Sic Alps
U.S. Ez

On their fourth long-player, the San Franciscan duo of Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman continue to blot the lines between paint-peeled blues, lo-fi experimentation and the noisier end of the acid rock spectrum. Elements of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, without the inherent asshole egotism, and the Who, if Daltrey had some brains and Townsend had more balls than brawn, seep in there somewhere too, it all coalescing like hazy remembrances on the morning after.

What sets the Sic Alps apart from being underground also-rans is the inherent buzz of ideas in which this album is swimming. At once cutting in line on r ‘n’ r heritage and juxtaposing some millennial pick-and-choosing, the band crafts a record that is as much of the now as it is timeless. “Put the Puss to Bed” is the best example of this, song fragments emerging out of radio hiss and static only to fade back into the ether. Most songs clock in around the minute and a half mark, creating enough psychedelic din to turn on without needing to fully drop-out. “Everywhere, There” is the one exception, Donovan allowing himself to meander a bit, repeating a simple guitar line and letting the song build organically as much by what isn’t there as by what is. Fully showing the diversity of the record are adjacent tracks “N##JJ” and “Gelly Roll Gum Drop.” The former is more than a minute of sculpted guitar and drum noise that bleeds into the Stonesy pop of the latter. The contrast shows the full prowess of Sic Alps, a band seemingly capable of taking whatever form their collective heart desires.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “Bathman”

Eden Express
Que Amors Que
Holy Mountain

It was probably after a few rounds of caipirinhas or a jug of sangria that the threesome of Kelly Uhlhorn, Kip Uhlhorn and John David Lovelace decided to pool their efforts into the hazy dream of Eden Express. Que Amors Que wasn’t supposed to be a proper record, not because it’s lacking substance, quite the opposite. Just that it’s a wildly intimate document filled with stress-free meditations on druggy, make-shift tropicalia and general bohemian baubles. Structure isn’t an issue: the songs are loose and blurry, and if at first this incoherence is disorienting, it soon washes over as playful and sunny psychedelia.

Trying to locate the trio is a task best ignored, as it’s difficult to know what environ inspired them. Diving in blind finds them morphing modern tropes with organic intent. There’s Brightblack Morninglight island hopping in the Pacific or Gang Gang Dance traipsing through meadow folk, but never do they mock particular exotic genres or quirky fusions. There is, however, a trippy miscegenation of congas and flutes, sitar and organ, maracas and Spanish guitar that informs standouts like the unstable bossa nova of “Swelling Moon” and the psycho-samba of “Marble in the Blood” and make for a cloud of pungently sweet smoke. Judging from Mrs. Ulhorn’s Gal Costa-esque vocal acrobatics, Eden Express mine the Brazilian classics faithfully. But by album’s end the addition of strings and the unforced entanglements of sensual moods bode for a more sophisticated future with less sandals and sand. “Bushels of Briar” is the best example, giving the group their own unique hideaway where they’re free to experiment without having to explain. All one needs to do is drop inhibitions and stumble into their solar lounge in order to be entranced by Que Amors Que’s balmy charm.
Kevin J. Elliott

MP3: “Skin de Sol”

Hit the Lights
Skip School, Start Fights
Triple Crown

The second album from pop-punk outfit Hit the Lights is called Skip School, Start Fights. After a listen, the only remotely rebellious aspect of the record is its title. Unless they plan on taking on Avril Lavigne—and someone really should already—this band doesn’t seem very threatening. The songs are as innocuous and sweet as the mascot of the band’s hometown of Lima, Ohio: the Lima Beanie (a friendly looking lima bean). As with most music of this ilk, there’s no traces of punk’s pioneers. No Iggy, just pop.

The follow-up to 2006’s This is a Stick Up... Don’t Make It a Murder features guitar player Nick Thompson taking over lead vocal duties after the departure of original singer Colin Ross, and the result seems to be a more harmonious style. (Guitarist Omar Zehery, bassist/vocalist Dave Bermosk and drummer Nate Van Dame complete the line-up.) The intro, “Count In,” shows that the band has determination, at least, when they promise, “We’ll weather the rain, the sleet, the snow and oceans just to get through to you.”

What they’re bringing to you, in a manner more determined than the postal service—after all, there are no oceans mentioned in the USPS code—is upbeat and energetic, but by-the-numbers. The subject matter similarly covers typical topics: break-ups (“Tell Me Where You Are” and “Cry Your Eyes Out”), bad relationships (“Drop the Girl”) and general carpe diem (“Don’t Wait”). “Stay Out” is catchy, in a high-school faux-rebellion anthem kind of way—it might be nice in a teen movie, or maybe if High School Musical had a skateboarding scene. Perhaps the band sums itself up best in this song, when Thompson sings, “We’ll break the bottles in well-lit parking lots. I know it’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got.” Not exactly “Anarchy in the UK.” The lyrics of “Statues” goes on, “‘What a gyp,’ you’ll hear them say, tossing, turning in their graves.” The band might mean something else, but that sound they hear probably is made by departed punk-rockers wondering what happened to their genre.
Josie Rubio


If you’re used to Icelandic artists coming off as introverted pixies, then meet Mugison, a man from that seemingly magical land who doesn’t seem to hold anything back.

For his third album, Mugison has described a desire to make “every song.. sound like it was the last song (he’d) play if the world was going down.” And Mugiboogie certainly has its moments of emergency fervor, most notably the title track, a foot-stomping chunk of bluesy ruckus. Here Mugison saturates the song with desire, his hormones in overdrive. Similarly, on “Jesus Is a Good Name to Moan,” his libido is manifested as religious passion. It is in this mode that the album delivers some of the apocalyptic power for which the singer was seeking, Mugison coming off like a viking soul man. But the vast majority of the record is a scatterbrained dud, listless reveries like “The Great Unrest” and “Deep Breathing” juxtaposed against the mealy-mouthed industrial waste of “I’m Alright” and “Two Thumb Sucking Son of a Boyo.” Like on his past records, Mugison suffers from a short attention span, and we suffer too because of it. Creativity can run more than one way, and here it is all downhill.
Stephen Slaybaugh

U.S. Girls

Cheeky and bright? U.S. Girls debut is not what the listener might anticipate going in. This isn’t polished girl group ephemera, instead Introducing... is one girl’s insular exorcism achieved using only the industrial debris that surrounds her. Between Introducing’s harrowing songs you can almost hear the spirits and demons being plucked from her dermis in the quick-hit instrumental breaks. Veins bulge and coil, blood boils—the world might stop turning for a spell. The record is absolutely coarse and brutal, bewitching and slightly evil. What more could one expect from the Siltbreeze camp but another drowsy stunner completely out of left-field?

Megan Uremovich, lone U.S. Girl, presents a barren landscape inhabited by empty oil drums and factory skeletons, which she uses as base for her clattered drones. There’s a guitar lying around, but it’s atonally tuned and missing some strings. There’s a well for refreshment and reverb, but it’s bone fucking dry. How she interprets Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night” and the Kinks’ “Days” is circumstance to the planet painted in black tribal sludge. She’s the mercurial phoenix hovering above this new pit in hell or the dominant matriarch broadcasting from beneath the earth’s toxic crust. Either way she’s destined to fail in her mission even if there’s hope in her voice.

Introducing... is not so much primal screaming as it is imagined celebrity with no one left to hear the performance. Where similar groups like CocoRosie and the Lexie Mountain Boys pose hollow through howling art-garbage, Uremovich allows her voice diva status and with it comes pure desperate emotion found by layering and lacquering her moans in effect. Whether she’s gravedigging with death ballads on “Lit Fire to This Life” or mimicking childish aggression on “Outta State,” her methods aren’t genius, just simple, embracing an assortment of din that places each moment in a new dark crevice all her own. Bull-tongued approximation would call this the Dead C’s attempt at American Idol glory or perhaps the Shaggs having trash bin babies. Deep within the bowels of the boiler room Uremovich is smiling, a pounding in her head, but fully cleansed.
Kevin J. Elliott

MP3: “Prove It All Night”