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Local CD Reviews

| May 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

“Around Hear” is a monthly feature where a stable of IE writers review albums sent to us by local musicians. If you are interested in having your CD (must have a minimum of three songs) reviewed and are Illinois-based, mail it and any other media materials to 657 A W. Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661. Everything that meets the aforementioned guidelines will be reviewed in the order received. This may take several months.

It’s usually a bad omen when a band’s press materials inordinately focus on their producer, but despite such pointless puffery Absentstar‘s Sea Trials is nevertheless a decent disc. Derek Ingersoll’s plaintive vocals perfectly complement melodic rock gems like “Don’t Lock Me Out” and “If You Like It,” providing emotional oomph to the group’s sweet yet solid rock punch. Oh yeah: Producer Dan Wilson does a fine job, too. (www.absentstar.com)
– Jeff Berkwits


Though the heyday of pop punk has long passed, Palatine’s A Better Place To Be keep the spirit alive on their eponymous six-song EP. With catchy and heartfelt tunes about girls and relationships gone horribly wrong, they’re reminiscent of Saves The Day or Blink-182 – only about a million times less silly. The torch has seemingly been passed, ladies and gentleman, and these boys are running with it! (www.myspace.com/betterplacetobe)
– Dean Ramos

Four-piece Cobalt & The Hired Guns‘ second full-length, Jump The Fence, offers eight pleasant-enough pop rock originals that command a little more attention and sound a bit more polished when augmented by guests on cello, keys, and (especially) sax. As good as drummer Alie Plotsky’s vocals are throughout, it’s nevertheless hard to imagine the group performing, say, the CD’s final cut (and natural set ender), “Chicago” without the side support. (www.cobaltandthehiredguns.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Proudly flaunting their 1980s rock fixation, Contents Under Pressure serve a terrific time warp of two-fisted guitar theatrics and over-the-top vocal calisthenics on their latest magnum opus, Just Another Bad Day. “Don’t Ask Me Why” and the potent title track are the most exhilarating examples of their take-no-prisoners approach, yet all 10 songs are persuasive. A pair of heady music videos further accentuates the fearsome foursome’s musical muscle. (www.contentsunderpressure.net)
– Jeff Berkwits

The Demilos are able to offer several variations of gently twisted pop on their latest effort, Peaking Through The High Hats, because all five members sing and four are songwriters. The dB’s as well as Fountains Of Wayne spring to mind on catchy songs like “Into The Woods” and “Parlorphone Twister.” The Demilos add some country twang with the deliberately cornball but equally melodic “Desirea,” while “Avatar” sounds like these guys spent some time listening to “I Am The Walrus.” Things get even more adventurous on the psychedelic “April Storm.” (www.myspace.com/demilos)
– Terrence Flamm

Though at times a bit too polished for their own good, Last Fast Action‘s Season 2 is an otherwise fun and catchy dance rock album. Highlights include the ’80s-influenced “Here After,” and the upbeat, keyboard-driven numbers “Turn This Car Around” and “Title Off Center.” While sometimes too desperate for radio airplay on tracks like “Divide Us” and the unfortunate “Say Say,” Season 2 is overall a solid collection of tunes from a band who definitely know how to write a good pop song. (www.lastfastaction.com)
– Dean Ramos

After releasing an electric rock record (aptly titled The Rock Record) the mastermind behind Light Silver Automatic, Mark Doherty, delivers an atmospheric crop of acoustic ditties on The Tacoma Songs. The 14 tracks share a common strand of DNA with that of English hitmakers James, especially on the new wave “Ransom” and lovelorn “Crusher.” (www.lightsilverautomatic.com)
– Janine Schaults

If her music is any indication, having a conversation with Jenny Magnus must be a fascinating experience. Her latest CD, Songs From Shows, features 23 tunes from theatrical productions crafted by this heavily hyphenated (writer-director-producer-teacher-actor-singer) performer. Each piece is unique, such as the Noh Theater-inspired “Frank’s Room” or the pseudo-choral sound of “Red Candles,” yet, whether it’s this performance artist’s strong (though at times slightly unpolished) voice or the slow, steady beat of each number, there’s a common element uniting the otherwise disparate cuts. All in all, it’s a captivating encounter. (www.jennymagnus.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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