Local CD Reviews – January 2011

The American Shakes
Street: 11.07.10
The American Shakes = Norfolk and Western + Howe Gelb + Band of Annuals
Releasing an album in the wake of such a popular local band is going to invite some comparisons to the latter’s work. Brent Dreiling, former pedal steel/steel guitar slinger for Band of Annuals (R.I.P), expands on the classic Americana of B.O.A by steering his alt-country intonations into sugary, ‘70s AM radio hits instead of the dive bar balladeering of his previous band. Dreiling’s execution is classically understated. Relying heavily on strong composition and atmospherics, Dreiling uses these to reach the emotional climax his limited voice cannot. The musical adornments are so well integrated that it takes a couple of listens to realize just how carefully constructed and crafted each song is. Responsible for this is a virtual who’s-who of SLC folk musicians who lend their hands to the creation of this album. Several B.O.A alumni—Jesse Ellis, David Williams and Wren Kennedy all appear accompanying Dreiling’s forlorn steel guitar. –Ryan Hall

The Wildfire Magic (EP)
Street: 11.12.10
Bearcats = Seawolf + Weezer + Simon & Garfunkel
Abandoning prior cred and a full-length album of material, the three remaining members of Atl Atl renamed themselves and pushed out a quick studio recording. This six-track album would be your average, easily forgotten indie album with snapping drum trickery and simplistic guitars if it wasn’t for one big standout: The entire set of vocals are composed in perfect harmony. The trio found themselves a good balance as a mini-choir where some lyrics could be forgotten as background noise. They threw emphasis behind them and made the entire album a damn-near singalong. The Wildfire Magic shows a lot of promise that new fans can dig, while serving as a decent bridge for old fans of the now defunct Atl Atl to cross. It’s worth a listen. –Gavin Sheehan

Street: 11.23.10
The CJB = Sublime + The Secret + a piña colada
This is a great easy-listening album. It is exactly what it purports to be:  a positive, uplifting, easy-to-listen-to collection of chilled-out songs. Even the saddest lyrical topics on the album are lightened up by the delivery via charming and harmless reggae-inspired riffs. The tone and content are cohesive, and the CD cover art communicates the intended message before you even pop the CD in. All in all, the only thing I could critique is also what I consider one of their biggest successes—a mission to become commercially viable. Predictable and typical for this genre, I will be excited to see how they cut out a more personalized niche as they continue on their musical journey. Kudos to the CJB—I will be looking forward to more music from these talented fellows in the future. –P. Buchanan

The Direction
From VII & IV
Spy Hop Records
Street: 07.20.10
The Direction = Bjork + Paramore + Burlesque
Man, I love chicks who rock. And this chick totally rocks—lead singer Felicia Anderton ties up this package most delightfully, with a vintage voice that is somehow exactly what this rock n’ roll outfit wants. The musicians are totally together, the recording quality is good, and the sound is specific and has direction. Go figure. Influences vary widely, which I love, and from undeniable rock to beautiful ballads, the talent on this album is heartwarming. A reasonable release for a seasoned band, the fact that it is the product of teenagers working with Spy Hop is astounding on several levels. I look forward to hearing much more from all of these talented musicians, in this band and in their future endeavors. –P. Buchanan

Idyll Rigamarole
...All Of Life Is A Foreign Country...
Spyhop Records
Street: 07.20.10
Idyll Rigamarole = Tiny Tim Tiptoeing Through The Nottingham Forest
It is hard to criticize music by a local “teen-run” record label, but I’ll do my best.  All local artists should take note: Every artist is a local artist where they came from.  That doesn’t mean they should be making records.  With a name that would surely get them kicked out from even busking in Sherwood Forest, Idyll Rigamarole describes their sound as “medieval groove folk” on their Facebook page.  Oh dear.  Seven “teen” members all contributing their ideas for songs—with asinine names like “Stationary Nomad” and “Flibbertigibbet”—doesn’t work very well.  I was surprised by the pleasant voice that greeted my ears on the aforementioned “Stationary Nomad,” but I can’t tell whom it belongs to, as the band is listed alphabetically in their credits and no one is given musicianship credit. Maybe that’s on purpose, because by the second track—the especially cloying “Anger”—I wouldn’t want to take credit for any of it either.  The male attempting to “sing” on this track has a ghastly vocal style that is downright embarrassing.  This voice returns on the equally dreadful “Four Words”—but wait, it gets worse—it attempts sensitivity (or is that ‘novelty’ like Tiny Tim? I’m not really sure) by going up in register, and what was already bad is laughably bad.  Things aren’t all wretched, as the female singers on this project have pleasant voices—even if the songs they sing on are weak—and the playing is satisfactory, but nothing really stands out.  Upon rereading the credits, I realize I’ve boxed myself into the thanked “H8trz” category, but alas, there I shall have to stay, forever banished. –Dean O Hillis

Illegal Beagle
Let Dead Dogs Lie
Street:  08.25.10
Illegal Beagle = The Mighty Mighty Bosstones + the Specials
Illegal Beagle get points for incorporating second-wave ska and not exclusively playing third-wave ska, but the songs are grating and the recording is sloppy.  Considering third-wave ska still sounds hopelessly dated, only first-wave ska could have compensated.  The record isn’t completely devoid of its endearing moments; dropping the horn part from the lounge scene in Star Wars on “Boba Fett” isn’t exactly a stroke of genius, but it’s still funny.  That song works as a novelty, but it’s followed by the temperance movement cautionary ballad “Best Years of Our Lives,” which could only make sense as satire.  The record is a flop, but at least it sounds like they had fun making it.  –Nate Housley

Mechanical Skies
With Dreams of Pop
Street: 07.04.10
Mechanical Skies = Rush + Cream + Vintage pop
The music itself has a vintage tone: a throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s, with hints of ‘50s-era pop thrown in by the female vocalist. A distinct homage to bands like Rush and Cream on the instrumentals, with Hank Reese on vox and the addition of Jaylee Amey’s vocals certainly individualizes the sound. It seemed like the timing of the vox was off on some spots, however, particularly when they were singing simultaneously, but perhaps that just comes back to production values, which left something to be desired. Unfortunately for musicians who work hard to write songs, practice and invest time and money into their art, recording quality can make or break an album. While the artists on this album are clearly not talentless, a little more investment in a few areas will assist them in producing an even more palatable package in the future. I certainly would be curious to hear more once the overall direction and production are sewn up a little neater. ­–P. Buchanan

Obstruction Of Moustache …und auch, Behinderung der Schnurrbart
Street: 04.20.10
Philosofist = GAZA + Trainwreck + Arsis + Loma Prieta + The Tremula + Darkest Hour + Loom
Holy bajoley, Batman, this really is a knuckle sandwich. As they hint with their very name, Philosofist deftly combines thoughtful musicianship with execution that gets my body swaying and hand-fists punching. Each track in Obstruction Of Moustache stands by itself as its own work of art, starkly different from its siblings. Yet, the album careens and trickles into each subsequent song, then culminates in a style that only Philosofist can embody. Choosing a favorite track is like playing Russian roulette. After a zany introductory sample, “Unnecessary Guile Sweep” punches through with a technical metal assault and traverses through straightforward post-hardcore beats and into a soft, turned-down-distortion-guitar solo breakdown. As the release progresses, “Garments (The Things The Lord Commands)” offers a slow, steady beat with chuggy, low-string guitar work and morphs into a dynamic thriller. “Delicatessen” contrasts with the rest of the album as it is primarily sung in a style akin to Thom Yorke. Other bangers include the heavy “Ocean Creatures,” which is wrought with consonant musical intervals, and the driving yet wistful, “Abandon Ace.” Go Philosofist yourself … and a friend. –Alexander Ortega

Replica Mine
7 Ends
Street: 10.12.10
Replica Mine  = Nine Inch Nails + The Normal x (Front Line Assembly – Bill Leeb)
It’s always a pleasant surprise to hear good, interesting dark music made locally. While we have plenty of good bands, industrial is rare at best. Sandy-based Adam Harmon, former guitarist and keyboard player for Carphax Files, is the force behind this meandering industrial experiment, a follow-up to $ra, their 2008 5-song EP. Tracks here veer from dark dance numbers like “Of Graves” (think mid-‘90s Depeche Mode) to the noisy, droning “All in Vain” and “Beneath the Control” (shades of Skinny Puppy) then rips it up for the ‘80s-drenched “Plagues and Tangles” and “In Your Eyes” featuring Jasin Monday (Carphax Files). It is a strong effort from a band to watch—and listen to—for some time to come. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Small Town Sinners
Blood and Dust
Street: 11.30.10
Small Town Sinners = The Avett Brothers + Deer Tick
Small Town Sinners are turning out quality discs like Notorious B.I.G. personally came down from the heavens and requested it. Blood and Dust, their most recent offering, continues Small Town Sinners’ pursuit of making the most amazing heartfelt alt-country possible would definitely inspire the late, great Biggie Smalls to put on his flannel and grab his acoustic.  The band has brought their sound back to a more organic feel from their more polished Dirty Thirty, and organic is a vibe that definitely suits them well. Recording at singer Carson Wolfe’s cabin, the band was able to capture the natural warm vibe that makes their songs so great. This organic warmth is best shown on the opening track “Drinking to You,” as well as on the album closer, “Drown.” If you are looking for band to satisfy your Wilco or Son Volt cravings, Small Town Sinners is definitely the band for you. –Jon Robertson

Spoken For
A Life in Flames
Street: 08.13.10
Spoken For = Tool + The Police + angst
These boys definitely have some very recognizable influences from Tool to, perhaps unintentionally, The Police (tell me you don’t hear it on the opening riff of “No More Blood on my Guitar”). They are taking their cue from some great musicians. It’s young and it’s pained—they are certainly taking advantage of all the pent-up frustration that comes along with being an adolescent group of boys becoming men. This album is a great starting point for them. The recording quality isn’t bad—the production emphasizes some of the characteristics I would have wanted played down, like scratchy guitar distortion and other yet-to-be-refined techniques. But those are the ingredients for metal, so really, they are on the right track to where they’re trying to go. Overall, I am impressed with what these guys are putting out. As a new band just starting out, they have plenty of time to finish piecing together their own identity. –P. Buchanan

Theta Naught
Omnium Gatherum
Differential Records
Street: 11.12.10
Theta Naught = Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra + Rachel’s + Peter Broderick
Omnium Gatherum is Theta Naught’s first full-length album in six years. Given their elastic membership and reliance on improvisation above all else, each release and live show has the capacity to take the prolific post-rock/jazz/classical collective into completely unexpected places. Omnium Gatherum succeeds in spades in this regard. Anchored by Ryan Stanfield and Darren Corey in the rhythm section, newly minted harpist Briawna Anderson and guitarist Josh Ogzewalla steer Theta Naught’s compositions everywhere from the shimmering pastoral “The Sixth Planet” and “Moon” suites to the dirge-like “Get Closer” and the grizzled, distressed “Frankenstein Blues.” While inherently improvisational, there are moments on Omnium Gatherum so precise and timed that they can only be attributed to ESP or a hive-mind formed from eight years of playing as a collective. Although eight years has made for some pretty thrilling moments, Omnium Gatherum may just be the best thing they have ever done. –Ryan Hall

Tupelo Moan
Street: 11.12.10
Tupelo Moan = Stevie Ray Vaughan + The White Stripes
The minute this album starts with “Take You Out,” it feels as if it was written in a dive by two guys just jamming out for the hell of it somewhere around the Alabama/Tennessee border. Trying to capture the southern rock feel with a harder edge, Brad McCarley and Jason Roberts pounded out this eight-track trucker-like album in a matter of weeks at McCarley’s own Salt Lake Recording Service. This release finds Tupelo Moan stripped to bare bones with little flash and no invisible backup on tape. Songs like “Fishin’ Hole” and “See You Smilin’” reinforce the “southern comfort” vibe, with McCarley’s vocals squawking out like they are being called over an ol’ CB radio. It’s definitely a road trip soundtrack, especially if you’re headed for the Mississip’. –Gavin Sheehan

Various Artists
Music at Main: Summer 2010
Salt Lake City Public Library
Street: 11.02.10
Culled from live recordings from the third installment of the summer series of the same name, Music at Main showcases the breadth of good music in Salt Lake City.  From the funky jazz combo Josh Payne Orchestra to the driving electro-rock experimentalism of Palace of Buddies, this album shows that great music of all stripes is available in the valley.  Unfortunately, the recording captures the worst of live music–the unrefined audio–without quite capturing the excitement.  While the album doesn’t serve as a sampler of everything that Salt Lake has to offer, it’s not supposed to.  The fact that the album just scratches the surface of local music in SLC gives Salt Lakers something to be proud of, as well as another reason to look forward to next summer.  –Nate Housley

Out Of Many
Pural Music
Sreet: 03.21.10
Yze = Slug + Blue Scholars + Arrested Development 
I’ll give it up for Out Of Many. This is the second local joint handed to me that I can say I will listen to again. Yze knows what he’s doing, and what the hip hop nerds are looking for. I will even go so far to say that he is one of the best producers in the area. Yze is not only a top-shelf producer, but you can tell from the lyrics that he does it with passion. “Soundwaves” is the prefect example of Yze as an artist: A chill beat you can get lost in with lyrics you want to dig into. You get a chance to peek into the grind-to-shine work ethic, along with a lyrical scrapbook of his tour life. It’s a banger. You can’t buy this album in stores, so get to a show and get one. The money goes to charity. Real talk. – Jemie Sprankle