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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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

“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

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

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


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

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