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Around Hear: July 2012

| June 28, 2012 | 1 Comment

On Andrew D. Huber‘s third solo release, Days Amidst The Dust, his acoustic folk rock with a Celtic twist is highly infectious. The 13 tracks are well-crafted, emotional, and memorable. His thought-engaging lyrics and heartfelt melodies permeate the whole of the disc. “Letter From St. Paul” and “Devil’s Mouth” walk the path of Simon & Garfunkel or Bob Dylan. “Box Elder Stomp” is a head-bobbin’ ditty that will put a smile on your face; handclaps, effects, and chants all enhance the mood and feeling of the song. Imagine yourself at an Irish bar at 2 a.m. drunkenly and gloriously singing along in unison with others to some great folk anthems – this is the feeling of Days Amidst The Dust. (
– Kelley Simms

On their full-length Tanglewood, Bad Saddles come across as four guys who love to sit around downing beers, while singing honky-tonk country & western. That boozed-up approach is fun on “Devil’s Door” and “Reckless Woman,” but feels overused by the time the band get to the final track, “Broken City.” Luckily, Tanglewood also has the catchy fun of the title track and the more energetic “Coyote Song,” which mixes electric and acoustic guitars with a strong melody. (
– Terrence Flamm

Despite being a few years behind the peak of the ’80s post-punk dance revival, Blane Fonda pours a sparkling electro-pop puree over its sophomore outing, Foolish Croon. Frontman Mark Wetzel spellbinds with his sputtering vocals, while the scintillating rhythm section surges with angular guitars, icy synths, and enigmatic arrangements at every turn. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Exhibiting either determination or blinders, The Cosmic Plethora Of Doom soldiers on with another inscrutable release. Destroying The Cataclysmic Chrysanthemum picks up where Idle Tree left off – sonically, at least. Christopher Morris’ purposefully wavering recordings – invariably of demo quality – have evolved into a distinct threat to the auspcious “Around Hear” nether-regions whose alumni include Rock Office Records and The JLDJ. (
– Steve Forstneger

Eight Bit Tiger was birthed in 2011 by brothers Erik and Kent Widman, and when Erik moved to Sweden this year, the duo decided to continue composing its electronic dance beats “virtually together” online. The result is the debut Parallel Synchronized Randomness, which actually proves to be a pretty accurate title. The beats and synths are better-than-average throughout the 10 tracks, and while the band borrows plenty of ideas from Daft Punk, Cut Copy, New Order, and the like, they still manage to manufacture electronica interesting enough to stand apart. (
– Carter Moss

Singer/songwriter Greg Gibbs recorded and mixed his third release, The Lights, in his apartment over the course of a year. It’s a 20-song collection that opens with a few spacy, keyboard-driven tunes before settling into a homespun, intimate indie-rock vein. The more quirky stuff, like “Orwellian Soccer Blues” and the title track, works best, but Gibbs is consistently melodic and engaging throughout this CD. (
– Terrence Flamm

Not just a cross-street, the “Grand” in Grand & Noble is also a piano. On their self-titled debut, the near-side barflies use the ivories to bulk up their sound – a welcome gesture in self-consciously guitar-and-synthy indie rock. A little sincerity goes a long way, too: “Statuettes” reminds you that despite their dodgy reputations, ’90s bands like Gin Blossoms provided some worthwhile takeaways. (
– Steve Forstneger

It’s been a while since we last heard from Eric Kmiec, and his five-song Tornado Sauce For The Lightning Business reminds us that his somewhere between curmudgeon and solipsistic originals transcend his barebones, homemade production such that the tunes stick around in the mind long after played out. He’s a true Midwestern original singer/songwriter, and none too shabby (if infrequent) blogger, to boot. (
– David C. Eldredge

LakesignsImboden Hoxie – at 12 songs, 72 minutes – is ambitious, fully orchestrated alt-rock. The composition style favors loose, jam-band arrangements of jangling guitar, saxophone highlights, and warm, emotive vocals. The debut’s opener, “Wilderness,” sets the tone: the band takes its time in building moody passages through this nine-minute voyage. Other tracks, like “Jump Too,” are punchier in their jazzy approach. No matter the track selection, listeners get a subtle, thought-inspiring composition that easily transitions from calming background sound to jazz-rock jams that don’t overstay their noodling. (
– Jason Scales

Putting aside for a moment the atrociously muddy sound of their three-song sampler, Deep Stuff Vol. 1, Magic Milk seem to be a great garage band. The Ramones-meets-Buddy Holly vibe of the first cut, “Demolition Blue,” is infectious, and though the music goes a bit adrift by the final track there’s clearly a kernel of creativity throughout. If they can clean up their recording process, they’d definitely be worth hearing. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Uncertainty can be a powerful thing in hip-hop, where the majority of MCs suffer a terminal case of overconfidence. But on Babyface Monster‘s Cadillac Brougham Joints EP, his tenativeness in locking into an identity creates uncertainty in the listener. BM’s flow is tight and his rhymes come correct, but he rarely breathes fire and he steps into tropes of swagger, rage, and ghetto highlife like he’s trying on hats. Even the lighter “One Love” could do with an ounce more conviction. (
– Kevin Keegan

She may be the doyenne of Chicago vocal jazz, but As You Spend Your Life, the most recent release from Joanie Pallatto, leaves much to be desired. Perhaps her underacheiving voice and somewhat clichéd songwriting are an acquired taste, yet tunes like the title track and “It Didn’t Rain” unfortunately sound banal. (
– Jeff Berkwits

The press materials flaunt the fact that Room For Cream could be the world’s first guitar/trombone/euphonium combo, yet the 15 tunes on their debut, Thursday’s Child, are remarkably run-of-the-mill. This husband-and-wife duo (guitarist/vocalist Haruka Wada and brassman John Janowiak) offer some digestible melodies, most notably “My Friend Who Loved Green,” but overall the songs are simply pleasant rather than innovative or even noteworthy. (
– Jeff Berkwits

Calling all Choppers! The Steel Chops possesses a diverse sound palate on its debut, Paint Me A Picture. Similarities to boogie rockers ZZ Top, Allman Brothers, and Black Oak Arkansas pop up frequently. It’s classic/Southern rock meets a pop flavor loaded with infectious rhythms, catchy grooves, and foot-stompin’ goodness. “Drifter” comes off sounding like a rockier version of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” “Diamond” is a country/rock song with reflective lyrics, great melodies and huge hooks that reel the listener in. The band righteously pays tribute to its roots in “Rebel Red,” which would make Lynyrd Skynyrd proud. (
– Kelley Simms

Troubadour Tim Stop has an affable voice and personal songwriting style throughout Songs Of Separation, but on the whole, his guy-with-a-guitar stylings are pretty generic. Cut from a similar cloth as Matt Nathanson, Matt Wertz, or Dave Barnes, it’s a pretty straight-forward pop album that may appeal to listeners looking for immediacy, but Stop’s underlying potential is overshadowed by pedestrian execution. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Released a couple of months ago, Swearwords‘ self-titled EP is best served as a summer confection. Recalling such power-chord-free, effervescent indie acts as Passion Pit, Hot Hot Heat, and The Bloodsugars, the three tracks are no more grounded than a weekend spent biking to and from assorted thrift stores. “West Of Western” takes delight in how “everybody’s lookin’ cool,” which, incidentally, is about as explicit as Swearwords get. (
– Steve Forstneger

Though their name evokes images of devastation, the only thing crushing about To Destroy A City is the beauty of their semi-ambient, almost entirely instrumental music. The eight leisurely tracks on their self-titled debut are all captivating, generating engrossing melodies through reverberant guitars and gorgeous synths. Though “Narcotic Sea” is perhaps the best cut – starting out quietly and progressively building to a muted yet effective climax – the entire recording is, in its own quiet way, sonically striking. (todestroy
– Jeff Berkwits

Tomorrow The Moon, a self-described punk/prog rock hybrid led by singer/guitarist Steve Gerlach from The Bad Examples, opts for slower material with a late ’60s/early ’70s vibe on its second EP, The Dim Distant Now. “CreamDream Lightning Storm” is a moody, seven-minute instrumental, while “ThoseGreyMen” evokes “I Am The Walrus.” The songs are engaging, particularly when Gerlach channels David Bowie on “2Late4SuperMan,” but it’s hard not to miss the more energetic fare Tomorrow The Moon offered on its debut. (
– Terrence Flamm

Incense and lava lamps wouldn’t be out of place accompanying the music of Umbra And The Volcan Siege. Their latest outing, The End Of The Beginning, is a nine-track vinyl platter that’s moody yet mesmerizing, especially on tunes like “The March,” with its memorable Mellotron, and the Jim Morrison-tinged “The Ups And Downs.” All in all, it’s an ideal candidate for folks seeking a psychedelic soundtrack for their next out-of-body experience. (
– Jeff Berkwits

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  1. Eric Kmiec | July 15, 2012

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