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Home / Articles / Special Issues / Local Music Issue /  Demo Review 2008
. . . .
Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008

Demo Review 2008

By Nobody

Adventure ClubDemo

This is a lyrically honest but safe group of tunes. Sparse almost to a fault, a little more help on the production end would be worth the effort on a second draft. That said, anyone who can adequately blend ’80s goth, keyboards and synths, acoustic and slide guitars over electro beats has talent. MS/adventure clubok—Jason Bow

AgaveDemo

Agave offers another take on the stoner/surfer reggae of Sublime. It seems that singing about the beach, Mexican food and partying never gets old for some people. The singer is blessed with a soulful croon, the guitar riffs are tasteful and the rhythm section is locked in. The only problem is that I’ve heard this, like, a million times before. Actually, make that a billion. www.agave band.com—Paul Saitowitz

Allied GardensAllied Gardens

A pleasant folk-rock collaboration of three local singer/songwriters—sort of a San Diego version of Crosby, Stills & Nash, except Young is regrettably absent here. The songwriting is familiar and predictable, but the occasional sweet country harmonies are surprisingly strong. The group would be well-advised to use them more often in the future. MS/alliedgardens—Ben Greenstein

Amber OjedaAmber Ojeda

Ojeda cites legendary singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday as some of her primary influences, but I’m pretty sure Holiday and Fitzgerald never threw an “a’ight” into their verses. Nah, Ojeda is more like a Mary J. Blige or one-woman En Vogue, mixing traditional jazz and soul styles with hip-hop and pop sensibilities. Luckily, she has the pipes to pull it off. MS/amberojeda—Nathan Dinsdale

Ample PrimeDemo

Ample Prime is funky, hard-rock guitars and punk speed drumming with moments of atmospheric pop calmness. In other words, this retraces the same ground that the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered back in the early ’90s. While the band does a commendable job of reviving that lost sound, there are hints among the impressive guitar-bass interplay (especially notable on “Don Juan the Sorcerer”) that this talented group has a potential uniqueness yet to be explored. MS/amplepr—Ben Greenstein

Austin JenningsRough Cuts (Demo)

If you’re going to spin yarns about unreciprocated love and (gulp) “reaching for the stars,” you need to use new threads. There’s too much sap and too many convoluted images of white horses, pink elephants and rainclouds forming little bunnies that hop away to a brighter sunny day (seriously, help me out here). Austin seems like a nice kid and a capable singer/songwriter, but with a little more vocal consistency and a lot more lyrical acuity, he’ll be much closer to the stars he so earnestly seeks. MS/austinjenningsmusic—Nathan Dinsdale

AvitiaOceanside Boulevard

You remember Journey, right? Well, they’re back. Only this time they’re from Oceanside and call themselves Avitia. Hold on. Now they’re rapping (badly) about drive-bys in Vegas. Wait. Now we have huge riffs, falsetto harmonies and overinflated egos. Did I just hear a fake New York accent? Ah, what the hell, we’ll throw in a balls-out Pennywise-esque cover of “Fortunate Son” for good measure. Then we’ll bill our live “experience” as the “biggest spectacle this side of Pink Floyd.” Huh? Clearly, this band has no idea who it wants to be. MS/avitia—Michael Levy

BigBate ProductionsDemo

This “EP” consists of someone saying, “So, you gonna embark on the expedition with us, huh? Well, first you’re going to need some of this,” followed by someone toking a bong for an obscenely long time, followed by 16 minutes of dead air. That’s it. Either A) something’s wrong with the disc, B) somebody was too high to hit “record” or C) this is some really experimental hip-hop. But I caught a couple BBP tracks on MySpace and I think I might prefer the album as is. MS/bigbateproductions—Nathan Dinsdale

The Big Time Mega ShowDemo

This collaboration between Josh “Mega” Damigo and Rob “Big Time” Deez may be a half-serious (or one-third-serious) side project, but their two-song (“Sugar” and “Cougar”) demo of acoustic rap is just as likeable as a “joke” as it is when Jason Mraz does the same thing for real. MS/thebigtime megashow—Nathan Dinsdale

billEnd of the Hits

This is a bouncy jazz-pop band that’s more Billy Joel than Steely Dan but with enough individuality to make these songs their own. The group’s hook-writing ability is stretched a little thin across this 10-song CD, but the first-rate musicianship and production ensures that it never sounds amateurish. If anything, it’s a bit too polished, with any rock edges having been carefully sanded away. MS/bill—Ben Greenstein

Blackbird JazztetBlackbird Jazztet

Blackbird Jazztet vocalist Katie Catinella’s voice is silky enough to slide in and around the music as if it were just another instrument as she delivers her high-register, soulful croon with effortless flare. If anything, her imperfection is that she sounds a little too perfectly polished. Nevertheless, Blackbird Jazztet belongs in the smoky clubs of the world where the whiskey—and the jazz—goes down smooth. MS/blackbirdjazztet—Paul Saitowitz

Blue Dolphin AllianceSpirit of the Islands

A collection of muzak-inspired techno, god-awful alternative rock and holier-than-thou spoken word, all overlapped with annoying dolphin and whale noises, this CD was produced by Jeff Bloom (who played bass in forgotten-for-a-reason ’80s rockers Army of Love). This music may or may not be good for a rave under the sea, Free Willy 4 or a Greenpeace expedition, but it just made me want to club a baby seal. www.jeffbloom music.com —Seth Combs

BriegadeDemo

Why do Christian metal bands feel compelled to veil their references to God? Just come out with it already. Forget song titles like “Shelter Me” or “Alone in a Crowd” and just call the songs “I’ve Got a Motherfucking Boner for Christ” or “God is My Homeboy, and Here are My Metal Chops to Prove It”? This would serve the dual purpose of cutting straight to the cash cow of Christian metal fans while also keeping people like me from accidentally listening to something that would otherwise go straight in the garbage. MS/briegademusic—Michael Levy

CookooDemo

Cookoo is a member of local rap quartet South Psycho Cide, which refuses to concede that Westside Connection was the end of SoCal gangsta rap. Fortunately, his solo stuff drops more humor and old-school flavor, especially on bonus tracks where Cookoo stretches his lyrical muscles. The beats add an extra dimension, but there’s still room to integrate and really kick things up a notch. MS/cookoospc—Lucas O’Connor

Current FlowSupersensational Breeds

This is a li’l one-song rap demo from an MC calling himself Current Flow. Favorite line: “Split personalities they call them all collateral and visions have been causing contunage in the brainage.” Huh? Now that’s some quality weirdness. The beat sounds like it may have been lifted from one golden rap oldie or another, but I ain’t calling the fuzz. Chalk it up to contunage in the brainage. MS/currentflow—Dryw Keltz

Dave HumphriesAnd So It Goes…

Dave Humphries is a massive Beatles fan. How do I know this? Well, this album is Fab Four-friendly to an almost copyright-infringement degree, which is, of course, both a blessing and a curse. If you’re someone who listens to nothing but The Beatles and bands that sound like them, you’ll probably dig this. But if the actual Beatles are the only Beatles you require, you’ll probably just thrown on Abbey Road instead. MS/davehumphriesmusic—Dryw Keltz

David Borgo, Gunnar Biggs & Duncan MooreInitial Conditions

Maybe I’m plugged into the wrong scene, but there seems to be a lot of highly talented jazz musicians in San Diego. Among them is this trio, which delicately toes the line between structured compositions and free-form improvisations. www.davidborgo.com —Dave Tow

Dawn MitscheleTown of Trees EP

The Joni Mitchells and Feists of the world make it by cleverly balancing introspective writing with a pop sensibility. The ones that don’t might as well be resigned to the fact that they’re just another girl-with-a-guitar and a notebook full of languid lyrics and superfluous soliloquies. Mitschele has an every-other-singer voice that I suspect might be better suited for an alt-country sound. Instead, she sounds like a folkie at the bonfire with nothing really new to say. Besides, it’s a sound that (apparently unbeknownst to her) already over-saturates San Diego. MS/dawnmitschele—Seth Combs

DeadonsevenDemo

I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy, but it’s definitely dirty. Likewise, I wouldn’t say Deadonseven is quite dead-on with its gritty indie rock, but it’s close enough to the mark to at least pass the initial whiff test. I have mixed feelings about the vocals, but songs like “Yesterday” and “Say” have some personality. And, like the man said, personality goes a long way. MS/deadonseven—Nathan Dinsdale

Dead Serial KillersKill Everybody

The plan of attack for Dead Serial Killers seems to be to kill everybody with pounding drum rolls, shredding guitars and Cookie Monster-on-a-whiskey-binge vocals, all at a speed so manically insane as to cause the listener to actually bang his (or her) head straight off his (or her) torso. Not a bad plan, actually. MS/deadserialkillers—Dryw Keltz

DelanceyThe Real Thing Can Be A Bad Idea

Since when did The Barenaked Ladies get a female vocalist? Oh, wait. Sorry, this must be the B-sides album for the Ally McBeal soundtrack. What? Wrong again? Oh, I see—it’s Delancey’s new (aptly titled) album, featuring wholly mediocre, spoon-fed, adult-contemporary music for the masses. Plus, a U2 cover that no one really needs to hear, a Beatles cover that isn’t quite as hideous as the U2 travesty and no less than 23 lackluster minutes of original Delancey music. MS/delancey—Justin Roberts

Derek EvansTelephone

Evans sounds like the proverbial guy locked in his room with a guitar and a four-track recorder, only he’s figured out a way to layer his tracks with enough keyboard flourishes, sound effects and drum machines to make the songs interesting. The formula worked for Beck, and it’s working for Evans. His songs still need a bit more variation and his melodies could use some buoyancy, but this dude has potential. MS/derekevansmusic —Paul Saitowitz

Desert DiamondsDesert Diamonds

Technically solid boogie/cock rock from four guys who look like they walked off the set of Dazed and Confused. These dudes sound like they would do better in Texas than California, but, if I were in a seedy, dim-lit bar drinking tequila and Tecate all night, I’d stick around to hear them play. Think ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ’70s FM radio and you’ve got a good grasp on their sound. They also seem to like Thin Lizzy a lot, which is always a plus in my book. MS/desertdia monds —Todd Kroviak

The Devastators Better Days

The best reggae acts usually stick to the basics—slow, steady roots rhythms, lots of echo and lyrics about political uprisings and sultry women. The Devastators understand this and, coupled with their superb musicianship, Better Days is about as good as slick, modern reggae can get. The dub tracks that close the album offer melodica that recalls the ghostly, syrupy sounds of Augustus Pablo, perfect for long summer nights filled with the aroma of kind bud. MS/thedev astators—Todd Kroviak

The Distinguishing MarksDead Flowers Bloom

Sounds more like a skid mark (and not the kind you see on the road). I’d say it sounds like a mentally challenged person channeling Captain Beefheart without the Magic Band, but that would be an insult to the mentally challenged. On the bright side, you can listen to this CD if you need reassurance that your own music isn’t that bad.—Seth Combs

DogsmileDemo

A perfect band—heavy bass, blues guitar, reggae time signature jams—to black-out to at a UCSD keg party. Who’s got the herb? MS/dogsmile—Jason Bow

The DrabsDemo

The Drabs are aiming pretty high by trying to channel Lou Reed and Monster-era R.E.M., but their effort is loose and sometimes lazy, which just leaves me pining for the original. I probably shouldn’t be humming “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” after listening to this. Then again, as something to do on the weekend, why not?  MS/thedrabs—Lucas O’Connor

DropjoyDemo

Alt-rock with a blues bent. Simple and straightforward with very few turns in the road. This demo is cut from a live performance, which ups the ante a bit, but even though the crowd is somewhat subdued, this is one of those live recordings that actually make you wish you were there. MS/dropjoymusic.—Jim Ruland

The Drowning MenKill the Matador EP

The cover art for this EP—a drawing of a bull with the cuts of meat portioned off—had me expecting something a bit sharper than what I got. Kill the Matador sounds like an Arcade Fire/Killers hybrid, including one song that could be a Gogol Bordello outtake. It’s not poorly done, but it also doesn’t stick out from the 10 million other bands out there who cop a similar style. If The Drowning Men stay with the Gogol-style shanty-punk instead of boring pseudo indie rock, they might be better off. MS/drowning men —Todd Kroviak

Eclipse 79 Fighting For Air EP

According to the write-up that came along with this disc, Eclipse 79 wants to successfully “build” on the work of Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Muse in order to create “something meaningful.” OK, so “Walls” may have a Radiohead “moment,” but that’s only if “moment” is a euphemism for “rip-off.” Otherwise, the vocals are mostly off-key, and the band uses distortion and echo effects as substitutes for song dynamics. Here’s a suggestion—don’t send out “press releases” with your “demos.” MS/eclipse79music  —Todd Kroviak

Emery ByrdMrs. Young Versus The Modern Ones

You can’t ignore an opening line like “Well, I don’t give a fuck about The Sex Pistols.” Incredulity turns to realization that they’re making fun of hipster posturing over a driving, tongue-in-cheek singalong. Piano, organs and strings are added to the mix this time around, but the band’s typical swagger, stompers, rocking character studies and sparkling Velvets-meet-Oasis blend remains. MS/emerybyrd—Adam Gimbel

FeversleevesDemo

I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like mathed-up D.C. hardcore because it takes me back to the Inner Ear Studios days. As such, I’m a sucker for where Feversleeves is trying to take this demo. But until they can ramp up the production, the live show is likely the way to go. MS/feversleeves—Lucas O’Connor

FkenalIn Media Res (Demo)

Bands can use a singer’s words, voice and sometimes even looks to compensate for the vapidity of the music. With hardly a riff wasted or an arbitrary drumbeat in sight, Fkenal (pronounced fee-kuh-nal) play post-prog instrumental rock complete with Air-inspired atmospherics (“Fragmentary Scansion”) and Flamenco guitar bridges (“In Media Res”). And like local contemporaries Sleeping People, this makes them as lively and inspired as any singer in the scene. Now, about that name…. MS/fkenal—Seth Combs

The FlimzThe Flimz

The Flimz make polite and inoffensive tunes for 40-year-old women to listen to while sipping $6 lattés and complaining about their husbands. Although singers Amy and Annie harmonize well and the composition is professional, I can’t help but cringe at the smooth saxophone solos and soothing, childlike melodies. On the other hand, my mom would probably dig it. She likes lattés, too. MS/theflimzmusic—Todd Kroviak

FOX JapanHell

Comparing your vocals to Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus (as FOX Japan does in its bio) is a risky venture. Nonetheless, the group’s seasoned musicianship is instantly apparent. They play with a determination and urgency reminiscent of their early ’90s alt-rock predecessors. A tad predictable with a tendency to lull at times, this is still better than two-thirds of what’s out there. MS/foxjapanband—Jason Bow

Freesinger and SonsFreesinger and Sons

I’m not exactly sure when these tracks were recorded, considering the subject matter is a bit dated (apartheid, Sandinistas, Jimmy Swaggart?), but, as Lester Bangs never said but should have, “bad music is timeless.” With a “voice” that’s as annoying as Jello Biafra with a clothespin on his nose, Freesinger’s rants sound like a Frank Zappa or Mojo Nixon tirade sans the killer guitar solos or clever, Southern-drawled witticisms. Mostly it just resembles some guy at a poetry slam whose bizarre sex stories (“Condom Blues”) aren’t profound, just creepy.—Seth Combs

The Funky KicksDemo

The Funky Kicks really love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There isn’t much more that needs to be said. MS/the funkykicks —Paul Saitowitz

*f.u.z.z.Group Mind

Just when I thought the whole trip-hop sound had been done to death by unimaginative Portishead clones, along comes one with enough good ideas to prove me wrong. There’s much to like here—the funky rhythm section, the unpredictable and sultry vocals, the unlikely flirtations with ’70s guitar rock and droning space music. Overall, refreshingly rich and charmingly lo-fi. MS/fuzzunder ground—Ben Greenstein

Gerry Wasson & Before NineDemo

Gerry Wasson knows a thing or two about how to rock and how to slow things down. He does both here, jumping from chilled-out ’70s psychedelic rock into ’50s R&B. This could be a great soundtrack for drinking whiskey in a dirty bar, except a lot of the material ends up working much better in concept than in practice.—Lucas O’Connor

The Gore-GonsNorvus Breakdown

I really, really can’t stand The Cramps. So thank God the Gore-Gons are willing to think outside the psychobilly box. Sleazy rockabilly runs through “Dolphin with Rabies,” but vocalist Jello Lugosi is more Lou Reed and Jello Biafra than Lux Interior. The band even shows some touches of new wave on “Hey Weirdo.” The further they head in that direction, the better. MS/thegoregons—Cullen Hendrix

Grandfather Dad Sometimes I Dream

Grandfather Dad sounds like the creation of a couple of buddies who got stoned all summer in a small P.B. apartment filled with keyboards and computer equipment. Everything about the music, lyrics and packaging has an inside-joke feel, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable listen, with “Brontosaurus Rock” and “The Streets of Rage” suggesting silly, childish versions of songs by key-gazers M83 and Ulrich Schnauss. MS/summerfuncollective—Todd Kroviak

The High GalleryDemo

Bass player/sideburn farmer extraordinaire Mark Wiskowski leaves The Swedish Models to start recording his own acoustic singer-songwriter ditties. Ya know, mirroring the progression of Mark Wahlberg’s character in that legendary film, Rock Star. On the sideburn scale, these two new songs get 4 inches out of a possible 5 because they’re good, but baby needs more than just a taste. MS/thehighgallery—Dryw Keltz

High TidePlay Me Reggae

I know this guy Scott who used to always put on monotonous reggae every time we smoked. I’d get bored after five minutes and go play video games. When I get high, I want my mind blown. I don’t want to hear the same rehashed white-boy reggae that bands like 311 have been putting out since the early ‘90s. If that’s your thing, then you and Scott should get together and throw on some High Tide. MS/hightide—Michael Levy

Hotel St. GeorgeDemo

Hotel St. George is the most rocking French-pop/big-beat/thrash band I’ve ever heard and, let me tell you, I’ve heard a ton of those bands. Featuring Vinyl Radio ex-vocalist Matt B, Hotel St. George is less the garage-blues rock of that outfit and more a streamlined FM-radio juggernaut. “Swirling Thoughts” is especially impressive. MS/hotelstgeorge—Dryw Keltz

Hugh Gaskins & The G String DaddiesBig Legged Woman

Of all the rockabilly blues bands playing in all the whiskey joints in all the towns in all the world, I had to walk into this one. Hugh and his G Strings get credit for adding quirk to Cash covers like “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” but it’s hard not to laugh at originals like “Panties on the Dash” and “Prelude to Panties.” MS/gstringdaddies—Nathan Dinsdale

Ishmael the PeacemakerGracious Gorilla

Late ’60s Kingston reggae has become the Civil War of contemporary music: historic, undoubtedly significant and continuously celebrated through slavish reenactment. Ishmael the Peacemaker is a fine band, showing musical range on ballads like “URI’M,” but impresses more for its craft than creativity. MS/ishmaelthepeace maker —Cullen Hendrix

Israel MaldonadoGrateful

Grateful is Tex-Mex guitar pop with enough tasteful Roy Hargrove-esque horn flourishes and accomplished percussion to keep me from hitting the “eject” button out of fight-or-flight reflex. How can something so well put-together be so uninspiring? This will appeal to fans of Los Lonely Boys and Carlos Santana’s dickless, late-’90s meanderings. MS/israelmaldonado music—Cullen Hendrix

Jane LuiBarkentine Demo

Amazingly sexy. On “Firefly,” the combination of Lui’s sultry, candlelit vocals with simple guitar melodies and seductive, minor keys creates music that dreams of one day opening for Rufus Wainwright or Tori Amos. Singing alongside a piano, xylophone, harpsichord and sampled strings, Lui tells us stories using her breathy, porcelain voice that sound even better when accompanied with a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other. MS/janeshands —Justin Roberts

Jason RobinsonFingerprint

The saxophone is my nemesis, so tenor saxophonist Jason Robinson got an ugly draw as far as potential reviewers go. But the kid can play, and the crew he’s rounded up for this disc could probably put 95 percent of local musicians to shame. To me, it’s just jazzy razzmatazz jazzamatazz, but if you’re a disciple of the sexy, sax-driven bee-bop-de-de-de-loo-bop-bee sound, you’re sure to love this.—Dryw Keltz

Jason WeedDemo

Guy with an acoustic guitar decides to record three songs with off-key vocals, mediocre lyrics and average ax handling. He might have some potential, but not much that can be gleaned from this demo.—Paul Saitowitz

Jenn GrinelsLittle Words

Grinels specializes in the kind of slightly afflicted, soulful acoustic rock typified by thousands of singer/songwriters in hundreds of towns and cities across the country. The only difference is that her voice is truly phenomenal, even if the songwriting isn’t quite as outstanding. Anyone looking for San Diego’s second coming of Jewel would do well to pick up Little Words. Not my sort of thing, but very good for what it is. MS/jenn grinels —Todd Kroviak

Josh DamigoPocket Change EP

Damigo is better than your average coffeehouse crooner, but he needs to borrow some levity from his light-hearted side project (The Big Time Mega Show) in order to make his tales about women (pining for, getting spurned by, thinking about, etc.) resonate. The best songs (“Pocket Change,” “Goodbye”) have subtle quirks that make them memorable; the rest are simply a dime a dozen. MS/joshdamigo—Nathan Dinsdale

Josiah HawkDo It Yourself Demo

Josiah Hawk lays down ’70s stoner rock—over a drum machine. The first track, an annoying anti-war rant, goes on for more than five minutes. The second, “The Reincarnation of Frida Kahlo,” sounds a lot more interesting than it is while clocking in at 7:04. It’s a bad sign when your shortest song is a cover of “White Rabbit.” It’s a worse sign when someone is counting the seconds until your songs are over. MS/josiahhawk—Jim Ruland

Joyce RooksThe Tingler EP

Take note, cello fans (I know you’re out there). Joyce Rooks—who’s worked with David J of Bauhaus and The Black Heart Procession, among others—lays down some gorgeous wand work over electronic beats for an EP that shows she has an ear for fusing both classical and future sounds. MS/joycerooks—Michael Levy

Kelley Winston LeeDemo

Both songs on this demo have a 2007 copyright but the first track (“Slack”) sounds like it was recorded years ago, in Lee’s musical infancy, given its ultra lo-fi sound quality, layered vocals and mostly indiscernible lyrics. The second, more energetic track, “Mya,” shows significant improvement in Lee as an artist with music you can actually tolerate listening to more than once—maybe even three or four times. MS/kelleywinstonlee—Justin Roberts

Knoboff2007 EP

And now, direct from Dream Street, the most derivative metal band ever! One minute they channel Alice in Chains (“Mary”), the next, Slayer (“Immortal Man”), and both done badly. The riffage sounds lifted from every other ax-man that’s walked the earth. And the lyrics, if you can get over singer Eddi’s whiney growl long enough to analyze them, could be confused with some skinny emo guy’s cries for help. To paraphrase, there’s no crying in metal. P.S. I saw these guys on MySpace and I wrote this despite the fact that I believe they could totally kick my ass. MS/knoboffband—Seth Combs

Lauren DeRoseBroken, Sweet

With equal parts acoustic ditties and riot-grrrl rock, Lauren DeRose’s debut often sounds like Joan Jett, Ani DiFranco, Kelly Clarkson and Corin Tucker are having a battle of the bands in her head. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, even if it’s a little scattered and not always pleasant. Avril Lavigne would kill for the pleasant pop-rock of “A Miracle Design for Inducing Failure,” and songs like the gorgeous “Me & My Earthquake” reveal a pop-rock diva in the making. Or at least the next Linda Perry. MS/laurenderose—Seth Combs

Making ButterfliesDemo

The three-chord pop song is a formula that apparently transcends the language barrier since these 14 songs feature both English and Spanish lyrics delivered by a soft-spoken guy/girl combo. But, although there are a few good hooks, it’s still a little early for these pre-metamorphosis butterflies to leave the garage. —Richie Lauridsen

Manifest DestinyDemo

By fusing elements of punk, folk, hip-hop and world music, Manifest Destiny sprints through a 19th-century history lesson in four songs. Pinning their humor on their prospector sleeves, Jed, Avery and Wilbur Smith (dope pseudonyms, boys) achieve biting satire and charming wit with their “settler rock” songs about heading out West, staking claims, stealing land and searching for gold. Eureka! I think they’ve found it. MS/man ifestdestiny1800—Michael Levy

Marcos Hernandes and Bill HoristJerks and Creeps

It’s important for artistic visionaries to challenge established norms and tap into transcendent truths. When great musicians do that, it elicits beautiful, emotional reactions and sparks wonderful new ideas. But when it sounds like two dudes mixed faux-Jonny Greenwood after-tape with some shitty feedback and guitar twiddling, then it just sounds like “look how artistic I am” ego-stroking. MS/marcosrhernandes—Dave Tow

The MaterialTomorrow

If you watch MTV2 or listen to the radio or at least know someone who does either, you might already know The Material. They’ve perfected a formula that distills the more interesting parts of Evanescence and Yellowcard into radio hooks that’ll get attention. Now they just need to work on finding their own voice. MS/thematerial—Lucas O’Connor

Matthew Walker Projectdemo 3.0

Two decent and listenable blues-infused tracks—one with distorted guitar and simple rock percussion that recalls The White Stripes and another with intense guitar and vocals that, unfortunately, lack any passion or personality. Mr. Walker then tops things off with a dollop of Jimi Hendrix and a dash of Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars. MS/mwpmusic—Justin Roberts

Miles HarrisonDemo

Track 1, which appears to be called “Batter Dog,” is a passable Cramps imitation with demented rockabilly riffs and amusingly psychotic vocals. Track 2, the title of which is indecipherable, is a completely non-passable Cramps imitation ruined by an out-of-place Doors organ and what may be the least listenable guitar tone in rock history.—Ben Greenstein

Mister and Misses Tribute to UglinessDemo

Yelling expletives over farty bass and chintzy keyboards that sound like they were played by my 7-year-old niece does not make you “art-punk.” It just makes my ears want to vomit. Plus, the Locust-aping song titles (like “My Nervous System is Nervous Again” and “I Cream, You Scream”) are so three years ago. Oh wait, this was recorded in 2005? Wow—2005 must’ve sucked more than I remember. MS/mrandmrstributetougliness—Todd Kroviak

The Modlins With Friends Like These

The Modlins describe themselves as being an “oldies influenced indie-pop band” which is apparently 2008 code for “power-pop.” Perhaps a mellower version of early Weezer or Fountains of Wayne would be a more appropriate description. The songs are bouncy with a definite ’50s-rock influence, but they bring enough originality to the table to avoid sounding completely retro-derivative. Overall, kinda predictable. But if the perfectly structured three-minute pop song is what floats your boat, The Modlins make an adequate river, ocean or stream. MS/themodlins—Dryw Keltz

The Napoleon ComplexHow Does Salt Water Mix With Tea?

The Napoleon Complex delivers few surprises and many clichés ranging from disaffected adolescent lyrics to squealing walls of guitar. The melodies ring flat, the songs have little—if any—direction and the arrangements are contrite, repetitive and downright boring. Which means TNC will probably be selling out shows at SOMA within a year. MS/thenapoleoncomplex—Michael Levy

Nathan HubbardBlind OrchidHubbard uses homemade instruments and multiple percussion sources to create what I can only describe as the sound your brain makes after doing a whippet of nitrous oxide. That’s not a good thing. Electronica that resembles Richard D. James at his most self-indulgent (“Wisdom of Not Knowing II”) or a cassette player eating an Akira Kurosawa soundtrack, it’s further proof that just because you build it doesn’t mean they’re gonna come. MS/firecliffs—Seth Combs

Neil MacPhersonSolace

There’s only so much that can be said about an instrumental piano album. I could fake it and talk about the “lush soundscapes” and “haunting melodies” conjured by Neil the pianist, but really all I’m thinking is that it sounds, uh, pretty, I guess. Not as entertaining as my wife’s piano renditions of Guns N’ Roses songs (she does a killer “November Rain”) but still, um, nice. MS/neil atthepiano—Nathan Dinsdale

New DayzeDemo

Mid-tempo soul like this isn’t gonna shake many asses in North Park, but I bet it goes over like auditory Cialis for the mid-40s set. The songs are meandering but well played, and vocalist 2B1’s soulful growl leaves little doubt as to what’s on his mind. Unlike Louis XIV’s catalog, these are songs about fucking that someone might actually want to fuck to. MS/newdayze—Cullen Hendrix

New Electron SymphonyArtifact EP

If you wander off the grid in a video game, these are the sounds you’ll find out (in?) there. The objective isn’t to inspire listeners to shake their booties on the dance floor, but to convince them, in the best possible way, that they ought to be hiding out in their bedrooms with sound-cancelling headphones, forgetting what day of the week it is. Innovative and arresting from start to finish. —Jim Ruland

NihilistDemo

This two-song banger disappointingly has nothing to do with ferrets, black turtlenecks or Jeffrey Lebowski. But the blistering guitars, high-register screams and heavy helpings of double kick drums should appease anyone who just wants to get wasted and mosh. MS/nihilist metalcom  —Scott McDonald

numskulDemo

It’s hard to believe that this barely-old-enough-to-vote La Mesa alt-rock trio has already been making music together for eight years. With solid vocals, crisp guitar, clean bass lines, advanced rhythmic techniques and surprisingly mature lyrics—especially given their youth—numskul appears poised for a well-deserved rise to fame. MS/numskul—Justin Roberts

OakhurstDemo

It’s possible that this is yet another Sublime clone, judging from a few jerky reggae guitar parts, but the incompetent rhythm section makes it difficult to tell. The last three tracks of this four-song EP aren’t all that offensive (as far as forgettable guitar solos and acoustic throwaways go), but the opening cover of the Box Tops classic “The Letter” is downright unlistenable. That is, unless you’re in the mood for a quick laugh.—Ben Greenstein

The OnesCinematic Rape

Cinematic Rape came with two discs packaged in an old press kit for Mike Nichols’ film Closer, which also happens to be the most interesting thing about it. Actually, I’ve taken dumps more interesting than this. There’s no real music on either disc, just some guy speaking over muffled sound collages, several of which are made up of dialogue from old movies. The next time The Ones want to disguise their film-school project as a demo, they should title it Aural Rape so I know what I’m getting myself into.—Todd Kroviak

Oscar AragónVida

Aragón can certainly play his guitar, and when he does, things are fine. It’s the neutering addition of smooth jazz instrumentation that renders this perfect music for a Baja dental visit or a long wait for a table in Old Town. MS/oscararagon—Scott McDonald

Parker EdisonCherry Thick

Parker Edison seems a bit confused about which direction he wants to go. And if he’s not, then I am. His EP Cherry Thick isn’t gonna fly with the college-educated hip-hop brainiacs that pick apart each nanosecond or the hard, gold-spoke ridin’ mobsters with the mean muggin’ music pumping from their whoo-rides. The track “Good Morning America” sounds Madlib-esque with a strong vocal delivery style. Stick with this format, Edison, and I think you’ve found your audience. MS/6inchman—Jason Bow

Patrick YandallLaws of Gravity

“Perfect for smooth jazz radio” is what the album insert proclaims and, by all reasonable barometers, it is. But it also serves as a plea for leniency and understanding on the part of musicians’ parents because this is what happens when guitarists don’t experiment with drugs. www.patrickyandall.com—Scott McDonald

Pick-Up GirlPick-Up Girl EP

PUG tries to tap the fem-rock veins of Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair but misses the mark with vocals that sound more like my friend Julie singing karaoke. Julie, bless her, isn’t a singer. Even after tequila shots. And while there’s a revelatory bitterness to the lyrics—somebody screwed these chicks over something major—they’re ultimately lost in a monotonic musical delivery that makes tracks like “Kill Me Today” seem more like an open invitation than a heart-wrenching confessional. MS/pickupgirl—Nathan Dinsdale

Pink SteelPink Steel EP

Welcome to 2008, guys! The lo-fi garage-rock revolution peaked in 1967 and again in 2002. Sooooooo, maybe try again in another 35 years. Until then, the only people listening to this are the neighbors, and they’re calling the cops.—Seth Combs

The Playground SlapThe Playground Slap, The Mayestik Unicorn, Disco Nausea

TPS felt compelled to send three different albums that, all told, contain material that spans 25 years. Thanks, dicks. The band did take a couple decades off in there somewhere but, considering I was in diapers when TPS first formed, I’m not going to sum up their entire catalog in a couple sentences. What I can say—judging by the most recent material (The Playground Slap)—is that these old bastards are more daring (and capable) with their quirky, catchy funk-rock creations than most bands 30 years their junior. MS/playgroundslap—Nathan Dinsdale

Pleasure DeviceA Demo in 6 Parts

This six-song sampler from Pleasure Device is quite the pleasant surprise, especially the first track, “Before You,” which juggles electro-pop, Air-style verses against some ferocious, fuzzed-out choruses. There’s lots of nice weirdness (spacey sound abounds) filling up empty nooks and occasional crannies in these tracks as well. Sort of shoegazer, sort of rockin’, sort of spacey electronic and all as catchy as an STD from the get-go.   —Dryw Keltz

Rene MinniefeeCowboy

Is it the impossibly clichéd lyrics or the corniest synth tones this side of the Seinfeld theme? Dissecting and analyzing Cowboy will fail to capture its true awfulness. This stuff makes Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” seem like Gram Parsons. If you think I’m being overly harsh, you either haven’t heard the record or your name is Rene Minniefee. MS/conversations1 —Cullen Hendrix

Rick Helzer and John StowellFriendship and Remembrance

Other than weekend NPR intellectuals (myself included) and the snobbery of the symphony orchestra crowd, no one really takes classical and jazz music seriously. I say, good on Rick Helzer and John Stowell for saying, “Who cares if it’s popular; we like doing it.” I guarantee these guys are better musicians and are way more rad than that band full of guys with dyed black hair you saw last night. www.cir cumventionmusic.com—Dave Tow

Roots CovenantRoots Covenant

Few reggae artists survived past the ’70s without new recording trends and technology dramatically affecting their sound. The few that did (Steel Pulse and Mikey Dread come to mind) prove to be heavy influences on Roots Covenant. Sprinkles of dub and heavy echo offer some spice for these roots purists. This record would probably excite O.B. and P.B. reggae fans as much as Jamaican artists like Burning Spear or Joseph Hill. Not bad, not bad at all. MS/rootscovenant —Richie Lauridsen

Sciuto Rhythm & Beat CompanyDemo

I need some help here, please. This duo may quite possibly be producing the most ridiculous music I’ve heard. And they seem dead serious about it, gladly embracing Miami Sound Machine keyboards (is that GarageBand?), cheesed-out guitars and lyrics so awful they make Jack Johnson look like Wordsworth. I honestly wonder, are they serious? Are they going to look back in 15 years and wonder, “What were we doing?” Or is this a joke far more ironic than I can handle? MS/sciuto rhythmandbeatcompany—Dave Tow

Secret ApolloHomemade Time Machine

Secret Apollo’s playful arrangements certainly present them as likable folks, and I’m tempted to give them a good review on those grounds. Unfortunately, their album is not so good. The goal is Pixies-esque indie rock, but the irritatingly quirky and perky lyrics bring more to mind They Might Be Giants in their worn-out recent years. All of this could be forgiven if the lead singer did not have an annoying Muppet voice but, alas, he does. MS/secretapollo—Ben Greenstein

Seth Presents: The ReverieThe Reverie

This is pop music that leaves you with a toothache. Not straying at all from the radio-friendly formula, these songs sound like the product of an orgy between Sheryl Crow, Darius Rucker and Adam Duritz. Covering gag-inducing topics like “summertime,” “making love” and “singing under the stars,” singer Seth Torma’s repetitive lyrics leave you longing for a bottle of cheap whiskey and a high colonic. The Reverie is 26.4 minutes of your life you will never get back. MS/thereveriemusic—Justin Roberts

The Shaggin WagonDemo

Another soldier in the endless army of Sublime clones. This hand-labeled demo has only two songs—one passable pop-reggae jam and the other a supposedly “Mexican-sounding” novelty track, which sounds like a Casio keyboard’s pre-recorded “salsa” beat with some shouting in Spanish dubbed on top. MS/shagginwagon—Ben Greenstein

Sliver Demo

Every once in a while, you listen to a demo that makes everything worthwhile, a diamond in the rough that makes writing about music more than just an exercise in ad hominem punditry. This is not that demo. Sliver is essentially uninteresting techno that would probably do well in Europe, with one exception being the track that features (cough) top-notch rhymes from one MC Floss Boss. Try this actual lyric on for size: “I don’t give a fuck if you roll here on 20s/I just came here to drink with some ho’s I can spank.” Read it again if the brilliance didn’t quite sink in the first time. I’ll wait. MS/baldhousemusic—Michael Levy

StarcrossedWaves

Instrumentally, this group does a decent job of mimicking presumptive heroes like The Cure and The Jesus & Mary Chain. Unfortunately, only a few tracks are instrumental. The rest feature weak vocals and even weaker lyrics, applied to the most forgettable of melodies. Sad, really, considering all the time and effort that went into the layered background and in finding their supporting guitarist, whose name, according to the liner notes, is “Robert Smith.” MS/starcrossedrock—Ben Greenstein

Steel FoundationDemo

This self-proclaimed “reggae party band” plays a set of mostly Bob Marley covers pretty convincingly. I’m sure beachside bar owners are pumped, but the next time I’m in the mood for Marley, I’ll probably just go with Bob. MS/steelfounda tionreggae—Richie Lauridsen

StolenDrop That Apple

It’s a relief that Stolen can play their instruments, since it seems that a majority of bands barely can. In fact, they’re quite talented musicians. It’s just a shame that it sounds so much like everything else on the radio with equal parts hard-rock band from the Midwest, trashy rock ’n’ roll from L.A. and typically vague San Diego “tough guy” rock. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s Christian rock. Uhhh. MS/Stolen—Dave Tow

The Stranger’s SixA Date With Daylight

Sunset Strip glam rock never gets old, does it? A half-committed, generic attempt at what Queens of the Stone Age do well. Passable production, crunchy guitars and a driving beat will undoubtedly bring a few people on board, however. I can picture a few EMI fat cats getting really excited about these guys. Cash in while you can, boys! MS/thestrangerssix—Jason Bow

SwarmiusSwarmius

A wildly experimental record, crossing Astor Piazzolla-style tangos with avant-garde electronics. In theory, this is complex and interesting music. And it would certainly deliver if not for two big stumbling blocks. First, the dated computer effects often sound cheap and comical in such classy company. Second, the musicians unfortunately subscribe to the “longer is better” theory. Each song is more than 10 minutes long, with the second halves of those songs adding nothing that hasn’t already been said. MS/swarmius—Ben Greenstein

Terry MatsuokaTotally Rad

Matsuoka is obviously trying to make some San Diego shout-outs with song titles like “El Cajon” and “Black Mountain Road.” He can be charming in small doses, but his Brad Nowell-ish vocals and flat acoustic guitar recall Sublime and Jack Johnson in equal measures, which isn’t exactly what Southern California needs more of. I know it’s hard to be edgy when it’s 75 degrees and sunny every day, but let’s try to change it up a little, huh? MS/terrymatsuoka—Todd Kroviak

Tom Cusimano & The RidersOvernight Success

There are a lot of people in the world who love this sort of country-tinged Jackson Browne stuff.  I’ve never met any of them and I hope I never do, but the skill exhibited by all the players here is undeniable. So at least this is well-executed music that I’ll never listen to again. MS/theriders—Lucas O’Connor

The Tornado MagnetsDouble Wide Demo

Larry the Cable Guy and The Minutemen take a break from shooting beer cans long enough to perform mediocre country songs about rednecks with guns, rednecks with broken hearts and rednecks having misadventures in old Mex-ee-co. Not only does this EP include a song about “sum good ol’ boys fishun on the lake,” it includes a remix of that song. MS/thetornadomagnets—Nathan Dinsdale

Trophy WifeRose-Scented Cuddle Moments

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying local album this year than Trophy Wife’s second disc since forming in 2001. And while most of the time they reserve their country-rock sound for more comedic subject matter (fishing shows, stripper love), singer Joel MacAskill luckily pulls his tongue out of his cheek for Replacements-inspired burners (“Grudge”) and tender cowboy laments (“Acting Like a Jerk”). Welcome back, guys! MS/trophywifemusic—Seth Combs

Tropical DepressionThe Hot Crime Broadcast EP

Shows some promise, at least as much as can be shown by an emo-indie-esque Cure clone. The songwriting is almost irritatingly repetitive, but a few tracks showcase some sonically pleasant electronic tones and the lead singer could have a promising future in an Echo and the Bunnymen cover band, once his voice drops. MS/tropicaldepression—Ben Greenstein

The Turtle ProjectThe Turtle Project

The Turtle Project tosses vaudeville, pop and jazz in a blender set on “liquefy.” The result, as on “Magic Eight Ball,” is smooth yet a musical concoction that comes close to what a collaboration between Steely Dan and Transfer might sound like. This will appeal to professors who still buy pot and anyone searching for a little more musical weight than standard singer/songwriter fare has to offer. MS/jturtle—Cullen Hendrix

Unkle AaronPhrenic

One of those rare (and welcome) cases where an album is so ridiculous that it’s impossible to tell if it was intended as a joke or is simply due to lack of talent. Unkle Aaron offers simple beats (presumably the same ones that came with his recording software) topped with stupid lyrics rapped in a stupid voice. “Get Down Groovy (In the Hotel)” contains the classic couplet “Passin’ out the E and feelin’ real good/Passin’ out the V to get some wood.” “Creepin” contains the comparably romantic, “You say I’m king and I take the throne/Cunnilingus before I bone.” Classic. MS/unkleaaron—Ben Greenstein

VegitationDemo

More terrible reggae, this time with organs! Don’t worry, the extra instrumentation isn’t thrown in there to challenge you. Vegitation is strictly rehashing everything you’ve ever heard before. Therefore, this will be perfect to throw on for your buddies while you pontificate on how high you are, what’s the best way to roll from a moving vehicle or why Kucinich would be a great president if only he could get enough votes to make it on to the televised debates. MS/vegitation—Michael Levy

Welcome to NothingDemo

I suspect these guys’ target audience may be girls who still shop at Hot Topic or guys who don’t need said girls to do their eyeliner. Truth is, the group can’t decide whether it wants to be a metal band, a screamo band or a theater-rock band like My Chemical Romance (whom they sound like the most). But with some solid guitars riffs and a singer who can scream as good as he can beg, that indecisive formula just might work for them. It’s pretty bad, but not so bad for what it is. MS/wel cometonothingband—Seth Combs

Wilderness SurvivalWe Were 21 In ‘03

Do you like Eels? Well, it’s safe to say that Nick Grosvenor does—he’s written, produced, programmed and performed all of the songs on the third WS album and his genre-hopping characteristics are dead-ringers for those of Eels mastermind Mark Everett. Still, the songs here display such a large breadth of musical intuition and talent that once he emerges from the shadows of his influences (which possibly include Beck and Grandaddy as well), he’ll become a songwriting force to be reckoned with. MS/wildernesssurvival—Todd Kroviak

Without a MotorcycleDemo

San Marcos combo Without a Motorcycle melds the brooding prog-rock of any Maynard James Keenan project with the semi-melodic sludge of the late ’90s to deliver something that sounds vaguely promising. There are some decent tracks here, but occasional odd time changes and meandering riffs do nothing to make a song better. Not everyone can be Tool or Rush. MS/withoutamotorcycle—Paul SaitowitzWriterDon’t Wake the Sun/I Think She Died

The punchy, detailed production on “Don’t Wake the Sun” is excellent, but it can’t hide the fact that Writer make grown-up emo for the scenester crowd. Meanwhile, “I Think She Died” is a pretty, yet sad, piano dirge that’s definitely more fitting for their overall attitude. I don’t have much patience for guys in their mid-20s who still dwell on getting dumped in junior high, but if you still hold tightly to those Jets To Brazil and Sunny Day Real Estate records, this is probably up your alley. MS/writer—Todd KroviakYears Around the SunInva De Siva

Clean, competent melodies. Interesting arrangements scattered around an atmospheric sound. But somehow the album has all the excitement of a televised indoor rock-climbing event: the lines are marked, the pace deliberate, the outcome all but inevitable with very little at stake. Probably among the best-produced CDs considered for this issue, but, at the end of the day, it’s strictly snoozeville. MS/yearsaroundthesun —Jim Ruland

 

 




 
 
 
 
 
 
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