Author: CJ Morgan

Antique Scream
Two Bad Dudes Records
Self Destructo
Street: 02.10
Antique Scream = Motörhead + Deep Purple 
Low-toned, buzzed-out guitars, thundering tribal drums, deep bass grooves and rough vocals mark this release. Mashing styles akin to Hendrix, ZZ Top and even Led Zeppelin, Antique Scream offer a look back at early blues metal. The sound is the musical equivalent of a drunk hippy with a beer belly and a trucker hat. You’ll find that “Smoke on the Water” fuzz throughout the album and some great Bonham-esque drums on “Black Magic I.” There’s something for the acid trippers on the psychedelic-’60s riffer “Black Magic II” and something for the gasoline drinker on the “Ace of Spades”–y “The Intimidator.” If I had to complain, I’d say there’s a serious lack of fiery solos (I waited, but they never came). The production is pretty low-caliber, and there’s too much here that you’ve probably heard before, but if you’re into this brand of roadhouse rock, this might be your trip. –CJ Morgan 
Out, Out
Songs to Forget Me By
Street: 02.14
Out, Out = Biffy Clyro + Snow Patrol + Straylight Run
Songs to Forget Me By is rife with songs ripped from the romantic, early ‘00s atmospheric alt-pop camp, which is fine, but I must say I was bored for most of this album. A few standouts are “Let’s be Honest,” which has an almost country-inspired acoustic intro with nice harmonics on electric guitar, and “Bread Line” with an interesting, catchy melody and some tickling guitar work if you’re patient enough to stay the entire length. Lyrically, the album is kind of a downer, and I’d expect lyrics a touch more eloquent from a band with the same name as a well-loved Robert Frost poem. Ultimately, the album is certainly likeable and the group has a well-defined sound, but songs blend into each other and some are really long (many clock in at over 6:00). Experimentation would really help them broaden their sound and make sure their songs aren’t forgotten –CJ Morgan
Spell Talk
Street: 09.26.12
Spell Talk = Black Keys + De Stijl–era White Stripes
It’s too bad Spell Talk broke up following this release, because their down n’ dirty rock n’ roll went straight for the guts and would’ve won a “vintage sound” contest any day. Rough has a distinguished, antique sound that’s the musical equivalent of watching James Dean shave with a straight razor—cool and hot at the same time. Vocals are passionate and sometimes sharp and shouted, but there’s little room for smooth edges in the Beehive State anyway. “Skool Ain’t Cool” has some delicious tones that sound like a mirage—a bit distant, but hopeful and attractive. “Keeps Me Up” has some interesting ooh-la-las and probably represents what would happen if Brian Wilson got baked with The Rolling Stones. Somehow, Spell Talk managed to break down the heat of the Utah desert and re-synthesize it as pure, no-nonsense, head-nodding grooves. I’m sad that we won’t be feeling their heat any longer. –CJ Morgan
Shark Week
Beach Fuzz
Papercup music
Street: 05.19
Shark Week = The Growlers + The New Electric Sound
Beach Fuzz is the perfect name for this album. Combining recognizable West Coast ocean riffs with DC grit and rockabilly, this album gets wild with the surf-rock genre we know well. “Desire” offers some hot, reverb-y guitar lines, while rough-spun vocals wander and shift, evoking Tom Waits in a unique waver that sometimes intrigues, sometimes annoys. “Why Did I Let You Go” slows it down with a psychedelic groove featuring some nice layered and echoing vocals. “Scratching Post” takes the tempo down more with light, shimmering guitar and some cool riff-age, though the vocals end up distracting rather than improving the track. “Weekend” is probably the catchiest number, though it’s just more of the same surf-sound riffing that the rest of the album offers. Ultimately, there’s something here for the beach-bum types, but those not into the seaside vibe would probably be best served elsewhere. –CJ Morgan 
Jumping the Tracks
Street: 02.04
+/– = The Airborne Toxic Event / The National
+/– isn’t such a tough problem to crack. The formula for this album seems to be: Throw in some decent layered melodic bits and a variety of well-balanced instrumentations, along with average-guy vocals (He’s on key, he just doesn’t sound great). Some tracks brought Band of Horses to mind (“Exorcising Your Ghost”), while others felt like Versus (“Toe the Line”), but the formula is … well … formulaic. Jumping The Tracks is so painfully “meh” that it makes me pissed off and sleepy. It chaps my ass that the vocals just don’t complement the shimmering guitars and neat sonic framework—we have computers that fix this, people! I found no reason to settle for this with a variety of other similar, better artists. –CJ Morgan

Slow Dance in the Cosmos


Street: 08.27

PORCHES. = Kurt Vile + The Strokes – M. Ward

PORCHES. have a sound that includes a little folk, a little rock, ample keys and a touch of soul. Highlights are: “Intimate,” which is a heartfelt duet featuring starry synth and dream-weaving vocals (though it’s a little short); “Headgiving,” which has interesting lyrics and nice guitar work; “Fog Dog,” which features warm fuzz and sweet harmonies; and my favorite, “Permanent Loan,” which is the most powerful track and has just the right amount of angst (Brand New comes to mind) with strong vocals and guitar that strides along with towering tones. PORCHES. have the style down, but they don’t quite have the passionate verve you’d hear from many contemporaries, and the vocals don’t always hit the mark. Slow Dance in the Cosmos sounds like it could’ve fit right in on a ’90s college radio station, but might’ve been forgotten quickly. –CJ Morgan
New Love cover
New Love
Street: 02.17
Cafeine = Hot Fuss–era Killers + The Fratellis + Interpol

There’s something incredibly familiar about Cafeine. I recall the buzzing keys that walk a line between electronic and organic on “New Love,” and the youthful energy in the danceable, synth-y alt-pop hooks that resonate throughout the album. Maybe it was an early-2000s thing? Whatever the case, there’s a loveable charm to a group that can sound new and “so 10 years ago” simultaneously. It makes me feel nostalgic, but not in a living-in-the-past sort of way. The two big standouts are “Lettre D’amour,” a French-language ear bug that’ll be singing a week after you’ve heard it, and “Fucking Time,” a groovy number that meshes simple guitar with cool synth for a stellar semi-electronic vibe. New Loves is for those who want a journey into the not-so-distant past where The Strokes and The Hives were doing their thing alongside a hundred other “the” bands. –CJ Morgan

New Love cover
Plateau Below

Still Paradise

Jurassic Pop

Street: 03.04

Plateau Below = Elf Power + Cliffs x Clouds Taste Metallic-era Flaming Lips

“Eris” opens this album with the driving mantras and quiet anxiety you heard from Modest Mouse on the Lonesome and Crowded West, though Plateau keeps it rounded with an almost Syd Barrett-esque psychedelic flourish. Quiet, sharp, impassioned vocals come in on “Riverside,” while the lyrics tell the gut-punching story of a man reduced to living beside a river. The song fills out with a splendid melody augmented by just-bouncy-enough bass and starry guitar strums before the vocals really start to cut, bringing Brand New to mind with a stirring combo of screams and sweetness. I listened, I listened again, I’m still listening. Tracks like “Twiggy” and “Dying Down” bring to mind Animal Collective, but without the big leaps from sanity—it’s smoother, more consistent, without being at all boring. It’s short, but there’s almost no fat. Still Paradise is the best indie album I’ve heard so far this year. –CJ Morgan
Dead Gaze
Brain Holiday
Fatcat Records
Street: 10.22
Dead Gaze = MGMT + Pixies

Dead Gaze (AKA R. Cole Furlow) sounds exactly—and I mean exactly—like Nathan Williams of Wavves (most apparent on “A Different Way”). On some tracks, however, Dead Gaze travel into pop territory, especially on “Yuppies are Flowers” which features some mildly distorted guitar that chunks alongside a catchy synth hook that dig into your earballs. Dead Gaze can open up a can of rock n’ roll (“You’ll Carry on Real Nice”), but he’s at his best when he slows it down. “Stay, Don’t Stay,” has soft, quiet vocals over elegant acoustic strumming and moving guitar atmospheres that hide in the background. “Breathing Creatures” has great head-bobbing keyboard melodies and light horns dancing in the back, and “Brain Holiday” has a fantastic textured sound that can only be appreciated through headphones— it’s good shit. –CJ Morgan


Sad Cactus Records
Street: 05.19
Whitewash = Piper at the Gates of Dawn–era Pink Floyd – Radiohead

Whitewash provide a drawling psychedelic soundspace akin to plenty of shag-carpeted groups that buzzed through the ’60s and ’70s. Though, they seem to have trouble finding the line between catchy and listenable, and stoned and droning. This tape (a cassette, how quaint) starts off dynamic, interesting and grandiose (“Hunger Strike”), but peters out almost immediately and left me with tracks that are lazy and forgettable (“Neon Loveseat” and “Saudade”). Upon first listen, there were a few times I forgot that music was playing, and a few times, I had to start tracks over because I couldn’t focus on the wandering guitar lines or dull vocals. I do appreciate where they’re coming from—I definitely had my days with a bong in hand—but this album seems like it’s either for the naturally melancholy or those fucked into space by downers and laughing gas. I just couldn’t find much to like here. –CJ Morgan