My process: at some point, I listen to all of it. There is a first cut and a second cut; the Pile of Death ratio here is rather large, but I have no need to slam small, struggling bands if they are not my cup of tea.
So... from decent to great:
It's a short list.
- Future Punx - I'm So Inspired EP. To miss the obvious Devo comparison with these guys would be nuts. But songs like "Forgive the Doubt" prove they can paint outside those numbers into a tribute to VHS or Beta as well. If you have Devo withdrawals, or just like that style crossed with The Futureheads, check this out.
- Mr. Gnome - Heart of a Dark Star. Their last release had more highs and lows -- this is more consistent but lacks that really high-end epic song(s). They are on the cusp once again; this band has supernova potential and hints at absolute greatness. This album shows a Cage the Elephant-like sophistication. Once they cross this album's consistency with their crazy imaginations, you'll see what this band really can do.
Portable CD Case
- Dinowalrus - Complexion. This is a mixed bag, but only in that it varies between the sublime and the very good/decent. On songs like "Tropical Depression," "The Ancient Stereo," or "Mispronounce," they are simply fantastic -- some kind of shoegaze meets shimmery guitars meets electronica meets Drivin' 'N Cryin. This is definitely an album worth checking out.
Dinowalrus - "Wake Up in the Void"
- Katie Kate - Nations. Finally, some damn hip hop I can get behind: strong confident rhymes with great atmosphere oozing underneath. It's not classic hip hop, but a fuse with pop that's pleasing, smart, and aggressive. It's an extremely impressive performance that hits is at once both delicate and harsh. In the end, this is a very strong combination.
Katie Kate - "Canyon"
- Michna - Thousand Thursday. It's electronica with a strong melody and continued variance throughout. (That seems to be formula for my appreciation of music in this genre.) It's very pleasing but fairly straightforward. Sure, it lags in spots, but it's a fine listen, and nice background music for your somewhat-happening party.
Michna - "Solid Gold"
- New Myths - Give Me Noise. The first impression I get vocally is Paula Cole. (Somewhere, Scott B. just shuddered.) But imagine she had some type of hybrid rock/electronica band that occasionally throws in a saxophone. Sound interesting? It is. It needs a slightly more live feel -- my only knock on this is that it's a little too polished -- but in general this is a very interesting listen. A little less slick = Car CD Changer. "Howl," "Out of Control," "Playing with Fire," and "False Gold" are highlights.
New Myths - "False Gold"
- Pompeii - Loom. This is very "wave"-y -- it sounds like 2/3 Rogue Wave and 1/3 Longwave. (See what I did there?) Unlike Rogue Wave, which has moments of sublime brilliance but long stretches of tepid warmth, Pompeii is consistently good to very good but never great. My favorite is probably "Blueprint." This band has the makings of something special -- and this is a solid, workmanlike start.
Pompeii - "Blueprint"
It's a short list.
- Kestrels - The Moon is Shining Our Way. Sure, the opening riff sounds very, very reminiscent of Swervedriver, but... well, actually, that's a pretty good thing. What hooked me, though, was the great juxtaposition of vocal tonality with the soaring sound of the guitars. Sure, they sound very, very reminiscent of 90s grunge, but... well, actually, that's a pretty good thing too. The title track is powerhouse guitar. I'm not sure exactly what "powerhouse guitar" IS exactly, but when I listen to this track, that is the term that pops into my head: it's heavy and yet accessible, full of fury and fuzz. (Or fury and furry, if you will.) Sonically, it's just awesome rock 'n roll.
Kestrels - "The Moon is Shining Our Way"