Meat Wave = Saves the Day + New Politics
Listening to tracks like “Sinkhole,” I had to double-check to make sure that Meat Wave’s singer Chris Sutter wasn’t somehow the same person as Saves the Day’s Chris Conley (he’s not). That being said, Meat Wave have a very similar garage-punk sound but have something intrinsically grittier and more sardonic than Saves the Day, giving them an edge that I always felt Saves the Day lacked. “Delusion Moon” is infectious, but somewhat short for being the title-track, and “Witchcraft” epitomizes the sarcastically quirky tone of the whole album. If you were drawn in by the awesome name, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the music. –Ali Shimkus
BMP Pirate Radio Take-Over Show
Bass Mint Pros = (Beastie Boys + Gorillaz) x Free Radio Santa Cruz
Let me start by saying that BMP Pirate Radio Take-Over Show is something you definitely can’t just listen to as background music. Immediately, the stage is set with a smooth jazz DJ being assailed mid-sentence by Bass Mint Pros, who shout “It’s BMP, mofo!” before all chaos ensues. The album continues in a similar manner, with BMP traveling through the airwaves, rapping over tracks referencing Black Sabbath, The Smiths and Johnny Cash (to name a few) as they gradually take over various stations in “real time” with plenty of static and satirical commercials in between. It’s the kind of concept album that I personally find difficult to swallow, partially due to the sheer length of it all (about 75 minutes), and partially due to the fact that one of the overarching themes of the album is unpacking terms like “hip-hop is dead” and bringing listeners “real hip-hop,” just to use up a lot of time with repetitive choruses and comedy sketches. On the surface, there is a lot of clutter to sift through before reaching the heart of what BMP stands for, which is representing the Ogden hip-hop scene to the rest of Utah, and representing Utah hiphop to the rest of the world. This is all while poking fun of the unique lifestyle of the 801 through faux weather reports, foul-mouthed religious programming, and sound bytes of interviews with Mike Tyson. Tracks like “Way Back When” and “Sunn of 801” have some really solid rhymes and lyrics that definitely shine, and the sheer amount of artists that lent their talents to the making of this album is something to be applauded. Ultimately, BMP have set out to define hip-hop out of the Mountain West, and with their socially conscious comedy and hip-hop, they definitely have achieved a trademark style. –Ali Shimkus
Valentine and the Regard
Feral Cat Records
Valentine and the Regard = Eels + Seahaven
Some of the more prolific artists on the Utah scene, Brigham City artists Valentine and the Regard have created a release for almost every month of this current year, playing with themes of lycanthropy, heartache and the melancholy of driving around in the early hours of the morning. Lyricist, vocalist and guitarist Mike Maurer possesses the coveted ability of weaving real life into song and doesn’t waste time on inauthentic semantics: The longest song on Girlfriends is “Must I Become,” which clocks in at just under two minutes and 30 seconds. This works to leave a little bit to the imagination, as the fragmented song titles only hint at what we will get in the song. However, there are certain titles—“September Rain,” in particular—that feel a verse or two short of a complete story.
“Brittle Candy” and “Market War” are cheeky, pop punk oddities that mix up the lineup of the album and lend Girlfriends an upbeat twist. Vocalist Julie Maurer’s half-sung/half–spoken word lyrics in “Brittle Candy” are somewhat playful and somewhat biting as she sings: “A total immature, silly boy / I roll my eyes, he’s just a toy,” hearkening to a Kathleen Hanna sound with less instrumentation and a little less vitriol. “Market War” follows suit in the same upbeat fashion, though it’s followed on the album with “Bottles,” which features heavily distorted guitar, a slower tempo and Mike’s saccharine lyrics. It’s the stark contrast between pop punk and lo-fi indie that is a little jarring, though each song has a shining quality on its own. On the one hand, it’s evident that Valentine and the Regard have the talent to dabble in many different genres. On the other hand, there are many varying moods in Girlfriends, and Mike’s storytelling and bare-bones instrumentation lend unique views on the Utah local music scene that I wish could be drawn out just a little bit more. –Ali Shimkus
Run Into the Sun
Run Into the Sun = Dangers + Modern Life is War + Have Heart
As if the timing couldn’t be more pertinent, The Spark was released right around the 2016 election, and the stance that Run Into the Sun has about the matter is glaringly obvious. Each song in The Spark is its own protest, and while some tracks like “Your Badge Is a Burning Cross” contain a very clear message, others like “Vines,” featuring Jordon Strang, are more complex and tricky. They address the fact that creativity and uniqueness are often suppressed as children grow older in order to transition them to the grind and harsh reality of adulthood. No topic is really off limits for Run Into the Sun, whether it be police brutality, the unethical treatment of prisoners, teen suicide or the right to love whomever you want. They handle each topic with a weight of personal involvement, making The Spark all the more believable and never preachy. Each of these themes is released fully within a corresponding song, while a cohesive, overarching theme of resistance to oppression unifies the entire album. And while each song brings up a different issue that Americans are facing, the message of each song takes precedence over the actual musicality of the album. It is still very enjoyable on a visceral level. The Spark certainly has enough guitar distortion and gritty vocals to be considered hardcore, yet there is something a little more melodic about the guitar and vocals — especially in opening song “You’re Not Alone” — which make it difficult to categorize. The addition of the acoustic, “Soul on Fire” gives an extra emotive dimension to the album, crafting a strong, melancholic view of America’s prison system. All the energy and intensity you would expect from a band called Run Into the Sun is present through each song, giving an extra credence to the messages that permeate through The Spark. –Ali Shimkus
Galaxy 420 Records
Magda-Vega = (Joan Jett + Black Sabbath) x Savages
Magda-Vega’s album Destroyer is certainly not lacking in gritty, in-your-face antics backed up by solid rock with metal and punk influences. It’s clear from the first few lines of “Junkie” that lead singer Robin Brown, described in the band’s own bio as a “fiery hellcat,” is just that. Her voice is as brash and unapologetic as the lyrics she’s singing. The aggression is consistent throughout the entirety of Destroyer and presents itself in cheeky way in songs “X Ray Eyes” with Brown crooning “I’m gonna be your girlfriend” and again in “Goodbye Kitty” with “I’m just a bitch / And you’re on my list / I’m just a bitch / Seal it with a kiss.”
Brown’s gravelly voice is one of the strongest features that Magda-Vega have to offer, but the guitar solos by guitarist Bill Frost add an extra dimension of heavier, old-school rock n’ roll to each song. Each song in Destroyer maintains the same chaotic energy of the one before, with a break of slower intensity in “Blackhole” that builds into one of Frost’s best solos on the record (though the guitar solo in title track “Destroyer” is equally face-melting). For me—while Brown shines in songs with more of the punk-inspired, abrasive lyrics—the band takes the front seat in “Blackhole” and “Destroyer” and benefits from the ability to develop a dramatic buildup throughout these songs.
My critique of Destroyer—if it can even be considered a real critique and not actually a compliment—is that the guitar solos, the vocals and the rhythm section are almost always turned up to 11. While Magda-Vega don’t seem to incorporate the most diverse range in dynamics, it actually does work for them, giving them an almost ’80s punk/hair metal vibe with a new, meaner attitude. Listen to Destroyer at magdavegaslc.bandcamp.com. –Ali Shimkus
Wey = The Stooges + X
Defined by aggressive guitar fills and duet-style vocals over gritty, straightforward rock n’ roll, I initially wasn’t sure that Wey (a phonetic allusion to the Spanish slang for “dude”/”asshole”—güey) could accurately be termed as “punk rock boogie,” as they describe themselves. However, each time I listened, I became more and more convinced of the punk rock foundation that Wey are built on. Every song is energetic, well-mixed and in your face, with dynamic guitar solos peppered in—some of the solos are those featured on opening track “Ride” and “Return to Rome.” With the (awesome) album art featuring a Spanish bullfighting scene, “Castanets for Bayonets” definitely deserves a mention for being the somewhat unnamed title track of the album. It has the cheekiest lyrics, kicking off with “Without a doubt / My word is shit.” For me, “Adventuring” is one of the stronger songs on the album, with a wicked harmonic minor feel, especially when the guitar solo kicks in for the second verse over a syncopated rhythm. In an album where most of the songs feature steady rock and blues sensibilities, “Adventuring” is a monkey wrench that switches up the atmosphere, adds some variation, and gives Wey an edge leading into the second half of the album.
Randy Harward describes vocalist Spock’s voice as being similar to that of Jello Biafra, which is probably a comparison I would make myself. Pairing Spock’s voice with vocalist Anna Kennedy’s seems to soften out the edges in a very pleasant, melodic way, especially in “Bark.” That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that there needed to be only one vocalist featured on a few of the songs while listening to the album, as Spock and Kennedy are harmonizing over each other through a majority of the lyrics. Horns and keys sprinkled throughout the album, specifically in “Lowdown Shame,” lend some variety to the persistent, guitar-laden sound that Wey capitalize on. All in all, this album is a solid release for Wey, speaking to their strengths in songwriting and guitar work, and would definitely make for a mean live show. –Ali Shimkus
Woolen Men = The Wipers + Saccharine Trust
With a minimalist approach to production, Portland natives Woolen Men play a basic rock sound reminiscent of The Wipers and Jawbreaker. However, despite the punk rock DIY aspect of the album, there is a kind of goofy, oddball vibe that comes off in vocalist Raf Spielman’s sometimes off-key voice. “Life in Hell” is one of the highlights of the A-tracks, as Spielman sings, “Maybe someday we’ll meet again in a different life / And then we’ll both know what to do,” before launching into a chorus of “too late” over and over, a melancholic motif that reminds me of The Smiths. Even though the production quality is not top-notch, it does not detract from the emotive, honest songwriting and nostalgic quality that Woolen Men have been able to master. –Ali Shimkus
Lucid Flow Music
Jay Citrus = Curren$y + Trademark Da Skydiver
“I’m livin’ lucid,” croons the sleepy voice of Utah rapper Jay Citrus, who appears to be the real life version of James Franco’s character in Pineapple Express, with long hair, oversized Hawaiian shirts and a penchant for weed. Lucid Dreams is the kind of album with dreamy, washed-out tracks that you’d want to kick back and smoke to. Each track leads seamlessly into the next, making the overarching theme of lucid dreaming one that is actually cohesive throughout the entire album and creating something that has a stream-of-consciousness, stylized aspect to it. Jay Citrus experiments with the beat, sometimes rapping a little behind the beat to really stretch out the verse, doing so even with the first lines of the album, “Wanna be the new Houdini / Make anything possible,” which starts on an off-beat and immediately grabs attention. The rest of the album follows in the same, effortless suit. “Someone Different” breaks up the monotony with female vocalist MaryJane, who complements Jay Citrus’ somnolent rapping with her richly dark voice. “No Breaks” features a sample of Paul Wall‘s “Sittin Sidewayz” with a kind of hazy effect added to it, as though one were listening underwater, and “Lucid” makes use of various quotes from Tarantino movies with the same dreamlike effect. DJ Bask gives these tracks a certain mastery that matches perfectly with Jay Citrus’ aesthetic. What sets Jay Citrus apart from other local hip-hop is that some rappers from the 801 fall back too much on mentioning Salt Lake in almost every track, which Jay Citrus refrains from, only making one or two references throughout the album. Instead, he focuses on creating an atmospheric mixtape, a refreshing Citrus twist on the Salt Lake rap game. –Ali Shimkus
Sleep Dealer = Sinai Vessel + Pianos Become the Teeth
It’s always nice to hear from bands from Southern Utah—even nicer when they bring back the nostalgia of early 2000s emo (à la Brand New and The Spill Canvas)—like St. George–based Sleep Dealer do. Please, Reconnect… is a short EP that delivers just enough of that nostalgia to pique my interest as a unique voice to break through the local music scene. Each of the songs on the EP seems to have been built behind a single guitar riff that delicately evolves into something bigger. “Clocktown Brewing Company” starts off as a guitar line that gradually and satifyingly evolves into a full band piece, complete with vocalist/guitarist Patrick Swansborough‘s controlled screams. Swansborough’s voice never seems strained or out of place, despite the fact that the band uses minimal distortions, and his singing voice is melodic and clean, complementing the guitar in each song.
While Sleep Dealer seem to lack some of the abrasion and aggression of some popular emo acts, their softer, building approach serves to their benefit. The guitar riffs serve as the backbone of each song and are highlighted constantly throughout each piece. “The World That Never Was (Ian’s Song)” is the most melodic track on Please, Reconnect… and the stylistic choice of harmonizing both singing and screaming voices on top of each other in the chorus is effective in conveying the morose sweetness of the lyrics. As an Elder Scrolls fan, I’m automatically intrigued by “M’aiq the Liar” and its abrupt break from the gentle intro of “L+R+A+Start,” which bears an equally nerdy namesake. “M’aiq the Liar” has the dichotomy of easily being the most upbeat song on Please, Reconnect… while also containing the most consistent screaming.
For a first effort, there are a lot of really solid elements in Please, Reconnect… and the emotion behind the music is very present throughout the EP. The only criticism I would have for this EP is that there are some layered elements (such as vocals) that don’t exactly line up in every track the same way, but even then, there is a certain charm in the raw emotion and small imperfections, and I’m excited to see what Sleep Dealer have to offer in the future. –Ali Shimkus