Author: Kia McGinnis

Jay Citrus & Esscarrgo
Alone With Two Drinks
Lucid Flow Music
Street: 09.27.14
Jay Citrus = Cyprus Hill + Snoop Dog
This five-song hip-hop EP from right here in the 801 caught me off guard in a good way. If I were unabashedly judging from the cover, I would have anticipated abrasive, repetitive rave jams. However, Alone With Two Drinks proved me wrong. The album has a smooth, consistent beat and samples that are cohesive with Citrus’ unhurried, straightforward flow. His opening track, “Bloom,” uses a clever piece from The Beatles and has an engaging cadence. While there’s nothing technically off-putting about his rap, Citrus might become more accessible if his words contained fresh and relevant ideas about Salt Lake instead of vague lyrics about booty, as found in “Bounce.” Despite that, Alone With Two Drinks is a well-put-together album that offers a unique sound from other local releases. –Kia McGinnis


Elisa Ambrogio
The Immoralist
Drag City Records
Street: 10.21
Elisa Ambrogio = Mirah + Kimya Dawson

You may have heard Ambrogio as the lead singer in the heavier band Magik Markers, but nowadays she’s a solo artist with a heart-on-her-sleeve attitude about songwriting. Her tracks have a sweet and soft pace, with electric undertones and subtle build of tension. She uses unpretentious lyricism about love and romance that will kick your heart in the ass. In “Mary Perfectly,” she sings, “Every fire in history burned hot and then burned out.” “Stopped Clocks” has fast-paced bass and a Karen O feel, while “Fever Sealed Yes Forever” is 1:46 of an almost gospel-ly electro-organ solo. The Immortalist will have you empathizing hard because it’s relatable without being preachy. –Kia McGinnis

Tracy Shedd
New Granada
Street: 11.12
Tracy Shedd = Anna Nalick + Missy Higgins
If this was playing in a room, you could leave for a few songs and not miss much. All 13 tracks are quiet vocals over strummy, uncomplicated acoustic guitar and vapid, romantic lyrics. Cat Power sets the bar pretty high in my mind for the genre of “chicks with guitars and pretty voices,” and while Shedd fits the criteria, her approach lacks any sort of edge or defining quality. “All the Little Things” features a male singer and sounds like something that gets played at Starbucks. Given that her cover of “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth is the coolest track of the album, I think that Shedd would have more success if she gave songwriting a break and stuck to covers. –Kia McGinnis
Stop Karen | neither here nor there

Stop Karen
neither here nor there

Street: 01.17.17
Stop Karen = Kimya Dawson + The Head and the Heart + Beirut 

Stop Karen’s neither here nor there is a succinct, six-track album that is cheerful and heartening, though not lacking in depth nor lyrical prowess. Upbeat ukulele is the musical focal point, woven into clear vocals that create a folk-grunge-pop feeling that lies somewhere in between twang, punk and ballad. neither here nor there is a genre-busting debut with a charming narrative. 

Ukulele can easily cross into cheesy Jason Mraz territory, but Stop Karen use the instrument cleverly, allowing it to carry their tracks with an easy-breezy rhythm that leaves plenty of opportunity for harmonic sing-along/clap-along/whistle-along moments. Though there are five members in the band, it feels as though the tracks span a wider range of instrumentals, imprinting a sprawling musical effect. There’s a straightforward, witty, Courtney Barnett–esque approach to Stop Karen’s lyricism. In “Elephant,” a track that has an appropriate circus feel, Stop Karen sings, “She’d be happy in the closet if it weren’t for the skeletons.e

Opening track “good in white” explores existence, marriage and mortality under the guise of a “la, la, la” campfire song lilt. Stop Karen sing, “Hush little baby, don’t you cry / Nothing really happens when you die.” Though pointedly morbid, the lullaby ultimately ends on a bittersweet, shrugging note, adding, “You wouldn’t want to go to heaven anyway.” Perhaps there is a touch of ex-Mormon apathy bleeding through, or perhaps Stop Karen are working through the inevitable mortality crisis that comes with experiencing a death firsthand. 

“here’s to the sluts,” the closing track, ends raucously with a heavier drum beat and faster pace. It’s a smirking anthem disowning proper, “ladylike” gender roles and encouraging such frowned-upon behavior as shaking your moneymaker.  It makes for a triumphant end to a well-rounded local release. –Kia McGinnis

Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders
Where The Music Goes To Die
Street: 12.02.14
Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders = Okkervil River + The Morning Benders

By the end of this album, it’s hard not to have a crush on Squires. In “Echo,” he says,”I am a vessel of your truth/I am a memory of you,” followed by, “You are greater than any trophy I could fit on my shelf,” in “Trophy Song.” His vocals are those of a storyteller, with an endearing sense of imperfection. Steady bass lines and slightly twangy guitar add to the visceral feel of Where The Music Goes To Die—it’s somewhere in between Americana and acoustic. Squires has created music that feels as though he’s reading his journal out loud to you. –Kia McGinnis 

Tha Come UP
SkyBox Music Group
Street: 11.05.12
m.duby = Mac Miller + Yelawolf
A self-described “musical genius and hip-hop aficionado,” m.duby has no lack of confidence as an aspiring artist in a city with a fairly small hip-hop scene—he’s even started his own label. The 14 tracks laid out on Tha Come UP are cohesive and well pieced together, despite a different producer being attributed to each one. Most of the lyrics are about times spent in Vegas or past loves, but it’s clear he keeps his head in the game as he says, “Failure is not an option, success in my only mindset,” on “Me Against the World.” Using relaxed beats and quick words, m.duby has created a respectable album, the best track of which is “Go Outside ft. Cults,” which features an awesome sample of a kids’ choir and an optimistic message. –Kia McGinnis

Horseshoes & Handgrenades
Self Released
Street: 09.14.12
Sinthesis = Sage Francis + The Black Keys
You’d think that a fusion of hip hop and blues would be a musical trainwreck, but Phaust and Phingaz, who make up Sinthesis, blend the two genres nicely––especially considering they wrote and recorded Horseshoes & Handgrenades in a little over a week. Pulsating, sharp and spacious keys/drums are the skeleton of this album, with gritty vocals that are half rap, half blues rock. The tracks (especially “Lips”) come across pretty raw and no-bullshit, as they were recorded live. “She’s Got It” is the most successful marriage of flow and blues, with thick, upbeat bass paired with slews of rap. Sinthesis are Salt Lake born and raised––“All Day, All Night” gives a local shout-out in the lyrics: “You’d have better luck cookin’ up meth in Ogden.” While parts of this album definitely feel experimental and tentative, overall it’s a well done, brave undertaking

Florists – Holdly

Florists – Holdly


Street: 10.30.15
Florists = Kimya Dawson + Karen O & The Kids

Holdly has the power to take unassuming hostages and make them really feel something—whether it be nostalgia, heartache or unrequited love. Using uncomplicated lyrics, barely there harmonies and convincing yet comfortable melodies, Florists have created a safe place for listeners to land. There is a sense of childlike positivity in the words, although they are heavy at times. In “Cool and Refreshing,” they sing, “Think of me by the creek in cut off jeans / Thinking about something that has meaning to me.” This album is the softest shade of folk rock, with each of the tracks fading into each other with sweeping poignancy. Save this one for a rainy coffee shop afternoon and let it make your heart heavy in a good way. –Kia McGinnis

Rocket 3
Street: 11.04.14
Rocket 3 = Karen O + 
The Dum Dum Girls

Burn is a sweet, sassy pop rock album that has the capacity to make your heart flutter. Using simple, resonating bass and guitar lines as the core of their tracks, Rocket 3 layer subtle synths, lively keys and drums, and daydreamy vocals to create a compelling soundscape. “Good Enough” kills it both with spunky musical composition and adorable lyricism: “You are better than good enough.” Burn features a few covers of classic rock songs, including The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” which they make their own with groovy bass and a cheery tempo. Rocket 3 have got dynamics of sugar, spice and everything nice dialed in. –Kia McGinnis 

Bella Union
Street: 01.14
Snowbird = Seabear + Daughter
Snowbird is the soft and wintery duo comprised of instrumentalist Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins and vocalist Stephanie Dosen, a Chemical Brothers collaborator. Grand piano swirls around gauzy vocals, making you feel as though you are walking through untouched snow. “Porcelain” begins with darker composition that transitions into a gripping soprano melody while “All Wishes Are Ghosts” is more sanguine and fast-paced, and finishes with a beautiful string piece. Parts of moon are reminiscent of Feist’s Let It Die—possibly because Raymonde owns the Bella Union label that is Feist’s home. moon is aptly named, as this album has far-away, dreamy textures and wistful lyrics that speak to you even if you aren’t quite sure what the exact words are. –Kia McGinnis