or self(nerd)-deprecating. As a member of the forgotten social group known as geek-punks, I revel in this band's sci-founded lyrics, which lend themselves swimmingly to the storytelling medium of folk music (see: filking). And yet I can also indulge in the instinctual need to shake my hair around to a punk song. They seamlessly pull off this intergalactic marriage of punk and folk through rapid-fire guitar licks, banjo shredding and sheer mandolin-sanity. The vocals are raw and absolutely honest. Songs like "Sci-Fi Movie Night" and "Not Today, You Mayan Bastards" nail another essential element of geek-punks—satire. Though intensely genuine, these songs exemplify that our kind speaks in snark. If we ever send out a Voyager 3 and a follow-up Golden Record, I nominate this one. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Rob Bondurant
Through my Hands 

As I listened to this album, the image of Jason Mraz wearing mom jeans at a roadhouse bar, minus the bar fights, popped into my head. I could also imagine this playing in the background during a scene on The O.C., with Mischa Barton deciding whether or not she should cry or go to a fraternity party. If you’re driving from SDSU to Pacific Beach to order some vodka and Red Bull, then this is the album for you. 

—Bethany Farrington

Nick Bone & the Big Scene
Nick Bone & the Big Scene 

Nick Bone couldn’t give a damn what I write about his album. The swagger, the sleaze and debauchery that waft out of this music is that of a man who couldn’t care less about what some nerdlinger thinks. His voice sounds grated through years of cigar smoke and time spent in lowly, bordertown bars. There’s an intriguing menace to his Tiki-tinged blues that’s simultaneously comical and frightening, like a Rat Fink cartoon. There’s not much variation to the songs, but the Big Scene is an incredibly tight backing band that can make the tunes burn.

—Ryan Bradford


Brooklyn G
Demo

Even before seeing Brooklyn G’s name on the CD, I got a kind of East Coast feel from these instrumental soundscapes. I pictured someone running from the police through dark alleys in a dense, murky city. Gritty samples and drum breaks are slowed down, sped up and glitched out at the beat conductor’s will. Distant words and occasional vocals show up without distracting from the beat. Different. Dirty. I dig it.

—Jesse Ross

Boom
Something Different

A whimsical, rather spastic digital mixtape full of bumping beats that incorporate bloopy video-game sounds and pop-music samples that’ve been chopped to oblivion. Imagine Flying Lotus being shoved through a wood chipper of Negativland-style sound collage, and you’ll get the idea.

—Peter Holslin


Bruin
Thug-Wave Mix Tape

Mash-ups are hard to review—it’s like critiquing a volume-control knob. But when they’re not mashing up tracks, Bruin deal in solid beats, seamless sampling and smooth-groovin’ pop. In-house guitar parts have been added to a lot of the tunes; they’re responsibly well-developed and make it difficult for electro-naysayers to cry unoriginality. Cool sound, but I’d like to see even more of their own sonic contributions start to eclipse the use of sampling in the next run. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Bruisecaster
Bruisecaster

Disco sludge. The sounds to accompany ancient sacrificial ceremonies as performed today by electropunks in their tin-trash-can secret lairs. Death from Above-y, but stranger. More akin to primal emissions of filthy tribesmen than to actual rock songs. My brain’s bruised in the best way. FB/bruisecaster

—Sammi Skolmoski


Buddy Banter
Buddy Banter

Another failed buzz-band in the making, Buddy Banter has that ironic mix of ’50s-pop jingle-jangle and punk-rock snarl that’s been driving the indie kids wild lately. What they don’t have on this tiresome, six-song EP is an ounce of charisma or a single catchy hook. If they spent less time getting ripped (see: the 7-second “Get Ripped”) and more time working on their songwriting, they might have something worthwhile. 

—Peter Holslin


Buffalo Picnic
Meat and Cookies EP

Looking past the fact that the anthropomorphic foodstuffs on the cover of Buffalo Picnic’s Meat and Cookies kinda creep me out, the band does a slick, if somewhat awkward, mixture of ’90s-era altrock. There’s pop-punk, there’s grunge, there’s ska and there’s nümetal—and that’s just in the first song, “Mr. Clock.” There are some good songs, but when the band so clearly seems dialed in to 91X circa 1997, it’s hard to get past the dated sounds. Song titles like “Rollercoastah!” don’t help. 

—Jeff Terich


Bulletins
Demo

A great little two-song set from a band that seems primed to take the next step. Lorelei Plotczyk’s vocals are perfectly suited for these nicely crafted pop tunes, and the rest of the band backs her with real chops. It’s well-paced and -executed indie rock from a four-piece to keep your eye on— especially if they can come up with an entire record that sounds like this. 

—Scott McDonald


Bully Blinders
Kayakoy

I don’t know why there are separate tracks on this album. After giving this a listen, I bounced around the seven tracks in my music player, hitting random spots in each track, and it all sounded the same. That’s not to say it’s necessarily bad—you could do a lot worse than The xxlite atmospherics here. But why not create something a little less inconsequential? And since Bully Blinders are normally rappers, a disc of rudimentary instrumentals seems a little lazy and half-baked. I guess there’s always a need for better Muzak, though. 

—Ryan Bradford


Butler
We Wanna Be Your Butler

With their use of polyrhythms and time-signature changes, Butler leave little doubt as to their technical prowess. But if the mathrockers want to make music that’s enjoyable for anyone other than them, they’ll need to inject some heart and soul. As it stands, We Wanna Be Your Butler tries to rock hard but ends up rocking flaccid instead. 

—Chris Maroulakos

Caprice Strings
Tango de Caprice

Classical strings, Parisian gypsy serenades, moody Turkish phrasings—this wedding-music combo gets plenty romantic on this CD. They’re a bit rough-and-tumble compared with the likes of Calder Quartet, of course, but if you’re wine-drunk at the reception, you’ll barely tell the difference. 

—Peter Holslin

Castillo
Demo

Enjoyable and poppy, if not wholly predictable rock en español in the vein of The Gipsy Kings and vintage Jaguares. I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to them again, but I wouldn’t leave if they were playing live in a bar. One suggestion, though: Lose the English-language choruses and hair-metal theatrics on tracks like “Stop Playing” and “Blind.” Stick with what you’re good at. 

—Seth Combs


Chemical Imbalance
Chemical Imbalance

No liner notes, no song listing, possibly recorded on a boombox in the late ’80s. I think I hear long Dickies shorts and knee-high tube socks, a Charvel guitar overflowing with artificial harmonics, caged rack toms and a flanger on the vocals. If your favorite albums of all time are Suicidal Tendencies’ Join the Army and Excel’s The Joke’s On You, keep an eye on this band.

—McHank


Chica Diabla
Chica Diabla

Writing songs that sound like punk songs do not a punk band make. They aren’t bad songs, they just feel forced, like this is Hollywood punk. The vocals are so much cleaner and louder than anything else in the mixes that the whole thing reads like recorded karaoke. The singer (Epiphany, is it?) has the potential for a Jello Biafraesque style if she’d explore the weirder places her voice could go rather than just toss in cheesy guttural throat rolls at the end of every line. Don’t be afraid to sound ugly; it’s more genuine. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Conceptus
Trebly Feelings

Conceptus’ folk-rock is undeniably catchy and polished—almost to the point of being robotic. Their song structures, technical skill and production value certainly hint at maturity and dedication, but Trebly Feelings leaves one wanting more depth and exploration, especially when it comes to the lyrics. They’ve certainly got potential; the key is not worrying so much about how they’ll market themselves.

—Hutton Marshall


Corna Boy Hustlaz (C.B.H. Starr Gang)
Loud Pack 

One of my pet peeves are rappers who make lazy, overly laid-back hip-hop. I’m not referring to the chill West Coast rappers; I mean those guys that barely exert the slightest effort: Tyga and Big Sean, for instance. Corna Boy Hustlaz are like the K-Mart version of Tyga, which means the one song he sent irritated me instantly. Oh well, I’m sure he’ll do fine. This form of rap isn’t struggling to find an audience. 

—Aaron Carnes


Corna Boy Hustlaz
“Take a Shot”

This is a standard party jam. The bass is mixed strangely and sounds like a tuba, which I actually like. Could do without the second verse’s burst of misogyny, but otherwise I know a lot of people who will probably get drunk to this song. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Courtyard Roots
Money Grip

So we meet again, Courtyard Roots. This is the third year in a row that I’ve taken on these guys for the Demo Review, and I’ve come to respect them, if not exactly like them. Offering an improvement on last year’s crummy rap-reggae-rock, they drop a number of half-decent raps and juicy grooves on this album, even marshaling some UFO-style synth sounds for “Sit Back Rewind,” a near-perfect basement-stoner jam. There are plenty of stinkers, too, but it’s not too shabby.

—Peter Holslin

Crooked Rulers
Demo

The worst part about ’90s nostalgia and/or revivalism is that it took less than 20 years for any asshole with a guitar and a pedal to figure out it doesn’t take a shitload of talent to play like Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf or Sebadoh. These three songs made me want to either hang myself with a Fruit by the Foot or cut my wrist with a slap bracelet. But, hey, if you listened to any of the bands above, then Crooked Rulers has your number. FB/

—Seth Combs


Crucial Blend
Demo 2013

Crucial Blend’s eight-song demo should’ve been easy to hate. With their chillaxed stoner-brah vibe, reheated ’90s-ska sound and Calicentric palm-tree cover art, Crucial Blend court cliché like it’s an SDSU chick pounding 21st-birthday shots. But there’s something about the band’s crisp, spacious production and airy vocals that turn songs like “Ring the Alarm” and “Amigos Con Beneficios” into irresistible fun. 

—Chris Maroulakos


Da Da in Denial
LSD26 Made Cary Grant

This four-song demo literally broke my CD player in the middle of Track 4. Yeah, the player was old, but I’d like to think that it was trying to tell me something around Track 2 (“Orange U Glad”)—that there was only so much awful, burnout space-rock it could take. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear my CD player’s wails of pain over Da Da’s jammy noodling and inept attempts at singing. I’d use my disc drive on my computer, but I’m afraid my MacBook might also break and/or get a contact high.

—Seth Combs


Dark Thirty
Demo

A wistful collection of five oozy grooves by some local psychfiends, featuring members of Wild Wild Wets. The guitars are wet and wavy, the vocals smoothly grainy, the drums smart and chunky, the vibes all killer. Fear not, spacey-hippie haters—this is the accessible side of psych that’s home to deserts, flowers, leather, harmonicas and reasonable song length. These songs, particularly “Nothing to Say” and “Head Up High (Shark Head),” could sit alongside any of the top-tier Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre tunes in perfect reverb harmony. Peter Hayes’ sideburns-approved. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Spud Davenport
“I’m the Only One”

Gotta give Spud Davenport credit: On his earnest crush song “I’m the Only One,” he doesn’t rhyme “insane” with “brain.” He does, however, slur “I’m the Only One” about 87 times throughout the song, which quickly wears thin. The song is catchy, the harmonica work by Dan Byrnes is impressive and the production is decent (if a little too crisp). Davenport could stand to lower his vocals in the mix; maybe that will help make the lyrical repetition less grating. 

—T. Loper


Daygo Dave
Pineal Gland

I gathered that his name is slang for San Diego, not from where we Italians were thinking. While Daygo Dave has much further to go before his flow is as seamless as the impressive guest artists featured on this 22-song mixtape, there are definitely some highlights. The prime jams are about weed, along with bangers “Tiger” and “Murder Dance.” The sexist barks typical of this genre were relatively minimal, but really needn’t be there at all. 

—Sammi Skolmoski

Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea

As if the name didn’t give it away, this is probably the schmaltziest adult-contemporary balladeering I’ve heard in a long time. In the Carnival Cruise ship of my mind, the band’s guitarist is playing one of his epic solos right after we get stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, all while I eat onion sandwiches and shit into a plastic bag. Except the ship is also sinking and the band just plays on. 

—Seth Combs

Def Shon
Officially Official

Def Shon would be wise to reissue this album under the title Official, a much more forceful title.
Redundancy aside, this is a fairly decent album of West Coast-style street rap, full of classy beats and memorable lines like this one: “I keeps it funky like James Brown taking a shit.” Easily the most memorable boast I’ve heard in a while. 

—Peter Holslin


Detta
Into the Green-Gold Morning

Detta put forth a five-track EP of accommodating instrumental rock that feels like it’s on the edge of something amazing. I hate to say it, because I appreciate a good instrumental album, but what this trio might need is a modest dose of staunch, unshakable vocals thrown into the mix. The result could very well be awe-inspiring. 

—Justin Roberts


Dexter Riley Xperiment
Dexter Riley Xperiment

I can’t take a man seriously if he spells “experiment” with a capital X. But there’s a lot of good stuff on this mini-album, from the rubbery blues-rock clank of “Left Leg Drag” to the blazing pop of “Aviette” to the cosmic folk of “Snake Bite for Jesus.” There’s Tom Waits and Beck vibes all around, but Dex has a style all its own. Keep it up, but please consider a name change.

—Peter Holslin


Cassidy Diane
Cassidy Diane

17-year-old Cassidy Diane shows herself to be a talented vocalist, albeit slightly Auto-Tuned, in demo opener “Beautiful Design.” Co-written by local music heavyweights Bryan Stratman and Astra Kelly, Cassidy’s demo pushes her ahead of the pack in the race to become San Diego’s next breakout female pop star. Though it’s difficult to determine from these three tracks where Cassidy’s musicianship ends and where that of her co-writers begins, it’s safe to say she’s well on her way to building a successful career in our arguably crowded local music scene. 

—Justin Roberts

DMNDZ ENT.
Demo

This is a new San Diego hip-hop collective, and for the uninitiated, it’s difficult to discern every one who’s involved in it, or what they’re trying to promote as a specific current release. Daniel “Too Dope” Diaz is at the front and is involved in all the one-off collabs here. The whole thing needs to be a bit more streamlined, but there’s enough to start paying attention.

—Scott McDonald


Doug K
Time Ravages

Time Ravages offers a sensitive spin on surf-influenced easy listening. Appropriately, its safe grooves are reflected in its cover: a sadlooking pelican alone at the beach. Aside from lame cover art, it’s clear Doug K puts a lot of himself into these recordings. His Bowieesque guitar work works well, too. He just needs to upgrade from the drum machine and lay off the borrowed Beatles hooks. 

—Hutton Marshal


The Drabs
Ponto

David Bernat’s distinct, Lou Reedesque vocals might feel contrived at times, but as he sings over the band’s pop-rock melodies, they give this album an unconventionally gratifying sound. The track “Record Collection” is one fucking fun song, with its Louis XIVlike spit-spoken lyrics: “I need your record collection / because I need to get high.” CityBeat ended up getting duplicate copies of this album, and music editor Peter Holslin finds it profoundly unremarkable (“Boooooooring!” he says). I, on the other hand, think The Drabs have more than just a little aptitude for this music thing, and I wouldn’t mind hearing what comes next from them. 

—Justin Roberts


Dre the Fifth
“We All In”

Dre the Fifth’s Bay Area heritage is apparent from the first hit of the kick drum on this single. An authentically hyphy beat accompanies Dre’s polished, E-40 / Mac Dre-inspired vocals. The obligatory references to Henny, Remy, Patron, being “all in the club,” 20-inch rims and Mac Dre are all there, so he’s got his bases covered. Throw in the feature from the garden-variety singer on the hook, and you have an average Bay Area club banger that sparks just enough interest to wonder what else he’s got. 

—Jesse Ross


Eddie Dougherty
I Might Be A Dog

I Might Be A Dog, essentially a hyperactive child’s wet dream, is a string of choppy, arrhythmic guitar chords underneath mostly indiscernible lyrics. But look! A lyrics cheat sheet was provided for my curious mind! After following along through each of the mind-numbing songs, I realized how much better they’d have been without knowing what the hell Dougherty was prattling on about. One interesting thing about Dougherty: One of his latest “liked” items on Facebook is a, um, “band” called Carly Rae Jepsen Sex Tape. Cute. You might want to hire a better PR manager, dear sir. FB/

—Justin Roberts


Dub Sutra
The Rise of Downtempo

Dub Sutra want to make music that’s “perfect for chill, yoga, lounge and moving meditation,” and their new album, The Rise of Downtempo, definitely fits that bill. Songs like “Ascentia” and “Buffalo Dance” are cinematic but amorphous enough to suit any mood. The steamy guitar on “Electric Slide” feels as suited for doggy-style as it does downwardfacing dog, but judging by the awkward nude yoga on the LP’s artwork, that might be exactly what the husband-and-wife duo had in mind. 

—Chris Maroulakos


Sharon DuBois
Here I Am

This breed of mostly bland elevator jazz hits my ear in the same way a thick, chalky, liquid antacid would hit my tongue if I were dying of thirst. The music has few-and-far-between expressive moments, but more often causes my index finger to fondle the “next track” button on my CD player. Curiously, in one of DuBois’ less tone-deaf ditties, she repeatedly and somewhat frantically namechecks Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. I’m just thankful she didn’t do that during her 52-second sex jam, “Seduction.” 

—Justin Roberts


Ed Ghost Tucker
Demo

Looks like San Diego has a killer new folk band. With its homespun melodies, boy-girl vocal harmonies and lush arrangements, this five-song demo is as welcoming as a well-worn La-Z-Boy. “Swans” is the obvious highlight, full of bracing guitar and glorious vocal parts, but opener “Anyone” is lovely and infectious, and “Virginia Woolf” has some classy lounge guitar. If only more bands were as versatile and surprising as Ed Ghost Tucker. 

—Peter Holslin


Blaze Eisner
American Spirit

Is it just me, or is Blaze Eisner just begging for somebody to smash his acoustic guitar? With this stale, neutered EP of all-American folk music, the singer-songwriter might as well just take a shit right on Bob Dylan’s head. I’m particularly appalled by “The Way it Goes,” a cynical political ballad in which Eisner strings together a bunch of clichés (“Everybody wants a piece of the action / everybody’s got their hand in the bowl”) and throws up his hands in surrender (“That’s the way it goes”). Barf! 

—Peter Holslin


The Electrocarpathians
Cafe Bego

There’s nothing quite like some plucky Eastern European folk tunes to get you feeling nostalgic for the old country. The Electrocarpathians bring all the fixin’s on this CD—accordion drones, bouzouki flourishes, clarinet and trumpet melodies, even their own take on “Koroboushka,” the madcap Russian folk song made famous on Tetris. 

—Peter Holslin


Elektric Monk
Veer

Think suburban Midwest block party—your friend’s dad, who really loves U2, is jamming with his high-school buddies next to a parked F-150, drinking Bud Light. Sounds fun, right? This collection comes complete with a whole song dedicated to their band name (“Elektric Monk, Elektric Monk, Elektric Monk”), entire verses consisting of the sound “oh oh oh oh oh” and a painful acoustic number. But with enough beer and some delicious barbeque, you could be convinced to stick around for a bit. Maybe. 

—Natalie Jacobs


Fake Book
Sea Turtles Rising

Fake Book fits squarely into the post-punk / post-surf genre that’s come to characterize San Diego’s indie-rock scene in the last three years. But while other bands— such as New Mexico and Mrs. Magician—have made that heavy-distortion style something worthy of the national stage, Fake Book sounds a little all-ages to me, or, at best, an opening act. 

—Dave Maass


Far from Ya Average
Stage Crasher... The LP

As decent as this 76-minute hip-hop record is, it’s only slightly above average. The beats are solid, and several MCs featured have nice flows and fresh rhymes. But the beats also sound like they were made with factory presets, and there are some really bad lines, like “You’re gonna get served good ’n’ plenty / And we can go 24 hours like a Denny’s” in the latenight sex jam “Me & You.” Yeah, because Denny’s is so sexy.  

—Peter Holslin


Fighting with Irons
“Summer Sand”

It’s easy to imagine Gilchrist playing solo to friends sitting around a beach bonfire. The night sky, cold sand, bare feet and ripped jeans are all there in the acoustic guitar, violin and Gilchrist’s quirky vocals. Unfortunately, so is the influence of Dave Matthews. 

—T. Loper

The Flowerthief
Natural Selection

It might be The Flowerthief’s mix of honesty, vulnerability and irony that forces me to crack a smile against my will. With song titles like “Teeny Bopper Baby,” “Cowboy Song” and “La La (Singalong),” it’s deliberately tongue-in-cheek, embarrassingly so—corny in its irony. I like that. The music is simple and consistently off-kilter, for which I also have a soft spot. They play different rock variations: country-rock, alt-rock, ’60s rock. But it’s always rooted in that good ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll. 

—Aaron Carnes


Forbidden Image

Demo

Thanks to the mainstreaming of “EDM,” this kind of half-baked electro schmaltz will only become more prevalent. Two individual tracks, both equally incompetent, further prove that a guy with a MIDI keyboard and a Macbook is even more soulless than the guy with the acoustic guitar thinking he’s gonna be the next Bob Dylan.

—Seth Combs


Friend of a Friend
Coldhead Full EP

There is a good deal I like about this little EP: It’s a bit of a minimalist approach to new-wavy ’80s pop, and, at certain points, sounds like a young American version of Phoenix. If Friend of a Friend can build on their strengths (particularly their keen sense of melody and solid vocal delivery) and avoid the spots where they fall into some pitfalls of predictable, radiofriendly rock, they might truly have something special. Even after a fourth listen, I still want to overlook the shortcomings.

—Jackson Milgaten


Fuck Parade
Don’t Call Me Chocolate EP

The first track eased into my ears with a mellow, dulcet groove, but was quickly interrupted by an irritating din that pierced through the smooth foundation. Remember when Jim Carrey offers up the most annoying sound in the world in Dumb and Dumber? That’s the one. The EP only gets worse from there, descending deep into a valium-heavy, dubstep / hip-hop hellhole. 

—Justin Roberts


Future You
Meant to Be

Between Portland and Brooklyn, there are plenty of guys in western shirts making dreamy, wistful, teary-eyed indie-pop, but Future You add a worthy contribution to the mix. Here, the five-piece group elegantly balances the reverb-laden balladry of My Morning Jacket with stunning slide surf guitar à la Santo and Johnny. The world may not necessarily need another sad-bastard indie-pop group. But with strong songwriting; sublime, heady arrangements; and a whiff of romanticism, Future You is one worth keeping around. 

—Jeff Terich

Garbo
4 Song Demo

Garbo describe themselves as Americana. Really, they’re a bar band, playing roots-rock and ’70s classic rock. They’d be great to see if you were having a drink at some dive somewhere in Central California, or if you were at an arts-and-crafts fair on a Sunday afternoon. They’re solid in their execution, so, as long as these guys know they’re just playing generic bar music, I say more power to them. 

—Aaron Carnes


G-Code
Demo

G-Code is made up of vets from what some have deemed San Diego’s hip-hop Golden Age, during the days of The Underground Improv open mic. The experience definitely shows in the rappers’ solid rhymes, especially on the knowledge-kicking “Wake Up Time.” Their attempts at making songs for the club fall short, though, with uninspired hooks and beats. When they stick to boombap and raw rap, they’re golden.

—Quan Vu


Generik
Sweaters in the Summer

Solid beat-boxing, on-point versespitting and abstract psy-fly / hip-hop rhythms come together to make one of the more interesting demos I’ve heard this year. Generik (aka Jonaire’) delivers lyrics whose meaning isn’t immediately evident. Often, though, obscure words make for a more alluring piece of art, which Sweaters most certainly is. 

—Justin Roberts


Gone Baby Gone
Demo

GBG’s bio says their main focus is “to have fun,” and they deliver on that promise. Every one of these throwback rockers seems out for a good time, while frontwoman Dizzy ties the whole thing together with her easy swagger. Though the quartet’s still unproven, it’ll be interesting to see if their upcoming EP can take them to the next level. 

—Scott McDonald


The Goomies
Make an Appointment with Disappointment

This is some pretty swell lo-fi slacker-rock, and I can’t help but think that, had it been heard by the right ears around the time it was recorded (2005, according to the CD sleeve), it would’ve gotten both local and national attention. If they’re not together anymore, then I’m thinking some reunion gigs are in order.

—Seth Combs


GMG
Dispensary Music

Look, even borderline doofs like Cypress Hill can pepper their albums with mentions of money and bitches. So why can’t these guys, who are otherwise capable MCs, talk about anything but weed for nine tracks? Fuck it; one man’s schwag is another man’s Purple Kush, so if you really like weed (I mean, really like weed), then this album has some appealing beats (“Smokin’ All Day”), solid flows (the Lissie-sampling “Hands on the Wheel”) and more mentions of “hydro,” “high” and “blaze” than a Humboldt State dorm room. 

—Seth Combs


Danny Green
A Thousand Ways Home

Some jazz-by-numbers with elements of bossa nova and classical music. Nice enough if that’s your thing, but mostly it sounds like something you’d hear on the way into some bourgeois gala or playing over an iPhone while on hold with a credit-card company—albeit a cooler credit-card company.

—Seth Combs


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Grind + Bare It

There's almost no information to speak of about Grind + Bare It: This two-track demo lists only the song titles and a phone number, and there's apparently nothing about this project online. But the mystery about him / her / them is part of what makes this throbbing electronic sleaze so intriguing. The first track, "It's Over," juxtaposes subtly ominous and vaguely licentious soundscapes with samples of sexually frank dialogue that climaxes in, well, sexual climax. But it's not about overt stimulation as much as strangely alluring seduction. Meanwhile, "Binary Space" offers a slightly different variation, with popcorn beats bubbling underneath haunting, ominous slices of bass and several subtle shifts in tempo. The end result is a porno-theater take on Andy Stott, or Flying Lotus gone Blade Runner. I don't know who or what Grind + Bare It is, but I know I want to hear more. 

—Jeff Terich

H.Wood-Fos (Fosta Child)
Free Fosta Child 

There are great rappers, terrible rappers and just-OK rappers. H.Wood-Fos falls into the OK category. Being OK in hip-hop is a death sentence. H.Wood-Fos’ songs are packed with clichés about how much he grinds and hustles and is serious about this rap game. It’s exhausting. If you’re going to be pure bravado, you should at least be creative with phrasing. “Thanks God I’m Me” starts off kind of strange, but then he quickly reverts to just thanking God he grinds and hustles the way he does. Yawn. 

—Aaron Carnes


Hands Down South
Demo

Hands Down South might just be the ideal house band—the one in Road House or the one Downtown. Either way, in this solid, four-track demo, they bang out some good ol’ fashioned boogie-woogie, honkytonk and electric blues, ratcheting up the tempos and pulling off wicked solos. Songs like “North Park Gal” and “Shady Ladies” are a tad corny, but you don’t see me complaining. 

—Peter Holslin


Hapizzez
Breaking the Mask

Pseudo-conscious rapper over supremely unspectacular beats. Some might find his lyrics uplifting and inspirational, but the political and religious references seem forced and confined within a done-to-death cadence. For a rapper boasting superior word play (as you hear on “Dancing”), he seems stuck in elementary rhyme schemes: “I may be a liar / But I speak the truth / Sometimes you get lost / When you lose your roots.” Way to say absolutely nothing, buddy. 

—Jesse Ross


HarpCo
Folk Rockin’ Blues

Taking cues from old-school San Diego rockers like Joey Harris and Country Joe Montana, HarpCo dish out down-home acoustic ballads with tons of heart. This five-song demo might be low on polish and shine, but that makes it all the more endearing. 

—Peter Holslin


Chris Hassett
This I Promise You

This is the type of easy-listening piano-pop they’d play at a rest home for 70- and 80-something couples. The silver-haired folks would sway to Hassett’s crooning vibrato, because it almost reminds them of Elvis’ more terrible ballads. Even though their hearing aids likely wouldn’t be able to pick up the progressive references, like “Earl’s haunches would make the cowboys swoon” on “I Wanna Feel the Heat,” it’d still be endearing. 

—Andrew Scoggins


Heavy Empire
C’mon! Just Take One

There’s nothing heavy about this effort: It’s mellow alt-rock to the max, with no risks and no rewards. Apparently, the band is based here, but four of the five members are from elsewhere. Someone sounds British on “She Wanted Love,” and he’s trying really hard to be as cool as Robert Smith, but he doesn’t quite make it. Still, there’s potential in that one, ’cause accents are hot. The Tikistyle guitar riffs on “Empty Tables” are neat, but I could do without the synthesized, repeating vocals. “Shot Gun Device” is straight-up dead weight. The other two are forgettable. RN/

—Natalie Jacobs


Heavy Empire
“Shoot, Shoot, Shoot”

The verses on this single pay homage to the band’s ’80s European influences: They rely on the guy with the cool accent and add a straightforward but dark-andstormy guitar-drum interplay.
But the weird breakdown in the chorus is uncomfortably ’90s altrock—it’s trying too hard to serve as an anthem for the NRA.

—Natalie Jacobs


Hello Penelope
Hello Penelope EP

Built to Spill, part deux. Fun, washy indie tunes that are the musical equivalent of corduroy pants. “California Sinking” is a catchy whirl that borrows vibes from Pixies. Perfect for those of us stuck in the ’90s, as well as sensitive dudes with beards and Doug Martsch. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Island Boy
Island Boy EP

What is chillwave (or glo-fi or coldwave or—) if not a modern-day update of a John Hughes movie soundtrack? Whatever genre classifications are cleverly coined to describe the sound, it seems there'll always be a market for synthy teenage symphonic odes to God or underage sex or pharmaceutical drugs, or whatever. This local duo would've done well had they released this EP two years ago, when everyone was freaking out about chillwave bands like Neon Indian and Washed Out. But the sentiments on this EP—and, more importantly, the music—are timeless. The music-video treatment runs through the listener's mind throughout the opening track, "On the Rise": The broken-hearted girl jumping into the back of a friend's car and going somewhere, anywhere dark, so she can just dance and hope nobody notices her mascara running. The other two tracks, the danceably forlorn "Heart Attack" and the suitably named "Unrequited TV Love," are just as catchy, with frontman Richard Hunter-Rivera bemoaning wasted days and waiting for that special someone to call. Hopefully she didn't, because these guys have a lot to offer and, sad as it is to say, no good song ever came out of the girl calling you back. 

—Seth Combs


John Henry
That Ain’t Me

John Henry announces at the beginning of “That Ain’t Me”: “This is what the city’s been waiting for.” Based on the sound of the track, he must think we’ve been waiting to go Dirty South. The vibe brings to mind a variety of other MCs —T.I., Gucci Mane, UGK—but never quite lives up to any of them. Let’s talk when there’s a “What You Know” or “International Player’s Anthem” in the MC’s future.

Jeff Terich


Johnny High-Hat
Heart of a Clown

Johnny High-Hat could be your dad. He's a local country crooner who's produced an album of respectable covers, including "Route 66." As dads are wont to do every now and then, High-Hat apparently needed to flex his musical muscle, and he and his rootsy band would make anybody's heart melt with their steel guitar. These guys may never make it big in the music world, but I'll bet they don't give a hoot about popularity. It appears the crew behind Heart of a Clown just wanted to have fun. Mission accomplished. 

—Justin Roberts


Rick Hines
“Jean Marie,” “California Sun,” “Eyeball Skeleton”

I was going to write about all the ways that the repetitive, barely coherent "Jean Marie" is a disgrace to pot smokers everywhere, and how "California Sun" would make sense only as the soundtrack to a cheesy dance party on Saved by the Bell, but then "Eyeball Skeleton" came on and I told myself to shut up. With his weird voice, Hines channels Ariel Pink, Lux Interior and Fred Schneider. And all the psych-rock instrumentals he's been trying so hard to mimic come together expertly on this song. He's best when his goofiness is balls-to-the-wall. Now, let's dance until our eyeballs fall out.

—Natalie Jacobs


The Humble Crab
The Humble Crab Has Spoken

Vocal and guitar harmonies paint a chill, seaside picture of buying Hummers, getting "Astro-smashed" and carrying a cheeseburger in your fanny pack. Using beach-bum vernacular, The Humble Crab expresses a range of emotion, from "harsh" to "bummer" to, well, drunk. He may not have the best voice or guitar skills, but I'll be damned if he doesn't have heart. Even at their most silly and immature, his songs are witty and entertaining. My personal favorite? "(Girl) Your Shit is Garbage (Girl)," a tune just waiting to be put on a spiteful breakup mix. Go forth, Humble Crab, and tell the world of your sun-baked, cigarette-scented, beer-battered glory.

—Jesse Ross


iD the Poet
Instrumentals vol. 2-4: LOGOS, ETHOS, EROS

Each project in iD the Poet's instrumentals series focuses on a different theme related to its classical Greek name. LOGOS, representing order and knowledge, has a strong Asian influence, I guess because Asians are benignly stereotyped as extremely disciplined and wise. ETHOS, representing fundamental values and character, explores hip-hop's roots in funk, gospel, reggae and jazz. EROS interestingly portrays love as a battlefield. The projects are conceptually cohesive, but they're more intellectual than groovy. 

—Quan Vu


Idyll Wild 
“Polyken”

"Polyken" is a dark, neo-goth indie-rock song. For the first minute-and-a-half, it builds from a mellow, atmospheric section with wordless vocal-swells—which is my favorite part—to an amphitheater-friendly, drum-pounding rock tune, which oddly loses steam real quick. They were already riding the "Is it too dramatic?" line pretty closely, but in a good way. Once those drums kick in, they tip over into melodrama, and not in the good Morrissey way. 

—Aaron Carnes


IMA
Demo

There's some promise on this eight-song demo, even if it starts by channeling the worst parts of Coldplay and grunge balladry. After Track 3 (no song titles included), the band jumps from genre to genre like it ain't no thing and seems more than capable of creating some clever indie-pop and Elvis Costello-style ballads. The singer could dial down the earnestness at times and maybe take a writing class, but there's potential here. 

—Seth Combs


Isam Rand
Stay Awhile

If you've ever experienced bland dad-rock in some dingy restaurant or bar with a couple of drunken 40-year-old housewives dancing to it, you know exactly what Isam Rand sounds like. Clichéd lyrics like, "She said you've got to live every moment / You've got to love like you've never been hurt / Youíve got to dance like no one is watching," make me want to die. But I guess if these guys have been going for this long, there's no reason to stop now. Get those cougars, gentlemen!

—Andrew Scoggins


Jazz Domingo
Covered in Jazz

Itís kind of impossible to tell much of anything from these three songs. Clocking in at just under nine minutes (premature ejazzulation?), anything brewing here is long gone before it even really starts. 

—Scott McDonald


Johnny Fuckin Reese Ya’ll
Demo 

Hey, ya'll, this fuckin guy can fuckin strum a fuckin guitar really fuckin hard, and if you saw him sitting on the fuckin curb singing his fuckin songs, ya'll might throw 35 fuckin cents into his Styro-fuckin-foam cup. But if you actually fuckin stuck around for a few fuckin minutes and heard his lyrics—"I give you almost everything / Not enough / Still you want to take all my stuff / You're a bitch / You annoy me like an itch"—you'd realize that Johnny Fuckin Reese is a fuckin dick. The saving fuckin grace of his four-song demo is that all the fuckin tracks were recorded on a fuckin Tascam four-track recorder for ya'll fuckin analog nerds. 

—Dave Maass


Luke Andrew Johnson
Wrote You a Song 

Johnson's songwriting is a good balance of earnestness, country melancholy and humor, and he usually manages to avoid cliché. Violin, organs and sparse drums are a nice touch, too. Johnson and his band just need to find a style of their own, because Dawes is already doing the Jackson Browne-knockoff thing. RN/

—T. Loper


Corey Johnston
Better Start Digging Your Grave / Low on Cash

I'll assume that it's coincidental that this guy shares a surname with Daniel Johnston and sounds almost exactly like Daniel Johnston. The weird sampling and electronic textures on Grave are a nice touch, and on Low on Cash, Corey does Eels almost as well as Eels does itself, but there's nothing on either of these discs that weirdoes like Daniel, Mark Everett or Jeff Mangum haven't already covered. 

—Seth Combs


Just in Case
Demo

Just when I thought pop-punk had died off for good, Just in Case came along to haunt my dreams. Whatever goodwill this band gains with its rocking, At the Drive-In-style riffs it soon squanders by letting a whiny frontman sing his poor little heart out over some background singer's totally obnoxious, totally clichéd screams. 

—Peter Holslin


Jonathan Karrant
On and On

Everything about this music is done correctly. The players are exceptional, the vocals proficient and the guitar solo in the cover of Stephen Bishop's "On and On" is mellifluous and busy, yet tasteful. But the music lacks even the slightest edge of originality. It would sound at home in a Miami hotel lobby, perfect for when you lock eyes with that lovely post-cougar and your mind plays out exactly what you're gonna do after your Matlock hot-tub session. 

—Alfred Howard


Greg Kester
Balance EP

I have no idea what Greg Kester looks like. The pictures on his Bandcamp page are of a pastoral sunset and a full moon. But if he looks anything like Bret Michaels, dude could easily give up his own gig and start a Poison cover band. Their voices just sound so unnervingly similar. Then again, he could just lie in wait: I've heard Michaels has some health problems. 

—Scott McDonald


Kinetic Circus
“7 Off”

With its big riffs, driving beat and fist-pumping lyrics, this six-and-a-half-minute single sounds like something out of a cheesy Broadway musical about teenage punks living in the '80s. Except guitarist Brian Davis has trouble keeping on beat and singer Yolonda Johnston is a bit rusty, so more like off-off-Broadway. 

—Peter Holslin 


Chris Laguna
The Cycle

Laguna's only 21, and he has the singer-songwriter thing nailed. With a bevy of worthy inspirations behind him, it won't be long before he learns to use them effectively. For now, it feels a bit like a work in progress, despite multiple stretches of deadpan niceness. But with a healthy dose of recreational drugs and/or Jeffrey Lewis records, I think Laguna could really be onto something. 

—Scott McDonald


Lake Reflector
Demo

There are some halfway decent ideas floating around in these lo-fi / bedroom instrumentals. Unfortunately, they're all in such a rudimentary state, any chance of an overall coherency—or a translatable identity for that matter—seems impossible. Hopefully, these songs will serve as very rough demos for a more complete vision somewhere down the line. 

—Scott McDonald


Landis
Landis EP

You know how when you're listening to a really cool metal band like Opeth or Porcupine Tree, and they just throw in some epic Renaissance Fair-style romantic ballad, and you're all, like, "What the fuck, man?! I was just about to throw up my devil horns and yell at that hippie!" Well, imagine an entire four-song EP of that kind of emo melodrama and you're getting close to the sound of Landis. The booker of SOMA would probably jizz over this band. 

—Seth Combs


Lazy Cobra
No Horizons

This is just the sludge-metal cup of coffee I needed this morning. Lazy Cobra's riffs are as heavy as fat Val Kilmer after a free Vegas buffet. Singer Joshua Zinn screams in such a way that I'm going to go ahead and preemptively diagnose him with vocal nodes: Try some throat-coat tea as you whisper hoarsely through your day job, Joshua. All in all, I'm sold. Also, I don't want to slam them 'cause they sound perfectly willing to stab someone in an alley at night. 

—Alfred Howard


Michael David Lewis
Headin’ North: A Rock Opera

I thought a rock opera about a man called "The Protagonist" trying to find God would be at least a little interesting. After 38 minutes and 33 seconds of nasally, static melodies, some sort of '80s drum kit pounding out repetitive, stale beats and a countless number of underwhelming wah-wah solos, I found out that it wasn't. Listening all the way through is like walking across a desolate wasteland as Weird Al describes the scenery to the tune of "My Sharona." It hurts. 

—Andrew Scoggins


Scott Lingner
Occasioni Musicali

Scott Lingner's ambitious solo project is excessively abstract, noodly and hard to follow, but that doesn't mean he's a lost cause. Songs like "Across the Sea" and the album's title track show that he's an inspired songwriter and musician. Lingner just needs a little help from his friends. Get some bandmates and enlist their help in distilling these 14 ideas into five solid songs. 

—T. Loper


Lost on Our Way
Assembly Line

The band name pretty much sums it up: It sounds like the members have never met, and they're actually walking through isolated time warps, carrying their respective instruments and antiquated tape recorders. The guitarist's path brings him to hair-metal heaven. The vocalist arrives at some distorted R.E.M.-meets-Live fork in the road. The drummer is stuck in quicksand, barely keeping his own rhythm, let alone anyone elseís. None of it makes any sense together—or apart, really. 

—Natalie Jacobs


LoveMason
I’m Over It

The "Mason" in LoveMason is singer-songwriter Heidi Mason, whose style can evoke anything from slow-burning alt-country á la Neko Case to adult-contemporary pop. "Words Obscure the Truth" follows the awkward opening line, "You're awesome / I love you," and the track picks up into a subdued rocker in the vein of The National. A little all over the place, sometimes the EP works, sometimes it doesnít. The professionalism is there, but it's a little too slick—getting a little grittier might do this band some good.  

—Jeff Terich 


LoveMason
“The Perihelion”

"The Perihelion" is just a single, comprising three minutes and 47 seconds of slow, weepy, waltzing alt-country sadness centered on frontwoman Heidi Mason's extra-sappy lyrics ("You are not just my night fire / You are more than my bright star / You are my life-giving sun / You are the only one"). That's probably pretty flattering for whoever's on the receiving end, but the sentimental overdose is a bit much. That said, the crisp guitar licks and thick layers of Hammond organ make the lyrics go down a little easier.  

—Jeff Terich 


Lunarray
Demo

I'm going to let Lunarray speak for themselves on this one: "At the moment the mixes only have guitar and drums. Bass and vocals will be added soon, but we figured it was better to send something in rather than nothing." It's a halfway decent start, fellas, but a folded piece of bread does not a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich make.  

—Scott McDonald


Lunitorpia
How to Save Home Planet EP

Lunitorpia's Carlos Nath clearly has a penchant for the bizarre. This aptly titled EP sounds as if it were broadcast from another planet, with eerie bits of theremin emerging through heavy squeals of noise-rock guitar. It's not that the three-track set doesn't groove—"2C Hummingbirds," in particular, is a hypnotically tasty slice of exotic space-age dub. But the title track sends Nath's spacecraft soaring into the outermost cosmos, as rhythms and melodies barely maintain any semblance of organization or synchronicity. Apparently, thereís plenty of bad acid on the moon. 

—Jeff Terich 


M&M Blues
Blues Will Never Die

You know that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when he's riding on the train with the singing / sardine-eating hobo and everything is cool until the guy starts singing "Jimmy Crack Corn"? And then he just keeps singing it until Pee Wee can't take it anymore and jumps off the train? Yeah, me too. 

—Scott McDonald


Macy
Demo

Listening to this demo, it's hard to get past the feeling that singer-songwriter Eric Macy McClanahan isn't taking his music all that seriously. The whole thing is ultra lo-fi, seemingly ready to fall apart at any moment and snotty to the point of ridiculousness (sample lyric: "There is no God / And if there is, he's a dick"). McClanahan sounds like heís having fun, at least, but this demo's ramshackle, jokey nature makes it seem not quite ready to be heard by the public at large.  

—Jeff Terich 


Malevolence
Cool As the Other Side of the Pillow

As Gangstarr's Guru once said, it's mostly the voice. Malevolence raps in a glorious rasp that's like a hybrid of David Banner's indignant drawl and Krondon's lisp. Clearly, his voice was designed solely for rapping. Unfortunately, most of these beats sound like stencils for rap-song archetypes, from the Southern club banger to the maudlin, introspective track. With better production, Malevolence and his voice can make a big splash. 

—Quan Vu


Marco Polo
Demo

Sounding at once awesome and ridiculous, electro-rock anthems "Theme Song" and "Midnight Rebels" have crunchy power-chords, romantic keyboards, poorly recorded vocal parts and chintzy drum-machine beats fit for a low-budget video game. Marco Polo might need a bigger budget and a live drummer to really take their music to another level, but they've got enough pomp and charm to woo me as it is. 

—Peter Holslin 


Mascara Monsters
Mascara Monsters

Mascara Monsters describe themselves as "electronic love punk." They have an unnecessary surplus of Die Antwoord pictures on their Tumblr page. They clearly long for the days when pornographic hi-NRG acts like Lords of Acid reigned supreme. This is essentially four obnoxious, beat-driven, sadomasochistic, minimal takes on the dirty-disco Peaches already covered a decade ago. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be sexy—I don't even know what lyrics like "Fuck me up / Fuck me down" are supposed to mean—but it sure is bratty.  

—Jeff Terich 


MC Reason
Evolution 

"Rap/punk/political" artist MC Reason (Kyle Sanford) kicks off his EP with "Prelude to Awakening," in which the British lady who lives inside my GPS bemoans a lack of independent thought in our society. Unfortunately, independent thought seems to be absent from much of this EP, with most of Sanfordís lyrics relying on easy political observation. The best track is "Last to Say," a personal story about growing up with domestic violence. More like that, please. 

—T. Loper


M-Double-A-L
Au Revoir

The first track starts with a woman having an unconvincing orgasm over sparse drum programming and some Halloween-style slasher-movie piano. Then, the MC bids "Au revoir to the game." Seems we're in for some classic self-bolstering rap, but the record takes a sharp left on the second track, as a reverb-drenched guitar that'd work on a Thurston Moore record leads the charge. The album is filled with surprises; not all of them work, but it makes for an interesting listen. 

—Alfred Howard


Torrey Mercer 
“Looking Glass”

Young singer-songwriter Torrey Mercer makes a strong showing on this new single. Singing with a powerful voice over a consistent piano melody and driving kick, she offers a refreshing change from big radio names like Katy Perry and Rihanna. That said, I have a hard time figuring out what demographic this very young, very poppy, very overproduced song is attempting to cater to? Teen? Tween? If it ends up on Radio Disney, I'm sure the kids will love it. 

—Jesse Ross


Mexican Hexagon
Mexican Hexagon

The opening track, "By Machine, For Machine," includes an interlude with a distinct Pixies feel, which sounds really, really good. I wish these guys were a little less screamo, because they manage to pull off some quality sonic feats in this not-so-bad EP. "Rochester," for example, features great vocal harmonies and, strange as it may seem, comes across with a They Might Be Giants feel. Hopefully, their long-awaited "pre-post-punk" full-length will see the light of day in 2013. 

—Justin Roberts


The Midwinters 
All There Is

The singer for this lush indie-folk band is just a hair off from being good. I like how he's off; it gives him character. The band, however, are not off, which I don't like—they could use a little character. I dig the piano work, though; it's a perfect companion to the indie-pop songwriting and Americana overtones. Nothing mind-blowing here, just some contemplative sing-alongs and dramatic tunes. Maybe if the band loosens up a bit, they'll blow some minds next round. 

—Aaron Carnes


Miguel Muniz aka San Di
Ill Surprise 

This is the type of shit that drunken sorority girls find deep when they're not busy barfing up Jägerbombs in their dorm room. You know the type of fella who plays this—the one who just learned some basic guitar chords and serenades the bonfire folks with drivel like, "I want to settle down now" and "I want to light a candle in your name" while casually flipping his greasy hair back to take another toke. Sooooooo beautiful, bro. 

—Seth Combs


MikeyTrax
Demo

A friend told me that Taken was the greatest action film of 2008. I walked into the theater with high expectations. I walked out disappointed, with one less friend. I had this experience in mind as I set out to listen to Mikey Trax's demo. I entered with low expectations, noting that he spells "tracks" with an X. Turns out, he offers an interesting take on ambient electronica. Some of the live instruments could use work tonally, but "Plunge" was hypnotic and nuanced, with elements gradually introduced to maintain the slow-paced pulse. 

—Alfred Howard 

Mockingbird
Dos

If Tara and Diego Alvarado's Dos is a single, then the electric country shuffle of "Gone" is the perfect A-side. On the track, Diego plays a mean guitar, and vocalist Tara sounds like she's straight out of the Memphis scene. The B-side, "Lover," is just as good; its reverb-heavy Twin Peaks swamp blues is a classic answer to the more upbeat "Gone." Only complaint: This husband-and-wife duo did a mean thing by only sending two songs. 

—T. Loper


MohaviSoul
Every Second

MohaviSoul's first recording exhibits some good ol' pickin' and pluckin', carried out by an ensemble of clearly talented folk and bluegrass musicians. There's also some thoughtful songwriting and catchy choruses. Without sounding old or irrelevant, the mandolin-violin-banjo-fiddle combo gives off an air of authenticity. Best part? It's not fucking Mumford & Sons! 

—Jesse Ross


Moosejaw

We Are the Hunters

As his mates lay down a solid bed of indie-punk riffs, singer Eric McClanahan gets all Jekyll-and-Hyde on the listener, his voice suddenly shifting from a tense murmur to a psychotic scream as he drops lines like, "Painting the walls with a colostomy bag!" Put this on the next time you find yourself getting dragged off to the loony bin. 

—Peter Holslin


Mudgrass
Just That Way

Fuck yeah! Mudgrass define their music as a "freight train of country-fried rock," and I don't think a more apt description could ever exist. Taken with a few shots of whiskey, Just That Way is quite the toe-tappin', ass-slappin' album. I'm not much for country-fried anything, to be honest, but this is a band I think I'd really enjoy seeing live—with a requisite warm flask nestled in my jacket pocket. Bring it on, boys! 

—Justin Roberts


Multiplex
Multiplex 

I'd tell you that I'm sick of tongue-in-cheek, danceable, math-rocky synth music, but who am I kidding? I'm not. Multiplex is San Diego's answer to the cosmic disco coming out of France—Justice, Jupiter, Zombie Zombie—with, as the name implies, a tendency toward the same aesthetic I'd expect from soundtracks for Arnie's 1980s sci-fi films. 

—Dave Maass


MyAmalgam
5 Song Demo

There is an incomplete quality to MyAmalgam's demo that's not anything like the cool Guided By Voices incompleteness. Itís more like the "I don't think these people finished their thoughts when trying to write songs" kind. The execution and structure doesn't make a lot of sense: It's straightforward, but just wrong. They need to go back to the practice space and, instead of going with their gut, do everything they think they shouldn't do. Maybe then theyíll churn out some good tunes. 

—Aaron Carnes


The Natives
Salutations

I appreciate punk intensity just as much as the next aging hipster, but I hope these guys know they're wearing their influences on their sleeves. You'll get just about every hardcore and punk band in less than 20 minutes: Black Flag ("Native in the Cupboard"), Dead Kennedys ("Zigroopha"), Bad Brains (just about every other song). Sure, it has fun moments ("TJ Hooker," needless to say, is not about the TV show), but mostly I'm just thinking that youth is wasted on the young. Grow up. Get off my lawn. 

—Seth Combs


Neighbors to the North 
Starfisher EP

I always gauge rock acts, especially those with guitars so prominently out front, by their live shows. I haven't seen this band yet, but the first three songs on this six-song EP are straight up, Camaro-driving R-O-C-K tunes, joyously not watered down or encumbered by any "indie" or "alternative" trappings. The second half doesn't come close to matching that same kind of uncomplicated energy, but I'd still be interested in seeing how they reconcile it all on stage. 

—Scott McDonald


Daniel Newheiser 
Daniel Newheiser

A song title like "All Iím Missing is You" would typically make me dry heave (and I did), but it's a really beautiful song. The piano melody is sprawling and comforting, each note emitting a chorus of twinkling splendor. The vocals are simple, moving, ethereal (cue more heaves). The two a cappella songs were well-done, but the shtick is akin to a kazoo or an armpit fart, and the clapping as percussion on "11:11" sounds like a fancy masturbation technique. This talented dude needs a band, San Diego. With instruments, he will flourish. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Nns & Telegraph
Swanky

Scattershot collection of rap tracks mixing club-ready swagger, socially conscious messages, Southern rap beats, Lex Luger-style horn honks, etc. There are some alright moments, but Iím over it by the end of the album. These guys need to develop a distinct style if they want to really get somewhere.

—Peter Holslin


Noise Floor
Demo

I wanna hate on these guys. I really do. Yet, I have to admit they may be onto something with their mix of indie, pop-punk and EDM. The singer has some pipes even if her voice is wasted on coquettish, schoolgirl-style come-ons. Still, if they play their cards right, they could land an opening gig for Paramore or Taylor Swift. I can't stand it, but not bad for what it is. 

—Seth Combs


Okay!Okay!
Dear California

I was disappointed to find out that a band calling itself Okay!Okay! was not an insane avant-garde troupe, but instead a super-slick, emo, alt-rock band. Oh, darn. The singer can sing—Iíll give him that. It's not really the kind of singing I like; nor are the polished, beefy licks and reverb-heavy drums my cup of tea, either. It is flawlessly executed, though. And I'm sure they woo the ladies with their intense, aggressive, emotional songs. Consider me not wooed—but then again, I'm not a pretty lady, so I doubt they care. 

—Aaron Carnes


Old Man Wizard 
???

I appreciate the name of the musician (or band?), and I do like the medieval imagery of centaurs and such in the lyrics, but, otherwise, it's a tough listen. It's kind of metal, kind of goth, kind of rock opera and kind of power-pop, but it's not really any of these things. It's just weird, but in an off-putting way. At least it's not bad in the "sounds like every band on the radio" kind of way. Maybe they're on to something I'm just not caught up on yet. Who knows. 

—Aaron Carnes


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Old English
Band in Amerikkka

If you only knew about National City through press releases, you'd note with amusement that the home of the Mile of Cars is also the region's "Most Walkable" city. What the propaganda leaves out is that National City also leads the county in violent crime. For that info, you'd need to turn to Old English rappers Saviorself and Nothin'less, whose latest record inspires images of a Belfast-level urban war zone. Featuring guest vocals from Gonjasufi and what sounds like a naughty bass line ripped from The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," Band in Amerikkka is a triumph of dystopic hip-hop, with a little something for gang-bangers and white-boy Rage Against the Machine fans alike.  

—Dave Maass


One Hundred Miles
Demo

You're really stretching the definition of "demo" with one song, but "Be Happy" is pretty solid. Dude is from the East Coast, but this track has a chill, Cali feel like something off of Souls of Mischief's hip-hop classic 93 'til Infinity. Would love to hear more. 

—Scott McDonald


Oye!Simpson
Ghost Party EP

Oye!Simpson make a form of electronic-style dance music. There are beats, whooshes, bleeps and boops, and once in awhile, someone says "hey" or "uh." A person could conceivably dance and / or consume drugs to this music if they were so inclined. 

—Chris Maroulakos


Rudy Palos
Demo

Anyone nostalgic for the glory days of trip-hop and DJ Shadow-style sampling, or just always wished The Avalanches made another album, might want to check this guy out. These five songs are a bit of a stylistic mish-mash, but anybody who can channel the best parts of Air ("Magic"), RJD2 ("Trap to the Sky") and even Manu Chao at his experimental peak ("Pagans") will get a tip of the hat from me. 

—Seth Combs


Pan Am
The Shade Between Two Hemispheres

Turn the lights down, pop open a bottle of wine and get a bubble bath going—it's time to let Pan Am singer Rodney Hubbard whisk you away with his smooth, supple, exquisitely soulful voice. With lovely flute, sexy sax and Spanish-style guitar rounding out the proceedings, this EP belongs on every newlywed's honeymoon playlist. 

—Peter Holslin


Paper Plane Pilot
Demos

If Paper Plane Pilot had been composed of my 17-year-old high-school classmates during the Y2K scare, they might have actually had some success. And by "success," I mean second place at a battle of the bands, or maybe a well-attended show at a rec center. Everything from their whiny heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics to the prominently featured Casio synth parts screams early-2000s emo. This demo isn't terrible, but at best it would have been mediocre a decade ago. 

—Jackson Milgaten


Parker & The Numberman
SM58EP

Working with local beatmaker Room E, Parker & The Numberman give us nine tracks and 19 minutes of glitchy beats, space-y loops and super-short interludes that could all benefit from more time, love and attention. There are truly good musical blips here, but everything feels unfinished. Where's the rest of the album? 

—Justin Roberts


Patricide 
Roast Dimension

The opener is a creepy, dark electronic song that would make an amazing background track for a horror film: Even as I sit on my couch typing this, I feel an intense sense of foreboding. The rest of the album is more in the dance realm, though still dark. It's good, solid electronica, but a little dated. All I can think of is '90s raves. They should make more songs like the opening track and sell them to Hollywood. 

—Aaron Carnes


Pearl
Demo

If you're the type of R&B listener who finds Rihanna and Beyoncé too contrived but still can't embrace the experimental tendencies of Erykah Badu and Emeli Sandé, then this offers a nice middle ground. Five tracks of come-hither or get-the-hell-away affirmations accompanied by some respectable beats and a more-than-adequate voice. I don't know. Maybe I'm just drunk and the singer is hot. 

—Seth Combs


The Pheasants
Demo 

This demo is a sampler of what's sure to be a fun, fast-paced and innately weird rock album. Fast power-chords and jumpy, treble-heavy guitar solos encounter shouted-out, youthful-yet-surreal stories about pilgrims, witches and train robbers. It's rough and not incredibly groundbreaking, but it's fun and catches your ear until shit gets weird. Unless you're a witch or an opponent of time travel, you'll want to keep listening. 

—Jesse Ross


Plato’s Bacon
Demo

Great fucking name—that's a given. But this self-proclaimed "progressive-jazz-fusion-funk-metal band" is just starting to try new sounds after an apparent quest to perfect Metallica's "Orion" and making YouTube videos that are more talk than music. I applaud the desire to expand your horizons, young dudes, but you're going to have to start taking yourselves a whole hell of a lot more seriously if you expect anyone else to. 

—Scott McDonald


Polish Mexicans
Polish Mexicans

This fuzzy garage duo makes chunky, reverb-heavy songs that would benefit from a shift in guitar tone and more dynamics. Right now, all of the songs are just thick blocks of boring tone begging for sectioning. The stonier "Fountainheads" is drippy and closest to being right on. A lot of the titles and lyrics are silly and poetic, which is nice—like "I Want to Build You a Cake" and "Rubber Duckies on Parade." 

—Sammi Skolmoski


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Adam Powell
Stark in the Dark

Who released my favorite Adele cover in recent memory? Why Adam Powell did, that's who. And he even claims to have recorded it in the buff. More importantly, the other three songs on 2011's Totally Stripped and Ill Equipped are pretty darn good, too (I reviewed it for this issue last year). Flash-forward to his latest, and things still seem to be going quite well. Even though it's only three lightning-quick tunes, the likeable, original ditties on 2012's Stark in the Dark are as catchy and interesting as ever. Alongside Powell's collaborative 2011 full-length, the lovely Adams and Eves, this singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has amassed a nice little pile of pleasantly crafted songs. Let's all hope no one ever forces him to put on pants. 

—Scott McDonald


Purl
Summer / Winter

A two-CD, two-hour-plus collection of stark, math-y instrumental rock recorded on a four-track in El Cajon circa 1995-96. There's some good stuff on here, all in the spirit of Don Caballero and Explosions in the Sky—angular piano, layered guitar and crashing crescendos. But it gets pretty boring after a while. Next time, just send the greatest hits.

—Peter Holslin 


Project Analogue
El Lizardo

Johanna Motos' voice could make you do anything. Though it works nicely with Project Analogue's other vocalist, Joey Tan, she isn't using her gift to its fullest potential. As the band splits its efforts between warm and fuzzy indie-pop and darker, more interesting, slightly spastic shoegaze, they don't seem sure about what to do with Johanna's voice. Sometimes she's too dreamy; other times, the melodies don't quite match up. But once they figure things out, they'll be on their way to something original and maybe even quite good. 

—Natalie Jacobs


Quor
We Are Going to be Awesome

With their fast rhythms, melodic transitions and heavy breakdowns, Quor seem to be testing the waters of several genres, mostly rock and nü-metal. They sound very professional, but you come away without an understanding of what exactly you've just listened too. If Quor is "going to be awesome," they aren't there yet. 

—Jesse Ross


Radical Molesters 
TRSW Live 1989 

The Exxon Valdez spill. The Stockton Massacre. The Tiananmen Square protests. What do these tragedies from 1989 have in common? I'd rather revisit any one of them than listen to this recording of the Radical Molesters' performance at the Del Mar Fair that same year, which includes poorly recorded covers of The Who and The Doors at the "Picnic Stage." I probably wouldn't have minded some of their original compositions, if I'd been there live. But then again, I'd probably have enjoyed George H.W. Bush's inauguration address if you gave me a churro.

—Dave Maass


Skyla Rayne 
2 Song Demo

Skyla Rayne is somewhere between Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. For such a young, independent singer-songwriter, her production and songwriting is impressive. And her songs are catchy, so catchy. Even if you don't want to like it, you will. You. Can't. Help. It. Hopefully Rayne can act, 'cause she'd be a perfect fit for the Disney Channel. Then your 13-year-old daughter will listen to her all day long. You'll tell her to turn it off, but, secretly, you'll be singing Rayne's songs in the shower. 

—Aaron Carnes


Rebuilder
Memories in Stereo

This is perfect walk-through-the-city music for a stoney—er, sunny—afternoon, opening with the super-chill "Sun Dried Tomatoes" and drifting through excellently mixed electronic hip-hop beats under sexy-sleek samples. Rebuilder's Jordan Leal clearly has a lot of talent, but he could explore a wider-ranging emotional landscape. What he's given us here isn't a failure; it just might need to take a couple-day vacation from the antidepressants in order to find some new footing. 

—Justin Roberts


Red Beard, Red Beard
FBM

An album by an ambient post-rocker who's proficient at introducing esoteric sound samples to sleepy guitar riffs. My favorite track, the twangy "Room 361," ends in a jazzy cacophony of piercing whistles, plunky synths, nasally horns and other discordant sounds worth digging. The second half of the four-track EP is a duo of sleepy interludes fit for stargazing, driving in the rain and whatever else those sappy post-rockers pretend not to enjoy. 

—Sammi Skolmoski 


Rembrant
Dig That Entertainment Mix Tape Vol. 1

Well-produced jams with quirky beats and relatable subject matter, such as meeting women ("Fantasy"), breakups ("Tryna B A Man") and premature ejaculation ("I Bet I Bus'"). But the highlight is when Lady Emanon and Insatiable lend their velvety snark to a few tracks, enlightening listeners to the oft-neglected perspective of badass chicks of local hip-hop. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Rembrant
No Apologiez

Rick Ross may have found huge success by glorifying the hustle, but rapper Rembrant is closer to the conflicted hustler image that T.I. has perfected. His hustle is a tiresome grind and Rembrant reveals his everyday struggles, to say nothing of his moral struggles. Pain is his strength and he smartly stays in his lane. The beats are nothing to write home about, but they operate well enough, if only for not distracting from Rembrantís lyrics. 

Quan Vu


Reptile Dysfunction
1983

Challenging, reflective, highly experimental indie-rock workouts covered in four-track tape hiss. Some tracks on this CD feel like one-off experiments, with lots of noisy guitar texture throughout. But there are flashes of inspiration, like the slow-blossoming jam of track No. 7 (the CD came unlabeled) or the beatific bed of guitars that guide No. 8. Consider me intrigued.

—Peter Holslin 


Riververb
Mushrooms & Speed

Who the fuck would ever think about doing mushrooms and speed at the same time? Apparently, the same kind of folks who enjoy making "psychedelic noise ritual" sounds (read: "noise rock sludge"). I would rather put out a lit cigarette in my eye than have to listen to another millisecond of this dissonant, grating crap, which the quartet describes as coming from "channeling energies from the 93rd current." For those of you who picture the combination of psilocybin and methamphetamine as a murderous, horrifying nightmare scenario, I can confirm for you that your theory is well-founded.

—Justin Roberts


Bruce Robbins
“Don’t Cry for Me (Elvis Tribute)”

Methinks we might have a hipster Elvis impersonator on our hands. Bruce Robbins' old-fashioned croon is serviceable enough, but his gritty lo-fi aesthetic is what gets me: That cheap drum machine beat and synthy-sounding guitar could've come straight from an Ariel Pink record. Robbins might consider hitting up a hip boutique label like Art Fag or Volar.

—Peter Holslin 


Bruce Robbins
Pop Rock

The only online mention of Mr. Robbins I could find is his participation in a guitar duo called Take Two, but the music on Pop Rock is not the work of a duo. In fact, the two tracks don't even sound like the same band: The first track is a sugary, generic country tune, and the other sounds like a Casio-laden yacht-rock ballad that you'd hear during your step-cousin's awkward wedding reception. Mr. Robbins, we'd appreciate a little more cohesion. And maybe a Facebook page. 

—Ryan Bradford


Bruce Robbins
Sombres del Tiempo

I would've liked to hear this one after listening to Robbins' intriguing Elvis tribute (see above), but the CD-R was broken when it came in the mail. Next time, use a jewel case.

—Peter Holslin 


Bruce Robbins
Pop Music Take Two: Café La Maze

Either this CD was blank or he's offering a refreshing take on John Cage's "4'33."

—McHank 


Rock Paper Tiger
Demo

More stuff from Corey Johnston (I've also reviewed his solo stuff and his band, The Goomies, in the Demo Review). This time, he's on drums and surrounded by a bunch of dudes that, I assume, spend a lot of time snorting Adderall and listening to Fugazi, The Misfits (Kellen Minor's voice is a dead-ringer for a young Danzig) and, to a lesser extent, Tortoise and Built to Spill. It's OK, but most of it just sounds like some kids fucking around in the basement. 

—Seth Combs


Andy Robinson
Rough Mixes

Robinson didn't give us much to work with in his two-track, four-and-a-half-minute demo, but he appears to have a good ear for mixing and the ability to play a wide range of instruments, including mountain dulcimer, Native American flute and the ever-so-important Casio. A few more minutes would've been helpful in providing a more insightful review. Next year, perhaps? 

—Justin Roberts


Roger!
Dark Matter

Many good things have been found on craigslist, and Ernesto Garcia Jr. knows this well. Garcia used the classifieds site to assemble his band, and, for the most part, it paid off. Only one complaint: Candice Campbel-Earnhart is underused. The album's best track, "Dull," features her gloriously smoky voice, but it's buried in the middle. 

—T. Loper


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Rum for Your Life 
Demo

Rum for Your Life apparently hail from Pacific Beach, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're aliens, because this four-song demo sounds like a transmission from another planet. Coated in lo-fi crackle, the 17-minute effort finds them drawing up a storm cloud of angular guitar riffs, reflective trumpet harmonies and limber, metallic rhythms. While the textures are often harsh, the quartet takes a patient approach, laying down repetitive, slow-changing patterns that could go on in a trance-inducing infinity loop without getting tiresome. Though they clearly take cues from shoegazers My Bloody Valentine—particularly with their sweet, murmured vocals—their songs sound truly foreign, in part thanks to the rough nature of these recordings: Opener "Bronco" is so loud that it pushes the limits of the recording equipment, and it cuts off abruptly (and somewhat frustratingly) after two-and-a-half minutes. And while this may be the demo-iest demo I got this year, it's also the most incredible one. I'd be perfectly happy if their subsequent recordings were just as raw. 

—Peter Holslin 


S. Chaparral
“Canyon” / “CT”

Vivid storytelling, restrained-but-rich instrumentation and excellent production make these tracks a joy to play. Itís great to hear lyrics about nature in Southern California that aren't centered on the beach. You can almost feel the thorny oak leaves and smell the sage of the canyons. The only thing about this music that isn't like chaparral is that it's slow-burning—and that's a good thing. 

—T. Loper


Sabotawj
I.EMCEE

Beautifully constructed hip-hop, with musicianship and lyricism that outweigh egotism. It's obvious from the stark organ on "Get 'Em High," bold horns on "Right Now" and ear-tickling guitars on "Wannabe" that Sabotawj understands masterful composition. These complex, serious songs are also party jams—rich with thumping beats, groovy melodies and perfect pacing. How many albums do you own that you love to dance to, but also contain philosophical discussions about, say, how life mirrors art? This album is worth spending time with, whether youíre pensive or partying. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Carlos Sánchez 
1st Intent

This salsa CD sounds like something from a scene in Dexter, when the camera pans over the colorful aspects of Miami. There's some great musicianship on these tracks and some outstanding percussion work. Some of the guitar, keys and bass tones sound a little dated, though not overwhelmingly so. Most impressive is the fact that lead man Carlos S·nchez plays piano, bass, congas, bongo, timbales, guiro, clave, keys, drum programming and lead vocal, yet the album maintains a live feel. 

—Alfred Howard


Sauvi, Dre Trav and EzPennybagz
Pyramid Scheme / DGC Pink 

These two hip-hop collab compilations by Sauvi, Dre Trav and EzPennybagz are quick proof that underground hip-hop is alive and well, especially in San Diego. On Pyramid Scheme and DGC Pink, this trio makes it known that skilled rhymes, intelligent lyrics and great beats are a priority. 

—T. Loper


Savannah Philyaw
Savannah Philyaw

These five commercial country-pop songs were written by a 17-year-old whom I could see becoming a hit among the country top-40 crowd. I just don't have any appreciation for this shit. Jesus, take the wheel and drive me off a cliff, because it's got to be better than suffering through another second of Philyawn's teenage-country-girl drivel. 

—Justin Roberts


Saviorself
Demo 2011

Loud, chugging doom tunes with demonic vocals—my favorite of which are by the female singer, Becky. She sounds like she's being swallowed into hell, whereas the male singer sounds like the devil doing the swallowing. Somehow that makes her more relatable. The rest is sloppy at times and not particularly innovative—pretty much the standard lo-fi-metal entry—except for the hidden track of people talking about a giant penis. That was weird. Bad weird. 

—Sammi Skolmoski


Shadowgraphs
Shadowgraphs

This self-titled experiment opens with a mellow-simmering stoner groove, "Rand," and pushes through a somewhat confusing electronic soundscape that is as inviting as it is confusing. Electronic schizophrenia, perhaps? There's some quality work in here, but at this particular stage, these songs need a lot more time to germinate. 

—Justin Roberts


Sideways Heart
XXXy EP

This band might try being more interesting and less repetitive: If they played live, the audience might leave. If you make songs in a bedroom, good enough is good enough. But there's value in understanding what keeps an audience involved. Their strongest song is "At First." The track sounds like an '80s horror movie, in a good way. At best, they sound inspired by Moby and Kavinsky. I could see them benefiting from picking up Lou Reed's Transformer. SC/sideways-heart

—McHank


Alan Lewis Silva
J2C 1-7 Soundtrack

This Jesus-loving English professor plays guitar, occasionally sings and mostly blathers on and on about his recent road trip through the American Southwest. J2C 1-7 Soundtrack—what the fuck is up with that name?—sounds like someone ripped the audio track from a monotonously dull documentary and packaged it as an experimental album. Those were 55 minutes of my life I will never get back, Silva. You owe me. 

—Justin Roberts


Alan Lewis Silva
Jesus

Sadly, the album name doesn't appear to be ironic. While Silva's songwriting is his strong suit, the repetitive acoustic-guitar chords give the album a sedating effect similar to accidentally taking Sudafed at 11 a.m. Most of these songs have solid foundations; they just need backing instruments and more effort on the production side. 

—Hutton Marshall


Sixties Guns
Demo

Serving up new-wave synths, computerized conga beats and multi-tracked vocal chants, Sixties Guns strike a balance between pop and grit on these three tracks. "Atypical Weirdos" is the winner, with a dense, bass-heavy pull and alluring digital textures. They could groove a little harder, though. 

—Peter Holslin


Sledding with Tigers
Being Nice is Still Cool

You know you're either in for a world of hurt or a pleasant surprise when a demo comes in on an actual demo tape (as in a cassette tape, youngsters!). Luckily, it was the latter with these guys. Gorgeous and catchy folk angst with hints of vintage Bright Eyes and The Decemberists. Almost picked it for an "ExtraSpecialGood," but it's extra special nonetheless. 

—Seth Combs


Sloat Dixon 
$5 Mixtape

I knew I had to pick up this CD when I saw the cartoon Crocodile Dundee dude smoking a blunt on the cover, and it more or less met my expectation: White guy raps about rapping, girls in the club and being a laid-back SoCal dude. If this is sincere, it's even harder to take seriously than if he were joking. But if his life really were an endless orgy of weed and bare breasts, who am I to tell him not to celebrate it?  

—Jeff Terich 


Snakesuit
Snakesuit EP

Full of moody beats and cosmic guitars, this five-track selection would be fairly decent were it not for Snakesuitís singer: His goofy, strangled croon is worse than bad standup comedy. His voice does sound good, however, in Keith Sweaty's remix of "Celebration," when it gets chopped into snippets and scattered across the stereo field like sonic confetti. 

—Peter Holslin


Social Club
Gamma Rays

Social Club have more than 44,000 likes on Facebook. Thatís about 35,000 more than CityBeat. So, something tells me that the band has done a pretty good job of stirring up its own publicity. But for those who haven't heard them, they play crisply produced, crunchy alt-rock that would be perfectly at home smooshed between The Black Keys and Muse on FM-94.9. They've got a bluesy sensibility, a touch of soul, and more than a little stadium ambition. It's not totally novel, by any means, but definitely not bad. After all, 44,000 Facebook users can't be wrong, right? 

—Jeff Terich


Sociawki
Construction Slop Demolition

Ultra lo-fi psychedelic sludge. For a demo that was recorded live with one mic onto a cassette, these tracks have no right sounding this good. The first two songs, "Freaks Treat" and "Erase My Brain," are amazing in a my-ears-are-ringing-and-it-feels-so-good kind of way. 

—Jim Ruland


Sounddrug
Noparts

From the moment Sounddrug's Noparts started playing, I felt as if I had become the dude in the old Maxell ads, my hair, sunglasses and lamp being blown into oblivion by the insane sounds coming out of my headphones. There's a massive array of influences going into the dizzying stylistic melange the group cooks up, from punk-rock to Nigerian highlife, Afro-Cuban jazz, spazzcore, pop and prog-rock. Noparts is a lot of things—a little confusing, for one. But most of all, it's super-fun. 

—Jeff Terich 


S.P.A.M. 
Gourmet 

"We are the unwanted information that is sent to your inbox, we are the cheap processed food product that feeds the poor, we represent the working class that staff factories across the globe..." So write rappers Mannyfesto and Holiq in the liner notes of their second album under the S.P.A.M. brand. Well, serve me up a double helping of that mystery meat. It's a juicy, tender, intestine-twisting mix of bumping beats, deft rhymes and classic samples, mixed by Columbus, Ohio-based sound engineer Choz1n. Choice cuts include the piano-tinkling "G.O.V. (God of Victory)" and the clap-and-bass "Do it BIG." 

—Dave Maass


Splurgeo & Infinity Gauntlet
Good News for Bad People

These guys don't fuck around. Infinity Gauntlet make gritty beats with dense, atmospheric elements that could've come from an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Splurgeo serves up no-nonsense rhymes about growing up in the city and staying true to yourself: "Fuck the world and what it thinks / You gotta be free and go hard." This debut full-length isn't the catchiest thing out there, but it's solid. 

—Peter Holslin


Stained Glass Windows
Demo

On these two tracks, Stained Glass Windows offer distilled versions of T. Rex, The Allman Brothers Band and Pink Floyd. Decent musicianship, but the recording is not the best, and the mostly indecipherable and/or clunky lyrics don't do it any favors.

—Scott McDonald


The Stalins of Sound
Pool of Piranha

Picture DEVO with Flying V guitars and steel-toed jackboots, and you've got The Stalins of Sound. The A-side of this 7-inch is fit for a mosh-pit-stomping frenzy, thanks partly to their shredding cover of Metal Urbain's 1977 sci-fi punk tune "Panik." Side B consists of a synth-infused, gothed-out death-ballad called "Rapture in Blood." Righteous. 

—Peter Holslin


Submarines and Astrophysics
16 Sound Clashes

This is a collection of sound-bytes, samples and cheesy stock effects that have been haphazardly woven together to create whatís closer to an audio collage than original music. Some of the tracks are simply lengthy sections of well-known popular songs with smatterings of atonal and discordant noise strewn over them. Iím not really sure what the intent was here, or whoíd want to listen to this. 

—Jackson Milgaten


Sunday Clothes
Demo

Most of these five indie-folk tracks are fairly dull, but "This Ship Will Sail" is a winner. Sounding like something Mirah would write, it finds Sunday Clothes' Marielle Acac murmuring over a gentle guitar suffused in light effects, setting the stage for a night of sweet dreams. If Acac can write eight more songs with the same breathtaking subtlety, she'll have a fantastic album on her hands. 

—Peter Holslin


Sun Set at Duck Pond
Demo

Gloomy industrial grooves, schizophrenic electro-house beats, buzzing synths, cloudy ambient textures, moody stringsóall of this and more clash in this three-track, ADD-rattled jumble. The deep, tense ìIn Dustî could be the blueprint for a rad electro-goth anthem, but the rest gives me motion sickness. 

—Peter Holslin


Tar Halos
Winehand

This curiously decorated vinyl LP provided a combination of Pink Floyd-ish psychedelia (good!), an over-the-top, crammed-in-your-mouth dose of guitar distortion (bad!) and the bad-acid-trip feeling of a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club nightmare (fun?). At times Winehand felt like it could have been part of the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. But mostly it made me want the damn thing to end already. 

—Justin Roberts


EXTRASPECIALGOOD 

Teenage Burritos
Kamikaze

Don't be fooled by the clean, crisp sound on this collection of doo-woppy pop-punk ear candy—these songs have a subversive heart. Once "Danya" (a love song dedicated to a teenage anarchist) wraps its warm tortilla around your heart, it doesn't let go: "I remember the day you called a bomb threat to school / You got caught and I thought that you were cool." "Kamikaze" continues in a similar vein: "Kamikaze fly with me / I wanna die when the moon is high and Iím young and free." Never has going out in a blaze of glory seemed so romantic. The female-fronted trio features former members of Christmas Island and has a 7-inch coming out soon on Volar Records. I'll take two with extra salsa. 

—Jim Ruland


Tesseract 
Demo

I've always had a spot in my heart for gruff-voiced punk—Leatherface, Hot Water Music, Hüsker Dü—and there are moments of that gritty transcendence on Tesseract's demo. Moments. When they turn off the distortion and opt for The Cult-like psychedelic rock, the singer just sounds like he's straining, out of his range, and constipated. Just stick to being loud, lean and mean (and drop the "Uptown Girl" cover, please), because if you keep pushing like you are, you're just going to make shit. 

—Ryan Bradford


They Feed at Night
Deprivation

They Feed at Night go for a horror-thrash-punk sound and the cover art shows them dressed up as zombies. They don't really transcend any real musical limits, either; they're a bit like Misfits, only playing faster and screaming more. The saving grace is an uncharacteristically surfy sounding, mostly instrumental song unfortunately titled "Tsunami Victim Cannibalization." Oh, and the first song of the album is called "Circumcision (Jesus is an Alien)," so there's that. 

—Jesse Ross


Three Minute Monsters
Sunny All Over the World

Not bad songwriting, but please leave your harmonica at the avocado festival and away from your recordings. While I can name almost every influence, they're mostly good influences—the poppier end of The Clash alongside hints of The Beatles, The Kinks, America, Buddy Holly and The Raspberries. But there's nothing strong enough to be as memorable as any of those. Plus, I notice an occasional fake British accent. If they were playing at The Casbah, you'd probably leave. If they were the band at your dad's next wedding, you'd be relieved. 

—McHank


Adam Townsend
“On My Own”

This is a nice song: There's sparsely picked acoustic guitar and a fragile but fairly confident vocal delivery, like a Josh Ritter lullaby without as strong of a voice. It could use some harmonies or accompaniment, as it gets a little monotonous before the end—but not painfully so. 

—Alfred Howard


Translation: Audio
Pain and Joy

Translation: Audio manage to give me a nice, fuzzy feeling with their lean pop-rock, but they'd probably go off better with the P.B. crowd. They have some endearing, hooky, almost Strokes-y moments, but I can't take it when they dip into ska-rock on "101" and "Pain and Joy." That, and their singer's barking dude voice makes me think of Smash Mouth. 

—Peter Holslin


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Tropical Popsicle
Dawn of Delight

The synthesized vocals and garage-style production make the songs on this debut record sound like they exist beneath a layer of chromosaturated static. You have to work hard to see what's happening behind the clouds, but there's a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. The meandering guitars, sweetly sung lyrics and soundtrack of interludes are all unselfconscious and experimental, without being douchey, and that feels refreshing. After giving it more than a few listens, you'll realize it's really just as the graphic cover art promises—a slightly naughty, '80s-style collage of earthy and synthetic pieces that don't at first make much sense, but then suddenly become beautiful and grimy, shallow and deep all at the same time. Despite what the name might suggest, the album sounds best when listened to on a long, straight, empty road in the dead of night. As frontman Tim Hines sings: "It's easy to wander blindly and that is all." 

—Natalie Jacobs

The Tunnel of Dysfunctional Love
The Tunnel of Dysfunctional Love

Making an 11-song release requires time and effort, unless itís The Tunnel of Dysfunctional Love. I could make this album in under an hour. Almost all the backing instrumentation is sampled recordings, and the music they actually play sounds closer to my 6-month-old niece vomiting on an out-of-tune guitar. I would be shocked to learn the lyrics weren't made up on the spot. The Tunnel of Dysfunctional Love has no discernible redeeming qualities. 

—Hutton Marshall


Ugly Boogie
Train of the Damned

There's no shortage of acoustic-punk / bluegrass bands these days. While Ugly Boogie doesn't stand out amongst the herd, they're good at playing some foot-stomping, punk-inspired acoustic jams. The accordion is a nice touch, and they even throw in a little klezmer. Probably the weakest part of the band is the lead vocalist: He's perfectly in tune, and all the harmonies are spot-on, but he's got a whiny voice that grates on me. 

—Aaron Carnes


Unidentified Fusion Orangement 
Abducted by UFOrangement

I'm not really sure how to rate this demo. It's certainly unique. Chances are, if you like super-out-there instrumental psychedelic jams, then you'll like this. It's oddly goofy (their use of the Moog is excessive even by early-'70s standards). They switch gears, playing some solid free-jazz, and combine nutty '60s psychedelic freak-outs with Ornette Coleman sax spasms. You've got to give these guys props, even if you can't stand more than 30 seconds of it. 

—Aaron Carnes


Vadun, Holtwick and Stecki
Circus

Plenty of amazing punk bands didn't know how to play their instruments and still sounded great. But these guys don't know how to play their instruments and they suck ass. Circus is full of amateur indie-rock—clumsy guitar solos, beginners beats, slovenly vocals, even some stumbling surf licks ("Fast Forward"). Be forewarned, listener: The DIY dream dies at the feet of Vadun, Holtwick and Stecki.

—Peter Holslin


Andy Vereen 
2 Song Demo

Andy Vereen sounds kind of like what I imagine Sting would sound like now if he'd never gotten so obsessed with jazz—and if he suddenly started writing terrible lyrics. Take these lines: "I can't change the way the wind blows / I can't make the night's sky day / I may never know the reasons / but I have faith in providence." I feel embarrassed just typing those words. I can't tell if he's Christian, "spiritual" or just likes to write really odd love songs. Either way, please take a poetry class and check back with me in a couple years. 

—Aaron Carnes


Veronica’s Headache
Demo

Recorded live from recent rehearsals, this demo shows a group of guys in the garage making some Doors-ish jams. They need a new drummer, preferably one with better recording software. When you get past the poor sound quality and the lackluster rhythm section, this would resemble something that might have been cool many moons ago. 

—Jesse Ross


Vermz
In Search of Downers Pt. 1

If someone slipped Trent Reznor a thousand hits of acid and locked him in a bedroom with a low-budget studio setup, heíd probably end up with something like this: a fevered hellscape of creepy murmurs, distorted screams, heavy beats, sludge-bucket synths and electric-guitar squall. I'm probably the only one, but I'd be curious to hear Pt. 2. 

—Peter Holslin 


Viscous
Demo

The bass tone, simultaneously muddy and tinny, nearly made me shit my britches. Not the best way to start. They hit their stride in "Dogs of War" for a second, but the instrumental metal prowess was cut short before it reached its peak. Good musicianship is hindered by dated tones and a sour vocal delivery. Seeking Humility is some strange merger of coffeehouse cadences, adolescent epiphanies and big, muscular metal riffs. Not all mergers are great: Homer Simpson invented something called Nuts and Gum. 

—Alfred Howard 


Void Lake
Demo

Pretty close to being an "ExtraSpecialGood," the three songs on this demo were made by an engaged couple and would almost certainly appeal to anyone who likes Beach House, Lower Dens and vintage Mazzy Star. Somnolent, electro-accented ballads perfect for cuddling up on a cold night or cutting yourself in the bathtub, whichever you prefer. 

—Seth Combs


A.J. Wesolek
Endear Romance

A.J. certainly strikes me as an earnest dude. He also strikes me as a dude who's listened to a shit-ton of Death Cab for Cutie. The one-note songs here are strange derivatives of those Northwestern mopey masters, coupled with Wesolek's good-natured energy. Unfortunately, they end up reading more coffeehouse open-mic night than introverted emo jam. 

—Scott McDonald


Normandie Wilson
At the Heart of Staying in Love EP

This EP is reportedly the result of an intense breakup with a former bandmate, and Wilson digs into some deeply personal feelings on here. In spite of that, it's a pretty, laid-back, gentle listen: "You Oughta Know," this ain't. Rather, Wilson has a classic jazz-pop sensibility, adding touches of Motown and Brill Building pop. It's almost anachronistic in its aesthetic, but altogether charming. Something tells me she'll get through this one OK. 

—Jeff Terich 


Wiseleg 
3 Song Demo

This three-song EP is a simple, surprisingly pleasing batch of instrumental post-rock songs. Most new bands lack this kind of subtlety and nuance, especially when going the instrumental route. But Wiseleg play with dynamics and textures, while keeping it low-key. They don't go into weird, holy-fuck, Godspeed You! Black Emperor territory (no offence to GPY!BE); they're just solid players with some solid chops who seem like they don't need to show off just how hard they can rip. That's something I can respect. 

—Aaron Carnes


Chadd Woo
Demo

These three well-produced hip-hop tracks are all different but equally creative and very chill. "Wavy Part 2" is in instrumental, spacey beat that works well without vocals. On a bizarre-yet-impressive remix of the Wu-Tang Clan's famous "M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN," the banging beat is substituted by a weird flute you'd expect to hear in the dentist's chair. "Raunchy" is another trippy instrumental with a loop derived from guitar harmonics. San Diego rappers: Find this man and beg him to produce your next album. SC/

—Aaron Carnes


The Worst
Honey, I Shrunk My Dick!

From the opening lyrics of their first song, "And it Tastes Like ASS" ("The girl next door, she's got a big ol' butt, and that's how I like it"), it's clear The Worst are not sensitive, poetic types. In fact, they'd probably kick your ass for describing them that way. The Worst are a grungy, hard-rock band who don't give a shit whether you like them or not. Sadly, you probably won't. 

—Hutton Marshall


Youth Martyrs
Gender Roles

Listening to Youth Martyrs, I feel like the manager of Chotchkie's in Office Space, chastising Jennifer Aniston for wearing only 15 pieces of flair. On this 25-minute effort of basic blues-rock, they show no flair—no memorable melodies, no catchy hooks, hardly any bluesy attitude. It's up to them whether they want to do the bare minimum, but people can get blues-rock anywhere. 

—Peter Holslin




 
 
 
 
 
 
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