The music industry's release schedule tends to slow down in the early part of the year blame the midwinter doldrums but enough local releases have trickled across my desk to merit a column rounding up the sounds of the city. Some upcoming releases aren't included (the Transmitters' new disc is en route, Penelope's full-length promo isn't out yet, Tight Pants Syndrome promised me a demo a few months ago, hint hint!...), but the following selection pretty well represents the current pulse of the city's artists.
Artist: So They Say
Album: Antidote for Irony (Fearless)
Background: A to Z profiled this emo/screamo/punk/etc. quintet last summer ("Say Anything," August 10, 2005), a few months before they headed to Baltimore to record Irony with producer du jour Matt Squire.
Verdict: So They Say in hi-fidelity: louder guitars, bigger hooks, tons of overdubs and less of the raw screaming that made us want to buy loads of herbal tea for the band's abused vocal cords. There's even an excellent ditty full of echoing vocals and spacey guitar spirals ("Act Like You're Listening, Till It's Your Turn to Talk") that sounds like it's in training to appear on Cave In's Jupiter.
File Under: Getting psyched up for Warped Tour (in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 25!)
Artist: Rough Shop
Album: Far Past the Outskirts (Perdition; roughshop.com)
Background: After releasing a limited-edition EP, this sextet emerges with its first Perdition Records full-length, which possesses a relaxed, rootsy feel reminiscent of a loose jam session. (Catch 'em next April 8 at the Broadway Oyster Bar [736 South Broadway; 314-621-8811].)
Verdict: Mixing a little of the Band's rustic riffing, the earnest folk of early Dar Williams (catch the neat saloon piano and Anne Tkach's earthy vocals on "Destination Anywhere") and a whole lotta bluegrass pickin' and mandolin strummin', Outskirts is a nostalgic-sounding disc that feels buoyed and not bogged down by its memories.
File Under: Sticky summer nights kicking back on the porch.
Artist: Tory Z. Starbuck
Album: Vertebrae (self-released; www.toryzstarbuck.com)
Background: The gothic Robert Pollard, a prolific multi-instrumentalist who releases at least two albums a year (high-water mark: 2000's five!) full of spooky keyboards and ambient noises that go bump in the night.
Verdict: While A to Z is predisposed to dig Peter Murphy-esque rumbling vox (cf. "Skybandwidth") and twisted art-funk à la Bowie's Scary Monsters days ("X-N=The Energy"), Vertebrae's lack of structure and jarring noise blurts makes it a challenging (albeit not impossible) listen.
File Under: Background tunes for a stormy day spent curled up, introspecting.
Artist: DJ Trackstar
Album: Boogie Bang Music (djtrackstar.com)
Background: One of the hardest-working DJs in the scene and one of its most vocal supporters Trackstar collects the most comprehensive local scene updates weekly (e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the newsletter). Boogie Bang Music is his latest mix CD, featuring the Lou's underground faves spliced with hip hop's well-known names.
Verdict: It's a testament to the local artists on the mix that their contributions blend so seamlessly with those of the vets. Highlights include Big Will's lightning-quick, tongue-twisting freestyling over a Notorious B.I.G. track and Rockwell Knuckles' loping rhymes ("Let's start it off right/With a flow so cold, giving haters frostbite").
File Under: Friday night. Looming weekend. Getting your drink and swerve on.