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Around Hear Page 2

The four guys in Feature Presentation seem destined to do their small town of Manteno proud. The 10 tracks on their sparkingly produced debut CD, To You The Past, And The Questions Left Unanswered, bristle with energetic, ultra-tight pop power-punk. They separate themselves from the Fall Out Boy aesthetic with more technical guitar skills among blistering tempo changes (especially on “Matt’s Song” and “Sleepless Nights”). Every track is urgent and convincingly high octane, and then “Change Of Pace” comes on and positively shreds. (www.myspace.com/featurepresentation)
– Jason Scales

With nothing more than a wide-ranging piano and a sharp drum kit, Harry Bailey’s Transport make quirky, catchy pop on Nothing Glaring. Deftly skipping between rollicking, noisy, funk-infused pop (“Mom,” “Deep Philosophy”) to the elegantly composed numbers (“These Shoes,” “Static”), HBT bring numerous influences together with their unique stylistic vision. Though obvious comparisons to Billy Joel and Ben Folds apply, tracks like the sweetly off-kilter “Dance” and “Directions” reveal HBT possess plenty of their own sharply crafted melodies. (www.harrybaileystransport.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Hot Heels RecordsThe Hi-jacked Generation is a literate, crackling album of beat folk. Swift bleats from a harmonica punctuate the snappy percussion and acoustic guitar on “Howl.” The aching crawl of “Paloma” recalls the quiet, wide-open spaces of the desert, while the serene “Swim To Shore” chisels at the heartstrings with keening violin and swelling guitar. “Tanker Ships A Burnin’” is a country-inflected stomper with crisp, pretty guitar and dusky vocals. (www.hotheelsrecords.com)
– Patrick Conlan

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Led by vocalist, guitarist, and part-time DJ Ralph Darden, The Jai-Alai Savant plays a curious concoction of Police-ish reggae rock laced with satisfying smidges of punk and pop. What’s so admirable about this trio’s full-length debut, Flight Of The Bass Delegate, is they don’t seem to have a set plan of action. Instead The Jai-Alai Savant lets the melody carry it in many directions, including dubby and laid-back (“Sugar Free”) and punk-driven and upbeat (“White On White Crime”). (www.myspace.com/thejaialaisavant)
– Max Herman

Singer-songwriter Chris Katris turns in Songs From The Basement Vol. 5, a self-explanatory collection of homespun cuts. The disc’s lo-fi recordings, sparse production, and low-budget basis leave full-band tracks like “Turning The Corner” and “Let It Go” sounding half-baked. Though much of the record fails to reach its full sonic potential, at least there’s songwriting promise, particularly the bittersweet “Who’s The Wiser Now.” (www.chriskatris.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

The seven cuts of Plain Songs – a tone poem-like debut from noted local indie collaborator W. W. Lowman – share spare arrangement similarities of simply played notes often set against gently rolling percussion, at times enhanced by chanted vocal phrases and almost always ending on slow coda of chord progressions set against a certain edge of muted background weirdness. The certain sameness is broken by the two nine-plus-minute cuts, “Rasperate” and “Lee And Me,” wherein more accessible melody and song convention enable more compellingly involved listening. (www.arbouserecordings.com)
– David Eldredge

Johnny Monaco crams 13 high-octane, radio-friendly pop punk tracks into Overrated. The chunky riffs and driving rhythms recall lightweight contemporary outfits like Cartel, while the harder-rocking numbers (“Television Love,” “Long Way Down”) veer closer to classic punk rock. “I’ll Take You As You Are” is a shiny, slick number with a soaring, shout-along chorus, and “Still Haven’t Called” treads perilously around rock ballady territory. Monaco played every instrument, recorded, mixed, and engineered the entire album, and the polished, finished product is a testament to his technical and creative talents. (www.johnnymonaco.com)
– Patrick Conlan

The title Straight From The Ghetto, the latest release from punk rockers Michaelane, says more about their roots (the streets of Chicago) than their sound. They are 100 percent pure punk – in theory anyway. Unfortunately the 15 tracks blur into an indistinguishable pot of simple guitar chords and emotionless vocals, making the most memorable track a “remake” of Twisted Sister’s classic, re-titled “We’re Not Gonna Make It,” where they make such proclamations as “we’re not gonna make it – as a band” and “my girlfriend tried to fake it.” (www.michaelane.info)
– Carter Moss

Someone has clearly spiked the two-percent. The eight-track Bottle from Milk Baby is a trippy, experimental mess of an album. Most songs clock in at more than six minutes, which gives multiple bandmates and guests room to test the limits of moaning vocals, keyboard space-outs, and Thai gongs. “Bored” incorporates all of the above and more, adding tribal drumming and female, Björk-inspired vocals. (www.milkbaby.net)
– Jason Scales

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