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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Miguel Muniz aka San Di
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Neighbors to the North
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.