On The Record

Me and You and Cherry Red
Vampire Hands

Another heavily tipped local band, though this time, a case where the hype worked on me much earlier. Vampire Hands plays a type of neopsychedelic rock. It’s not hard to hear the influences of generations of drug-aided musical experimentations here. Yet the group doesn’t wallow in the past. Instead, this is psychedelic for the 21st Century, made with a distinct Midwestern no-bullshit attitude. On record, the band doesn’t go for epic jams, or obscure Michael Moorcock-influenced space epics. Instead, the songs are focused, but have enough space to take the music in unexpected directions. It’s the kind of album that frustrates and exhilarates music writers. We’re frustrated, because the music almost defies description, but exhilarated, because it means we have to listen again and again, as we try to come up with the right words to describe it. How about this: Just buy the album. If you like rock ’n’ roll—in all its myriad forms—at all, you’ll find something to like on Me and You and Cherry Red.

Ghost in the Water

Mandy and Nathan, the husband-and-wife duo behind Ghost in the Water, started the project as a sound track for an animated film by a friend. The two already recorded as Fitzgerald, a poppy rock ensemble with a growing fan base. For this project, they moved in a different direction, producing an electronic backdrop for Mandy’s moody vocals. The first song, “Clean Sinks and Folded Laundry,” is the centerpiece of the band’s debut. Powered by rhythmic strings and a pulsing backbeat, the music and vocals make for a beautiful backdrop to a set of lyrics that aren’t nearly as innocent as the vocals sound. The whole album is like that—beautiful sounds turning out to have sinister implications. It’s an album that makes the listener feel somewhat out of balance, but also keeps him or her engaged throughout the collection’s 10 songs. All in all, Tooth is a brilliant debut by a group that already has one successful project under their belts. More, please.

Walk It Off
Tapes ’n’ Tapes

When the first Tapes ’n’ Tapes album arrived a couple of years ago amid a veritable sea of hype, I wasn’t convinced. What I heard on The Loon didn’t seem worth all the trouble. Thankfully, Walk It Off arrives without nearly as much ink. The band engages in a type of alternative rock that is hard to give a simple name, but one that certainly fits in with plenty of other modern acts. Tapes ’n’ Tapes plays a lot with dynamics and tension, crafting songs with real drive. The band also delves into a number of styles, mixing sounds together into something more of their own. And like a number of those groups, the weakest link in the equation is the vocals, which are thin and weak in a way that eventually wearies the listener. Still, as a whole, Walk It Off shows me that something was behind the hype, even if it took an extra album for me to buy into it.

When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold

This local hip-hop duo’s latest album landed at Number 5 on the Billboard Charts right out of the gates. The group has a loyal fan base willing to buy the album, instead of just acquiring it over the Internet. Fans who shelled out the money for When Life Gives You Lemons are rewarded with another collection of insightful and powerful hip-hop. Led by the wide-ranging stories and observations of rapper Slug (Sean Daley), and the funky and driving beats of producer Ant (Anthony Davis), the songs here rank with the best creations of the group’s decade-long career. Part of the interest for me always has been Slug’s ability to move beyond the clichés of not just rap music, but pop music in general. It makes for a heavier journey than most pop music, but one that is ultimately much more rewarding. It doesn’t hurt at all that Ant crafts fantastic music, full of jagged edges and driving beats that match the intensity of the vocals at every turn.

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