I’ll admit to not having high expectations when I downloaded Omega, an album from a band billed as “an evolution of the classic 90’s boy band for the modern ear.” But even a boy band can surprise, particularly when said band’s album packs as many twists and turns as this one. There’s the requisite radio single in “Put Your Hands Up,” which encourages all of us with inner nerds to put our hands up and pray for the day we can “turn the other cheek when [we’re] their boss,” but that thankfully comes at the end of the album. “Carmen” fares much better, as the band channels all the Bowling for Soup they can handle as they swoon over a beautiful latin grocer who quite likely remains out of their league to this day. Get that to radio and maybe we’ll be hearing these guys get the kind of airplay formerly reserved for songs called “Hey There, Delilah.”
But don’t overlook the album’s deeper tracks. “”They All Fall Down”, “Three Times” and “Gravity” showcase XY Unlimited’s lyrical range, and all three tracks also highlight their greatest advantage — these guys can SING! The harmonies on this album would make Ben Folds nod in approval (and I’m talking Reinhold Messner-era Folds) and seem perfectly tailored to a generation which made Glee the most popular pop ensemble ever. Everything culminates in a Donny Darko fanboy’s wet dream, as the band takes on “Mad World” in its Gary Jules incarnation, stripping it down to bare voices and autotune, creating a hybrid which is impeccably arranged and would give Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” a run for its money.
While this isn’t an album which is going to blow your mind and turn the sanest of listeners into mad XY Unlimited groupies, it is a solidly crafted pop album which is more than the sum of any boy band parts. Billing this band as such is a limitation they don’t deserve. Call it pop-punk with the heart of Death Cab for Cutie and the arrangements of Ben Folds, and give Omega the fair shake it deserves. Maybe you’ll even decide to award it “guilty pleasure” status as you listen to their voices swell.
The first thirty seconds of “My Heroes Are Dead,” the latest single from Los Angeles-based The Rebel Light, flashed me back so abruptly to classic Oasis, I could all but smell the beer spilled during a Gallagher brothers’ throwdown. No that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, but it definitely sets the aural scene.
The band recorded the album completely on their own dime, tracking vocals in their bathroom and the drums in a woodshed, “in the spirit of all that is indie and good” as they succinctly put it. Whatever your musical tastes may be, this four-track EP, available at Noisetrade on a “name your own price” basis, has more than its share of great hooks. Just like a musical dealer, they reel us in with free product and then jack up the price once they’ve got us on the hook. “Heroes” in particular is so unrelenting in its addictive qualities, I’d mainline it if I could only find a bloody vein.
“Cider of the Sun,” by Los Angeles newcomers Young Empress, will gutpunch you from the opening notes, as the band merges the harder edge of alternative like Arcade Fire with the folk flourishes of Decemberists. The song is incredibly repeatable, building from a thunder of drums and guitars to add haunting vocals, particularly at the chorus: “I want you stay with me … I never want you to disappear,” the male-female duo sing as strings and hints of keyboards build behind them. “We will outshine the sun.” This song certainly shines bright, and bodes well for what this band could do when they really get cracking.
We all trust the music we know, and from where Jason Karaban’s coming from on his new album Shift, it’s not a hard bet that this music’s soon to be permanently implanted in your heads. Trust me.
When you bring this much talent together, it’s hard not to craft a melodic alt-pop gem — or at least you wouldn’t think it’d be. Written jointly with Glen Phillips and featuring Counting Crows’ David Immergluck and Charlie Gillingham, as well as Lucy Schwartz, the song has everything working in its favor on paper. Still, it’s refreshing to hear “Devil That I Know,” the latest from Jason Karaban, off his upcoming album Shift, actually delivers on all that promise! This is a twisty hook of epic pop proportions, easily living up to the reputations of all involved.
Karaban, based in LA, got his start fronting the band Dragstrip Courage in ’97, which explains at least some of the depth of alt-rock nineties love you’ll feel when playing this new track. It’s a cross between early Counting Crows and more modern alternative in the vein of Only Son, and if the rest of the album is this good I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about it … from me and any of your musical friends with taste.
Maybe it’s not too broke to fix
It’s a thrill to give you (what you want)
It’s everything you dreamed of (what you want)
Put everything on plastic if you just don’t blow it
Everything’s going down …. whoooooooooooooooh!
But you just can’t stop it
Opening with a series of Ramones-esque “Yeah!”s, Eyes Lips Eyes’ impressive “Don’t Blow It” follows its own mantra by morphing immediately into a melodic pop romp through everything eighties. It’s a hook made from B-52s surf-pop with hints of Beach Boys in the background vocals, coupled with a tune which draws just enough from Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” to be immediately tip-of-the-tongue memorable. The song is currently streaming for free at Spinner, so you can hear for yourself, Co-produced by the band alongside John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf) and mixed by Mike Roskelly (Kaskade), the single is the perfect lead-off from What You Want (If You Want), the band’s four-song follow-up to their debut project Blue Red, which is sure to be the perfect blend of seventies-era post-punk, eighties new-wave hooks and the modern rock energy of the Strokes. This Los Angeles by way of Utah fouresome warrants some serious watching!
LA’s Troup brings a fresh take on the 90s Alternative sound
I was gonna be a racing driver
Going hundreds of miles an hour
In a fast car around a track
You were gonna love me
‘Til the stars fell from the sky
And I was gonna love you, girl, right back
Los Angeles’ Troup has been getting a lot of radio love in the region for their debut album Last Chance For Romance, which has an alt-pop mix of Wilco and Tonic. The standout of the album is easily “Runaway,” a rich sweet nugget of 90s pop nostalgia which manages to be catchy and upbeat despite being about the woman Alex Troup let get away. Though most of the 90s rock bands I grew up on will likely be relegated to a discount bin, Troup goes after a loftier goal — bringing the alternative rock of that era into the realm of classic rock. In the end it’s all about how good the song is, and “Runaway” is a repeater — once you have the hook in your head you’ll be singing it everywhere you go. This is proof a song doesn’t need to be complicated to be a keeper.
Los Angeles atmospheric pop band And The Giraffe
You haven’t heard of And The Giraffe yet, I’m sure, but their music is building buzz around the Internet, and it’s thanks in no small part to the elegant textures of “Underground Love,” their latest single. Opening with a distorted drone which soon blends with mild, evocative acoustic picking and vocals which remind this listener immediately of Griffin House’s magnificent “Amsterdam” meeting up with Alexi Murdoch’s brand of understated vocal touches. You’ll know what I’m talking about the moment you hear it. The band’s two members, Nick Roberts and Josh Morris, filmed the video on virtually no budget, and their EP Something for Someone has been reviewed by more than sixty publications, including the blog Michigan Review, which called the EP “frustratingly short but attention grabbing.” Hey, that’s what repeatedly hitting the play button is for!