The Laughing -
Austin-based band The Laughing make themselves a bit difficult to categorize. On their latest LP, Fever, the group makes a noisy, raucous indie rock sound starting with a traditional base of guitars, bass, drums and organ, which admittedly sounds fairly ordinary on paper. But along the way they throw all kinds of twists and turns in addition to a varying selections of instruments to a consistently entertaining and eclectic end. Singer Logan (no last names to be found) has a powerful, sometimes warbly voice that gives these tunes an almost eerie feeling, which is amplified by the dark, pulsating musical style that surrounds him. Fever's high-energy pace is infectious, and at its best - the driving "Runner," for example - these guys seem to have things down to a science, providing an experience that is both intensely emotional and consistently fun.
Shark Speed -
My lack of involvement in the local music scene her in Utah will be painfully apparent when I admit that I'd never heard of Shark Speed - which formed in Provo less than two years ago - until recently when I received an email about them. I took a listen to their new EP, Education, and was thoroughly impressed, then felt a bit of regret when I found I had probably been given ample opportunity to hear them much earlier. But better late than never, I suppose. The boys play seriously catchy pop-rock, with uplifting, anthematic vocals, complex percussion and jangly riffs - a simple recipe but one that serves Shark Speed exceptionally well. The triumphant opener "King of the World" and the strangely cheery-sounding "Killing Kind" prove these guys to be both talented and intelligent pop artists, an unfortunately rare breed these days.
Download: "Killing Kind"
Monster Movie -
Monster Movie features Christian Savill of Slowdive and Sean Hewson of Eternal, which I'm sure will attract (and no doubt has attracted) some listeners - but the quality of their new album, Everyone is a Ghost, will likely impress even those unaware of the musicians behind it. The record was introduced to me as "fuzz-pop," which is probably as good a descriptor as any to explain mix of haziness and hooks that fill most of the songs and make the album both an interesting and accessible listen. Everyone is a Ghost ranges from dreamy acoustic balladry on "How the Dead Live" to dense, ambient rock on "Help Me Make it Right," though somehow Savill and Hewson are able to bring it all together into a cohesive whole. Monster Movie generally sacrifices grandiosity for an intimate, relatable simplicity, and the band's somewhat restrained approach leaves a truly lasting impression.
Download: "Bored Beyond Oblivion"