Martin and the Big Nativity Scene
Just Be Claus
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a CD called Just Be Claus, by a band with "Nativity Scene" in its name, is the product of a band that exclusively plays Christmas songs. And most of the Christmas songs on the CD are, in fact, songs that have already existed for a pretty long time—"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," "Run Run Rudolph," etc. They're performed well, and it's all good fun, but I have to be honest here: In March, this is absolutely the last thing I want to hear. facebook/com/martinandthebignativityscene
The Montell Jordans
Meant to Bleed
I was hoping that The Montell Jordans were going to wow me with some smooth and danceable New Jack Swing hooks, but, sadly, that was not to be. The group is essentially an amalgamation of pop-punk sheen and heavy-metal guitar riffs, and as much as I want to like it, it just doesn't work. That said, I'm willing to let them attempt a cover of "This is How We Do It" before rendering my final judgment. facebook.com/themontelljordans
The Inevitable Adventure and Grand Demise of Dizzy Rapture
As a member of Anti-Citizens and producer extraordinaire for the likes of Orko Eloheim, Black Mikey and Parker and the Numberman, Mr. Ridley has established himself as someone who knows his way around a slick beat. This 15-song collection only strengthens that rep and adds to the proof that he excels whether with a mic in his hand or sitting behind the mixing board. Dizzy Rapture is solid from start to finish.
Murder by Techno
Music for Future Suicides
Four tracks, each between 10 and 12 minutes long, and named "10," "11," "12" and "13." Intriguing, yes. Interesting? In parts. "10" is like a treadmill of creepy, improvised industrial sounds set to a relentless, robotic beat. "11" clatters and throbs alongside a sinister drone. And so on. These experiments would probably have more impact if they were half as long and didn't sound like they were played in one room and recorded in another. Then again, the stubborn length and standoffishness is part of what makes Music for Future Suicides unnerving.
Considering that Nebula Drag invoke both outer space and smoking in their name, I pretty much heard their stoner-rock grooves coming from all the way across the Southern California desert. Not that I'm complaining; Nebula Drag do Kyuss-style riff monsters better than a lot of dude-bros currently worshipping at the altar of Orange amplifiers. Their chops are thick and meaty. Their melodies are simple and immediate, but their heavy-as-Thor's-hammer rhythms and noxious fuzz are ultimately what make Nebula Drag's rock 'n' roll what it is. And given that their singer actually kind of sounds like Ozzy Osbourne, it would appear they've been puffing on more than one kind of sweet leaf. nebuladrag.bandcamp.com
Upside Down single (reissue)
I'm not sure who exactly was clamoring for a vinyl reissue of the '80s power-punk band's cover of a Diana Ross song (as well as an original on the b-side), but it's nice enough to see it being submitted, albeit 30 years late. The song isn't very good, even by punk's already-low standards, but, hey, if you turn the speed down to 33 rpm, it sounds like a really dark '80s-metal cover of a Diana Ross song. neintheband.wordpress.com
Other Bodies is a side project of Taejon Romanik of Wild Wild Wets, but it's a project that sounds almost nothing like his other band, outside of the hazy vocal effects that he uses. These are much slower, much more dreamy dirges that carry a little bit of gothic ambiance and codeine-cocktail wooziness. Everything is a bit off here, but in a good way. The melodies are solid enough, and Romanik occasionally throws in some off-kilter guitar riffs that sound like they could have been plucked from early Modest Mouse records. It seems like he's working up to something, even if he's not quite there yet, but Other Bodies has a lot of promise. otherbodies.bandcamp.com
I really liked the first 15 seconds of this CD—some lovely finger-picked guitar joined at the nine-second mark by a rockabilly groove. The rest of the song's not bad—it's got a nice loungey feel. But the second song doesn't sound much different from the first and the third song doesn't sound much different from the second. It's like a meal of mashed potatoes, french fries and hashed browns—not bad on their own, but together it's a starch overload. Someone pass the hot sauce.
Savannah Philyaw ostensibly plays country-folk music—some acoustic guitar, a little pedal steel, some piano and more earnestness than I really know what to do with. Or maybe it's just mainstream folk-pop touched up with a little bit of modern studio magic—I'm not sure that really matters. But as I listen to the Hammond and fiddle hoedown of "Overflowing Town," I can't help but think that if Philyaw traded her acoustic guitar for a Marshall stack, this would basically be Hot Topic mall-emo. And this might be what's getting in the way of me liking it—that and the fact that its schmaltzy, Hallmark Channel ballads are unbelievably sappy, with lyrics like "I am the tree and you are my roots." It's produced well and, sound-wise, has a lot to offer, but as actual songs go, I'm not hearing anything spectacular here. savannahphilyaw.com
The prince charming of San Diego's twee scene, Adam Powell spends this collection ruminating on the wonders of childhood ("Laelia's Song"), plunging into the giddiness of true love ("A Pear and a Peach") and generally just being a really wonderful guy. He gets a little dark in "Downer, Dude," lamenting how we "decorate the spineless / commemorate the mindless," but even his disillusionment is leavened with bright vibraphone and swooning accordion.
There's something to be said about a band that can strike a balance between being dark and still sonically pleasurable enough that people would actually want to listen them. Lyrically and musically, this four-piece isn't doing anything that's particularly innovative. They're just trying to find that balance. And while I wasn't initially wowed by this balance, what struck me was that songs like das uber-synthy "Leipzig" and the arena-ready "Rebel" were buzzing around my head days after hearing them. "Phantom" sounds like one of those heartbeat-paced Nine Inch Nails remixes from the mid-'90s, complete with lyrics and a bass-drum beat that's just all lust and longing and libido. "Hourglass" unfolds like one of those playfully seductive Grimes songs, but then, just as you think the song is ending, a tin-like beat begins, the guitars and keyboard whirlpool around it and frontwoman Tza (no relation to Wu-Tang members, as far as I can tell) robotically chants "just come with me" over and over as if she were saying it to all of humanity. That song, much like the album overall, is eerie and seductive at the same time, like the world coming to an end, but at the hands of really hot robot overlords. And with a kick-ass soundtrack. prgrmmusic.com
Pussytrot the Cat
One of the tracks Pussytrot sent in is a 14-minute, multipart experimental-folk piece called "The Sun is at its Zenith and Antonius Block is Playing a Game of Chess with Death." There's an Ingmar Bergman reference in there, which is all well and good, b ut how about a memorable melody or a nice harmony or something—anything—to spice up this acoustic-guitar strummy lo-fi gruel? soundcloud.com/pussytrot-the-cat
The Familiar and the Other
The static-ridden beats that open this album-length set from Quali might lead you to believe they deal in bedroom-produced hip-hop or electronica. But then a shimmering guitar arpeggio takes over, and in rushes a hypnotic pop lullaby in the form of the song "Reach." From there, the group tackles Pinback-style indie-rock ("Choke"), dense and noisy shoegaze ("Bleed / Breathe") and pulsing, heroic epics ("Mirror"). It's a solid set of guitar-driven rock songs; Quali is definitely a band worth keeping an eye on. qualiband.bandcamp.com
I'm guessing the dudes in Quor listen to a lot of Tool. Their riffs are heavy but melodic. Their singer has a heroic voice that echoes the dramatic croon of Maynard James Keenan. And "Human Paradigm," their one-track entry into the Great Demo Review, just feels epic. It isn't really, though—at only three minutes long, it's much more compact than most Tool songs, which already makes me like it slightly more than the meandering nonsense of Lateralus. But, then again, Tool without the meandering nonsense is basically just A Perfect Circle, which isn't all that interesting. Quor is the kind of band that seems like it would be fun to watch live, but "Human Paradigm" isn't doing much for me. quorbackstage.com