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CD reviews

A.C. CottonHalf Way Downself-released • A very straightforward rock album featuring singer/songwriter Alan Charing and his new band A.C. Cotton. Charing brings great vocals and strong "stream-of-conscious" lyrics, which has had him compared to the likes of Bob Dylan, but I'm not sure Dylan jammed out quit like these guys do on this release. Described as "power-country, backporch blues and whiskey-soaked rock," A.C. Cotton blends it all together very well and produces good rock songs. Not until the title track midway through this 14-song collection does the energy drop down a couple notches, but not for long.

AbstractAbstrologyself-released • The first thing I thought of when I listened to the opening track on this album was Motley Crue's debut. It possessed a sort of swingin' guitar rock sound that has been somewhat left behind by the cold whims of history. But as I listened some more, I found I was being a bit unfair. There are people out there who still want to rock old school, and this band does do it with their own fresh style, discernable differentiation, and humorous lyrics. 80's guitar rock aficionados will appreciate the driving power chords and vocal harmonics.

American NightmareBackground MusicEqual Vision Records • My ears are bleeding! This is seriously intense, angry, no, pissed off, hardcore. This is a band you'd see in a small club and wonder if you'll make it out alive. A full on aural assault. You've been warned.

AnarascaDiscography 1994-1997Second Nature Recordings • This is not so much a discography as it is a collection of seven songs (their entire repertoire?) from their short lived career as a band. For three years, this Washington DC outfit busted ear drums with their hardcore sound. It will be hard to forget the emotion felt in Nick Pimentel's voice, backed up by Chris Afzal and Carl Ridder's double guitar attack, Jim Sajor's fat bass lines and Mike Weltz and Jon Wilson's precise drumming.

AnchorShipwrecked LifeFacedown Records • Last issue I reviewed some hardcore stuff from Erie, PA and I thought it was kind of an odd place for hardcore to be coming from. As if to say, "Screw you, jackass," Anchor has come forth. Another Erie, PA band, Anchor puts out some melodic hardcore for the kids. Perhaps Erie really is a hardcore hotbed after all.

Anti-FlagUnderground NetworkFat Wreck Chords • Since 1994, this Pittsburgh outfit has been playing politically charged punk rock music. Through three albums, including Underground Network, they aim to inspire others to take action against the injustices that take place in this country. Not only is the music loud and political, but the liner notes are filled with resources, articles and other writings that support or explain the songs, including contributions by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

Atom & His PackageRedefining MusicHopeless Records • I was a big fan of Atom's previous band Fracture. But I'm just now getting into his newer project. It's not that new; he's been doing this insane, punked-out new wave, socio/political, satire-rock synth stuff for over four years. Think of Atom as a Bar Mitzvah keyboardist set on getting fired. He covers Madonna and The Ghetto Boys among others. But the bulk of the 15 tracks are his own brand of smart, silly and socially-aware punky, nerdcore all done with a sequencer (his package) and miscellaneous live instruments here and there. It's an aptly titled album and it's one hell of a listen. (Seeing him live is even better!)

Beauty PillThe Cigarette Girl From the FutureDeSoto/Dischord Records • "Rideshare" starts off this EP with a haunting slide guitar and a rich melody. Next is the title track, which changes the pace, including scattered handclaps and a combination of high and low pitched vocals over a pseudo-danceable beat. "The Idiot Heart" has beautiful female vocals and a pulsing bass line, plus additional string instruments. "Bone White Crown Victoria" is entirely in Spanish, with a processed drum beat and lyrics which show contempt for the police. Finally, "Here Lies Rachel Wallace" features cryptic lyrics such as "A drooling hagiographer in a proud nation of drooling hagiographers."

Betty AlreadyAmerimaniacsself-released • Betty Already's mix of political lyrics and punk attitude with pop hooks and crunching guitars makes them stand out among the crowd. Their mix of male female vocals only further isolates them. Unfortunately, he's trying too hard to sound like Elvis, and she has a somewhat annoying voice.

Big, Big FurnaceSoundtrack To A Midwestern WinterCrustacean Records • Indie, emo-pop here, folks. I see they're being compared to The Get-Up Kids a bit. I'll have to go with that since I'm not a Get-Up Kids expert. It's poppy and light, like some Barenaked stuff. There's some crunch in there, too, but nothing of a Sunny Day Real Estate caliber. Indie pop with a Midwestern feel says it best.

Blood For BloodWasted Youth BrewVictory Records • Hardcore or punk? I think it's more punk but it's not sissy punk. I guess it can't be if it's getting confused with hardcore. This is angst-filled, voice of pissed-off youth punk rock. There are no hidden agendas here. This is music you crank after a really shitty day. And with 23 songs on here, you can't beat it!

Bouncing SoulsHow I Spent My Summer VacationEpitaph Records • I first heard these guys some time ago on a local college radio show that played some really good punk. This disc, it comes as no surprise, is a really good disc. Lots of energy that never lets up from the first chord to the last. This is fast, melodic pop-punk that is done right. The band is a tight quartet of talented musicians who are very obviously doing this because they really enjoy it.

BozartBungeFrenetic Records • It is hard to believe that this wonderful and powerful music comes from just two guys playing guitars and drums. They formed Bozart from the remains of their previous band, Holgator, with the intent of maintaining the Math-Rock formula and following it to the letter. Their sound, which is full of time changes, comes pretty close to labelmates The Fucking Champs, particularly on the title track.

BreakestraThe Live Mix Part 2Stones Throw Records • Breakestra was born from multi-instrumentalist / producer Miles Tackett's love of hip-hop, in particular the samples that were mostly culled from old funk records. He assembled a group of musicians to recreate those samples using live instruments, as well as compose original tunes. This second album delivers plenty of funk "loops," seemingly sampled right out of the original recordings, from Sly and The Family Stone and James Brown to The Third Guitar and Tony Alvon. It wasn't until I researched them a bit more that I found out these snipets are performed by the band itself. The original songs are also excellent funk compositions, with plenty of breaks that will surely be sampled in the future. My only complaint is that there is no track listing and no direct credit from the loops to the original recordings, making it impossible for a neophyte of this genre to find any of this wonderful music.

Broken BonesWithout ConscienceHigh Speed Records• Hardcore with a conscience, that's what Broken Bones is all about. Freaking intense music with deep, thought-provoking lyrics. Makes for a lethal blend and that's a good way to describe BB.

Brother's KeeperFantasy KillerTrustkill Records • I think I reviewed an EP from these dudes a while ago. I remember them laying on the hardcore but with a bit more melody and funk. That's what the EP delivered and this full-length offering is no different, though it DOES have three videos on it. COOL! Check this for some crunchy, phat-ass hardcore.

BuelltonAvenue Of The FlagsFILM guerrero • In the spirit of Flaming Lips, Low and Richard Buckner this "atmospheric, guitar-band-ic, medium-core pop record" is a moody, up and down, feel good project. Touring the Southern California coast, Buellton brings along a guitar sound that mesmerizes behind the vocals and lyrics of John Nygren. This disc is one to play from beginning to end. "What Do You Suppose," "Pistogal" and them taking a shot at the boy/girl bands of the world in "Grammys '97" is all part of this musical coaster full of highs and lows.

Bullet Proof Space TravelersBuilt to LastStray Records • Originally known as Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters, then as the Space Travelers and finally as the Bullet Proof Space Travelers, this crew is a must listen for anyone interested in the DJ culture. Built to Last consists mainly of 1980's Electro and a few rap numbers that will leave you on the floor. Their skills at the decks are unmatched, and with the unavoidable revival of Electro and '80s dance music, BPST are, as usual, ahead of the curve.

Buried AliveLast RitesVictory Records • Hardcore, anyone? Really kick-ass breakdowns. The first two songs are addictive. They blend right into each other and knocked me on my ass. And then it just keeps going. The third track, track five, and track nine have this amazingly dirty sounding guitar in it, like the guy's run his guitar through distortion, plugged into distortion, plugged into distortion. Wicked. This is the best hardcore I've heard in a long time.

Burn Guitarsdemoself-released • Here is an interesting idea: 3 basses and drum with no guitars. I will admit that this disc took a little adjusting to, but in the end, I'd say that it is good stuff. With only four songs, but still managing to clock in at just under 18 minutes, the tunes are allowed to develop and you will be able to appreciate the tight musicianship and rather original arrangements. For a demo, the quality of the recording is super. This is a professional job that is worth listening to when you finally get sick and tired of the same old shit over and over.

Burning AirlinesIdentikitDeSoto Records • From the ashes of post-punk outfit Jawbox emerged Burning Airlines, with J Robbins on guitar and Bill Barbott on bass, joined by ex-Government Issue drummer Pete Moffett. Identikit, their second album, explores Robbins love for the electric guitar and traverses through post-punk, just like Jawbox would have, were they still around. Robbins vocals are mixed high above everything else, while Barbott and Moffett play off of each other, providing the groove for the album.

Burnt By The Sunself-titled EPRelapse Records • Holy balls. If this band isn't on Ozzfest, I've got two words for you: rip off. This is some seriously intense, brutal thrash. Wow. They have some really cool breakdowns, too, and manage to throw in some almost progressive playing, especially the guitars. If you think you're metal, try this EP on for size.

C AverageSecond RekoningKill Rock Stars • Holy shit! That was my impression after listening to Second Rekoning. The most impressive aspect of C Average's sound is not that it literally attacks you with a wall of sound, churning electric guitars and drums that make your heart thump, but the fact that this group is composed by just two guys. Obvious influences include the Who, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and the recently renamed The Fucking Champs. There is hardly any singing, which is a good thing, because you can concentrate on the impressive music. The songs that feature singing tend to fall into the stoner rock category, as opposed to the instrumental ones, which will blow you away.

CalexicoEven My Sure Things Fall ThroughQuarterstick Records • Joey Burns and John Convertino are the essence of Calexico, with other musicians sometimes joining in. The tracks featured here were compiled from European B-sides, remixes and other unreleased material. There is also an Enhanced CD portion containing three full-length videos. The songs, as well as the videos, are full of southwestern imagery, from Mariachi bands and acoustic guitars, to desert scenes and beautiful dark haired women. Perhaps the most interesting track is the Two Lone Swordsmen's remix of "Untitled III," if not only because trip hop has been uncharted territory for the duo.

CeaseFireThe Cycle of UnbeliefFacedown Records • Hardcore in your face, mate! These Aussie rockers have toured with Sick of It All and Strife to name two. There's no melodicore stuff on here. This is all-out, fists of fury hardcore damage. Plus, it's a CD-ROM thing, so it's got bang for your buck, too! I need a Bloomin' Onion.

Celebrity RoastThey Misunderstood The KnifeCreep Records • This sounds like emo-core but it's so freaking hard to tell these days. You've got a trio of youngsters here, playing some high-octane hardcore with some angst-filled lyrics (hence the emo part).

Centro-Matic/VermontOpportunity (split CD)Quality Park Records • You've got a really nifty six-song split EP here. These two bands play soft, mellow emo and keep it interesting. That's hard to do with emo this emo. Most bands bore me by the third song but these two have some interesting sounds and the singers are both distinct. I'd like to hear more from both of them.

ChristiansenEmphasizing Function Over DesignEulogy • Fasten your seat belt, the ride is about to begin. And it won't let up for 14 tracks. These four Louisville cats rock out some damn addictive music. I was hooked on this album after one listen and I can't get enough. It combines strong melodies and hooks with a hardcore intensity, yet it still has a strong pop sense. It's not a new genre, but they've got it down better than most others. Some of the sounds, among others, that I hear on this release include Crumb, Boy Sets Fire, At the Drive-In and Errortype:11. The great thing about Christiansen is that you won't hear a song that necessarily sounds like one of those aforementioned bands, just pieces here and there. I love a band that can grab me with a pop-oriented melody and then blow me away their hardcore abilities.

ColtColtMonostar Records • Swedish? German? I'm not sure what this is. I think German. It's emo-core but it ain't American. It sounds the same, yes, but I can't tell you the names of the dudes or anything. I don't guess that matters, huh? It's not bad but they need more of an edge, I think. It's kind of complacent. 'Course, it is emo...

CrossbreedSynthetic DivisionArtemis Records • What has become of us as a society, that we have produced such angry musicians? Actually, taking a look at the crap that has come out of Florida in the last few years (matchbox twenty, Creed, Backstreet Boys and O-Town for crissakes), it isn't such a difficult question to answer. From the former Death Metal capital of Tampa comes Crossbreed, combining the aggression of Death Metal with the more current Nu-Metal/Hardcore sound. Not ashamed to use technology to create their music, they employ not one, but two keyboard players in their lineup, while the rest of the band plays guitar, drums and bass. This ain't Stabbing Westward, though. Their anger is real, and their tendency to show it is all over Synthetic Division.

David SingerThe Cost Of LivingDeep Elm Records • This songwriter from the underground rock scene in Chicago wrote, arranged and played the majority of diverse instruments on this release. This musical experimentation with pianos, guitars, trombones, turntable scratches and loops moves right along with Singer's lyrics that are howling at times and floating at others. The first track, "The Accident", sounds like the beginning of a movie. With an eerie piano, tap of the drums and surreal atmosphere, Singer describes himself inside a car that is wrapped around a tree before moving into the next track, "The Cost Of Living." Each song takes you to another place, one night stands to internal reflection, a 10-track trip.

David SteinhartCleanStonegarden Records • This singer/songwriter doesn't bring much to the table lyrically on his third solo release full of "jangle pop and jazz-inflicted acoustic music." With a stand up bass, violins and trumpets, along for the ride, the mood moves along slowly through 12 tracks loosely about demise, break-ups and denial to form a pop record that tries to showcase melody but just stays relaxed.

Dead KingsMurder City Or BustScat Boy Records • They should have called this CD "The CD The Cult Never Made." That's exactly what this sounds like. Early Cult. There is some southern-flavored stuff on here that's not so Cultish (they're from NC) but, for the most part, it just rocks. The Dead Kings say that "punks think they are too metal. Metalheads think they are too punk..." Couldn't have said it better myself. The DK's don't try to be either. They just play loud rock and have a great time doing it.

DeagleWhen Paris Burnsself-released • New Jersey hardcore on this five-song EP. It has some progressive feel to it, too. Especially the breakdowns and guitar work. Kind of like Dream Theatre (minus keyboards) goes punk.

DeviatesTime Is The DistanceEpitaph Records • Punk/hardcore. It's not fast enough to be true hardcore and you can understand the lead singer. Speaking of, he has a weird Dexter from Offspring thing going. The band isn't quite as radio accessible as The Offspring but they've got as much energy. There are some surprisingly good melodies and hooks on here. Nice work.

DiggerTrainwreckHopeless Records • The only negative thing I'll say about Trainwreck is that it's an EP. And when you think about it, that's not negative. That's me saying I wish there were six MORE songs on here. This is really catchy, really tight emo-punk. Like that radio accessible crap but more energy and less crap.

DJ AssaultJefferson Ave.Intuit-Solar • Anyone familiar with last year's Off the Chain for the Y2K won't be shocked by the level of offensive material on its follow-up, Jefferson Ave. Having tired of the term Ghetto Tech, DJ Assault now refers to his style of blending Techno, Rap and Miami Bounce as Accelerated Funk. Which is weird, because the tempo on this album is considerably slower than on the 170+ bpm Off the Chain... Plus, these are full songs, 20 of them, not mixed together. Just like Off the Chain... probably appealed to DJ Assault's techno fans, Jefferson Ave. will appeal more to his Rap fans. And it will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoy sexually offensive lyrics and song titles like "Nipples and Clits," "Nut in Your Eye," Who's Fuckin' Tonight" and the updated "Ass-N-Titties 2001."

Dynamite BoySomewhere in AmericaFearless Records • For their third release, Dynamite Boy stick to what they do best, Pop-Punk. These 13 tracks are full of harmonies and catchy choruses to excite even the most cynical person out there. They are full of energy and emotion, churning guitars and Scott's tight drumming. Particularly impressive are the vocals which boast two part harmonies by Sean, Adrian and Danny that sound impeccable, thanks to the production skills of Cameron Webb.

Easy ActionEasy ActionReptilian Records • Kick ass! Some straight ahead rock and roll! I thought it was all gone. Not so. This Detroit quartet slams out that crunchy, bottom-heavy hard rock that is all but forgotten on the indie scene. They do have a punk flair but never cross the line. They don't bore you either. They mix it up and throw some different sounds on there, like on "All of the Time." Catchy stuff.

Eddie Def the Last KreepCheap RecordingsStray Records • A versatile DJ, Eddie Def splits his time among different projects like El Stew, Drum Machine Technicians and the Bullet Proof Space Travelers. Under his Last Kreep moniker, he explores the versatility of the drum machine, coupled with loops and samples from a variety of places. This recording sounds anything but cheap, with beautiful round beats and crystal clear production. Unlike some of his other work, this album is devoted to the beats, and is almost totally devoid of scratching.

EDO. GThe Truth HurtsGround Control Records • With contributions from the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Guru, Black Thought, Tajai and Casual, this release hits the streets with instant credibility and for good reason. The production helps this album a lot (obviously, check contributions). There's enough here to keep you vibin', and your head bobbin'; 14 tracks to be exact. But don't be misled, EDO. G brought the lyrics too. Representing Boston with tales of day-to-day living and taking care of one's business, EDO. G scores big with "Sayin' Somethin'," "Extreme," and "Last Word." Only a few flaws keep this one from being solid, but it's well worth checkin' out.

Ex ModelsOther MathematicsAce Fu Records • Is this Math Rock? Is this Experimental? Is it Punk? It is actually all of the above. The Ex Models employ some of the guitar intricacies and accurate drum pattern of Don Caballero, while the vocalist sounds like David Byrne from the Talking Heads. Add to that uniforms and Devo-like choreography, and you have got yourself the Ex Models. Interested in just making their point and going on with their lives, most songs clock in under two minutes.

Fall SilentSix Years in the DesertRevelation Records • Breakdown! This band should be called breakdown. These are some of the nastiest, sickest breakdowns a hardcore band has done in forever. Dammit, that's tight. The songs scream with intensity. They have taken a healthy diet of hardcore and added some complex metal to it, a la Meshuggah. If you want a new hardcore CD, this is the one.

Floppy SoundsShort Term MemoriesWave Records • Rob Rives builds tracks from repeating loops that slowly evolve into complex patterns, heavily suggesting a Hard House musical style. He does not limit himself to this one style, though. Also employed are elements of Ambience, Electro and a hint of IDM.

FluxFlowers and MurderCorvee Industry • I found myself really enjoying this unusual brand of hard rock reminiscent of Soundgarden and Collective Soul. It's 20 great tracks of rich, full melodies with magnificent power chords and tight percussion to hold it all together. This music marries intensity and smoothness in a great way. Listen to it loud for the intended effect.

Frog HollerIdiotsRecord Cellar • This is definitely music with a pronounced country influence, so if that frightens you, look no further. But if you have very little musical prejudice, you can really take to this great, mostly acoustic offering of rural rock. Frog Holler employs a full range of instrumentation including the fiddle, banjo, and dobro, and write robust, emotional songs about sadness, town pride, and introspection.

GigantorBack To The Rockets!Rotten Records • Here's more of that emo-punk you kids are listening to these days. Or maybe it's just punk, it's just that now it's being called emo-punk. Whatever. Screw the labels. Anywho, this is some cool, hooky punk. It has a bit of a space theme to it but it's great music when you get right down to it, themes be damned.

GonervillGonervill Presents: The Freak BrothersStray Records • If you get the feeling that the samples from this album sound amazing, it is because they come from real live instruments from the "band" members. Extrakd and Brain, both members of El Stew and No Forcefield, join DJ Flare for an unusual Hip-Hop recording. Mic Doc and B-Style rap on most of the tracks, with Trunks, B-Style, Luke Sick and others guesting on the remaining ones.

Grand AgentBy DesignGroove Attack Records • The opening track "From The Gate" is a good indication of what to expect from the Grand Agent. This Philadelphia MC brings a straightforward lyrical attack on top of body bouncin' beats and appearances by Lord Finesse, Planet Asia and DJ Hi-Tek among others. Musically this disc is well balanced and pretty impressive at that. From "The Man Who Could Be King" and "New Mingling" to "It's Only Right" and "Waughter," Grand Agent has designed an underground release worthy of checking out.

Grand Tourismself titledHigher Octave Music • The popularity of such acts as Air and Dimitri from Paris have thrown open the door for French bands to capitalize on this side of the ocean. Following that trend is Grand Tourism, which takes musical cues from the aforementioned Air as well as from dance-centric Daft-Punk, laying down smooth grooves at a leisurely pace. In fact, "Romantic Hold Up" features the exact same beat as "La Femme D'Argent" from Air's Moon Safari. Personally, I preferred the instrumental tracks as opposed to the ones with guest vocalists, but overall, this album is very listenable.

Guyana Punch LineIrritainmentPrank Records • They say things like "the punk of the future" but I'm thinking this is the hardcore of TODAY. There's an initiative to infuse progressive styles with hardcore and this band is right there leading the way. There are some very progressive styles on here, amidst the screaming and furious drumming that's common with hardcore. Intense.

Half JapaneseHelloAlternative Tentacles Records • Somewhere between Ween, The Dead Milkmen and the Frogs lie Half Japanese. Lead singer Jad Fair's vocals sound like he's about to have a nervous breakdown, not quite speaking, but not quite singing either. The backing band sounds like they put up with him, but aren't entirely comfortable with the quirky material. This is the stuff you would find only on college radio.

HammerheadHammerheadno release info • Oh for Chrissakes! I can't understand a lick of this and can't read it either! What the hell am I supposed to do with this?! It's German, it's punk/hardcore. It's loud, it's angry and if you're German or can understand it, write me and tell me what the hell they're saying. Thanks.

Hangedupself-titledConstellation Records • Hangedup is a collaboration between Montreal-based Gen Heistek and Eric Craven, who explore the relationship between the viola and drums. Think of the Dirty Three with a beat. There are guest musicians playing other instruments, but the core remains with Heistek and Craven, as they play off of each other through sometimes melodic, sometimes experimental tracks. They even tackle New Wave, with an interesting cover of New Order's "Blue Monday."

HingeThe Darker Side of NonsenseRoadrunner Records • After the unexpected success of masked nu-metallers Slipknot, the search was on by labels to find other bands that would produce such enthusiasm (money) from angry teenagers. Roadrunner has hit another home run with Hinge. Slipknot's influence on this quartet is more than evident, especially when you listen to Cliff Rigano yell through the songs as loud as he can, while still being intelligible. Thankfully, they concentrate on guitars, bass and drums to create their music, without trying to add any special effects to appease the rap metal crowd (although there is a bit of scratching here and there). This band should become quite large if the disenchanted masses get wind of their existence.

Hi-TekHi-TeknologyRawkus Entertainment • In case you haven't heard, this producer from Cincinnati, Ohio has been involved in some of the most impressive hip-hop projects in the past few years. Hi-Teknology is packed with his latest offerings of beats and quite a guest list for the experience. Unlike Reflection Eternal, the critically acclaimed release with Talib Kweli, this disc never really goes in one constant direction. Hi-Tek bounces from one mood to the next, providing an album with a little something for everyone. The hot spots are found throughout the album from appearances by Kweli, Mos Def, Slum Village, Cormega, Buckshot and mainly on "Breakin' Bread" featuring Donte, Main Flow, Brian Digby, Jr. and Crunch.

Hot Water MusicA Flight and A CrashEpitaph Records • I'm glad I finally got to listen to this band. I've heard of them before, being in their same state and all, but never heard their music. It's not too shabby! They've got a great punk thing going here. They've released six CD's prior to this one and have amassed a huge underground following, and for good reason. Their blend of emo-punk is very addictive. Their sound is clean yet there's plenty of passion and emotion in there. I'm definitely checking them out when they swing through next.

Hunter GathererLow Standards for High FivesScene Police Records • OK, this is like the third time I've heard this new trend, the two lead singer trend. I'm down with the two drummer thing since Pink Floyd, but two singers? These two compliment each other very well one sings and one yells. The songs are indie pop, a little grungy, like early R.E.M. with extra distortion or something. And HG has angst where R.E.M. had that happy-go-lucky vibe.

IntegrityClosureVictory Records • HA! Sorry, I was reading their press material and it says "Integrity will not be on Ozzfest as they do not RAP." Take THAT! HA! That's some funny shit! They're not lying; they don't rap. This dude screams, as most lead singers of hardcore/metal bands do. Integrity has been around for over 10 years and they continue to pump out the dark, brooding rock that their fans have come to expect and love. If you're into hardcore and haven't heard Integrity, you're missing out.

IowaskaVine of SoulsAlternative Tentacles Records • Named after an Arthur Brown song about Ayahuasca, a powerful South American hallucinogen, Iowaska is not a ska band from Iowa. They are, however, a female fronted rock band that mix elements from Goth and Space rock and Punk. Sam Skraeling's vocals are heavy on the echo, and she has a penchant for delivering speeches, like the chilling description of a female circumcision that closes out the album. The album is pretty intense, except for "Woman," a reggae track that breaks the pace and throws you off.

Isabelle's GiftAlcohol, Tobacco And FirearmsJimmy Franks Recording Co. • Hard rock. Now THERE are two words you don't hear together much anymore. Creed? Try CORPORATE rock. Isabelle's Gift is hard rock. They hail from South Carolina and claim to be southern punk but I think they're Anywhere, US rock. They're not as country-fried as a Bare, Jr. but they have some twang in there. Really solid, no frills rock. They should be opening for Foo right now.

Ivan KlipsteinLifestyle!Crustacean Records • It seems Ivan Klipstein has been absorbing music and getting ready for a musical career since he was a kid. In fact, Lifestyle! opens up with an 8-year old Klipstein introducing the first song. You can forget about classifying this style of music, since he incorporates everything from 1960's Beach Boys references, to rap and turntablism (both real and vocal), to hard rock guitars, to string arrangements, to country music. He even does a cover of "Amazing Grace" and incorporates parts of "Two for Tea" into one of his songs. Klipstein seems to have a photographic memory for musical genres, as well as an ability to reproduce them with zero irony, much like Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man could do complex math.

Jimmy 2 TimesNo More ShinesInsiduous Records • No More Shines, the full length debut from Jimmy 2 Times, is perfect for a Sunday drive to the beach. It effortlessly blends ska with pop and punk to create a party atmosphere, led by capable vocalist Dan Baker. Their sound can be compared to Skankin Pickle, My Man Friday, Skanic and King Apparatus.

Jon Auer6 Pattern Records • 6 is a collection of cover songs by Madonna, Ween, Psychedelic Furs and other artists that have been given a new sound. Jon Auer, mostly known for his songs with the now defunct Posies, gives the acoustic treatment to seven songs, playing most of the instruments himself.

Jumpin' Jack FrostFine Tuning Volume OneDune Recordings • To kick off their Fine Tuning series of continuous Drum N' Bass mixes, Dune Recordings turned to accomplished DJ Jumpin' Jack Frost. He seamlessly mixes the frenetic and jagged sounds of Reprazent member Krust, Ram Trilogy and Shimon, with the vocal heavy pieces by Dylan & Ink, Dune and Solid State. Some elements of Acid Jazz and Trance are also evident in tracks by Ray Keith and Konflict. However, this is definitely a CD for the Drum N' Bass crowd.

JunoA Future Lived in Past TenseDeSoto Records • A Future Lived in Past Tense, Juno's second album, begins with a very cool instrumental with layered guitars and hypnotic drums. Suddenly, the pace picks up with "Covered with Hair," a fast rocker with a certain urgency to it. After a few wild tracks, "The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow" slows it down again for a few songs. Then "Things Gone and Things Still Here" really slows it down, with eight minutes of atmospheric sounds and spoken word lyrics. Finally, "You Are the Beautiful Conductor of this Opera" closes the album on a high note, picking up the pace and the fury of the bands' three guitars. Whether slow or fast, Juno will blow you away with their emotion and talent.

KaitoYou've Seen Us...You Must Have Seen Us...Devil In The Woods • Kaito's style is poppy, yet fuzzy. Pretty female vocals that sound a bit frazzled sing pretty harmonies over post-punk songs with unsettling sounds. Kaito shares an experimental edge with bands like Blonde Redhead and Sonic Youth.

Ken NordineA Transparent MaskAsphodel • Ken Nordine has been employing his vocal chords for about a half a century. Once you hear him, you'll know why. His voice is one that would make James Earl Jones sound like a 12-year-old going through puberty. It is strong, capable of expressing just about any emotion and most of all, deep. These 20 tracks are all in the style he dubbed "Word Jazz," where his spoken word tales are backed up by a free-form jazz group. You have to pay attention, or you'll miss the message, while he talks about spiders, or birds, or the meaning of time. Dim the lights, sit back and prepare for storytelling so full of visual imagery, you'll think you are really seeing these things.

Kid GorgeousFriday Night Knife FightUprising Records • Kid Gorgeous members are not kids and their music is anything but gorgeous. This noise-metal-core debut is as brutal as they get, drenched in images of blood and death. The lyrics are printed, so you can sing along to lines like "...today I laid in bed and tried to die..." and "...when you're on fire you're like fucking razors..." Watch out for these guys, 'cause they are pissed.

King DjangoReasonHellcat Records • King Django is no newcomer to the ska scene, having been the creative force behind such recognizable acts as Skinnerbox and the Stubborn All-Stars. Now he is responsible for Reason, his first release on Hellcat Records. Always an eclectic artist, he performs roots-reggae and ska songs, but adds elements of Drum N' Bass and Hip Hop, including some scratching, just to add an extra spice to the tracks.

Ladybug TransistorArgyle HeirMerge Records • If I said that the Ladybug Transistor are from Brooklyn, you'd never think their music is a sweet combination of sugary pop lyrics and 1960's musical tendencies. Argyle Heir would fit well between your Burt Bacharach and Monkees records, two shelves away from your ABBA records.

LagwagonLet's Talk About LeftoversMy Records • For this compilation, the guys from Lagwagon decided to include quite a few tracks that had appeared scattered around on different demos, 7"s and other compilations. Many of the tracks here would have appeared on their regular albums but were left off for one reason or another. If possessing these tracks is not enough of a treat for you, they threw in 7 new songs, just to sweeten the deal. The tracks are arranged in reverse chronological order, so the quality goes down as you listen all the way through, but it's not so bad. You start listening to the new tracks and end up listening to their three-song demo. Who knew Lagwagon started out as a Metal band! The liner notes let you know where the tracks came from and during which session they were recorded.

Last Days of AprilAngel YouthDeep Elm Records • Straight outta Stockholm! You all know what that means emo rock with big, almost orchestral arrangements. You DID know that, right? Oh, come on. Anywho, this quartet from Sweden plays a big-sounding blend of emo/indie pop. There are tons of textures and sounds and harmonies on here, making the four-piece sound like 50. It's a very moody, very melancholy CD. It doesn't really follow any emo formula, rather cuts a new niche.

Legendary Chrystal ChandelierBeyond IndifferenceQuality Park Records • Kind of a Brit-pop vibe on this one, for the most part. He likes to mix it up; he being Peter Schmidt of the Dallas, Texas Schmidts. Huh? Dunno. That aside, he has 11 pretty different songs on here. Mostly though, as I said, they have that UK pop feel to them, more reminiscent of the Beatles than Oasis. Really cool stuff though. I dig this.

LiarLiar's HellAlveran Records • Oh my. This is some scary shite. Liar is as heavy and hardcore as I've heard in a long time. I'm not sure Slayer would take these guys on tour with them. This German quintet is flat-out wicked. The music is blistering and the lyrics are even thought provoking, discussing socio-economic issues, animal rights and various other injustices. You can't understand a lot of them but read up. My ears hurt.

Lone CatalystsHip HopBUKA Entertainment • Introducing J. Rawls and J. Sands, together forming the Lone Catalysts. This duo offers up some of the most amazing tracks hip hop has heard in a while. Rawls gets fresh with his smooth beats, jazzy as fuck, bumpin' nonstop. Sands delivers flows to make your brain do flips. Not only is his style dope as hell, his lyrics are tiptop; intelligent words from a man who knows how to speak it. The 21 tracks on Hip Hop are a tribute to independent music, a few gems breaking through the surface in a sea of drowning artists to show they've got what it takes.

Low + Dirty Threeself-titledTouch and Go Records/Konkurrent • Konkurrent Records regularly invites bands that are touring Holland to come in and spend two days recording about 30 minutes of whatever they like, with no artistic boundaries. The sessions are called "In the Fishtank" and this is the seventh installment. Low invited Dirty Three to accompany them during their contribution to this series. These two bands blend seamlessly, with Dirty Three providing a morose atmosphere courtesy of their string arrangements. Not to be left behind, Low joins in on the moodiness with lead singer Mimi crooning sultrily to these very slow songs. The high point of this recording is the nine+ minute version of Neil Young's "Down by the River."

LunachicksBabysitters on AcidGo Kart Records • Drowned with mail-order inquiries, Go Kart recently decided to reissue the Lunachicks's first full length from 1990. Their brand of Rock and Roll holds up well with time, sustained by their aggression and raw sound. The lyrics are somewhat disturbing, from the storyline of the title track to having sex with animals on "Makin It (With Other Species)." Fans of the Lunachicks will appreciate this stroll down memory lane.

M.I.A.Lost BoysAlternative Tentacles Records • Hands down, this wins the bang for your buck award 37 tracks on here! Sure, some are under two minutes long, but they're good punk songs and good punk songs aren't supposed to be 12-minute opuses. Formed under a different name (The Swell) in 1980 (influenced by such bands as The Ramones and Black Flag), this band went through a few lineup changes and, obviously, a name change before landing in Orange County, California. The history gets even more complex, breaking up, reforming, changing members, etc. This is tight stuff and the singer has kind of a Jim Morrison thing going on. If Morrison sung punk, of course. It's all relative.

Mad CaddiesRock the PlankFat Wreck Chords • Fans of the Mad Caddies know that they fuse many styles into their music, ultimately leaning toward Punk. Rock the Plank is no different. This time, they play a style they like to call "Pirate Punk," which they came up with after comparing their lifestyle of travelling, drinking and pillaging with that of a pirate. It is really not much different than their other stuff, except that some songs sound like pirate sing-alongs. They also like to infuse dixieland, ska and jazz into their tunes.

Man Without PlanI Feel BadlyCreep Records • I'd say that this whole disc is worthwhile simply because of their terrifying and wonderful version of the Police's "Walking On The Moon". This is good punk, nothing particularly outstanding about it, cept that Police cover.

Manic HispanicThe Recline of Mexican CivilizationBYO Records • What happens when you mix old school and new school punk anthem's with Weird Al's sense of parody and seven shots of tequila? You get The Recline of Mexican Civilization. Manic Hispanic are back, taking songs from Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Catholic Disciple, Rancid, Decline, the Ramones, and others, and somehow turning them into hilarious tracks. The Offspring's "Keep Em Separated" comes out as "Get Them Immigrated." The Clash's "I'm So Bored With The USA" turns into "Bored With You Esse." You get the idea. The songs are hilarious, and sound remarkably like the originals. Orale, vato, go get this disc ahora!

Matt SchickeleCities Filled With LightsFeldspar Records • This release from former member of Beekeeper is a dramatic mix of guitar, piano, bass and percussion with a touch of clarinet and accordion for good measure. Described as "delicate and jovial" yet "heavy and lumbering", Schickele's voice aches alongside each strum of his guitar with poetic lyrics about daily activities and interaction with people. Though this release is unique, it's hard to digest at first listen.

Me First & The Gimme GimmesBlow in the WindFat Wreck Chords • Me First & The Gimme Gimmes is a San Francisco quintet that only plays cover songs but gives them the Pop-Punk treatment. It is composed of members from NOFX (Fat Mike), Swingin' Utters (Spike), Lagwagon (Dave and Joey) and Foo Fighters (Jackson). The interesting thing about this group is that on first impression, you think this is a gimmicky band with no shot at a musical career. But when you listen to the songs, you realize that these guys are good. You also realize that they are not playing these songs as a joke, but they really like them. On their last album, Are a Drag, they concentrated on covering show tunes. This time around they cover songs from the 1960's, like "Wild World," "My Boyfriend's Back," "Will You still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Stand by Your Man." I am always on the lookout for new material from this group, and after listening to "Blow in the Wind," you will too.

Miami/Shotwellsplit CDMission Records • Ah, yes, good old raw, unpolished punk. It's not too over the top, not Oi! punk, but it sounds like it was recorded in a garage and that's OK! All this slick MTV punk is getting on my nerves. And you MUST check out a few Miami songs at the very least. They CLAIM that's a chick singing but I'm not convinced. My hat's off to her she's got some wicked pipes.

Michael Franti and SpearheadStay HumanSix Degrees Records • Michael Franti formed Spearhead in 1994 and has been interested in society's ills for quite some time, especially the death penalty. Stay Human is somewhat of a concept album, built around vignettes that take place in an imaginary radio call-in show which is protesting the impending execution of a wrongly accused woman. Although the topic is serious and Spearhead's intentions are good, these segments interrupt the flow of the music and feel corny and out of place. Which is a shame, because the music is quite uplifting. The songs blend Soul, Hip Hop and Dance beats with a bit of Funk, fronted by Franti's deep, emotional voice. There is plenty of social commentary in the songs, which give you energy to take on any problem, only to be dropped back down by the "radio call-in show." Take out the radio segments and you have an excellent, soothing album you can groove to.

Mission:OneInsiduous Urban Records • This bohemian hip-hop crew steps to the stage and delivers big time. Whether it's the jazzy beats and loops, the live instrumentation (including percussion, bass and keyboards) or the mighty mic work of Raashan Ahmad and Moe Pope, Mission: is entering a new age of hip-hop with their heads held high. Their tracks hook you with penetrating melodies, the kind that made Tribe famous and keep The Roots rockin'. But that's only the icing on their cake of fresh, intelligent rhymes. "With so many problems existing within the globe/How must you be so narrow-minded rapping about money and clothes...Really I got to say I'm glad you exist/'Cause if there wasn't there'd be no one to make fun of and diss'." Yeah, now that's the real shit. Do I need to tell you this is something you need to bounce to, now!?

Moka Only Lime GreenBattle Axe Records • These jazzy hip-hop beats are mixed with a synth sound that has Moka sounding like The Roots, Tribe Called Quest and Common. Considering his music a "constant evolution," Moka rhymes nice but doesn't say much. The production (mostly by Moka) picks up the slack and balances out the minor inconsistencies. The Vancouver native has put together an album full of instrumentation and wordplay that will keep listeners in it until it's done.

Monkey To The Monster1/3 Less Funself-released • Indie-pop here. There are some nice melodies and the songs have real substance. Ack! I hate saying this but this is "very promising." I'm sorry! I know bands hate to hear that but it is! They have talent, they just need a bit of refining. They need a bigger sound. Hopefully this CD will give them the means (moooola) to create something bigger the next time around. Still fun to listen to though!

MozaikBeyond WordsInsiduous Records • From song titles such as "Shabbat Shalom" and "Hasidic Surf," you might be tempted to dismiss Mozaik as some kind of Bar Mitzvah band. You could not be more wrong. Their music is self described as Psychedelic Jewgrass, and it is a melting pot of genres. Touches of Jazz are fused with Klezmer and ethnic sounds, all under the banner of a true jam band. Songs like "David Melech" have an obvious Jewish influence, but others like "Sabbath Prayer" sound more like something out of the Wise Monkey Orchestra.

MU330Live...Oh Yeah!Asian Man Records • MU330 can probably be considered one of the most successful ska-punk artists in a while, having played over 1300 shows during their 14-year existence. To celebrate, they recorded this live album, full of songs from their discography. In the liner notes they even list every single one of the shows they have played. Sing along to "Wide Awake," "Hoosier Love," "Rok," "Hoops," "Hot Cheese" and "Tune Me Out."

Mutelingoself-titledself-released • This appropriately named trio from North Carolina plays instrumental songs comparable to Don Caballero and Golden, but with less guitar plucking and more riffing. Odd time changes and tempo shifts are around every corner, with no time to relax and settle into any one song.

Napalm DeathEnemy of the Music BusinessSpitfire Records • For 17 mind-numbing years, Napalm Death has been infecting minds with their extreme grindcore sound. Complex guitar parts and drumming that can only result from some sort of nervous seizure are the norm here. This music is not for fucking around; this is some serious shit. This time around, according to the press statement, they spew their venom on, among others, the music industry. However, the lyrics are vague enough that they could be screaming about anything.

New Idea Societyself-titledUndecided Records • These guys sound like they have been influenced by many Brit-pop bands, since the lead singer sometimes has a faux-English accent. The songs are quite entertaining, bordering on Pop, throwing some acoustic guitars among the distortion. The Pixies and New Order both come to mind while listening to New Idea Society.

Nineteen Forty-FiveTogether We'll Burn Like Autumn LeavesDaemon Records • The disc opens up sounding like The Pixies and Violent Femmes, high pitched voice full of emotion and a contrast in guitar sounds throughout. The lyrics are dark, inspired by the untimely deaths of high school friends, but the music carries the record just the opposite. Though not much stands out on this release, there are a few tracks that do. "Cemetery Gates" and "Andrea Doria" is a kind of tribute to the dead and "My Old Ohio" is a jam session about leaving home, or was it about a girl?

No MotivDiagram for HealingVagrant Records • Diagram for Healing is No Motiv's second album, and the wait has been worth it. With a burst of energy, "Celebrate" kicks off the album, filled with harmonies and fast tempo drumming. Songs like "Broken and Burned" and "Break it Down" build up momentum until they climax at the chorus, raising the hairs on the back of your neck, while other songs like "Going Numb" start and end with the same all-out intensity. You are going to feel exhausted after this 40 minute album is over.

NymbSo, This is How it isSuburban Sprawl Music • By the tone of this record, I suspect that the meaning behind the title suggests an emotional break of some kind, as opposed to a reassuring statement. Elaine Doty's passionate vocals drift above guitar string-pluckings and distortioned riffs. Plus, just about every song deals with some sort of heartbreak. This could qualify as emo, but they prefer to call it "econo-rock," where you get more bang for your buck. I couldn't agree more.

One Time AngelsSound of a Restless CityAdeline Records • Hmm...I think, yeah, I think I'll go with punk on this one. It's really not full-on punk though. There are some straight rock sounds on here but it has that hooky, upbeat punk vibe that separates it from so much of the trash on MTV. They also have a mellow side, as evidenced on "Side Tracked (Only Human)" and the very mellow, very quick "Chase The Sun." Cool stuff.

PennywiseLand of the Free?Epitaph Recordings • Since 1988, Pennywise have been churning out Punk music intended to uplift their fans. With Land of the Free?, they encourage people to take back their rights and stand up for the injustices of this country. They do this with fast, slick guitar riffs and vocal melodies.

Phife DawgVentilation: Da LPLandSpeed Records • The first solo disc from Phife since Tribe lost the love is packed with production from DJ Hi-Tek, Pete Rock and Jay-Dee, providing mediocre beats to rhymes about being flawless, club hoppin' and of course his former mates in A Tribe Called Quest. Not much is done to distinguish one track from another, unfortunately the disc sounds stale and shows signs of being repetitious at times. Disappointing effort considering past achievements.

Pinhead CircusThe Black Power Of RomanceBYO Records • Solid punk rock here. Some good breakdowns, melody, textbook shout-along choruses and overall tight songs. I could hear a few of these on the radio but I think I'd rather see them live. Word is their live shows end with panties on the stage. I'm not sure where the panties come from. It's just a rumor I heard.

PintsizeCollapse In StyleBuilding Records • This CD starts off with an extremely melodic anthem titled "Catalyst." That song is so good, it's worth getting this CD just to listen to it. Though you could classify this disc as emo, Pintsize plays their fair share of 1995-esque melodic punk rock numbers that make me so happy. The kids today just don't play music like this much anymore...

Point Of RecognitionRefresh RenewFacedown Records • Okay, okay. I kept telling myself that I wouldn't fixate on this, but I cannot get over the overpowering bible-whaling Christianity coursing through this disc. Not being a Christian, nor holding them in terribly high regard, it will serve these dudes well to know that this is a fine disc, musically. Hardcore as it was meant to be. Grinding, thumping and leaden with those heavy groove-beats that get you in the pit swingin'. Though I cannot say that I like their message, the method of delivery is sweet.

PolysicsHey! Bob! My Friend!Asian Man Records • This trio is pretty amazing. Each one of the 12 songs on this 33-minute CD fly by at a frenetic pace. It is extremely obvious that they are HUGE fans of DEVO, adopting their yellow jumpsuits and using all manner of synthesizers and vocoders in their songs. They are also pretty huge fans of Man or Astroman?, since some of their songs have a certain surf-rock sound. If you took the electronics away, you'd have a pretty decent pop-punk / indie rock record. I can only suggest that you go get this CD immediately, and stand back, because the Polysics will blow you away.

PowerhouseWhat Lies AheadResurrection A.D. Records • This has a late '80s, early '90s thrash metal sound full of testosterone with lyrics based on being pissed off and kicking somebody's ass. Problem is that each song starts the same loud riffs and grungy, hard-to-get-used-to vocals with the title track being a small exception.

Pseudo HeroesMaps, Math, Violence and SilenceChumpire Records • See, this is a tricky one. This is an emo-core CD with some really great, raw songs on it. The trick comes when the band, especially the singer, is almost over the top. The music gets frenetic at times, too, but I don't think they'd be as effective and powerful if there was slick production on this. This is meant to be raw so, when you hear it, get used to it and appreciate it for its honest intensity. Oh, and props to them for the "Faith is no substitute for intellect" tag.

Raw KnowledgeNemesis To SilenceEntartete Kunst • A spoken word disc, mostly pro-black and pro-female, accented by sporadic background music and samples ranging from Malcolm X speeches, Public Enemy, Nina Simone, Richard Pryor and N.W.A. among others. The uncensored, no holds barred approach to this project features a variety of women speaking original pieces in a rally against global marketing, prisons, world economy, sexism, sweet shops and police brutality. This project works well because it keeps the listener in tune by changed tempos and emotion. This 23 track - release of anger - project has a lot of thought provoking ideas and concerns.

Re:mnantConstellation Records • Aden Evens and Ian Ilavsky are Re:, and they like to experiment with sounds. They assembled 11 tracks from nothing more than overlapped loops and filter treatments. Some songs are very layered, while others feature just a couple of treated loops. I say assembled because this is not a musical album. The cut and paste method was employed heavily. Although the recording process for this project is fascinating, the result is rather experimental and hard to listen to. You might enjoy this if you are into Ambient music with a machine-made feeling.

Reach the SkyFriends, Lies and the End of the World • Although I love my friends, I hate hearing about their pansy-ass break-ups. This is an album's worth of that. While no doubt this band is talented, there's too much emo on here for its own good and it really detracts from the songs themselves. I hope they rock live.

Red Animal WarBreaking in an AngelDeep Elm • RAW is an awesome, dynamic, powerful quartet from Dallas, Texas. Their sound reminds me of a blend of Jawbox and Braid. It has the intensity and similar styles to some of Jawbox's best material. But it also captures the quirky, creative orchestration of Braid, using unusual start-stop parts and ever-changing guitar parts. This album pushes forth with each track, building intensity through strong melodies, pounding rhythms and emotional force, never once letting up musically, lyrically or vocally.

Rejx300 Orchard PlaceUprising! • Ah yes, punk. I'm not calling YOU punks, I'm saying THIS is punk. This is raw, high-powered punk that was recorded, it sounds like, in the garage of a 1940's era home. The sound is just raw and completely unpolished. But it's still tight and the band really enjoys playing together, you can tell. They get Party Band of the Year Award, if nothing else.

Rise AgainstThe UnravelingFat Wreck Chords • Ah yes, nothing says, "Wake up, you still have some reviews to do!" like hardcore. And Rise Against is like a big cup of joe right now. In fact, I think I'll mosh around a bit, just to get the blood flowing. There, that's better. This isn't super-fast, super-intense hardcore. It's more melodic and they'd prefer the punk label actually. But there are some definite hardcore elements there. They have a stronghold in the Chicago area and are looking to reach the rest of us over the summer.

Rita ChiarelliBreakfast at MidnightNorthernBlues Music • Rita Chiarelli sings the blues. That could be the title for this CD but I'm sure it's been done a few times. That doesn't change the fact that that's exactly what she's done. She plays and sings textbook blues. There's angst and pain in the songs, songs about love lost and love gone wrong. There are a variety of sounds on this CD, not only the sad blues guitar and harmonica, but there's also some dobro and organ on here. It mixes nicely.

Roots CombinationHi Fidelity Dub Sessions Presents...Guidance Recordings • Roots Combination is a collective of musicians dedicated to all things reggae. Led by producer Victor Axelrod (AKA Ticklah), artists such as Sluggy Ranks, Rob Symeon, Sonic Boom and Calbert Walker deliver over 55 minutes of downtempo roots reggae and dub infused sounds.

RotoThe Low Power HourResin Records • Described as an experiment, this album features not only members from three different bands in Washington D.C. but three drummers as well. Roto is fronted by two vocalists (one plays bass, the other lead guitar) who share writing duties and have always been the core of the project. After agreeing on the tracks to use, they then gave the drummers freedom to add their own creative style. Add electronic sounds, sampling, sequencing and a little clarinet and you get an up and down journey throughout the disc. The lyrics make up for decent vocals and the band sounds like they have fun playing together.

San GeronimoSan Geronimooldfront Records • Six-song EP here. Former members of Jets to Brazil and Drowningman have joined to create SG. This is a nifty little emo/indie pop ditty. I'd like to hear a full CD from them. They have some really cool breakdowns and mix up the tempo nicely.

SavatagePoets and MadmenNuclear Blast • After 20 years, countless lineup changes and personal tragedies, Savatage keeps on, relentlessly writing music and touring. For those who lost track of them a while back, their sound has melodrama written all over it. Think of a cross between Therion and Queen. Triumphant guitar riffs, gruff vocals and precise drumming are Savatage's way. They emphasize more on the guitars and less on the rock operas of the past and changed labels, giving them a fresh start.

SeafoodSurviving the QuietBig Wheel Recreation • Seafood brings to ear Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, emo-core, cow-punk, and folk, to name a few. Does this make me like the band any less? NO! I love Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine! The variety and production on this disc are additional reasons for favoring Seafood. This is the guitar-driven soundtrack for your summer.

Sick On The BusSet Fire to Someone in Authority / Suck On... w/ Punk Police double CDGo Kart Records • You read right, kiddies, three, count them, THREE CD's here one alone and the other two are a double CD set. All punk, all edgy, all raw, all angry. "Set Fire..." is my fave. They're all the same stylistically but I just dig it a bit more. Could be the 16 songs, just more bang for the buck. These guys started up in 1990. The three discs are re-releases, but there's a new album coming out this summer. Punk, punk, punkity, punk, punk.

Simon JoynerHotel LivesTruckstop Records • Think of a depressed Duncan Shiek. Pretty dark, huh? That's Simon Joyner. His songs are extremely deep and introspective, something you rarely, if ever, hear on the radio today. Make no mistake, you hear nothing like this on the radio. That's a shame, too, because this is songwriting how long songs are meant to be written: deep and simple. The music is subtle, like it's there just so he's not singing a cappella. Yet his voice is so soft that, at times, if it weren't for the music, you'd be listening to silence. Ironically, that's the best place to listen to this: in total silence. The soft guitar and piano play off of each other while the drums are there to almost guide you through the songs. Very ethereal. Very good.

SkarheadNY Thugcore: The Hardcore Years 1994-2000Triple Crown Records • I've heard of Skarhead before, I've just never heard them. Wow. If you know and love Skarhead's thugcore, you'll love this, know that. This is a CD of early demos, singles, compilation tracks and live favorites. Way intense.

Sloppy MeateatersForbidden MeatOrange Peal Records • Once again I'm foiled by the book/cover thing. I looked at this CD and expected crap. The cover doesn't exactly lend it credibility. So, when you see this in the stores, do NOT brush it aside. This is some really tight, really inspired punk rock. It has more of a rock edge to it but it's got more hooks and breakdowns than straight punk. Really cool stuff. Tons of energy. Look for them on the upcoming Warped Tour.

So Far No GoodQuit Actin' Like It Hurtsself-released• I was turned off by this CD's front cover art; a little too sloppy, punk high school art. But I pursued my interest in listening and was totally blown away by this Tampa, Florida four-piece. With the snotty punk attitude of Crimpshrine and early Rancid and the hardcore speedy approach of old DRI, So Far No Good are much better than they give themselves credit. But instead of being copycats of overdone styles, SFNG use fantastic breakdowns and wild instrumentation to create a sound both catchy and very aggressive.

SunMoonSektSlumplordz Present: SunMoonSektStray Records • Another beat-banger from Stray Records and Oakland, California. These hard ("Dethblow") and smooth ("Here Comes Tha Sunn") west-coast beats with keyboard effects feature flows from the duo of Hard Rard and Moon. This disc is solid from front to back because, although skills on the mic aren't the greatest here (street survival stories), style of lyrical delivery and production (mainly from Hard Rard) are full of tricks and allow the album to ride straight through.

Superstar RookieThe Problem With WordsDiaphragm Records • You've got 12 really tight melodic punk tunes on here. There are a lot of harmonies and it sounds really clean with the tone this band has. They almost have some ska guitar work going on but they never lose the punk edge and drive.

System & StationPictures Found In ParagraphsCrustacean Records • Fugazi meets Superchunk. Interested? You should be. They sound like they made this CD in Seattle in the early 1990's, but with Mudhoney, not Nirvana. The cool thing, or different, I should say, is that they really like to carry the songs out and get everything out of them, meaning most of them are over five minutes long. That equates to a helluva lot of good music.

TekulviWho Knows Where We AreCamel Clutch Records • The title to this disc pretty well sums it up. Who Knows Where We Are is a spaced-out journey from a 4-piece rock band out of Chicago. Opening with "Pop Culture," which starts out slow and spacey before building tempo and leading into an all out jam session, sets the stage for what's to come. Each song sounds twisted into each other. These guys sound great together, bringing free-feelin' rock to the table with a great showcase and mesh of instruments, proving quality beats quantity.

The Adventures of JetPart 3: Coping with InsignificanceMy Records • The Dallas-based quartet The Adventures of Jet sets itself apart from other power-pop acts by adding melodic keyboards and plenty of harmonic backing vocals. The resulting sound is slick and catchy, which is surprising, given the non-pop leanings of some of their members. Guitarrist Zack Blair, for example, did time in Gwar, while vocalist Hop Litzwire and drummer Rob Avsharian were members of Bobgoblin.

The American Analog SetThrough the 90's: Singles and UnreleasedQuarterstick /Emperor Jones Records • Just like the title implies, this is a collection of songs that have appeared on other recordings, either as singles, b-sides, on comps or on bootlegs. The unreleased tracks include five live songs, one remix and other studio tracks that were intended for release, but for some reason or another ended up on the cutting room floor. Their music is mellow, sometimes instrumental, and features plenty of jamming sessions and analog synths, reminiscent of Stereolab and the High Llamas. When there is singing, it is relaxed and restrained. Also included are fabulous liner notes that describe where each song was featured originally, as well as any details concerning its recording.

The BlameNo One is InnocentF.U.G. Records • With a name like Phil Cadaver, you'd expect the Blame's lead singer to sound like Glenn Danzig or Rob Zombie. Actually, he sounds like a cross between Axl Rose (Guns N' Roses), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) and Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot). Their musical style lies somewhere between punk and metal, and leans toward an eighties sound. There are three covers on No One is Innocent, including The Dictator's "New York, New York," and hilarious renditions of "Over the Rainbow," from TheWizard of Oz and "Those Were the Days," the theme song to the old sitcom All in the Family. The best song is "To Sacrifice a Friend," which stands out as a heart-felt elegy to those who have fallen under the spell of drugs.

The Centre of the UniverseBook II (Compilation)Owned and Operated Records • This is one of the easier reviews I've done. It breaks down real easy: this is a comp of great punk, indie and rock stuff from bands like Janis Figure, Armchair Martian, Shiner, Bad Astronaut and All. The CD has 18 songs and 10 bands. I'm not sure how you can screw-up with this one. It's a tremendous buy.

The DaybirdsTurnstyleEgg Music Group • Let's get this comparison out of the way immediately. The Daybirds sound like the Beatles. They are also fans of David Bowie. Ok, we can get on with this review. Their sound is very harmonic and poppy, with ukulele, keyboards, horns, bass, guitar and drums providing this happy-go-lucky atmosphere. A bunch of the songs have some kind of sing-along background chorus. The lead singer sounds more like an '80s hair band frontman than Paul McCartney, but it works. If you think you recognize the sound, it might be because they recorded the theme song for the Orlando-produced "The Ballyhoo Show." There is no way you won't feel happy and perky after listening to this album.

The DealYesterday, Today and ForeverFacedown Records • Escondido, CA, was a place where straight edge kids infused Christianity into their scene. It seems a natural fit, if you take into account Krishna's effect on hardcore. Different town, different religion to be over zealous about. Now Escondido gives us Christian Streetrock. Though Oi! normally deals with pride, alcohol, violence, and the struggle, why can't God be a central part of it? The Deal play Rancid-inspired street rock. The music and choruses are catchy, so if you're open to having your punk filtered through a Christian perspective, give this a listen.

The DickiesAll This and Puppet StewFat Wreck Chords • The Dickies have been around for more than 20 years and are now the oldest Punk band still around, after the Ramones stopped playing together. You'd never know that these guys are old from their music. It is Punk with energy and melodies. Leonard Graves Phillip's vocals are not those for a 42-year-old man, but rather a 17-year-old boy. Stan Lee's guitars still pack quite a punch, never slowing down for a bit. If only more bands could record music like these guys, everything would be OK.

The Dismemberment Plan/Junosplit EPDesoto • Dis Plan opens this EP with a frantic track of unusual sounds, rapid vocal delivery and breakdowns that will make you freak out on the dance floor. Juno follows that with a Sugar-esque power pop tune offering up great vocals and a tremendous energy flowing through the entire song. Dis Plan and Juno each offer up one more track, both cover songs. Juno gives their rendition of DJ Shadow's "High Noon". I found the song selection fascinating, and it's well done. The CD closes strong with Dis Plan putting their spin on Jennifer Paige's "Crush", a slow, soft, sexy and emotional tune.

The Drunken CholosLivin La Vida LocoHopeless Records • Right off the bat I will announce that I am a huge fan of the Queers and when I saw that this band was the original Queers line-up, I was mighty excited. When I actually listened to the disc, my enthusiasm waned a bit. This definitely has a rougher, faster, angrier feel to it than we have heard from ol' Joe in a while. It is good stuff, to be sure, but (to paraphrase Homer Simpson) I like my beer cold, my music loud and my Queers sugary. I miss that Beach Boys sound that I have come to associate with the Queers.

The ExitSing Four FavoritesDownright Records • The Exit's lead singer, Aren Gunnar, describes the band's sound as "catchy pop hooks played by guys who hate pop bands with catchy hooks." That sounds just about right. These inoffensive songs are quite catchy and poppy, even though Gunnar's unsteady vocals sound like he is about to break into his favorite Rancid song. His bandmates probably wouldn't mind.

The FairlanesWelcome to NowhereSuburban Home Records • I was really excited when I opened my package of discs to review and saw the new Fairlanes disc among the rabble. I have their 2 previous discs and really enjoy them. The band had brought aboard a new drummer and they seem to have changed directions a bit. I could most readily associate them with The Queers before, but they seem to have lost something. I can't quite place it, but while this is still a good disc, it is not as good as the first two.

The Gentle WavesSwansong for YouJeepster Recordings • Swansong for You is a beautiful recording by Isobell Campbell's Gentle Waves project. Isobell is also known for her other gig as a member of Belle and Sebastian. This album is slow, yet powerful, with plenty of instrumentation to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

The GotohellsRock n' Roll AmericaVagrant • There's enough beer-fueled rock on this disc to rev you up for the next dog-fighting tournament in backwoods Florida. But don't buy it just for that. The southern rock influence on this disc is undeniable and though The Gotohells have a new singer on this CD, their approach to punk rock is satisfying. They're touring the Midwest this June.

The Icarus LineMonoCrank! Records • Damn. These guys are insane. If you have never heard The Icarus Line, you are in for quite an experience. Somewhat popular for their energetic and chaotic shows, they included a live performance video for the "Feed a Cat to Your Cobra" song. It, as well as the rest of the album, will blow your eardrums away. Thundering guitars that are only superseded by a shrill, pained scream coming from Joe Cardamone fill the air. There is no room for the weak here.

The Lot SixThe Code ModeEspo Records • This four-song EP by The Lot Six packs enough energy for a whole LP in under 17 minutes. "Come and Get it" has the power of At The Drive In and a repeating chant of the title similar to Rage Against the Machine on their first album. "This is Coincidence" could be an emo song, a bit slow and focused on the vocals. "Swimming w/ Sharks Beta Version" picks it up again with a killer chorus and pseudo-tribal drumming. Finally, "We're Breaking Up" sounds like the perfect break up song (duh), slow and sad.

The Multiple CatThe Golden Apple HitsPlow City Record Company • The Multiple Cat is composed of one core member, Pat Stolley, who surrounds himself with a revolving group of musicians. It is quite remarkable, then, that this album flows so well. An expert in Pop music, Stolley crafts his tunes out of personal experiences, good or bad, forcing you to snap your fingers and tap your toes. His songs are a cross between Koufax, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles.

The NeurologistsNo Future - Aug. 44, 2007self-released • Intent on controlling your mind, The Neurologists employ some fat beats and groovy bass lines to hypnotize you. They will know they have you under their control when they see your head bobbing up and down to the twinkling samples of "Blue Planet / D Day" or raising your fists when Onedae raps on "No Future."

The Odd NumbersThe Trials and Tribulations of The Odd NumbersColdfront Records • Indie pop here. The lead singer almost sounds like the lead singer of Bad Religion but not as gruff. Make sense? I didn't think so. Just go with it. They go for a retro kind of feel on here and manage to get it, even throwing in some keyboards.

The OrangeBig Space MissionWednesday Records • The Orange's debut EP ventures into pop music with indie rock leanings. The vocals feature plenty of harmonies, and have a college radio feel. The Orange seem at ease with different tempos, mixing rockers like "Filibuster" with acoustic numbers like "I Declare."

The PeacocksAngelAsian Man Records • The Stray Cats do punk! They sure as heck look like them, minus the glam and blonde hair, that is. OK, OK, so the only likeness is the trio and stand-up bass thing. Big deal. I'm saying The Stray Cats do punk anyway so sit on it! They do have that same manic sound.

The Pinkosself-titledEmpty Records • When I first read the promotional material and it said 'acoustic punk' or something along those lines, I thought "Shit, this is going to suck." Fortunately, I was as wrong as I have ever been. This is a really cool disc that is not so much the punk unplugged as I had anticipated. It certainly does not have that production-heavy sound that so dominates the genre now, but this is not Simon and Garfunkle, either. If you like The Clash, these guys will be right up your alley.

The SpitvalvesFine Print at the BottomResurrection A.D. Records • Orlando's own The Spitvalves are ready to make waves with their latest, Fine Print at the Bottom. Unlike other bands that abandoned ska when it became unpopular, The Spitvalves stuck with it, and with good reason. Their mixture of ska and punk puts them in the same category as Less Than Jake, The Voodoo Glow Skulls or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Roman Flysher of MMB co-produced the album). This release is full of energy, distorted guitars and gritty vocals, punctuated by a tight horn section. Run, don't walk, to get this album.

The Stars of AviationGreatest DisappointmentGrandpa • A British foursome, the Stars give us this four-song EP showcasing their brand of gentle, original, melancholic music. Some of it is soft and flowing, including a "minimalist waltz," other times it is poppy and humorous. There is undoubtedly skilled musicianship behind it all that shines forth in great amounts, as their light-hearted melodies intertwine with the depth of the lyricism.

The Third Eye FoundationI Poo Poo On Your JujuMerge Records • Unfortunately, this is the last record to be released by The Third Eye Foundation, the alter ego for electronic musician Matt Elliott. As his swan song, he compiled this group of hard to find remixes plus one new track. As anyone who knows 3EF's previous work, it is almost impossible to categorize. His take on Yann Tiersen's "La Dispute" incorporates nothing more than a piano and atmospherics, plus some harmonica and sad vocal samples. In fact, all eight songs are sad and moody. If you thought that Blonde Redhead's "Four Damaged Lemons" was a tearjerker, then you need to hear the version featured here, but not without a box of Kleenex. His duo with Chris Morris, "Push Off My Wire," would fit well on Aphex Twin's Come to Daddy EP, with a hint of Drum N' Bass and creepy, slowed down vocals. Elliott's music will be missed, but his departure from recording should result in an overall decrease in nightmares for his fans!

The UrchinAnother Day, Another Sorry StateBroken Rekids • Sounds like good ol' American emo-punk here. Uno momento, por favor. These are three of the emo-punkiest Japanese dudes I've heard! It says here they may be the best emo-punk band in Japan right now and I'd have to agree. These are really tight, really fun songs. They're in the Avail, Leatherface vein. Sometimes angry, but always in control.

TravoltasTeenbeatColdfront Records • The sound coming from your speakers as soon as you put Teenbeat into your stereo is the sound of sugar. The Travoltas straddle the line between pop music and punk, with a heavy emphasis on the pop. The vocals have been polished and are backed up by plenty of harmonies. Sporadically placed keyboards add a touch of technology to the album. Pass the syrup!

TuffyPermanent For NowLoveless Records • Uh, what? Funk punk?! Get out of the city! That's a new one on me but this kind of sounds like that. The opening "wah" of the guitar tips you off that this might be punk but it ain't punk like you're used to. And then the second tune is like emo-Weezer or something. This is probably huge on college campuses in the northwest; it has such a new vibe to it. Hopefully they'll make their way across the country.

Two Man AdvantageDon't Label UsGo Kart Records • Hockey fans are familiar with where the band gets their name. And, as their CD art would show, they are hockey fans indeed. They've asked not to be labeled so I won't. I will say that they sound LIKE hardcore though. The music is loud, fast and intense, but it's not metal. I will also say that you get 17 songs on here and that's a lot of what SOUNDS like hardcore.

Various ArtistHow Many Lumps? Vol. 2Binkis Records • A good example of rhymin' strictly for fun, this Atlanta-based compilation is a trip. The sound quality can be tough to get used to, but Binkis Records reminds us why we began listening to hip-hop. Beginning with their own 1986 version of "Beat You In The Head," you get an idea of what to expect, funky beats (reminiscent of late 80's, early 90's) and lyrics with no strings attached.

Various ArtistsAbstract Afro Lounge III: A Nite Grooves CompilationNite Grooves Records • Whether we care to admit it or not, most of what you can call dance music these days owes a lot to Africa. The repetitive drum patterns filtered from that continent into the whole world, sparking life into all kinds of musical genres. To celebrate this African heritage, the folks at Nite Grooves came out with the Abstract Afro Lounge Series. This, the third installment, features new tracks from Ananda Project, DJ Spinna, Afro Centric and Sirius Be, among others. Together, they add their own take on Afrobeat, House, Funk and other styles, always incorporating various elements of African music, from chants to percussion.

Various ArtistsLes Pauls & Breaking Glass: A Compilation of Various Sin City ArtistsColdfront Records • Raw power and destruction are the norm in this compilation. Bands like American Heartbreak, Toilet Boys, Libertine, El Diablo and the Candy Snatchers crank up their amps and deliver an explosive mix of punk, garage and pure rock and roll. You have been warned.

Various ArtistsLive At the Complex 3Entartete Kunst• For the third installment of their Live at the Complex series, the artists at Entertate Kunst deliver more No Field Electronica. Many of the songs on this disk lean toward Trip Hop, since they feature slow tempo beats. However, whereas most Trip Hop tends to include soothing vocals and atmospheric effects that tend to soothe the listener, these songs tend to unsettle the listener. Bitter Pie's "In Between Bricks" sounds like a horror movie, with strings that build suspension, while Pinkwater's "Thanks, But I'll Walk" has a rather annoying vocal sample that is repeated ad nauseum. Not all are slow, though. Ptingla explores Drum N' Bass on "Viewing the Venus Hottenbot in the Midst of the Wealthy," and Screamo Leemo delves into Trance territory on "Lone Spurts."

Various ArtistsNo-Fi Trash: A Floppy Cow Records CompilationSuburban Home Records / Floppy Cow Records • Originally released in Sweden by Floppy Cow Records, No-Fi Trash... found its way to America via Suburban Home Records. It features tracks from Whippersnapper, The Promise Ring, Lagwagon, The Impossibles, No Fun At All, Death by Stereo, Hot Water Music and A New Found Glory, as well as previously unreleased material from The Latrines, The Anniversary, The Gamits and Useless ID. All in all, 28 tracks of punk, emo and power pop.

Various ArtistsNot So Quiet On The ColdfrontColdfront Records • My big complaint about compilation discs is that you usually get a few good tunes buried in interminable piles of shit. Not so in this case. There are 28 songs on this disc and with bands like The Travoltas, Horace Pinker, Hagfish, and The Vindictives, you know that you are in for a glorious face-full of melodic pop-punk joy. This disc would be a bargain at twice the price (it's only $3).

Various ArtistsPunk O Rama 2001 Vol. 6Epitaph Records • If you like Punk music, you surely have heard of Epitaph Records. You probably have also heard of their Punk O Rama series, now up to Vol. 6. This time around, Epitaph assembled some of the best Punk Bands around, from Voodoo Glow Skulls, Pennywise, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Hot Water Music and All. An added bonus is the six unreleased tracks from NOFX, Millencolin, Pennywise, Descendents, Pulley and Beatsteaks.

Various ArtistsReDirection: A Polyvinyl SamplerPolyvinyl Records • To celebrate five years as a label, Polyvinyl Records has released this compilation. It includes tracks from quite a few artists from their roster, including unreleased material from instrumental band Pele, AM/FM, The Ivory Coast and two tracks by matt pond PA. The rest of the tracks were culled from full-length albums, EP's and other releases from Sunday's Best, American Football, Hey Mercedes, Braid and Paris, Texas, just to name a few. What has made Polyvinyl successful is their diversity in music. Acoustic songs lead to hard rocking numbers with ease. Tempos vary from slow to fast-paced, with emo, punk and indie rock all present in the songs.

Various ArtistsThis One's For My HomiesStinky Boy Records • A 16-track, 16-band compilation showcasing talent in North and Central Florida from producer Keith Marks, ranging from funk and hip-hop to "experimental and alternative sounds." This release has it all, a little something for everyone at least. It's tough to point out the hot spots, it all depends on your style but it's always nice to come across these projects. Included, among others, is: Cue Estey, Skif Dank, Fortitude, Unkle Funkle, and Dovetonsil.

VarukersHow Do You Sleep?GoKart Records • Here's some fast-n-furious old school punk just like mama used to make, if yer mama was a member of the Germs or one of them there bands. Socio-political messages in songs like "Gun Crazed Kids" and "Modem For Destruction" are set off wonderfully by the fierce and angry feel of this entire disc. It is a ball of self-regenerating potency from start to finish.

Violet IndianaRouletteInstinct Records • At the core of Violet Indiana are Robin Guthrie and Siobhan de Maré. Guthrie is known for his work with the Cocteau Twins, while de Maré became popular while singing for Mono. They sound like a match made in heaven. De Mar's vocals are sensual, emotional and depressed, yet somehow uplifting. Guthrie's guitar work is atmospheric and ethereal, heavy on the reverb. These 12 songs are slow, taking their time to develop while drawing you deeper and deeper into the album's prevailing sadness.

WaterdownNever Kill the Boy on the First DateVictory • Unleashed on unsuspecting ears, Waterdown may cause a stroke. The power they put forth is intense, a mix of screaming hardcore and melodic rock. With a stamp of approval from the band Grade, Victory Records snagged this German six-piece. They actually have two different singers (who don't play instruments), one for screaming, one for singing. It works perfectly, allowing them to present a mix of hardcore pummeling followed by power rock melodies. Put them in a class with Grade and Boy Sets Fire.

Westside ChemicalBlack and BlueStray Records • Westside Chemical is all over the place on Black and Blue. From Chillout, to Deep House, to Hip Hop, and Drum N' Bass, they cover it all effortlessly. However, there is a common trait throughout, and that is soul. With strings, horns, keyboards and jazzy samples, they add a much-needed human touch to the sometimes plastic and cold world of electronic music.

Where Fear And Weapons MeetUnstoppableTriple Crown Records • Where Fear And Weapons Meet won me over with their youth crew style hardcore on their first EP. WFAWM continue on their path of taking the familiar and stamping their imprint upon it with this seven-song release. The songs on this record feature a stripped down rock and roll sonic approach with a hardcore growl vocal delivery. WFAWM is a band that is growing in a unique direction and this is a release worth hearing.

YellowcardOne For The KidsLobster Records • I don't typically like bands from Florida for some reason but this outfit is pretty tight. This is like emo-punk. Track two, "Drifting," is way good. It's a shoe-in for one of those WB teen shows. Much better than Blink or any of that "punk" they play. I like Blink but this is just truer punk and, hell, they even throw some violin on here! Take THAT! Don't get nervous, it sounds awesome!

Vinyl

A Planet For Texas/Bob City split 7" Diaphragm Records • A Planet For Texas opens with a satirical swipe at religion that I thought was great lyrically. Musically, APFT plays rapid punk with a strong rock and roll sense. On the flip is Bob City rockin' out one heavy rock and roll tune and a pop rock ditty. There's got to be a lot of beer involved and a deep love for classic rock.

Apocalypse Babys Full Metal Racket 7" F.U.G. Records • These raucous Brits offer up three punk rock tunes with an old school style and attitude. This stuff is quick paced, in your face, and snotty.

Bravo & Sandman feat. Rasco Aged & Laced 12" Groove Attack • "Aged & Laced" busts out with a rugged but funky sound. The lyrical flow is damn nice, rolling along with the beat. The hook is addictive as hell and I was bouncin' immediately. The flip side cut is called "Audio/Visual" and is equally impressive with a thumping beat and astounding rhyming. These guys deliver the real indie hip-hop deal.

Crosstops Yuppie Killaz 7" The Telegraph Company • This San Fran four-piece has melded the pace and attitude of punk rock with the jangle and hootenanny styles of country. Its beer-fueled, processed food-fed rock and roll for rude guys and even ruder girls. The nekkid girl on the record cover is a bonus for sex-starved music lovers.

Declaime Move It 12" Groove Attack • "Move It" reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest with its catchy hook and samples. The rhyming style is solid but nothing out of the ordinary. The best part about this 12" is that there's four different cuts, not just two or three as you usually find. And Quasimoto (the high-pitched version of Kool Keith) does guest vocals on "Don't Trip," a bouncing track with a pretty jazzy attitude.

Dimestore Haloes Dumb Radio 7" The Telegraph Company • This is the kind of rock and roll that is meant to be recorded on vinyl, letting you feel like the four guys are rockin' it right in your room. For over five years, Dimestore Haloes have been delivering that experience to a loyal following. The music is melodic as hell, loaded with an old-school punk rock and roll attitude reminiscent of old Replacements or Social Distortion and vocals that are superb.

He Who Corrupts/Tusk split 7" self-released • Tusk offers up a hardcore/grind assault that wears thin on me pretty quickly. HWC delivers a similar sound with desperately screamed vocals and sporatic hardcore that is somewhat experimental. Between the screaming and banging though, it was hard for me to find any enjoyment. If you're really pissed, this may be just for you.

J. Rawls Check the Clock 12" Sit-N-Spin Records • With guests J. Sands and Grap Luva, J. Rawls lays down three smooth tracks: "Check the Clock," "Far Away" and "High Life." The beats are mellow and 1970's funk samples give a nostalgic vibe. "Far Away" features Apani B. Fly and Mr. Complex on the mic, while "High Life" has Mass Influence in the guest spot. Instrumental versions for each track round out this 12".

Kid Kilowatt Hit Single 7" Second Nature • "Peeping Tomboy," the A-side cut, has elements that remind me of both Braid and Modest Mouse. "Glass of Shattered Youth" has a fantastic bounce to it and a great melody that is present, but hard to put your finger on. The vocals are really good and impassioned. However, the music is dissonant at times and that makes it a little harder for me. At other times, the music simply rocks out.

Phife Dawg Miscellaneous 12" Groove Attack • DJ Hi-Tek remixes the title track, a groovy, upbeat song with a bouncy beat, handclaps and thick keyboard riffs. The original version is included on Side B, with staccato beats and a funky bass line. Street, radio and instrumental versions are included for both the original and the remixed version.

Remus and the Romulus Nation self-titled 7" Soul Is Cheap • If you want bang for your buck, these six tracks will blow your brains out. It's very garagy punk rock with fantastic politics from the drug war to religious oppression. The uptempo charge marches forward with solid melodies, pretty cool guitar parts and vocals that deliver the lyrics effectively. Give these guys a little more time to develop and more money to record and I think they'll be damn impressive.

Swamburger & BMF S.W.A.M. (Survival With A Mind) 12" Eighth Dimension • Orlando-based MC Swamburger and DJ BMF team up for this 12" single that highlights Swam's ability to flow unstoppably and BMF's fantastic beat production, using jazzy horn samples and progressive rhythms. It's a solid release, but I wish I had more to listen to.

The Comas self-titled 7" Sit-N-Spin Records • Side A's "You Got the Bumblebee, I Got the Stinger" features beautiful vocals over lush string arrangements, set to a mid tempo beat. Guitar string plucking adds to the atmosphere, and vocal harmonies reinforce the mood. Side B's "One Million Shining Eyes" adds an organ and keeps it slow.

The Deacons Greetings From Brooklyn 7" Made In Brooklyn • You get four tracks on this slab of vinyl. It has an old-school feel that combines garage punk with pop punk. Imagine a combination of The Ramones and Sloppy Seconds. It's good, not great.

The Kingsbury Max self-titled 7" Sit-N-Spin Records • A mid tempo beat surrounded by acoustic guitars and keyboards back the melodic soft singing of the lead vocalist on "Restless Minds." "Drift Off" features an acoustic number with multiple harmonies and folk overtones, like a song right out of a Simon and Garfunkel album.

The Pattern West Circuit City 7" Alternative Tentacles Records • This 7" features two doses of the Pattern's gritty, bluesy rock. They combine the energy of the Action Time with the gusto of the Delta 72. Their rock sound is thickened by the use of two guitars and Christopher's somewhat drunk sounding vocals.

TOP PICKS
These reviews represent the "best of" music that was reviewed for this issue by IMPACT Press music reviewers.

Alkaline Trio From Here to Infirmary Vagrant • I'm not even sure how to review something quite this good. I've loved every drop of sound that has bleed forth from these musical gods. Chicago has created the right environment for Alkaline Trio to nurture their gifts. Melodies are easy to create, but these guys can meld melody with pain and alcohol in a way that no one else can. The closest thing I can think of is Jawbreaker, not in terms of the actual sound, but the way the music feels, reaching into you, squeezing your heart and pushing you forward. Sure it's punk, but it's better than that. Dan and Matt offer lyrically emotional tunes of dark and drunken proportions with love intertwined here and there, but not overly. Their voices contrast one another in a way that couldn't have been planned any better; Matt attacks while Dan pleads. With a beat that pounds "onward soldier" and infectious rhythms delivered by Mike on drums, Alkaline Trio has again hit the head of a nail that nearly every band seems to miss.

Armchair Martian Monsters Always Scream My Records • OK, this has got to stop. Look, if you've got a really kick-ass CD, you need to have a really kick-ass cover. One that says, "We kick ass, buy this." This is the second time during these reviews that a cover has completely thrown me. I expected this to be total crap. Color me a dumb ass. This is really, REALLY good punk rock. In fact, yep, it just became my pick of the issue. I love these surprises. The lead singer has an amazing voice. It's punk music for the most part, but not Oi! punk. Just good rock punk. His voice reminds me a lot of the dude from Son Volt, kind of monotone but not as nasally. But he's not some screaming man/girl dude either. Man, this is sweet. You owe yourself to get this. If you don't think you like "punk," don't worry, this isn't what you think it is. It's more rocking yet melodic. It just kicks ass, that's all. You're a dork if you don't buy it.

Azeem Craft Classic Stray Records • This release is packed with hard west coast beats from Oakland which continuously flow from one track to the next with lyrics sure to keep your attention and mess with your mind. That's what makes this disc so contagious. Within the second release from Ismail Azeem is a showcase of beats from Stray Records producers, mostly sounds from Protest and Fanatik. What works well on this disc is the way Azeem and the producers sound so natural together. The beats are right on, and the lyrics are full of stories and ideas from "Northern Lights" and "No Lexus" to "Bush Is A Gangsta" and "God's Rolex."

Cue Estey self-titled Self-released • Hailing from North Florida is a crew of eight folks. Utilizing guitar, bass, keys, strings, real (not programmed) drums and vocal skills as solid as anyone in the hip-hop scene, Cue Estey bursts forth with some of the most original shit you've ever heard. Cue Estey puts forth a mix of jazzy/funky tunes and darker, eerie tracks of thumping rhymes. The flows are constant and rapid, a smack in the face. The two vocalists are complimentary, but different. All the while, creative music is rolling in the background, mixing jazzy and emotionally gloomy sounds together using strings and keys very effectively, breaking free on occasion for a more uptempo, cheerier sound.

Ovuca Wasted Sunday Rephlex Records • Fans of the musical genre called Braindance (or IDM) should know the name Rephlex. The label co-founded by Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) is responsible for pretty much originating the style, as well as giving musical innovators Squarepusher and mu-ziq their initial breaks. At this time, Ovuca is one of the most popular purveyors of this experimental style, having released two records in addition to Wasted Sunday. As varied and vague as the term Braindance is, you can pretty much identify it when you hear it. Pings, beeps and processed sounds stutter and sputter over atmospheric layers, processed vocals, childlike keyboards and found sounds. Who else could make the main beat for a song out of a ping-pong match? Less frenetic than Datach'i, yet more energetic than Global Goon, Ovuca is definitely worth checking out.

Plaid Double Figure Warp Records • With Double Figure, Plaid complete the trilogy of recordings that began with Not for Threes and followed by Rest Proof Clockwork. The concept is the exploration of "panning," an audio recording term which describes the technique with which audio "floats" from one speaker to the other, giving the sound a perceived motion. Musically, the songs concentrate more on downtempo, hip-hop and pseudo-techno beats, combined with ethereal atmospheres and sometimes jazzy breaks. Bells, blips and other chirps also populate the album, continuing with the playfulness that was evident in Rest Proof... Some tracks divert from this formula, like "Silversum," which reminds me of Aphex Twin. "Light Rain" begins much like some of Autechre and Jamie Lydell's recent work, incorporating incomprehensible speech patterns. "Ti Born" sounds like Squarepusher's latest forays into jazzy territories. Plaid seem to get better with time.

The Modifiers Show and Tell Cool Basement • The Mods are a Bostonian trio that plays a very satisfying, high-energy, high-emotion brand of melodic pop. It's generally a very positive sound, which sometimes takes a backseat to well-conceived wistful and bitter tunes. Their power is so well captured by this recording that it almost sounds like a live performance, and the lead guitar work is absolutely fantastic.

RECORD LABEL ADDRESSES
In alphabetical order. Please write them.

A.C. Cotton, PO Box 13701, Portland, OR 97213
Abstract, 13333 Ridge Rd., Ste 2306, Largo, FL 33778
Ace Fu Records, PO Box 3388, Hoboken, NJ 07030
Adeline Records, 5337 College Ave., #318, Oakland, CA 94618
Alternative Tentacles, PO Box 419092, San Fran, CA 94141
Alveran Records, PO Box 100152, Bochum, Germany 44701
Artemis Records, 130 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Asian Man Records, PO Box 35585, Monte Sereno, CA 95033
Asphodel, 763 Brannan St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Battle Axe, 161cStreet, Ste #219, Box 3969, Blaine, WA 98231
Betty Already, 3636 SE Taylor, Portland, OR 97214
Big Wheel Rec, 325 Huntington Ave. #24, Boston, MA 02115
Binkis Records, PO Box 50100, Atlanta, GA, 30302
Broken Rekids, PO Box 460402, San Fran, CA 94146-0402
Building Records, 18 Spring Street, NY, NY 10012
BUKA, c/o J. Sanders, 352 Scott Ln., Venetia, PA 15367
Burn Guitars, 53 Greenwich Ave. Apt. 4 NY, NY 10014
BYO Records, PO Box 67A64, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Camel Clutch, PO Box 641842, Chicago, IL 60664-1842
Chumpire Records, PO Box 680, Conneaut Lake, PA 16316
Coldfront Records, PO Box 8345, Berkley, CA 94707
Constellation, PO Box 42002, Montreal, Canada H2W 2T3
Cool Basement, 8 Andrew St., Cambridge, MA 02139
Corvee Industry, 413 S. Vine St., Orrville, OH 44667
Crank!, 8571 Higuera Street, Los Angeles, CA 90232
Creep, PMB 220, 252 E. Market St., W Chester, PA 19382
Crustacean Records, PO Box 370156, Milwaukee, WI 53237
Cue Estey, 914 SW 7th Ave. #2, Gainesville, FL 32601
Daemon Records, PO Box 1207, Decatur, GA 30031
Deagle, c/o Rob, 107 Dillion Ct., N. Brunswick, NJ 08902
Deep Elm Records, PO Box 36939, Charlotte, NC 28236
DeSoto Records, PO Box 60932, Washington, DC 20039
Devil In The Woods, PO Box 579168, Modesto, CA 95357
Diaphragm Recs, 2480 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH 43202
Dischord, 3819 Beecher St., Washington, DC 20007
Downright Records, 51 MacDougal St. #462, NY, NY 10012
Dune, 3575 St. Laurent Blvd. Ste 129, Montreal, H2x 2T7
Egg Music Group, 1114 Blueberry Ln., Liberty, MO 64068
Eighth Dimension, PO Box 1909, Orlando, FL 32802
Emperor Jones Recs, PO Box 49771, Austin, TX 78765
Empty Records Box 12034 Seattle, WA 98102
Entartete Kunst, PO Box 411194, San Fran, CA 94141
Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Equal Vision Records, PO Box 14, Hudson, NY 12534
Espo Records, PO Box 63, Allston MA 02134
Eulogy, PO Box 8692, Coral Springs, FL 33075
F.U.G. Records, PO Box 11157, Pensacola, FL 32524
Facedown Records, PO Box 1202, Escondido, CA 92033
Fat Wreck, PO Box 193690, San Fran, CA 94119-3690
Fearless, 13772 Goldenwest St. #545, Westminster, CA 92683
Feldspar Records, PO Box 1698, NY, NY 10013
FILM guerrero, PO Box 14414, Portland, OR 97293
Floppy Cow Records, PO Box 79, 3054 Schuepfen, Switzerland
Frenetic Records, PO Box 640434, San Francisco, CA 94164-0434
Go Kart, PO Box 20, Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012
Grandpa, 30 Forest Way, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN2 5HB, UK
Groove Attack, 535 W. 34th St., Ste. 209, NY, NY 10001
Ground Control, 1135 Grandview Drive, S. San Francisco, CA 94080
Guidance Recordings, 160 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60661
He Who Corrupts, 196 Fairfield, Elmhurst, IL 60126
Hellcat Records, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
High Speed Recs, PO Box 20, Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012
Higher Octave, 23852 Pacific Coast Hwy, Ste 2C, Malibu, CA 90265
Hopeless Records, PO Box 7495, Van Nuys, CA 91409-7495
Insiduous Urban Records, 3288 21st St., PMB #39, San Fran, CA 94110
Instinct Records, 26 W. 17th St. #502, New York, NY 10011
Intuit-Solar, PO Box 250584, West Bloomfield, MI 48325
Jeepster Recordings, Ltd., PO Box 14153, London SW11 4XU, UK
Jimmy Franks, PO Box 26100, Collegeville, PA 19426
Kill Rock Stars, 120 NE State Ave. PMB 418, Olympia, WA 98501
LandSpeed Records Inc., 39 Broad Street, Quincy, MA, 02169
Lobster Records, PO Box 1473, Santa Barbara, CA 93102
Loveless Records, 1122 E. Pike St #1361, Seattle, WA 98122-3934
Made In Brooklyn, 1005 Foster Ave., 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11230
Merge Records, PO Box 1235, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mission Records, 2263 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Monkey To The Monster, 1616 NE Morgan, Portland, OR 97211
Monostar, c/o Thomas Mahmoud, Maybachstr, 114, 50670 Kohn
Mutelingo, 1418 Robinhood Road, Wilmington, NC 28401
My Records, PO Box 41730, Santa Barbara, CA 93140
Nite Grooves, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 306, New York, NY 10001
NorthernBlues, 67 Mowat Avenue, Suite 233, Toronto, ON M6K 3E3
Nuclear Blast, 1453-A 14th Street #34, Santa Monica, CA 90404
O & O Records, PO Box 36, Ft. Collins, CO 80522
Orange Peal Records, PO Box 15207, Fremont, CA 94539
Pattern Records, 610 20th Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98112
Plow City Record Company, PO Box 1604, Moline, IL 61266-1604
Polyvinyl Records, PO Box 1885, Danville, IL 61834-1885
Prank Records, PO Box 410892, San Fran, CA 94141-0892
Quality Punk Records, PO Box 2464, Denton, TX 76202
Quarterstick Records, PO Box 25342, Chicago, IL 60625
Rawkus Entertainment, 676 Broadway, 4th Floor, NY, NY 10012
Record Cellar, PO Box 188, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Relapse Records, 1720 State Road, Upper Darby, PA 19082
Rephlex Records, PO Box 2676, London, N11 1AZ, England
Reptilian Records, 403 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231
Resin Records, PO Box 5601, Washington, DC 20016-1201
Resurrection A.D., PO Box 763, Red Bank, NJ 07701
Revelation Records, PO Box 5232, Huntington Beach, CA 92615
Roadrunner Records, 902 Broadway, New York, NY 10010
Rotten Records, PO Box 2157, Montclair, CA 91763
Scat Boy Records, PO Box 9680, Charlotte, NC 28299-9680
Scene Police c/o DPM, Humboldtstr. 15, 53115 Bonn-Germany
Second Nature Recordings, PO Box 11543, Kansas City, MO 64138
SideOneDummy, 6201 Sunset Blvd., Suite 211, Hollywood, CA 90028
Sit-N-Spin Records, 302 Oak Ave., Carboro, NC 27510
Six Degrees Records, PO Box 411347, San Francisco, CA 94141-1347
So Far No Good, 9216 Shellgrove Ct., Tampa, FL 33615
Soul Is Cheap, c/o Zach Payne, PO Box 11552, Memphis, TN 38111
Spitfire Records, 101 Bay Avenue, Hicksville, NY 11801
Stinky Boy, c/o Keith Marks, 2261 Myra St., Jacksonville, FL 32204
Stones Throw, 8117 Manchester Ave. #644. Los Angeles, CA 90293
Stray Records, 4430 Telegraph Ave., PMB 72, Oakland, CA 94609
Stronghold Records, 3101 Exposition Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90018
Suburban Home Records, PO Box 40757, Denver, CO 80204
Suburban Sprawl Music, PO Box 2017, Garden City, MI 48136
The Telegraph Company, 66 Hope St., Brooklyn, NY 11211
Touch and Go Records, PO Box 25520, Chicago, IL 60625
Triple Crown Records, 331 West 57th Street, PMB 472, New York, NY 10019
Truckstop Records, 2255 S. Michigan Avenue, #4W, Chicago, IL 60616
Trustkill, 23 Farm Edge Lane, Tinton Falls, NJ 07724
Undecided Records, 10695 Lake Oak Way, Boca Raton, FL 33498
Uprising Records, PO Box 1096, New York, NY 10003
Uprising!, PO Box 2251, Monroe, MI 48161
Vagrant Records, 2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Victory Records, PO Box 146546, Chicago, IL 60614
Warp Records, 503 8th Avenue 4th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Wave Music, 244 West 54th Street, Suite 800, New York City, NY 10019
Wednesday Records, PO Box 1263, Carlisle, PA 17013

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