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Local CD Reviews

| February 28, 2007 | 0 Comments

Alabaster takes a dim view of relationships on its four-song EP, Hold Me Close – Hold Me Damaged. The violent imagery smacks of heavy metal, but the band’s midtempo arrangements might not have enough power to hold the average headbanger’s attention. Shane Killian is a gifted vocalist, particularly when she drifts through the theatrical “Surface Damage,” but guitarist Kate Orlowski’s back-up screaming wears out its welcome quickly. (www.ilovealabaster.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Another solid release from Backyard Tire Fire, Vagabonds And Hooligans, is an earnest, lonesome, yet hopeful alt-country record that’s absolutely outstanding from beginning to end. From the enjoyably quirky “Undecided” to the heartbreakingly tender “A Long Time,” there isn’t a wasted note in any of these 12 carefully crafted songs. (www.backyardtirefire.com)
– Dean Ramos

After debuting to critical kudos with . . . this side of yesterday, Machine recording artist Martha Berner strips down her emotional acoustic outpourings on the delightfully delicate Ten Tiny Little Pieces EP. The four-track project was recorded live in the studio throughout a marathon day, boasting the unshakable folk hooks of the title track, the spirited electric piano spurts of “Wait For Me,” and a comforting cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico’s “Sunday Morning.” (www.marthaberner.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

Crimson Tyde‘s multi-faceted approach to hard rock on Raining Like Hell includes everything from the sexy romance of “Get Naked” to the over-the-top horror of “Don’t Do It.” Lead vocalist Bill Lema growls but delivers the well-crafted lyrics clearly, and Jim Powell’s high-speed guitar playing impresses throughout. Crimson Tyde also succeeds with the more elaborate “Things That You Do” and “What I Need.” (www.crimsontyde.com)
– Terrence Flamm

The title track to Escape From Earth’s Who Do I Have To Kill? hints at the D.I.Y. ethic of the alterna-pop band. Though EYE has been featured on MTV, in Teen People, and onstage at Metro and House Of Blues, it has yet to escape its indie status. No matter. The band recorded, produced (with the help of Rae DiLeo), and released this 10-song full-length debut on its own label, Cupcake Records. The result is a well-polished collection of upbeat rockers that hold up strongly to the likes of the Foo Fighters. (www.escapefromearth.com)
– Jason Scales

Anna Fermin‘s evocative vocals ensure all nine tracks on Go, her second effort with #Trigger Gospel, come to life. Still, it’s hard to figure why Fermin devotes more than half the CD to Norah Jones-style light jazz when she and her band excel at country and western. “Where My Heart Begins” is a classic C&W ballad, while “Romance” is a southern-fried rock tune. The amiable “Yellow Rose Of Texas” serves as another highlight. (www.triggergospel.com)
– Terrence Flamm

With melodic tunes that gyrate between stomping rock and quirky, adrenaline-fueled pop, The Burning Candle EP (Pirate Alley) has less of the sheer abrasiveness that marred The Grackles‘ debut, Honeypot. The result is tighter, more muscular songs. With incredible flair and dynamic chops, they effortlessly chip from blazing punk-tinged numbers such as “Purse Per Se” and the remarkable “Who’s Got The Gun” to frat-party style rave-ups like “Draining Thin” and “Virus Like You’ve Never Seen.” (www.thegrackles.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Punk rock compilations are a dime a dozen and typically abysmal. That’s happily not the case with Hair: Chicago Punk Cuts. “Walking The Plank” by Allister and The Bomb‘s powerful “Space Man” are two of the more memorable tracks. With few exceptions, all 14 bands (each contributing a single tune) supply winning songs. (www.thickrecords.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

The JohnsXOXO EP exudes a consistent sense of melancholy. On “Comforted” the band uses a deceptively light and tuneful acoustic arrangement to convey stinging resentment toward a former lover. “Grin Big Sin,” “Sideways,” and “Translations” are ambient songs that feature lush keyboards and layered vocals, as well as strange and occasionally disturbing imagery. (www.myspace.com/yesiamthatbad)
– Terrence Flamm

As much as Morning Somewhere – the second full-length from local acoustic troubadour/songwriter Shelley Miller – puts the spotlight on her songs and vocals, the richly engineered recording makes it an equal showcase to the talents of her multi-instrumentalist/producer Tommi Zender. Indeed, his playing and studio sensibility puts such a shine on Miller’s vocals that it keeps one from hearing the sometimes unpolished lyrics, raising her a little above the pack of earnest singer-songwriters out there. (www.shelleymiller.net)
– David C. Eldredge

There’s hardly a dull moment on Mr.Rha.GersFreshly Phitted mixtape. Representing his first collection of solo material, this quick-flowing MC sounds especially energized when freestyling atop borrowed beats from The Alchemist, Kanye West, and other hit-makers. Though when he connects with Lyric District crewmate Kenny Keys and other affiliates on tracks like the melodious “Move Left,” Mr.Rha.Gers proves he’s capable of crafting actual songs too. Next we’ll see if he can hold his own on an actual album. (www.lyricdistrict.com)
– Max Herman

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Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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