Author: CJ Morgan

Life in Static
Street: 08.15
Larusso = The Ataris + Decibel Trust
If you’re someone who still digs the alt-rock/emo scene, Larusso nail it. The vocals are passionate, the guitar lines have a nice tone and are well honed, and the production is truly top shelf. The highlights are “The Voice” and “Chase The Sun,” both of which nicely present the band’s sound, even if it isn’t as relevant as it used to be. I can’t decide if Life in Static is a welcome throwback to acts like All American Rejects and Alkaline Trio, or if it’s just a little too late for the type of Warped Tour emo pop that played itself dry seven or eight years ago. I’m also not sure if there’s an undercurrent of Christian themes here or if there are a few too many tired emo clichés and somewhat hackneyed lyrics for me to know the difference. Try Larusso if alt-rock is your thing. –CJ Morgan
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Willy Moon
Here’s Willy Moon 
Cherrytree/Interscope Records
Street: 05.21
Willy Moon = Justin Timberlake + Sam Cooke + Ray Charles
Here’s Willy Moon sounds like a dark night on a hot city street. It’s hard to define because it’s bustling like a hundred cars, yet has a consistent and unique sound. Moon draws influence from ‘50s and ‘60s rock n’ roll and soul, which he then bitch-slaps with immaculate productions, rich textures, and a smattering of samples. At times you’re listening to hip hop (“Yeah Yeah”) and the next thing you know you’re lost in a scorching factory of jazz horns and gruff industrial vocals (“Working for the Company”). Before you can shout along with the powerful chorus of “What I Want,” you’re caught in a modernized cover of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin’.” Overall, the album sounds fantastic, and has a colorful pastiche of interwoven electronics, guitars and sharp beats that will leave you sweaty—and maybe a little horny. Dance safe, you naughty rascals. –CJ Morgan


Poeina Suddarth

Happy Whore


Street: 02.18

Poeina Suddarth = Honey Honey + Amy Winehouse + Janis Joplin

Poeina Suddarth’s vocal range is insane. Her sharp-yet-sweet voice travels everywhere from upbeat skit-skat jazz on “Natural Disaster,” all the way to relaxed grass-plains country sounds on “Gasoline” and “White Mr. Beauty.” In many instances, her voice sounds a lot like Hayley Williams of Paramore, though she masterfully dives into spaces Williams wouldn’t dare go. The real lobe-lasher is “Coral Reef,” where Suddarth squeals out high-pitched operatic vocals over rich acoustic cross-picking—I’m still pulling glass shards from my ears, but it hurts good. Tracks like “A Man Like Me” and “Hey Sister” are dressed in a lightly grim, heart-aching atmosphere (call her Edgar Allen Poeina) that adds excellent dynamic tension. Overall, Suddarth has cultivated an intriguing vibe with a little bit of everything; it’s lustrous, eclectic, and damn sexy. If Poeina Suddarth is a happy whore, I’m a happy client—this tumble was worth my time. –CJ Morgan


I’m Designer
Lulled from Reality
Street: 09.22.14
I’m Designer = Alarms and Controls + 30 Seconds to Mars + A Perfect Circle

When a band titles a track “First Gasp During Sexual Assault,” you wonder just what the fuck you’ve gotten yourself into. But titles are just titles, and deception seems to be I’m Designer’s MO. They seem simple, but multiple listens reveal depth. At first, I heard a basic mix of atmospheric guitar work, steady drums and melodic vocals. My interest piqued, I dug deeper and noticed the weight of the cool, echoing reverb as they nod to Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. I heard a universe of familiar sounds executed with originality and silver-coated production. I noticed the journey that a single song can take as it straddles psychedelia with a light touch of emo, or hard rock with a side of pop. I traveled along as they jam, croon, holler and launch to the moon and beyond. Lulled is a solid release from a great up-and-comer. –CJ Morgan

Run On Sentence


Hush Records

Street: 07.15

Run On Sentence = Drive-By Truckers +
Bright Eyes +
Lynyrd Skynyrd

I hated this album the first time I heard it, but something changed around the third listen. Run on Sentence, aka Dustin Hamman, takes some getting to know, but his passion and charm really carries him. He’s a modern country-western everyman, and you can hear the wiry scrape of his thick beard in his fuck-you-I’m-singing delivery. His care shines through in his lyrical content and the carefully crafted musical accompaniments that backs it. From lazy slide guitar to strong pure-toned solos, you’ll like him ‘cause you know him. You’ve sung “Stoned, Drunk and Blind” in a slur at the bar. You’ve thought about love as Hamman does on “Magical Mirror,” and you’ve pumped your fist to something like the hearty “Run To You.” He might not be the most original, and his pipes ain’t silver, but his sound goes great with a beer. –CJ Morgan

Dark Seas
Hawkes Court
Midnight Records
Street: 04.12
Dark Seas = moe. + Janis Joplin / Steve Miller Band

Me: “Jesus, this guy sounds like … goddamn … The Doors. Is this a long-lost track?” My friend: “No, CJ, it’s Dark Seas, and why are you drunk on a Sunday morning?” Dark Seas vocalist Kyle Wilcox has a deep voice that slurs influences into a potent and powerful sound. A dash of Morrison, a sprinkle of Scott Weiland and a smidgen of ’80s David Gilmour slosh together for warm refrains that are a bit sweet and a bit spicy—music’s Jack and Coke. The vocals are shaken with cool bluesy riffs that inspire dancing (“It’s Alright”), surfing and bong hits (“Cali Bud”), and even relaxing hammock naps (“This is Love”). The album sounds great and often has more polish than a lot of local rock I’ve come across. Catch their last performance and tribute to their recently passed guitarist, Colton Ericksen, at Craft Lake City on Aug. 9. –CJ Morgan


Experiments EP
Street: 10.04.12
Cliffs = (MGMT + Panda Bear) x Saucerful of Secrets -era Pink Floyd
The flower-child’s bouquet of influences on Experiments touches on many psychedelic front-runners of the past as well as a bevy of acid-trip contemporaries. “Marigold” features trippy keys and clean, reverb-laden guitars with dreamy, distant vocals and has an almost Simon & Garfunkel taste to it, while “A Strange Love” has a Peter Bjorn and John quality with stimulating keyboards and simple-but-catchy guitar licks. Cliffs have put together a great, very listenable EP (it made it into my regular listening cycle) with catchy riffs, warm vocals, and some sunny surf tunes, but they travel down too many well-worn paths. Psychedelic and ’60s-inspired music is about pushing boundaries, but, ironically, Cliffs don’t really delve into new space on Experiments . The combination of influences give Cliffs a sound all their own, but a nice acid trip would take them to new places, and though it sounds pretty good, some more production polish wouldn’t hurt. –CJ Morgan


Where We Were
Street: 10.24.14
Kitfox = Straylight Run + Gardiner Sisters

At peak season for icy air and cold noses comes this warm, wholesome debut EP from Kitfox. It’s a quiet, somber five songs, but Kitfox certainly found their sweet spot early in their career with careful acoustic cross-picking, piano, sleepy banjo and the occasional, lightly processed electric guitar. The melodies are very balanced and tonally exact (particularly on “Where We Were”), and the musicianship is really fantastic. It’s a short EP, but highlights range from drowsy heartfelt numbers like “Sleep” to mid-tempo nostalgic ones like “Halloween Song” and sweet romantic tracks like “Wild Grass.” There’s really nothing here to dislike, and they’re every bit as talented as, if not more talented than, many national acts you’re likely to find in the indie folk genre. They’re a young band, but they sound far more mature than some acts that have been around for far longer. I expect more great things from Kitfox. –CJ Morgan


Herban Empire
Self-Titled EP
Street: 04.19
Herban Empire = The Dirty Heads + Pepper + Slightly Stoopid

Herban Empire cured my hangover—no joke. Feeling a little rugged from a night on the town, I popped this EP in for a spin, and by the end, my head was full of sunshine instead of gloomy brain-clouds (individual results may vary). Their sound comes through crystal clear (the production and mastering are top-notch—listen with headphones) and brings to mind other reggae stars like Tribal Seeds and Sublime, with a dash of funky distortion à la 311. Empire set themselves apart with smooth, playful ear-monster melodies that you’ll be singing in your sleep. Top tracks on this EP are the bouncy, sun-soaked “What’s Supposed to Be,” and the grittier “Soda Pop,” which channels some hard rock grooves for head-nodding goodness. Really, the whole damn thing is tasty, but EPs are too short. I’m gonna need a lot more to ward off future hangovers. –CJ Morgan

Deap Vally
Get Deap EP
Cherrytree/Interscope Records
Street: 04.09
Deap Vally = Janis Joplin x (Alabama Shakes + Wolf Mother)
Deap Vally’s first EP sounds like a shitty version of Dead Weather. Comparisons to Allison Mosshart are tough not to make, but Deap Vally doesn’t dig close to as deap (ha!) into the gritty acid-blues genre. Riffs on “Brother, brother, brother” are boring and uninteresting, while vocals are vigorous but sound terrible. “Gonna Make My Own Money” features some good ol’ gutter blues with scratchy, wild vocals that don’t fit the simple, distorted guitar riff. “End of the World” has a decent vocal melody that’s quickly lost behind more stupid guitar riffs. “Ain’t Fair” ain’t good either, and describes how I felt after listening to this (I have to listen to this again? That ain’t fair!). If there’s a saving grace, it’s that there are some big sounds coming from this two-woman team, and they’ve got a dynamic energy. Some guitar lessons and focus would probably put this band into the “listenable” category. –CJ Morgan