This is a bit of an odd one. GMG Sessions is, essentially, Parker Edison of hip-hop duo Parker and the Numberman, and this demo comprises outtakes from Edison's The Couch Tapes. So, on one level, it's generally in the same vein as a lot of the music that Parker's released in the past. But most of these tracks feel half-finished or, in some cases, like the bonus material on a DVD. There's some sound recorded at the San Diego Music Awards, some audio recorded from a KPBS story involving Edison and various other found sounds. When you cut through that, the three songs here are decent-to-good hip-hop tracks, but there's a reason they're outtakes.
Danny Green Trio
After the Calm
Danny Green is a skilled pianist, and his trio is rounded out by bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm. But they really ought to pick a true band name, because these three guys fit together seamlessly. They play jazz, and while it's far from avant-garde, it is complex, sharply composed and full of surprises. But together, Green, Grinnell and Cantelm make it sound easy. Listening to After the Calm is like listening to all the parts of a clock working in perfect harmony. Part bop, part pop, it's always on time. dannygreen.net
Sahara Grim Quartet
I have a hard time getting into music without vocals, so, luckily, this is one jazz outfit that has them in spades. Singer Sahara Grim is a triple threat, equally skilled at guitar playing and songwriting. Lead guitarist Jake Nuffer wails on "Paper Heart" and other tunes, giving the music an interesting rock injection. Grim's vocals are mostly well-executed, but at times it sounds like she's singing lower than her natural register. Overall, it's a solid collection of tracks, and I'd be happy to catch the band live. reverbnation.com/saharagrimquartet
—Jen Van Tieghem
Because I typically keep my youthful obsession with hair bands (i.e. cock rock) to myself, it's hard for me to imagine someone bringing back the days when Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home" ruled MTV's airwaves. But it might as well be these guys. The eight, nicely produced songs here might just have enough straight-faced sincerity, stadium-sized power chords and whiskey-soaked solos to rally head bangers into a revival. Plus, their website features a "Gunner Girls" section dedicated to photos of scantily clad girls with guitars. Will someone please get these guys some pyrotechnics? gunnergunner.com
I'll be the first to admit I wouldn't know good modern-day electronic music, even if it handed me some molly and slapped me upside the head with a glowstick. That said, Bob Haro's tunes are definitely less grating than some EDM I've been subjected to. At the very least, there's lyrical content. Songs like "Standing in the Rain" have an '80s influence I can get on board with (think Erasure and Pet Shop Boys). The robotic "It's Only Love," on the other hand, makes me reach for the "skip" button. bandmix.com/bob-haro
—Jen Van Tieghem
Hookers on Stilts!
Nobody is Listening But Me!
One-man blues-punk in the vein of folks like Bob Log III and Jon Spencer. The instrumental opening track sounded promising, but things quickly fell apart when the reverb-flooded singing started. The name of the album seems prophetically accurate. facebook.com/hookersonstilts
Inspired by a local Race for the Cure event, this sincere tribute was penned for a breast cancer survivor.
Hypocrite in a Hippie Crypt
Best band name (or worst—I can't decide) goes to North Park's Evan Winiger, the man behind this mouthful of a moniker. While my favorite thing about this 11-song album is the accompanying offer of a hand-drawn singing hot dog, these easy-going guitar confessionals are eminently listenable, and Winiger's unique voice switches from gravelly weirdness to falsetto oohs and ahs with surprising ease. Consistently well-written and enjoyably loose, Better Days is the perfect companion for lazy afternoons in a hammock or a last-call wind-down after a night of going hard. hypocriteinahippiecrypt.bandcamp.com
Not a Through Street
I'm not even sure this qualifies as music. It sounds like Lou Reed's corpse recording a sequel to Set the Twilight Reeling with a Phish cover band backing him up. The lyrics are train-of-thought gobbledygook, and, worse, the songs just go on and on and on. "Savage Beauty / Down to Kill" clocks in at more than 14 minutes, which is 14 minutes too long. ricks-studio.com
The Humble Crab
OK. I get it. It's Saturday night. You're at Bob's house. Y'all get shit-faced. Joe grabs Bob's guitar. And—look!—there's a harmonica in the junk drawer. Yee-haw, let's record an album and sing songs about whether Baby Jesus would like McDonald's and how San Diego smells like urine in the summer. I generally have a good sense of humor but this elicited little more than an eyeroll.
iD the Poet
Work Epic Ep1
A mixtape that actually comes on a cassette tape warms my sentimental heart. It certainly helps when the hip-hop contained therein recalls vintage Definitive Jux artists with beats to match (the short and sweet "Medicine Show" is grimier than a rest-stop bathroom). This guy remains one of the best-kept secrets in the local hip-hop scene. idthepoet.com
Assimilation of the Enslaved
This CD came with an illustration of a cow-skulled beast with six arms pulling the heart out of a woman in a Satanic ceremony, so there's no mistaking just how evil Imbalanced intend to portray themselves. The music itself is sufficiently evil, as well, a pummeling, grunting, growling and gruesome style of brutal death metal that takes a lot of technical skill to pull off, and also an ear for melody to actually make it interesting. There's enough going on to keep it from getting boring, but I'm guessing, based on the organ-ripping cartoon cover art, that their live shows are sausage fests. youtube.com/imbalancedtv
Is This Fake Blood
This four-song EP feels like a rough draft of something that could be really good. The note accompanying it says it was written and recorded by Aaron de la Fuente, and it's definitely got a solo-project / bedroom-recording sound. Reference points range from Primal Scream's "Higher than the Sun" to Panda Bear. There's some of The Verve here, a little Seefeel. I really wanted the songs to go somewhere—to build just a bit. Keep working at it, Aaron, and maybe I'll see you at the next demo review. twitter.com/isthisfakeblood
She Dyed it Red
"She Dyed it Red" is a twangy rock tune about a local woman who dumps her groom-to-be at the altar and then initiates a personal awakening by dying her wedding gown red. The Jackstones trick you into swallowing this completely illogical premise by delivering a smooth, proper performance, and then they seal the deal by getting Roger Hedgecock to make a cameo in their music video. Rock on, old dudes. thejackstones.com
Another Day in Paradise
One cassette, two sides, 30 minutes of instrumental hip-hop built out of soulful samples, twinkling keys, daydream vibes and bloodless boom-bap. Janko Wolf is no doubt a big Madlib fan, and the evidence covers this tape from end to end and comes at the ears with impressive persistence. Side A is a buffet of solid, homespun beats, and Side B thankfully delivers a few more quirks. Ultimately, Another Day in Paradise feels more like a genre exercise than a peek into someone's heart and soul. soundcloud.com/janko-wolf
In beat-head circles, the cool thing to do with instrumental jazz and R&B is whip up nasty psychedelic breaks and fusion freakouts for MCs to rap over. Well, Juice Box does nothing of the sort. Instead, the quartet opens up to the perpetual San Diego sunshine with clean guitar, winsome Rhodes and delicate grooves. Their sound skews towards sentimental, and I can already hear fans of Flying Lotus and BADBADNOTGOOD guffawing at the brisk melody of LP opener "Strut." But they also accomplish a lot with their subtle approach, and they really show their stuff on "Rebecca," a breathtaking tune that straddles the line between happy and sad. All in all, it's refreshing to hear a band embrace a sound and explore its facets, blissfully oblivious to the latest trends. juiceboxsd.bandcamp.com
Kaus and DJ Inform
Welcome to the World of...
In the first few seconds of this CD, a DJ scratches out a sample of a voice saying, "Wack rappers shut the fuck up." This should be a bolder statement than it is, but in 2015, it's pretty much par for the course to come barreling through the gates by putting shame in others' game. Kaus and Inform, however, make hip-hop strong enough to warrant the wack-shaming. Kaus has a voice that's deep but smooth, reminiscent of Guru in his prime, while Inform spins laid-back, jazzy beats that provide a chill bed for Kaus' rhymes. There's a lot of hip-hop that sounds kind of like this, so it's to Kaus and Inform's benefit that they're just that much better at it than most. soundcloud.com/kaus-and-inform