Author: Darcy Wouters-Russell

Kal Marks
Life is Murder
Exploding In Sound
Street: 09.17
Kal Marks = Federation X + Pavement
Boston’s Kal Marks blend anger with sincere desperation in Life is Murder. You don’t know what to expect from opening track “Love is a Song … Not an Answer,” as it starts with some random violin noises, but then, behold Carl Shane’s odd vocals come in. It doesn’t take long to get over Shane’s potato-stuck-in-throat voice and feel the sense of loneliness in his lyrics, screamed over a thick slab of bass and feedback—“I have never been so happy with a bottle of lotion in my life” Shane squeaks on title track. The track that I consider “my jam” off this album is “All I Want in Life is a Solid Porch”—it’s full of tempo changes, feedback and traumatic lyrics. I really didn’t think I would grow to like, let alone love and respect Shane’s unconventional vocals, but they make this album a solid piece that is unlike anything I’ve heard recently. –Darcy Wouters-Russell
Photos:

eat Mark
Howls of Joy
Ample Play
Street: 02.19
Beat Mark = Stone Roses + Sea Pony 
France’s Beat Mark invoke the lazy, Brit-pop sound of the mid-80s with their debut album, Howls of Joy, 13 rushed tracks that leave much to be desired in the world of tone and song structure. The opening track, “What I Want The Most,” is a two-minute, incessant guitar strumming, high-end heavy track that seems to be lacking any specific direction. Julien Perez’s  vocals create a mopey fog that gets little relief from the sweet but self-conscious harmonies of Gaëtan Didelot and Chloé Labaye. The simple garage band sound is easy to confuse for an intentional noise-pop sound, but the shy vocals and absence of variation in song structure hint at a lack of organization. I got absolutely no feeling out of this album, but I did wake up at 5 a.m. with “Son Thomas Hunter” stuck in my head—a throwback to the easy, breezy surf sound of the Beach Boys that is tolerable, but anything but new and refreshing. –Darcy Wouters-Russell

Photos:

Horsehands
Sirs EP
Self-released
Street: 02.05
Horsehands = Yes + Flaming Lips + The Blood Brothers
Boston-based Horsehands are an experiment with an old, familiar sound that is miraculously unlike anything you’ve ever heard. With vocals that can sound like Geddy Lee at times and like Tim Taylor of 3rA1N1AC at others, their debut, self-released, 13-song EP, Sirs, spans an eclectic palate of musical flavors and tempo changes that is dense and rich enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite. “Tin Horn” invokes the driving, upbeat and spat-out vocals of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” where “Shirts and Skins” delivers a hefty helping of dirty-sweet melodic guitars and a grungy, early-90s bass line. “Kiwanis Ow” draws on the simple surf sound of the 60s, while still creating a new, progressive sound through complex layers of controlled guitar chaos. No matter what your musical craving, Sirs is sure to satisfy. –Darcy Wouters-Russell

Photos:

Mwahaha
Self-Titled
Plug Research
Street: 03.26
Mwahaha = The Faint + TV on the Radio
Mwahaha’s self-titled debut is a full-on electro-psych, pretentious jam session that left me feeling adrift and unsatisfied. The album starts out on a pretty solid foundation, with complex layers of progressive synth and vocal harmonies, but seems to get lost on its own chaotic trip. “Swimmer,” the opening track, is driven by a heavy, deep bass line and drum beat frosted with Ross Peacock’s subdued, falsetto vocals. Though the track lacks any noticeable climax, it offers a sweet, electro-pop outro that juxtaposes nicely with the heavy synth harmonics that open the track. From there, the album gradually grows more and more ambient and hypnotic, maintaining the subdued and melancholic harmonies reminiscent of She Wants Revenge in the song “Sleep Deep” before going into a near-11-minute, fuzzed-out space journey that tries desperately to evoke emotions that I just couldn’t muster. –Darcy Wouters-Russell

Photos:

Como Asesinar
A Felipes
Comenzara de Nuevo
Koolarrow
Street: 04.09
Como Asesinar A Felipes = Immortal Technique + UNKLE
Comenzara de Nuevo, or Begin Again, is the mind-blowing US debut of progressive Chilean hybrid Como Asesinar A Felipes. Combining elements of hip hop and jazz with an underlying Latin-American flair, this album is full of complex layers and a strong message of change. The opening track, “Pajaros en Contra,” has a trip hop feel similar to Portishead, with a combination of dark guitar riffs and eerie organ sounds. DJ Sp@-cio’s scratches pay homage to an old-school style like that of Numark from Jurassic 5. MC Koala Contreras’s lyrics, spoken only in Spanish, are spat out powerfully against a backdrop of spaced-out synth, traditional Latin-American drum beats and sweet classical piano sounds in “El Recurso Popular Mas Valido,” translated in English as “The Most Valid Popular Appeal.” It’s a song that speaks of growth and progression, the opening lyric, “Everything is subject to change,” hinting at revolution. The tracks average a lengthy five to six minutes, but never fail to bring new and uplifting sounds to the world of hip hop.
 

Photos:

Lower Plenty
Hard Rubbish
Fire Records
Street: 04.02
Lower Plenty = Bright Eyes + Elliot Smith
The Aussie quartet Lower Plenty seem to muster up some characteristically American blues tones in Hard Rubbish. Recorded solely on eight-track reel-to-reel tape, the album has a very raw but warming feel, despite its overwhelming melancholia. Soft-spoken lyrics are layered with sweet melodies and swells of guitar fuzz, making the short and simple two-minute tracks complex and shifting. “Strange Beast” features light and airy acoustic guitar, droned-out vocals and a sweet topping of harmonies courtesy of Sarah Heyward, whose smoky vocals reminds me of Feist or a less upbeat Tilly and the Wall. “Grass” evokes tremendous emotions through the rise and fall of guitar and percussion, showcasing Heyward’s sweetly subdued vocals. The tracks average two minutes, but are never boring due to the variation in vocal harmonies and the overall homemade feel.

Photos: