Dont Punch the Table EP
Project Analogue present an intriguing blend of í90s-era rock with just the right pop elements. The female vocalist has stellar pipes, and she puts them to work right out of the gate on opening track ìRevolving Door,î which is an ethereal mix of vocals with synthesized sounds and a catchy chorus. Reminiscent of The Cranberries at times, the delicate lyrics are matched well with grittier guitars and drums. The male singer holds his own, as well, and his contributionsóboth as lead and backing vocalistóare a welcome alternative to the sleepy delivery of most dream-pop or shoegaze frontmen. And though the final song of the EP was the weakest of the bunch, the other four are more than strong enough to earn my endorsement. facebook.com/projectanalogue
—Jen Van Tieghem
Qui Ne Chante Pas
An enjoyable little four-banger of Gypsy foot-stompers that seems primed to play even better live. But a quick trip to their website reveals that covers of things like Mumford and Sons, Imagine Dragons and The Lumineers (I saw a version of Ed Sharpe's "Home" somewhere, too) are also part of the show. Mais pourquoi? Insert my sad Marcel Marceau face here. reverbnation.com/quelbordel
Quietwater is a duo that blends classical music, hip-hop beats and pop sensibility into something that sounds well-thought-out and exquisitely crafted, like an earth-tone quilt pieced together from bits of the past and the future. It's not exactly the kind of music that jumps out and grabs you, but it's great mood music for those rare gray San Diego days when you want to stay inside, drink tea and do a little popping and locking, Old World-style. reverbnation.com/quietwater
I Feel Like Im Taking Crazy Pills/Excelsior (Rev 1)
The Rebound play technically pristine pop-punk with enough hardcore thrashing to give them a harder edge—think blink-182 meets Thrice. And the quality of their recording is outstanding, which gives each drum fill and guitar riff the attention it deserves. But super-slick production on punk rock always feels disingenuous, even if the band falls under a market-friendly subgenre like pop-punk or emo. It's a minor complaint, I know, and most cute emo chicks don't care about crust punks making shitty recordings in their garage, but it feels like the sheen reveals a little too much restraint when a band like this could afford to go batshit crazy.
Remedy By Request
Shut the Club Down
I'm not sure if Remedy By Request is the name of a group or the name of the rapper on this CD, but at least they (he?) kept it short and sweet with a one-song single. "Shut the Club Down' is a Black Eyed Peas-ish, catchy-ass earworm written in a minor key, so of course I loved it. I noticed three references to snacks by brand name and four mentions of "swag," but it was the "ain't no Urkel in my circle" rhyme that won me over. I was also endeared by how closely vocalist Angie Sagastume resembles Saturday Night Live's Jane Curtin. They ought to pipe this into the stores at the mall that sell skinny jeans for $9.99 so they can get paid before the word "swag" finally falls out of fashion. reverbnation.com/remedybyrequest
Awful name aside, this all-female quartet performs pretty straightforward punk-by-numbers (sample lyrics from "Denial": "You're in denial!! No I'm Not!!" over and over and over again). They live in Alpine and look like they could kick my ass, so I don't want to belabor the point of their unoriginal suckiness. facebook.com/revolutchix
2+2 = Chicken
The Schmaltz lineup that performed this album is no longer playing together, so, apparently, this is a posthumous review. The good: These songs often feature some crazy time signatures and some superb guitar / bass playing. The bad: everything else. They're just too goofy for my taste—it's Tool-lite meeting a nerdy Primus cover band in a knife fight—but played as demented elevator music with bizarre vocals and lyrics that sound like an IT guy on acid.
More like an audio anal date rape. More than a dozen tracks of three-chord glam-punk from a guy who dresses like the Burning Man version of the Mad Hatter. This is music so stupid and misogynistic that I literally slapped myself in the face and went "Doh!" à la Homer Simpson. I sincerely apologize to anyone who listened to this because they follow me on Soundcloud. soundcloud.com/jawsh-sek-sy
Tolan Shaw has it together. There may not be all that much originality when it comes to his songwriting, but this guy surely can sing. With a catchy, horn-drenched sound guaranteed to offend no one, I can totally see my mom getting down to this in her kitchen. tolanshaw.com
—Joshua Emerson Smith
The Spark Three
After a bunch of sloppy punk demos, the twinkling, extra-indulgent disco sound that The Spark Three craft arrived as a palate cleanser in the best way. On first listen, it seemed as if the group did a cram session with Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, but then again, there's enough in the way of strong melodies here to make me overlook the similarities. The scratch guitar and rolling bass line of "Under the Sun" make for an instant party, while "Theme A" buzzes with some dirty low end and a dreamy, hyper-infectious chorus. The Spark Three are extra smooth and extra funósequin jumpsuit optional.
Just by the title—B-Sides—Squarecrow are telling us that we're not about to hear their A material. And that's fine; you never know what kind of treasure you'll find buried in a band's outtakes and castoffs. And their style of rockabilly-influenced pop punk is nice enough. It's catchy, crisply produced and even occasionally features some horn flourishes. Ultimately, though, I've heard far too many bands that play this kind of polished pop punk to ever want to hear this again. squarecrow.bandcamp.com
The Stalins of Sound
Now more than ever, with radio stations being inundated with too-earnest faux buskers, it seems that a lot of bands could really benefit from spending some quality time with Big Black's Songs About Fucking. Judging by this record by The Stalins of Sound, who wrap their noise punk in pseudo-Communist propaganda, the band's done its homework. Tank Tracks finds the trio using a few tricks in the Albini playbook, namely loading a hefty wall of fuzz against a drum-machine backdrop. But the band's abrasive machinepunk contains its share of hooks, and even some downright pretty melodies. This is all relative, of course, but after the militant march of "Blood Sex," the group carries the song out on an oddly serene and dreamy coda. The tremolo-picked riffs of "El Cajon Beatdown" are just this side of a Norwegian black-metal demo, and "Monkeys Attack" might be the best song that Devo never wrote. It's not that hard to make a chaotic noise-punk record sound good, but The Stalins of Sound have a knack for songwriting that puts theirs on another level. stalinsofsound.com
On the surface, Stewardess' "Ghost" sounds like a fairly conventional alternative / indie-rock song. It's awash in dreamy guitar jangle, disco bass lines and a lightly danceable rhythm, with some breathy, affected vocals mimicking the titular apparition. It echoes that brief dance-punk renaissance of 2004 and '05, when groups like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party were starting to take over and garage rockers and throwback acts were beginning to falter. Stewardess pulls it off nicely. It's hard to see the full picture with just one song, but it's not a bad start.
For some reason, iTunes recognized Stone Horse as "Reggae," though that's not even close to what the band plays. Rather, Stone Horse play—as you might gather from the name—rough-and-tumble bar-band rock 'n' roll. It's pretty fun, I'll admit, but the schlock factor is turned up to 11, with songs about riding motorcycles and "making love all night long." It's music for biker rallies, basically, right down to the harmonica solo. thecarlosrockexperience.com
The Stone Walls
These dudes are like Dinosaur Jr. without the cool aloofness. Blazing indie-rock riffs and a singer with a scratchy "rocker dude" voice ain't nothing special, but it gets the job done.
I was digging this from the first song, "Teenage Love Gone Wrong." It's got a buzzsaw electric guitar chugging away to a Psychedelic Furs-y melody that warms the heart in all the right places, but the rest of the CD sounds like either The Killers, or whoever's music was in Target commercials in the early 2000s. Eight out of 11 tracks are 'luded-up, 35-mph power pop with vocals that sound like Brandon Flowers. I prefer when they rev it up to at least 55 with "Stoned" and "Rat." I know these guys have been getting some recent hype, but I think they're just a'ight; I was hoping Devil's Lounge would be more Satanic.
The opener on this four-song EP made me think this was a dreamy little instrumental post-rock record à la The Appleseed Cast, Joan of Arc, etc. This is not the case. Second track "Little Runaway" sounds like a bland Interpol / She Wants Revenge imitation. Third track "Done with Love" is basically Guns N' Roses meets Oasis. The last song, "All Gone," is one part shoegazing stoner rock and one part '90s quasi-Christian "post-grunge"(e.g., Creed). If I didn't know this was all one band, I'd have sworn it was the most eclectic mini-compilation of all time. sundropelectric.com
Sunset at Duck Pond
These three ambient soundscapes make me feel like I'm in an episode of The X-Files. They could just as easily score a Nova video about space that I saw in my seventh-grade science class. Either way, it does a pretty good job of luring me into a trance-like state that would give any muscle relaxant a run for its money. This is less music that you listen to than it is a mood that washes over you.