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Textbook‘s Boxing Day Massacre is certainly a catchy album and has plenty of pop hooks to spare. Unfortunately, it’s also bland. While there’s no doubting the sincerity, Textbook come off as very Gin Blossoms-ish or, more generously, The Archies, but without the nostalgic charm. “The Weight Of Everything” is when this really becomes apparent and every track that follows fails to mix it up, sounding nearly identical. (www.listentotect book.com)
– Dean Ramos

Power pop trio The Tonellis‘ debut, Verse (Chorus) Verse, is a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks collection of infectiously irresistible smart pop songs with such a glossy sheen that, at first listen, caused this listener to wonder if this wasn’t, in fact, the second coming of legendary local pop trio The Shoes. Jangly echoes of R.E.M. and vocals at times recalling Chris Isaak aside, The Tonellis enlist several notable area musicians to further round out their sound and deliver a near-flawless recording that’s nothing less than stunning. (www.tonellismusic.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Doom/stoner/space metal fan alert: Trifog just may be your new favorite band. Sounding a lot like Black Sabbath, but with a bit more life, Trifog combines grooves, heaviness, and songwriting to great effect on If I Could Change My Ways . . . Vocalist Mark Weiner expertly channels early Ozzy and easily soars over the bands’ grinding rhythms. (www.trifog.com)
– Mike O’Cull

Uncle Boogie Pants may have a silly-stupid name, but their charming album, Volume And Verse, is filled with smart pop rock tunes and electric rock chops. There’s a catchy, compelling tunefulness to the modern pop of “Faded And Forgotten” and the edgy crunch of “Head The Space.” Mike Rizman’s guitar playing is showy, but his solos and leads are melodic and soulful, and they illuminate the songs with wit and grace rather than simply technical flash. The lyrical twists and humorous narratives also show a beaming intelligence. Forget the name, and you’ll enjoy this fiery album. (www.myspace.com/uncleboogiepants)
– Patrick Conlan

Looking to incite a revolution, Voice Of Addiction pepper the six tracks on Re-evolution with lyrics touching on themes of materialism, capitalism, racism, and just about every other “ism” The Man uses to keep others down. Sprinkling the album with an aggressive ska/punk seasoning, the trio put forth more effort in appearing socially progressive than constructing favorable melo-dies. “The Walls” cites a 1965 CIA mission in Indonesia without providing listeners reasons to care, while frontman Ian Tomele barks orders on “Right! Now!” Fortunately, the guitar work is alternately crunchy and punchy. (www.voiceofaddiction.com)
– Janine Schaults

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Suburban rockers Westbury offer an interesting but, at times, overly frantic mix of rock that is distinguishable by its in-your-face musical and vocal approach. “Ring Around The,” the third track on the 10-song self-titled CD, is rare, straightforward, alt-rock while tracks “Cubed” and “Prime Meridian” mix up the vocal styling more and feature a layered scat-rap. “Regulate The Bean” takes on a Mike Patton/Mr. Bungle bent with all the lyrical theatricality and whiplash musical arrangement. (www.myspace.com/westburyband)
– Jason Scales

On the double-disc Drivin’ Barefoot, Americana/folk rocker Ted Wulfers‘ personality takes his songs a long way. There’s nothing wrong with his mix of breezy and bluesy arrangements, but his “driving barefoot through life” lyrical aesthetic is what keeps this album interesting. Wulfers runs down a list of forgivable faults of a woman he likes on “Impressions,” most memorably: “I’ll even forgive you for buying the Justin Timberlake CD.” While not every line is quite as quotable, Wulfers certainly leaves listeners wondering what he’s going to say next. (www.tedwulfers.com)
– Max Herman

If Modest Mouse teamed up with Johnny Marr (oh wait, that already happened), it would sound something like Yourself And The Air on Cold Outside Brings Heavy Thoughts To Think. The colorful cabaret rockers turn in everything from the escalating percussion romp “Nerves In Break” to the hooligan sing-along “I’m Not People” and the electronically tipped cymbal crashes of “Pretty Dirty,” commanding attention with every unconventional turn. But even amid all the ferocity, this disc is grounded by sputtering guitars that come straight out of 1980s England, spiced up with a shot of today’s Tabasco. (www.myspace.com/yourselfandtheair)
– Andy Argyrakis

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