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Wednesday, Mar 02, 2011

San Diego CityBeat's 2011 Great Demo Review

Our music nerds review every San Diego band that sent something in


I’m pretty sure I wrote about this band back in 2007, and I’m pretty sure they broke up when the front man moved to New York. And I’m pretty sure the remaining members went on to form Architect Sketch. So, what’s the story with the new two-song demo? I don’t know, but I like it. And if you like Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu or Hot Snakes, you will, too.
—Jim Ruland


What Joe Satriani or Steve Vai might have sounded like if they were from San Diego and, you know, had zero talent.
—Seth Combs


Jangly folk-rock takes center stage for Conceptus, with nice-boy-nextdoor hooks to top it off. All 13 tracks are the product of Chris Holmes, who produced everything at home. “Erica’s Trip” nicely alternates between menacing guitar drives and short, sunny licks. “Which Way” echoes with Brit-pop reverb. Aside from the band’s name, which sounds to me like what you’d call a fetus at conception, there’s a solid dose of Pavement, Kinks and early R.E.M. here.
—Caley Cook

Improvised Jams to Shake Your Booty To

“Couch lock” means you’ve smoked so much weed, you get stuck to your couch. With a name like that, it’s safe to assume that these guys get their inspiration from some seriously sticky Skywalker OG. Although the album is primarily driven by guitar riffs, bassist Boogie’s gnarly bass lines occasionally shine through on tracks like “Duck Shake” and “Creeping Tom.” Kick back, relax and enjoy the ride to nowhere.
—Sean Michael Delizo


The Great Dilemma

Formed in 2007, Architect Sketch play epic instrumentals that nail the late- ’80s post-punk sound. With just bass and drums (and some clever looping), this two-man outfit engineers songs that sound like a lost Dischord Records recording. Way too clean and cool for “noise rock” and “experimental” labels, the songs are dialed in with almost formal precision, yet were born out of improv sessions with local guitarists. The bass player, Andy Kondrat, lives in Chicago, where he’s earning a doctorate degree in philosophy, making drummer Greg Gerardi the sole San Diegan (for now). Nevertheless, a second EP, titled The Great Dilemma, is in the works, and the lead-off track has been licensed for use by ESPN. Watch for Architect Sketch to break new ground with a full-length album and West Coast tour this summer.
—Jim Ruland


Cali Code Collision

Aimless rap-reggae-rock jams topped off with clumsy, groan-inducing rhymes. “He’s got many bitches coming to his house / Running in and out / Running all around.” Seriously? At least these guys know how to put down a solid reggae groove, but that doesn’t count for much.
—Peter Holslin

The Seven on 7/11 EP

The paper that came attached to this demo boasts that Cozy corners recorded this EP during one nine-hour “marathon recording session.”

The result is a fuzzy pastiche of ’90s garage rock that, while showing some glimmers of catchy promise, would ultimately slide by unnoticed on any given episode of 120 Minutes. Take your time, guys. With more editing and effort, you could really have something here.
—Sasha Orman

A Thousand Years

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more sincere and somnolent voice as Jon Piotrowski, the guy behind this rather unfortunately timed moniker. Get over the Natalie Portman thoughts the name evokes. This is an amazing debut filled with ballads that’ll lull you to sleep (“Fire Attracts Bats”) and spaced-out carnival pop that sounds like Elton John at his most experimental (“Chemicals”).
—Seth Combs

Live at Lestat’s

He lives in L.A. now, but he still has a song called “L.A. is Not My Home” to back up his San Diego troubadour cred. As much as I’d love to say that Damigo still sucks balls, the addition of The Midnight Pound has helped his otherwise pussy-lipped, open-mic generics. I guess that’s a start. Name-drop away, Josh, because, like it or not, you’re officially an Angeleno from this day forward.
—Seth Combs

Day of Anomie Demo Vocalist Raul Delatorre would definitely crack the top three in a Michael Stipe sing-a-like contest. In an album showcasing a wah-pedal and a modern-rock twist on Spanish guitar, Day of Anomie show they have their sound down pat—teetering on the point of complacency. Nothing a few bold songwriting risks won’t fix.
—Sammi Skolmoski

Crash ’n burn

The boys of Dead Engines are anything but new to the music scene. They draw their unique sound from a variety of genres: Neo-rockabilly, punk and classic 1960s rock ’n’ roll are just a few of the sounds they chop up and mix into a giant melting pot. Their sound is about American as a slice of apple pie on the 4th of July with a sparkler on top.
—Sean Michael Delizo

I Am Dezzy H.

Oceanside isn’t the first place that comes to mind when picturing a burgeoning rap scene, but Dezzy Hollow is out to change that with his junior release. Referencing “bitchass ho’s,” “them haters” and working for that “extra cheese,” the CD offers standout tracks like “Bumpin’ My Shit Down the Block” and “The Creation of Cuzzy Mac.” If a Gangsta’s Paradise truly exists, like Coolio predicted so long ago, Dezzy would no doubt be the doorman.
—Enrique Limon

Handle Without Care

It’s hard to describe DOT, as they don’t fit one genre, evident in their switch from bluesy alternative rock to a Cake-like, spoken-rapesque screamo thing. I understand that DOT is trying to be experimental and really loud and wild, but the band’s music needs a bit more definition to really flow. Such incongruence could be the result of the band’s hiatus and subsequent new lineup, but in order for their musical talent to be put to good use, they need to find their niche. Or maybe I just don’t get it.
—Kaitlin Perry

7 Dead, 6 Wounded…

This San Diego-by-way-of-Alaska metal / grindcore sextet is attempting a tactical assault on your eardrums. Actually, they’ve got a militarized approach to much of what they do (check out their bio on MS), which is appropriate, because alongside Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse, I can’t think of a better soundtrack to blowing shit up.
—Scott McDonald

Dropouts in a Drug Haze

Hey, singer of Electric Crush, your vocals are so mumbled and distorted you sound like a scary sea monster whose voice is blaring through shitty speakers. Then again, this was recorded on a four-track 10 years ago and originally released as a cassette tape by The Old In Out’s Rory Truesdale while he was taking lots of LSD. I guess it all makes sense now.
—Carissa Casares


With only two tracks to sample, it’s hard to tell, but it sounds like these guys asked themselves what it might sound like if Brandon Boyd fronted Metallica in high school, and then they played exactly like that. Dudes are earnest, but it comes off sounding more like one of those tissuewrapped poppers than the big stick they’re shooting for.
—Scott McDonald


Earthbound is easily one of the most ambitious local discs to ever pass through the demo-review grinder. Endoxi mastermind Chris Wilson, who also produced the record, covers a lot of musical ground on this outing. Pristinely recorded and performed, it seems a surefire hit for fans of complex, harder commercial rock such as Muse. Hopefully, next time they’ll cut down the sax and deliver more prog akin to album opener “Into the World.” It’s pretty easy to imagine these guys having a video played on whichever VH-1 station actually still plays videos.
—Dryw Keltz


Consider this: Every Santana recording you’ve ever heard—every aimlessly structured song, every arbitrary burst of guitar noodling—is the man performing at his best. Now, can you imagine what his off days must sound like? Swap out Rob Thomas for a teenage boy droning disjointed lyrics like the second coming of Grace Slick and you’ll have a pretty good idea of The Epic Silence.
—Sasha Orman

Without a Safety Net

Flowerthief frontman Christian Motos has a crystal-clear voice that’s perfect for jangly power pop ( la Paul McCartney and Ben Folds). The ’60s vibe laid out on most of these songs begs for a little more vintage echo to set the mood, and at times Motos wears his influences on his sleeve (see the Strokesian “Favourite Pill”), but overall this is a really solid set of melodic and catchy pop tunes.
—Shae Moseley


There’s no risk of offending your grandma with this skilled country / folk ensemble, and wholesome types will enjoy the uncomplicated sweetness delivered by vocalists Harry and Nancy Mestyanek. The traditional song “The Cuckoo” gives fiddle player Alicia Previn and lead guitarist Charlie Loach an opportunity to shine through. “A Few More Friends Like You” might come off as sappy since it’s about a dog, and I don’t think any real trucker worth his dirty mud flaps would listen to a sentimental truck-driving song like “Northbound 35” that mentions mustang horses and champagne glasses in the same breath.
—Will Parson


The drums are drummy and the bass is bassy in a relentless and instantly recognizable “oonce-oonce-oonce” sort of way, so steady that it took me a good 30 seconds to realize that the one song on the demo had looped back to the beginning. Definitely not my thing, but I have no doubt that they have a ready and willing audience.
—Sasha Orman


Foreign Film is the definition of sunny San Diego pop-rock, as evidenced by comments on their iTunes page (“This album is great to ride your bike to!”). The trio’s debut EP is a fast-paced yet easygoing mix of what I might describe as “bounce in the passenger seat” music for young folk. Imagine what would come about if Weezer, The Strokes, The Walkmen and Rooney formed a super-group, Dead Weather-style.
—Kaitlin Perry

Chad Frakes

One man, his guitar and heavily processed vocals makes for an interesting acoustic outing. Though Frakes seems more influenced by Radiohead than traditional singer / songwriters, this effort is true to the spirit of many a past troubadour—primarily because each of these three songs basks in the bleak. It has a bit of a Nick Drake touch to it in that sense. This is the type of music you’d throw on a turntable during a rainy day in Portland, but not exactly what you wanna blast at the beach on a sunny day in San Diego.
—Dryw Keltz

Demo EP

Combine super-fuzzy, lofi production, a female singer who carries the vocal ferocity of PJ Harvey and the ability by each of the band’s other four members to throw down a well-trained, psychedelic-garage-rock sound, and you’ve got one utterly impressive EP. From the foot-stomping, thigh-slapping beats of “Take You Down” to the grungy, melancholic desperation of “Movin’ On,” the EP showcases some serious talent—especially from singer Lucina Gonzalez, who can belt out gallons of emotion in one pithy verse. On the two-minute, accordion-laced punk-rocker “Mexican Rock,” Gonzalez’s Spanish lyrics and the band’s seamless, frenetic energy produce an end result that isn’t just extraspecialgood—it’s undeniablysuperfuckingamazing.
—Justin Roberts

Sleeping Above 3rd Ave.

This release by Kyle Baudour, the multi-instrumentalist behind Gaze Shoe, is a mystical, almost eerie listen full of drone and reverb. Perfect for people who like dramatic films with emotional, instrumental soundtracks.
—Kaitlin Perry

Ghostline EP

Reinforcing the sage wisdom that it’s best not to judge a band’s demo by its cover—or lack thereof— Ghostline’s three-song EP arrived with little more than a title, track names and website written in magic marker on a generic CD-R. And yet, the band’s urgent and ultra-heavy psychedelic rock was a pleasant surprise, exploding with all the heft of Black Mountain or The Black Angels on opener “Fly Away,” speeding into scratchy post punk on “Run” and descending into atmospheric mope on “Calling (I Hear You).” Christopher Plaia’s melodramatic bellow doesn’t quite fit the songs, but the band’s got chops all the same.
—Jeff Terich

Widows Peak

If they sound like Social Distortion, it might be because they have early Johnny Cash as a common ancestor. The best songs are fast and loud, with hints of slide guitar. And when they lean toward the punk end, it effectively disguises the fact that the lead singer isn’t exactly a country crooner. Play “Goddamn the Miles” and “Gas, Food & Lodging” while you’re driving down the highway with the window down.
—Will Parson

A Project for the New! American Century

Despite the rather misleading name, this “project” would please anyone who loves Guru’s Jazzmatazz or the mushroom-jazz that emanated from coffeehouses in the late ’90s. It’s not completely ingenious and can get a little redundant at 12 tracks, but it’s still a solid mix of downtempo electro, jazz and hip-hop.
—Seth Combs


Yet another example of soloacoustic-guitar-guy-heartbreak balladry. More Eagles than Jack Johnson (for which I’m at least a little bit thankful), demos like Henry Gonzalez’s are more common than herpes backstage at a John Mayer concert. If there’s one thing that sets Gonzalez’s songs apart, it’s their inexplicably long duration. Three minutes each of this stuff would be pleasant enough, but six minutes is just a test of the listener’s endurance.
—Jeff Terich

Stallion Italian

Melodic indie-punk featuring members of Blue Sky Law, The Challenger Deep and Architect Sketch. Ferocious bass lines. Vocals get a bit lost, but who cares? I especially like the track “Hot Strokes” with its druggy-positive message “Right now nothing seems impossible.” This record rules! greatlikecake/
—Jim Ruland


Sure, the “Big Rock Candy Mountain”-style folk on this six-track CD—recorded in “Phil’s living room,” notes say—doesn’t come close to Pete Seeger’s subversive songcraft. But I have to admit, this acoustic trio shreds.
—Peter Holslin

(Untitled demo)

Henkel sent us a two-song story of a musician suffering from debilitating Muzak-philic tendencies. He wants so badly to be a jazz or blues artist, but somehow he can’t escape the Muzak hell where he currently resides. With sampled vocals and Seinfeld-intro-esque slap bass lines, he issues us a final product so numbing that it allows the listener to completely forget the journey that just took place. Come to think of it, it’s probably better that way.
—Justin Roberts

The Rooted

Homelessness. Nuclear weapons. Glenn Beck books. Middle-classwhite-boy reggae bands from the beach. The world doesn’t need more of any of these things. But if the fact that Sublime is no longer making records really gets you down, then this well-polished troupe of sativa-scented minstrels is for you.
—Scott McDonald


Rick Hines is an artist, writer and musician who makes music in his home studio. He’s been cranking out recordings since the ’80s, and you gotta give him props for his perseverance. I like the guitars. Keyboards not so much. Lots of lo-fi atmosphere, but a bit disjointed in places. The cover of Rush’s “New World Man” is the bright spot on the record.
—Jim Ruland

Would You Like to Play a Game?

This CD came with the rather cryptic message, “A person, a place and a thing they all share will draw them together like a kite, wind and air.” Uh, OK. These guys have some clear influences (Pavement, Camper Van Beethoven, Captain Beefheart), but most of the 12 songs, like the enclosed message, just sound like some butt-hole who forgot to take his meds. Anyone remember shitgaze? Didn’t think so.
—Seth Combs


From the first track of this demo, “Like a Tiny Grasshopper,” we find vocalist Matt Binder spacing out alongside the spirits of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, not necessarily embodying their charismatic strut, but embracing their melancholy energy. These are ominous love songs for the apocalypse. Guitars, synth, drums and vocals are pig-piled on top of each other, thrashing around for extra space. “I’d like to kill you,” Binder sneers over and over on “Past is Not Your Future.” He makes death sound mysteriously appealing.
—Caley Cook

My Central Valley Blood Brother

Imagine a collision of Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, Son Volt and The Sadies and you have Black Oak Hymnal. This is some dark, sparse Americana that shows you just how haunting an acoustic jam can get. The dirt-cheap production only ups the chill factor of this demo, which showcases the impressive songwriting and performing talents of guitarist Grafton Silos, who plays here with drummer Butch Johandson. The most important aspect of this kind of music is that it needs to be authentic— and the songs on My Central Valley Blood Brother bleed realism. One can only imagine how a full band could take these songs to a whole other level. Silos has knocked out the impressive acoustic debut; now it’s time for him to track down his Crazy Horse.
—Dryw Keltz


Drive (for JS)

Using tea kettles, radio transmissions, feedback from a vase and a recording of some construction workers grinding the freeway late at night, Hubbard—a member of the storied Trummerflora Collective who plays drums in Rafter’s band—creates a 19-minute opus of interwoven drone tones. There’s a sucking sound like a vacuum cleaner from another side of a wall, piercing pitches that could get a dog barking, ominous bottom-end rumbling and more, all of it coming together to evoke a feeling of quiet, gnawing dread. David Lynch should use this in his next movie.
—Peter Holslin

Aegis II

Hubbard couldn’t reasonably have expected a good review of this almost unlistenable 3-inch CD. It’s just 18 minutes of pure noise! But it’s interesting how he molds noise like clay: “Pinky” sounds like a dialup modem gone mad while “Glitch” and “Random” are sculptured works of distortion and feedback. The average listener would no doubt hate this, or just not get it, but fans of Merzbow and Wolf Eyes would dig it.
—Peter Holslin

Do Your Thing

Cut-rate electro-pop that’s more “Jizz in My Pants” than “What’s My Name?” The female singer’s lifeless delivery is made all the worse by the cheap prefab synths and beats. I kind of thought she was joking, actually.
—Peter Holslin


“Being a drummer can suck,” Andrew Bracken (aka Hunger Faction) wrote by way of introducing his EP to CityBeat. “It can get frustrating to feel like a complimentary [sic] piece of the musical puzzle.” Well, then, release the Bracken! The result theoretically spotlights the wonder of percussion instruments, but mostly just shows that drummers can be self-indulgent narcissists, too. If the name “Zildjian” means anything to you, you might be mildly interested in listening to these four experimental tracks. If not, you’ll probably just wish you could get the last 15 minutes of your life back.
—Nathan Dinsdale


I want what iD the Poet’s smoking. In his official album statement, he explains that part of his new record was recorded in a hotel room “during the 2009 presidential conventions.” That must’ve been the year Zoidberg from Futurama ate all the super-delegates. Still, Raincheck is an impressive solo debut from the local MC and Genius of Soul frontman. Over 14 tracks, iD spins intelligent and meaningful rhymes over gratifyingly nerdy samples (Doctor Who on Track 7, FTW!), in the same vein as Aesop Rock, Slug and Sage Francis. Is that racist? OK, Saul Williams, too.
—Dave Maass


Angry, female-fronted, grunge-esque rock band that harkens back to the glory days of L7, The Gits and Seven Year Bitch. Vocalist Maverick Monroe gets my personal vote for best 2011 demo-review lead-singer name. But these two tracks are surprisingly devoid of references to F-14 Tomcats and European interference in early-19th-century Central American affairs.
—Dryw Keltz

The Barefoot Race

I picked this CD out of the pile for one reason and one reason alone: The cover depicts a stoned-looking anthropomorphic banana rocking a Crips bandana and grasping a spray can in one of its long, boney hands. Push play and out oozes a surprisingly melodic orgy of jazzy, Blue Noteapproved beats; it’s a clear example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—or in this case, a plantain by its peel.
—Enrique Limon

Blood Orgy

With a name like Blood Orgy, I thought for sure I was going to hear some anus-tightening metal, but alas, it was actually some quite lovely altcountry. The five songs could have used some expert post-production to level out the sounds, but the shogazey atmospherics on “Holy Soul” and “The Devil’s Whiskey” show that this is a band with a unique take on an old genre.
—Seth Combs

Time is Money EP

It’s no surprise that Jamuel Saxon’s music, which would make excellent earbud fuel during a stoned bike ride to Bar Pink, is rapidly gaining traction with the local movers and shakers on the 30th Street scene. Latch on quickly and get in with the initial wave of good vibes before the majority of their fans go Judas on yet another one of San Diego’s most intriguing buzz bands.
—Dryw Keltz

Psychic Blues EP

Rock music was originally designated as “heavy” because of the sheer density of a band’s sound, not necessarily because of its volume. This band happens to have both in spades and delivers its psychedelic blues jams with a sense of urgency. This is bombastic British blues that tips its hat to The MC5’s reckless abandon but also knows when to dial things back just long enough to conjure some later swirling, reverb-laced Anglo-blues acts like The Stone Roses.
—Shae Moseley


The KABBs offer up beach-rock music with punk-rock vocals. It’s not my kind of thing—but I can listen to it easily, which makes me feel like there could be quite a few people out there who would enjoy this.
—Neil Baffert

Katie Leigh & The Infantry

There’s something about the sound of a mandolin under tight vocal harmonies that brings out my secret inner country-folk fan. It also makes me wish for a rocking chair on a porch with a bottle of whiskey on a hot Kentucky summer day. And I’ve never even been to Kentucky. What are you doing to me, Katie Leigh? Whatever it is, I want more.
—Justin Roberts


I’m shocked that a statue of Bradley Nowell hasn’t been erected in O.B. If I hear one more Sublimely half-assed, rock-rap-reggae hybrid band out of that area, I’m gonna start picketing in front of Winstons like Fred Phelps. The band promises to “leave you with a lasting positive impression of the diversity in life,” but songs like “My Voice” and the Linkin Park-ish “Masters of Illusion” make me want to beat up a homeless hippie.
—Seth Combs

Here Comes the Ocean

I really dig the color of this record. Yes, the color. Lights On sent us vinyl, and it’s an awesome chartreuse color, to boot. As for the music, it’s post-punk pop at its best— melodic, unruly, danceable and polished all at once. I’m stoked these guys are a San Diego band, and I hope they don’t soon leave us for L.A. or New York.
—Carissa Casares



There’s no doubt that Ms. Locket has a lovely voice and easy-breezy style, but Fruition as a whole has about as much edge as a toddler’s Fisher-Price tub toy. With factoryissue lyrical themes of love and life delivered at a glacial pace, it’s hard for me to imagine this appealing to many beyond the Borders coffeehouse set.
—Scott McDonald

Nothing Else Fills

The morbidly dark folk crafted by Felicia Fis for her project Love Henry lives up to its namesake (a Dylan tune about the murderous actions of an unrequited lover). In fact, Fis tells a similar tale on “Knoxville Girl’s Revenge,” a lovely story about a girl who cuts her friend’s throat “for a thrill” and hides his body at the bottom of a well (things can only get brighter from there). Swells of lonely violin and understated, monotone vocals feel at home on these four shadowy strummers.
—Shae Moseley

The Lyon Crowns

The Lyon Crowns are like a bottle of red wine that only gets better with time. These childhood friends have been performing together since 2008 and have had ample time to perfect their sound. On their new album, Jorge Luna bellows the verses with a voice reminiscent of Dead or Alive, but with Morrissey’s vibrato and depth. Although the Lyon Crowns show much promise and produce some solid tracks, this hard-hitting, Interpol-esque album finds its flaw in the cheesiness of “Forever.”
—Sean Michael Delizo


To say a band could easily be played on mainstream radio is, in these pages, usually either a backhanded compliment or a direct insult. But with a stack of mostly cacophonous Demo Review dreck on my desk, I won’t begrudge the mass palatability of Mad Traffic’s pop rock. Unreported is polished without being insincere, and while there’s a familiar underlying template, there’s also enough genuine talent and creativity—notably in multi-instrumentalist Blaise Garza’s horn work—to make it an “Extraspecialgood” selection, if not for the fact that Rob Thomas and Daughtry keep coming to mind.
—Nathan Dinsdale

Fall From Grace EP

It’s called suspension of disbelief. Forget that you’re listening to a North County honky spitting rhymes about “Ill Street Dreams.” Or that you have to achieve grace before you can fall from it. Mark Simmers has some flow. And the guitar sample on “Wage War”—almost certainly chopped from Grand Ole Party’s “Look Out Young Son”—achieves intriguing results. There is, after all, a reason why Simmers earned some ink with his previous incarnation (Nature of the Beast). But credible rhymes and creative instrumentals can’t quite make up for all the hiphop filler that ultimately, predictably, weigh down this 13-track “EP.”
—Nathan Dinsdale


This 10-member post-rock, chamber-pop ensemble crafts three lovely compositions that combine the epic soundscape painting of Sigur Rós with the hopeful delivery of Cloud Cult while maintaining a flavor all its own. Glockenspiels twinkle, strings soar, percussive flourishes abound and tasteful vocal passages all find their place and sound more than novel on these folksy orchestral collages. It would be great to hear what this group could do with a full-length album-sized canvas.
—Shae Moseley

Club Banger!!!

The word “epic” is thrown around a lot in metal, but the shit-kicking boot really fits with this instrumental outfit. Satiating your primal craving for tasty licks and whomping bass lines, this three-track demo is a pulverizing display of tight musicianship that will have you pounding the air to the band’s blast beats. The guitars have one hell of a tone: The technical solos swim fluidly above chugging guitar riffs heaving with distortion. It sounds like Pelican, but with more speed and flair. The band gets extra points for recording this in stereo, and, on “Gorenado,” sending dueling guitar parts through your mortal brain. For all their cohesiveness, you can’t help but think that these guys must play, eat, walk and sleep to a metronome. If they’re half as tight and twice as loud live, as the demo suggests, then San Diego has been granted a glorious gift by the devil himself.
—Sammi Skolmoski


It’s as light and fluffy as Jack Johnson eating a marshmallow sandwich on a unicorn-shaped cloud.

But unlike Mr. Hawaii’s soft-peddled poetry, Matsuoka’s lyrics (see “Go to the bathroom, then I pay for gas, I gotta pay 50 cents just to wipe my ass”) aren’t likely to moisten the hot pants of sorority-pledging college freshmen any time soon.
—Scott McDonald

Coming Up Green

This is less like hip-hop and more like ’80s-influenced dance music featuring an ironic rapper persona. With songs like “Ass Cash or Grass” and “Tua Hoe Into a Housewife,” Microphone Mike clearly aims to parody vices typically associated with hip-hop. But after the fourth explicitly misogynistic song (out of seven total), the lines blur till you can’t tell if he’s still critiquing those vices or using his persona to get away with taking part in them. At least the dance tunes are catchy.
—Quan Vu

Nitty Gritty

Midnight Rivals boasts a pedigree that few (if any) bands in the Demo Review can match: The band’s members formed from the ashes of iconic San Diego indie rockers like Lucy’s Fur Coat, Rocket from the Crypt and Louis XIV. In this case, that’s a bad thing. Right or wrong, this collective project gets judged at the same level as the bands from which they came. And what might qualify as a notably raucous album from a group of unknown upstarts instead translates into fun but uneven sloppy seconds from a band whose sum is less than its parts.
—Nathan Dinsdale

Songs for My Angel EP

Experimental folk-pop ditties rife with catchy riffs and rosy nostalgia. “Portrait of a Sunrise” must be the dreamy interpretation of listening to a 45 of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”—with the record player set at 33. However, this recording is begging for much, much crisper vocals. Something tells me I’m missing out on clever lyrics, and straining to decipher them distracts from the overall musicianship. Fair warning: You will bop along like a goon to the infectious melodies.
—Sammi Skolmoski

Lenny Morris Music

If rock bands are Rhode Island, then acoustic-guitar-based singer / songwriters are China and India combined—and Morris just doesn’t do much to stand apart in that massive throng. To make things worse, he titled his CD Music and throws a far more than acceptable amount of “do-do-do’s” into the mix. Morris sure seems like he believes in what he’s doing, and you gotta respect that, but if he doesn’t tweak the formula a bit, more and more people are going to get their lattes to go.
—Scott McDonald


The blues never sounded so distorted and chunky. What sounds like two guitars recorded in a tin can buzzes along without feeling obligated to go anywhere in particular. It can get tiresome before the confluence of heavily distorted guitar that is the last of three tracks. What starts off as discordant strumming turns into one guitar keeping time while the other sounds like it’s melting.
—Will Parson


Not much more than a treble-y, tinny-sounding electric guitar beating angry chords over a stereotypical hard-rock bass line and a highly caffeinated drummer who might need to take a vacation from his ride cymbal. Their MySpace page defines their sound as “proggressive [sic] sludge,” but I think a simple “sludge” would suffice.
—Justin Roberts

The Spells

One really fun surf track, one mediocre cover of Rosie & The Originals’ “Angel Baby.”
—Dave Maass


God-awful prefab house music that fails to meet even the low standards of a trashy mega-club.
—Peter Holslin

Happy Accidents

Rocking guitar riffs, explosive percussion, heart-wrenchingly amazing vocals and—what’s that I hear?
Horns? Yes, please! My only hope is that their live show is as good as this demo.
—Justin Roberts

The Bees

Nesbitt comes with an asterisk. She’s a Georgia native who spent a formative tenure in Virginia, found her way to San Diego for a few years and now ostensibly splits her time between here, Austin, coastal Virginia and the road. But like another blonde transplant with a sultry voice (whose name starts with a “J” and rhymes with “Yule”), Nesbitt is a talent worth claiming. The Bees lacks the inimitable distinction that broke Ms. Kilcher out of coffeehouse purgatory, but Nesbitt’s mix of folk and country is nonetheless a definitive step above the open-mic masses.
—Nathan Dinsdale

Clouds and Waves

Mellow, electronic-driven indie-pop that reminds me a whole lot of Death Cab for Cutie. In fact, it’s very easy to imagine this EP coming out on Barsuk Records. These guys may just be the perfect watch with your arms folded. If you like your indie bands on the serious side, this foursong EP is right up your alley. the
—Dryw Keltz

We All Want To Fly

It’s surprising that this duo was able to secure features from notable hip-hop artists like Scarub and Eligh of Living Legends and Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck. Even more surprising is how wellcrafted the album is: As this experimental trip-hop duo seamlessly blends elements of any number of genres—reggae, Brit-pop, downtempo—they recall innovators like Thievery Corporation and Portishead. But genre-mash talk is easy. What helps glue these disparate sounds together is the strong songwriting of singer-guitarist Chavez (aka local mainstay Gabe Lehner). We All Want to Fly is not an album celebrating greatness, as the title suggests. Rather, it’s an intimate look at personal life and the ways in which we strive or struggle to “fly.” Setting these small victories and losses to such lush experimentation is just beautiful.
—Quan Vu

Have You Met My Friend?

To quote Mr. burns: “Slow down there, maestro—there’s a new Mexico?” Rising like a Phoenix (Arizona) from the ashes of Apes of Wrath, members Robert Kent, Jake Bankhead and Dustin Elliott pack a wallop in this debut EP, which was recorded at El Cajon’s Earthling Studios. Over garage-rock riffs, they sing about experiencing “motion sickness of the heart” and turning chicks into “bean heads,” sublimely managing to be Lisa Simpsonsensible and Groundskeeper Willie badass all in one.
—Enrique Limon


Seven-song sampler from a band that juggles a stoner-metal edge with some seriously off-kilter lyrics (see “Rabbit Killer” and “Ugly Woman Dog”). You could say they’re kinda like Queens of the Stone Age with a sense of humor, but a better description may be an updated version of Blue Oyster Cult. When hard rock and weird lyrics collide, the results are always entertaining.
—Dryw Keltz

The Short Bread EP

This CD contains one six-minute track titled “Présentation de quelques uns des plus beaux morceaux de la collection.” The title partly gives it away. It’s a collection of random sounds and noises, possibly trying to resemble Girl Talk. However, near the two-minute mark it fades into a random rap. It’s just not all there. prkandthen
—Neil Baffert

No Chorus

“My name is Dezzy H / Fresher than your average / I just killed these verses off and now I am a savage.” Does killing a verse make you a savage? The many “haters” that Dezzy references in his songs might disagree. Plus, why would you wanna kill a verse when your trademark is no chorus? No verse, no chorus. Look for Dezzy’s next project, “One Big Ass Bridge.”
—Dryw Keltz


Jesse Nova’s a little bit country, a little bit hair rock. I wouldn’t be surprised to find him dueting with Kid Rock or Zac Brown on any given summer day. He’s got the rock-solid voice with just enough swagger to pull it off. Some Toad the Wet Sprocket-inspired harmonies make their way into the three tracks on this mini demo, especially on “Summer Blue.” And, for a former drummer, Nova can tickle one hell of a guitar lick.
—Caley Cook


The CD’s opening track sounds like a discarded Muse demo, and the other two tracks don’t really improve from there. “I can feel her body filled with so much passion,” wails the overtly earnest frontman while visions of nipple piercings and tight black leather pants dance through my head. Even Glenn Beck would hate this shit.
—Seth Combs


Earnest, moody and guitar jangle a-plenty, Owl Eyes play their late- ’80s brand of college rock with straight faces and just a touch of cow-punk grit. Think Lone Justice, or a slightly more energetic Cowboy Junkies. Not bad, but nothing particularly memorable either.
—Jeff Terich

Sound Studies Vol. 1

Head-nodding beats, chill jazz and funk samples, spaced-out synths— what more could you ask for? The super-relaxed Ten19 adds an added element of laid-backness to the laidback downtempo / hip-hop groove of “Surrounded.” Definitely looking forward to what Rudy Palos comes up with on Vol. 2.
—Peter Holslin

All Your Genius Is EP

When it comes to a group of guys getting together to smoke weed and mishandle instruments, I’ve heard worse. For one thing, Paper Forest is remarkably succinct. The EP’s three tracks collectively run just over seven minutes (many of us have endured ganja-induced bongo-drum solos that lasted far, far longer). There’s even a slight Beach Boys effervescence to the songs, including one (“Alphabet”) the lyrics of which mostly consist of the perky refrain “Everyone is talking shit about everyone.” It’s not genius and probably sounds better in a 2 a.m. haze, but it’s a disheveled work that at least shows potential for progress.
—Nathan Dinsdale

Begin Again

An album complete with emaciated drum-machine percussion, cringeworthy backing vocals and awkward tempo changes, Begin Again makes me think of a mall recording studio called “YOU Can Be a STAR— TODAY!!!” I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, Bianca, but the $39.95 you seem to have spent at YOU Can Be a STAR is never coming back to you. And whoever came up with the name for that studio—well, they were lying.
—Justin Roberts

The lorna Doone DVD

Touted on their MySpace page as “Acousmatic / Tape music / Minimalist / Rap,” this hip-hop group provides us with a full multimedia experience on this DVD. A collection of grainy concert footage, news clips and handheld videos interspersed with a sexy handful of samples, hooks and spoken word, this wasn’t so much a demo as it was a documentary—and one that raised more questions than it answered. Consider our interest piqued!
—Justin Roberts


A chill, mesmerizing blend of down-tempo hip-hop beats, off-kilter samples, ganja-clouded bass-lines and occasional touches of banjo or vibraphone, Room E’s lanterns pulls off the paradoxical feat of being immaculately stoned and sexy. This mysterious cat conducts cinematic electro-noir scores that range from the elegant (“Banjo”) to the ominous (“Brickface”), interweaving synthetic and organic sounds into each track. The dark atmosphere is thick throughout these 14 tracks, yet it’s also a very playful set of songs, one that takes the listener on some kind of cosmic journey (preferably with some psychedelic lighting, as Room E stated on his Twitter feed). Like San Diego’s answer to Flying Lotus, or DJ Shadow’s little brother, Room E is doing his genre a great service, taking instrumental hip-hop out of the yoga studio and back into the opium den.
—Jeff Terich


Christmas music is invariably corny. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s not Christmas music if it doesn’t make you gag. So, is ChristmasTidal Christmas music? Well, the vocals are schmaltzy, the piano’s jolly, there’s a pinch of Latin flavor and even a track called “Midnight Jam (in Bethleham).” Yep, it’s Christmas music, alright.
—Peter Holslin

Hidden Vibrations

A pleasant mix of Dntel and Panda Bear, Phen Swan incorporates samples of interesting, everyday occurrences—like a crowd cheering at his cousin Andrew’s swim meet—into melodic loops. Take a look at Swan’s tumblr ( and you’ll understand how his brain creates such an intriguing array of sample combos; you’ll enjoy listening that much more. Each copy of Hidden Vibrations is personalized with an extra track and a unique drawing insert, so each listener can have his or her own personal experience.
—Kaitlin Perry


These completely enjoyable, throwback synth-heads deftly channel Yaz, Howard Jones and Depeche Mode without getting too mired in the schtick-iness of it all. The geeks also get bonus points for not trying to throw in some screamo bullshit or something else “now” and for building all of the analog synths themselves. Where’s my Swatch, penny loafers and Generra sweatshirt when I need them?
—Scott McDonald

Mechanical Gnomes

Theres a strong downtempo Daft Punk influence coursing through the beats of this EP, wrapped up inside razor-sharp electronic riffs and a haunting background. An apparent disciple of the Ed Banger pedagogy (read: Justice, MSTRKRFT, etc.), POSITI/ve’s Conor McQueen will have to work hard to make sure he’s blazing his own musical path and not duplicating the footsteps of his predecessors. But Mechanical Gnomes is an excellent first move in that direction.
—Justin Roberts

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