March 17 2015 06:26 PM

You sent in your music; we listened to it

Radio-Active
Stand Your Ground EP

I was gonna make fun of these kids, but then I searched for them on Facebook and realized they're probably, like, 12 to 15 years old. Rockin' riffs, crashing drums, some wicked solos, lots of energy. It gets pretty cheesy, so maybe consult Led Zeppelin for inspiration. officialradioactiveband.com

—Peter Holslin


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Recycled Dolphin
Recycled Dolphin

The relative ease of recording at home and layering samples with easily accessible software has led to what seems like an over-saturation of bedroom producers. Not everybody is capable of making something on the level of DJ Shadow's ...Endtroducing, but that hasn't stopped thousands of Bandcamp beatmakers from giving it a shot. Recycled Dolphin, however, are much better at it than most. They blend ethereal, surrealist ambiance with buzzing and dirty bass lines, creating a yin-and-yang effect that makes for a much more interesting product than the typical laptopper. Their creations can be ominously sedate ("Starbucks Buddhism") or hyperactive and flashy ("Personal Brand Development"), and the closer one listens, the more the small but fun details begin to pop out. Not everyone can be the next Gold Panda or Andy Stott, but it's worth wading through the attempts to stumble upon a Recycled Dolphin. recycleddolphin.bandcamp.com

—Jeff Terich


Riboflavin
7 Song EP

Either these teenage pop-punks live hyper-average lives or they're holding out on us. They live in North County and sing about standard high-school stuff—facing up to a school bully, taking a girl to Disneyland, begging mom for a ride to the Warped Tour. But, hey, I was a high-school kid once. I know how interesting things can get. Where's the song about blacking out on Xanax or losing your virginity in the back seat of the family station wagon? Come on, boys. Cough it up. facebook.com/riboflavinmusic

—Peter Holslin


Rosewood & Rye
Live at Lestats

This band sounds exactly like a band you'd imagine seeing at Lestat's. While their harmonies are solid, there isn't a lot of originality here. I am a fan of classical instruments mixed into mainstream genres, so Rosewood & Rye get extra points for straying from the standard boy-girl folk duo with the addition of a violinist. The strings are especially strong on their cover of Damien Rice's "Volcano," which is where I also find the best of both singers' voices. It and "Wynona Falls" are nice reprieves from cringe-worthy hip-hop scatting à la Jason Mraz on other tracks. Please stop that. rosewoodandrye.com

—Jen Van Tieghem


The Roxanne Wars
Demo

The Roxanne Wars seem like the type of band that's still nostalgic for the bedroom-produced, four-track, indie-pop of the late '90s. Each of the tracks on this four-song demo is a mixture of electronic beats, shoegazing guitars, soulful-if-nerdy vocals and beds of samples that put it somewhere between the Odelay chicanery of Beck and the hazy psychedelia of Ride. It's plenty enjoyable, even pleasant, to the point that you almost don't notice when the singer drops a line like "She don't want to be squeezed when she's bleeding to death." facebook.com/theroxannewars

—Jeff Terich


Rumblepack
Complexify EP

This EP opens with a track dedicated to rapping about how much modern music (including rappers) suck. Rumblepack suggests the solution to the "simplistic" and "run-of-the-mill" is to "complexify." I'm assuming the guitar solo thrown into their hip-hop style is meant to do whatever that is and set them apart. It doesn't. The rest of the EP is more of the same low-rent 311 sound. An exceptional low point comes on the funk-infused "Coffee Mate," in which these MCs describe the "chicks at the coffee shop" who should "leave room for cream." Is this a joke? Ick. rumblepack.co

—Jen Van Tieghem


Sasquatch
Calmplex

This 20-minute mix of experimental, instrumental hip-hop is sneaky dope. Warm horns, psychedelic guitars, burbling bass lines and subterranean beats are chopped up, pieced together and melted down into a syrupy soundtrack for heavy-lidded late-night excursions. Before you know it, time's up and you've spent the past 20 minutes on an upward trajectory of enjoyment, bobbing along and fake-scratching records on your desk like some sort of business-casual DJ. Or maybe that's just me. Oh, Sasquatch's music is sneaky dope? Probably should've seen that coming. sasquatch-tma.bandcamp.com

—Ben Salmon


Shake Before Us
Radio Time Bomb

Garage-rock bands are more common in San Diego than Instagram sunsets, so I'm amazed it took me eight demos to finally get to something that sounds like Shake Before Us. Their style is rooted in the mod and soul sounds of the '60s rather than the Burger Records phenomenon that appears to be swallowing Southern California whole. It's a fun slice of Farfisa-heavy rock 'n' roll, with massive hooks, hip-shimmying rhythms and fuzz aplenty. Generally, I'm loath to invite more garage bands into my ears, but Shake Before Us do a better job than most at keeping an old sound interesting. soundcloud.com/shakebeforeus

—Jeff Terich


Sir Froderick
Bruuh

Don't be overwhelmed by the 20-minute play time for each side, "A Bruuh" and "B Bruuh." Just think Pink Floyd and you might respect the ridiculous length of it all. Froderick is fancy; that's why he's Sir Froderick, but in a very playful, colorful Native Tongues-crew kind of way. Bruuh is one of those instrumental, long-play jazzy hip-hop albums you can play in the background for business or pleasure. You can even enjoy Froderick's zoom-zap-boom-onomatopoeia comic-book collage artwork when you need a little distraction. sirfroderick.bandcamp.com

—Dita Quiñones


Sister Speak
Rise Up for Love

I could use all kinds of words to describe Rise Up for Love, like "rootsy" and "bluesy," "alluring" and "well-crafted," "organic" and "real" (whatever that means). But the first word that comes to mind when listening to this album is "warm," thanks not only to its analog recording methods but also frontwoman Sherri-Anne's natural charisma, which practically leaps from these songs. Her dusky alto is like an old friend, her melodies are unforced and memorable and the band that backs her is certainly capable of soulful folk-rock. They create a world that welcomes lingering. sisterspeakmusic.com

—Ben Salmon


Skeet
Balloon EP

Meet the band where innovative alt-rock and head-scratching weirdness collide. Skeet's song "Simon" is probably their best, a keyboard-and-riffs power ballad with hints of both Weezer and The Flaming Lips. But they go totally off the rails on "Quakers Barilla," seesawing between Auto-Tuned verses and goofy, funk-rock choruses. And I'm not sure how I feel about the self-serious '90s confessionalism of "Bottledeep." But, hey, sometimes it takes a few failed experiments to hit on something new.

—Peter Holslin


Skelly Sküll
Underground Pop

This is a 16-minute beat tape that's been dragged through the sonic gutter. There's a Morrissey sample covered in muck. A nasty hip-hop beat straight out of some psychedelic-banshee lair. Chillwave moods rendered nightmarish by reverb and distortion. Kinda messy, but dope as hell. skellyapexrealm.bandcamp.com

—Peter Holslin


Sloat Dixon
Demo 2015

Sloat Dixon walks a risky musical line, smashing together grimy club beats, DayGlo disco-pop and rock 'n' roll attitude in an effort to make 1) butts move and 2) a name for himself. It almost works—some of these tracks are legit bangers built from unorthodox parts—but Dixon's brash, broken-glass bark is a nonstarter; it sounds lifted from a Chris Parnell sketch on Saturday Night Live. Dixon's beats might draw you to the dance floor, but his rapping may trigger your fight-or-flight response. sloatdixon.com

—Ben Salmon


Smarter Than Robots
Whats Another 28? EP

This EP starts out with a Bolero-style guitar instrumental that sounds straight out of a Robert Rodriguez film and then does a complete 180 and launches into some prog-tinged thrash metal. Their ability to mix multiple styles of music is admirable, and while there's nothing particularly groundbreaking here, it's certainly metal as fuck. smarterthanrobots.bandcamp.com

—Seth Combs


Soft Lions
Earth Energy EP

Vocalist / guitarist Megan Liscomb has a powerful, husky voice and a good ear for nasty guitar tone. Keyboardist Lex Pratt and drummer Jon Bonser lock in well, and the wicked groove of "Mountain" channels '60s trip-out bands like Silver Apples. But though the trio puts in a solid performance, it seems they're holding back too much with their blocky riffs. softlionsmusic.com

—Peter Holslin


Sol Horse
Demos 2014-15

Sol Horse is Dylan Stallard, a guy with a bedroom, a recording rig, a guitar and some chord progressions. His songs are idiosyncratic little garage-pop nuggets that mostly sound not quite finished. But what he has is interesting: Think power-pop with a post-punk makeover. T. Rex meets Television. Fang running with Gang of Four (Gang of Fang! Fang of Four!). Pavement and Parquet Courts, slathered in cymbal crashes and lo-fi hiss. There are gems here; they just need to be dug up, dusted off and dialed in.

—Ben Salmon


Sometimes Julie
Head First

I highly recommend this album if you a) buy most of your music from bands that play at farmers markets, b) spend a good chunk of time on Reddit debating the artistic merits of the TV show Nashville, c) often sing Shania Twain records to your cats or d) all of the above, in which case you should probably just turn in your badge. sometimesjulie.com

—Seth Combs


Speaker in Reverse
Demo

Tropical-tinged indie-pop for a sunny Saturday afternoon. The band sets a fresh mood with intertwining guitar parts and organ harmonies, but the crucial ingredient is Itai Faierman's light, falsetto vocals, which act as a kind of sonic citrus infusion. soundcloud.com/speaker-in-reverse

—Peter Holslin


Spooky Cigarette
Bonky Demonstration

First, anyone who names their band Spooky Cigarette is going to get mad props from this critic (can we all agree that we need to have more "spooky" things?). Better yet is when the band delivers on its name. Spooky Cigarette are a new-wave, synth-pop group who sound like they were produced in a haunted basement where the ghosts are friendly. Equal parts Future Islands and Digital Leather—with a little bit of Gary Wilson weirdness thrown in—it's a sound that's simultaneously catchy and unsettling.

—Ryan Bradford


The Steinbacks
The Steinbacks

I'm not sure what a Steinback is, but I sure hope it's not an unfortunate spelling of Steinbeck. Regardless, this duo's grunge-punk sound is very familiar and a bit bland. Several other local bands do this style in a much more interesting way (see: Gloomsday). Each of the three songs submitted sounds basically the same, and not in a good way. The female vocalist's style sounded better than the male's, so perhaps putting her in focus would have improved these mediocre tunes. It left me underwhelmed at best. soundcloud.com/brielle84

—Jen Van Tieghem


Stratocar
Demo

By far the worst one of my lot this year. I don't know if this is a band or a one-man rock project, but nothing is in sync here. All the instrumental parts sound like everyone is just playing together—and their instruments—for the very first time. Not to mention the singer sounds like a high-as-balls Marc Bolan doing shitty spoken word in Brian Jones' pool. The CD case brags "No Protools! No computers!" Seriously, guys, there's technology to make untalented people sound decent. Use it.

—Seth Combs


EXTRASPECIALGOOD

The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble
The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble

It would make sense that the farther one gets from Nigeria, the less likely it is that you're going to find authentic or, at the very least, decent Afrobeat. Yet, The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble—like Brooklyn's Antibalas or Canada's Souljazz Orchestra before them—make a highly compelling case for California Afrobeat on their self-titled, full-length release. The group's unique blend isn't a pure distillation of the heady grooves pioneered by Fela Kuti, but, rather, one that incorporates bits and pieces of fusion, Meters-style funk, Ethio-jazz and even David Axelrod's cinematic instrumentals of the late '60s. It's a stunning stew of influences, and the way the band translates them is vibrant and colorful, whether easing into a badass, dirty groove on "Strollin' Adams" or firing up a carefree boogaloo melody on "Funky River." With these 43 minutes of music, The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble are proving once and for all that San Diego truly is home to the funk. thesurefiresoulensemble.bandcamp.com

—Jeff Terich

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