Fox Van Cleef
Prescription Tea Party
Fox Van Cleef = Black Keys + Jookabox + Sly & The Family Stone
Fox Van Cleef couldn’t have picked a better title for their first full-length album. The five-piece ensemble have blended elements of funk, psychedelic, rock and blues into a overwhelming concoction of music that doesn’t really match any other Utah band. The album has its share of short hooky numbers and long influential jams, along with added surprises like a horn section and guest appearances from several established musicians such as Andrew Milne from Spell Talk and Josaleigh Pollett. The only downside that Prescription Tea Party will have to face with audiences is that it may be too experimental for original fans. Fox Van Cleef have grown immensely as musicians over the past three years, but now have little resemblance to their original incarnation that drew crowds, which could be a turn off for many. Overall however, Prescription Tea Party could be one of the finest albums composed in 2011.
Swindlers = Max Pain & The Groovies + Spell Talk + A single-cassette recorder
The four-piece experimental rockers out of Provo are known best for their live house shows, complete with lights and fog, turning a regular venue show into an experience. Bands who can pull that off will have an audience no matter where they go, but translating that experience onto a recording rarely works. This is the case with Swindlers’ self-titled album. What should be a garage rock album sounds way too polished for the genre, and instead comes off as a pre-produced collision of stoner rock and grunge. The audio itself is crunched together and takes what would be really awesome sounds, and compresses them down to AM radio standards. This album is not terrible by any means, but it clearly falls short of their intended goal. If you want to hear the band at their best, catch a live show without the balanced audio or vaguely creepy album art.
Spy Hop Records
Joel Brown = Donovan + James Taylor + Derek Webb
It’s not my place to complain about or bash on religious music. If you enjoy a good gospel number or a rock anthem about heaven, so be it. However, much like the dreaded Parental Advisory label, Christian albums should come with a sticker shaped like a cross so you know what it is. In Retrospect looks and sounds like an indie-folk record, but delving into the lyrics is like reading modern hymns. Nearly every song has a reference to God, and those that don’t are laced with faith. Like the song “Ghosts” with the lyrics “Saving souls from limbo holes,” or “Pioneers and Pilgrims,” which talks about a wasteland walk to get to Zion. That’s not to say the album is terrible. The music is top notch for a freshman release, accompanied with Brown’s comforting vocals. But if you’re not into God in a big way, the subtle preachings will make you cringe.
Split Lid = Godsmack + Staind + Disturbed
The great thing about the alternative metal push in the early ’00s was that headline bands recognized they all had a distinct sound and did their best not to copy one another. Everyone following them, however, did, and have not stopped since 2001. Split Lid and their latest album, Unholy, are no different. Each member has exceptional skills and singer Chad Passa has a grungy vocal range to die for, but it feels squandered on a sound that played out years ago. As an experiment, I downloaded the entire album along with Godsmack’s Awake and put them both on random … I could barely tell the difference. Everything from the vocal track to the drum beats to the cheesy cover art feels as if they tossed their favorite rockers into a blender and poured that musical shake into Garage Band. If you love the sound of that era, it’s worth a buy.