50 Watt Whale
Whump!

Splashes of West African folk, funk, classic rock and (yes) cowpunk showcase the instrumental versatility of this core three-piece, which brings numerous Santa Fe guest spots to its debut. Horn-heavy opener "Shop Like a Mormon" sets the relatively upbeat and humorous tone of the 10-track album, but it's in the slower interludes where things go vocally awry. Harmony parts, such as those on the almost-vaudevillian "Tofu for Two," veer away from each other in anticipation of something that never really surfaces. Still, the album is an excellent meditation in blending styles in a way that doesn't sound contrived. (Rob DeWalt)

Arcane
Foundations

Though Arcane may have intended to create an original amalgamation of prog-rock, jazzy pop and upbeat psych, Foundations crumbles under odd production choices, a baffling number of effects and utterly sloppy vocals. Songs like "Cosmic Traveler" sound like garage dad-band fare, and the dumbfounding stab at reggae on "Jamaica Rain" comes so terribly close to unintentionally hysterical that not even the confusingly mixed back-and-forth vocal panning can serve as a distraction. There are moments that come frustratingly close to strong interspersed throughout the album—the opening of "Western Skies" provides a stoney, Pink Floyd kind of vibe—but the bottom line is that the whole thing sounds like some dudes were let loose in a music shop's pedal effects section and thought it might be cool to see how many they could incorporate into one bizarre and unfocused set. (Alex De Vore)

The Barb Wires
Rough Cuts

"Funny church this one is," Barb Wires songwriter Jim Almand says between songs. It's impossible to separate some recordings from where they were recorded. Anyone who's ever visited the biker-packed Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid on a Sunday afternoon will instantly be transported back inside the wooden saloon while listening to this album. Recorded live on a pair of microphones, Roughs Cuts weaves together roadhouse blues, Southern jam rock and dark folk. Make no mistake, this is no straight-ahead blues pablum. In the hands of Almand (acoustic guitar), Tim Arnold (electric guitar) and Randy Clark (mandolin), the music is freewheeling, harmonious and a bit odd—much like Madrid itself. Rough Cuts is surprisingly accessible and decidedly unpretentious. (Todd E Lovato)

Bill Palmer
Under Endless Skies

Under Endless Skies opens strong with "Gold," a song that sounds almost like George Harrison and Nirvana joined forces to write a country-rock love anthem. It's cool enough and sets the overall tone well, but Palmer has plenty of bar-rock jams found throughout the record, like "Inferno" or "Mask." However, the local troubadour truly shines in the quieter spaces that explore more universal themes or feelings of self-doubt and deepening love. "Every mistake mounts like a debt that I can't pay," he says on "Will You Run," and it makes him seem more accessible or, at the very least, like someone we can relate to. Universal experiences and thoughts expressed well are (or should be) one of the ultimate goals of art—like "Will You Run" or "Smoke"—and they always become the stuff of legend. The production is flawless thanks to Frogville Records' world-class amenities and Palmer's own songwriting prowess, but if there's any real downside, it's in wanting a few more stripped-down tracks and a little less alt.country 101. (ADV)

Bird Thompson
Now Here This

Equipped with an acoustic guitar, musician and author Bird Thompson offers up world-weary and easygoing rock that harks back to the golden era of the singer-songwriter '70s. Producer Chris Ishee offers a polished rock ensemble backdrop to Thompson's introspective but at times pitchy baritone. Thompson's strongest moments are his most intimate and stripped of the backing band, as on "Light in Your Eyes," which features some keen harmonies from Shannon Thompson. With seven out of 10 songs clocking in at longer than 4:30, the album puts heavy emphasis on multiverse lyrical passages and instrumental solos, often to the expense of the listener's attention span. Melodic and meandering, Now Here This will appeal mostly to the generation of fans who grew up with folk rock. (TEL)

Boomroots Collective
Ceremony Sessions

When an album kicks off with a track titled "Weed Fi Smoke Up," there's little questioning the type of musical journey one is about to embark on. It's worth taking. Vocalist-guitarist Circumference 360, vocalist Aezrock and dancehall artist Mr. Kali blend conscious hip-hop and driving, progressive reggae on this infectious 2013 head-bobber, steeped lyrically in 505. While vocally strong, especially on the Kali front, the album also boasts a tight ensemble of rhythm players that keep a consistent groove weaving seamlessly throughout.(RDW)

Brian Mayhall
Making a Fire

Folks seem divided when it comes to electronic dance music, but when it's made by one-third of iconic local trio D Numbers, one ought to at least pay it some attention. Mayhall keeps it sweet and listenable, from the pleasantly bouncy opener "Slow Mo" all the way through the 10-minute opus closer, "Making a Fire." Production is crystal clear and crisp, and though the deceptively simple beats may shrug off the easy syncopation of the 4/4, Mayhall always keeps it accessibly dancey. Former Santa Fean Lily Taylor makes some surprising yet excellent vocal guest appearances on tracks like "Abundance," and it pulls us into a more introspective space which, if past claims from Mayhall that electronic music can elevate the listener to places of spiritual bliss are true, is welcome. If there is one caveat to Fire, it is that it probably isn't an entry-level release for those who don't already love a DJ, but every last song falls perfectly in line with local imprint Mesa Recording's high desert techno aesthetic and—perhaps coolest of all, and unlike lots of DJs across the globe—features some actual live instrumentation. (ADV)

Carrion Kind
The Collapse of All to Come

While metalcore poseurs freely roam the earth, diluting and cheapening everything bands like At the Gates and Death worked so hard to bring into the forefront of musical consciousness, it's good to know Carrion Kind is out there, fighting valiantly to slay the notion that metal has become little more than a labyrinth of needless sub-genrification and illegible logos. Collapse is a beast built on the tried-and-true fundamentals of blast-beats, shredding riffs, wide-ranging vocals (how Jayson Grace goes from a shriek to the guttural with such ease is anyone's guess) and guitarist/songwriter Augustine Ortiz Jr.'s encyclopedic love of the genre and insane chops. Say goodbye to discernable time signatures on tunes like "Shattered, Broken and Defaced" and welcome the beauty and brutality of "Programmed to be Unforgiving." Carrion Kind may operate within the familiar—for metalheads, anyway—but they do have a few tricks up their sleeves in terms of groovy riffs and mathematical prowess. (ADV)

Dave Tutin
The Story of It All

Tutin offers up 12 tracks of inward-gazing, melodic and articulate acoustic singer-songwriter rock—a sound that explores compelling sonic territory while never straying too far from its blues and folk roots. Equipped with a top-notch studio ensemble (that includes Jacy Oliver, Peter Farrell, Mark Clark and Ben Durfee), Tutin pays tribute to the ghosts of Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson in "If the Blues Ever End," sings about life's unexpected little purgatories in "The Thunderbird Hotel" and honors Zimmy in "The Way of the Road (for Bob Dylan)." The album is polished, beautifully packaged and well executed, but I couldn't help but wonder how these songs would sound stripped of some of their production bombast. As is often the case with songwriters who come into the seemingly limitless realm of a studio environment, the vocals sound detached from the music and sometimes secondary. Fans of folk-that's-not-afraid-to-rock will enjoy this sullen record. (TEL)

David Berkeley
The Fire in My Head

In these very pages, we have likened Berkeley to a Nick Drake meets Jeff Mangum-esque songwriter who has perhaps grown weary of a nomadic lifestyle that results from constant touring. These words ring true enough, but there is an absolute earnest quality to Berkeley's tales of deep love, home found within family and all things sad and joyous that simply cannot be understated. Fire is surprising in its nonmainstream aesthetic, the perfect marriage of Jonah Matranga indie and Bonnie "Prince" Billy emo/country. It almost seems to have been created to lure hipsters away from the phrase, "I like most every kind of music except country." It could be his work as a novelist that aids in Berkeley's emotive imagery, or maybe he's just the kind of guy who has a lot to get out of his head; either way, this record is fucking brilliant. (ADV)

David Geist
Inside the Flame

We're pretty sure there is no other musician living around here with an entire music space named after them, but pianist David Geist has accomplished this (at Pranzo) and oh so much more. He is a fixture, a local icon to those in the know and someone who deserves a listen from those who don't. Here is a man who honed his skills in the pit on Broadway for shows like The Lion King and in the writing process with titans like Stephen Sondheim. Inside the Flame is a bit of a departure from his previous work of reimagined show tunes and standards and may be the first time Geist has shared so many original compositions. There's a strange ease to these complicated pieces and an almost neoclassical undertone among the obviously Broadway overture-influenced pieces. A love of theater and appreciation for fine piano work might be mandatory, and Geist probably won't be able to count on brand-new fans. Music lovers who long for the golden era of theatrical music, however, will find themselves uplifted, moved, excited, overwhelmed and ultimately riveted. After all, it may be easy to separate a man from his accomplishments, but the proof of his pedigree is found within the music, and it is unmistakable. (ADV)

Eryn Bent
In the Gray: An Anthology

As long as we're all being honest, it's all at once impressive and unsettling that Eryn Bent would release an anthology. Yes, it's true that she works very hard and has a staggering amount of material, but isn't this usually the kind of thing musicians do further into their career? Regardless, just like most double albums, there are winners and losers among the 30 songs. Bent is at her best when she reaches into the tragedy of her own experience and goes whisper-quiet. She's not so great when she attempts vocals that sound like she is forcing emotion or when she wades through lyrical groaners like, "When I'm around you I melt/I should have asked you how you felt." All the same, she has proven a prolific if not terribly original Americana-meets-soft-rock singer-songwriter. Don't expect an epiphany, but In the Gray sure would be a great accompaniment for your next breakup. (ADV)

SPOTLIGHT

 SPOTLIGHT Glen Neff Chains to the Moon Santa Fe/Madrid musician and painter Glen Neff fuses his love of instrumental improvisation with a steady hand in the digital studio on his new 11-track album of globally influenced electronic music. For once-devout followers of the ambient/chill movement that nearly dominated local radio airwaves in Santa Fe a few years ago, Neff’s work will tickle that perhaps-dormant spot in your ear canal in some pretty intriguing ways. While there is a heft of traditional African, Punjabi-Bhangra, Eastern European and Middle Eastern influence running through the album’s rhythmic and vocal-sample veins, Neff deftly adds more contemporary meat to the musical muscle, with layers upon layers of synth, live instruments, effects, drum programming and out-of-left-field genre inclusions. It takes a careful listen to sift the latter out, but it’s worth the ride if you want a mellow escape. Trivia time: In March, some of Neff’s music was added to the workable library of the Omnicom Group, one of the largest advertising conglomerates in the world. Some of his work is also featured on the roster of LA imprint Jamboe Entertainment. Both do a sturdy business in atmospheric-music sales. So the next time you open an app or walk through the lobby of a spa, hotel, mall or restaurant, you may be listening to Neff’s music on the PA. It beats Kenny G. (RDW)
SPOTLIGHT Glen Neff Chains to the Moon Santa Fe/Madrid musician and painter Glen Neff fuses his love of instrumental improvisation with a steady hand in the digital studio on his new 11-track album of globally influenced electronic music. For once-devout followers of the ambient/chill movement that nearly dominated local radio airwaves in Santa Fe a few years ago, Neff’s work will tickle that perhaps-dormant spot in your ear canal in some pretty intriguing ways. While there is a heft of traditional African, Punjabi-Bhangra, Eastern European and Middle Eastern influence running through the album’s rhythmic and vocal-sample veins, Neff deftly adds more contemporary meat to the musical muscle, with layers upon layers of synth, live instruments, effects, drum programming and out-of-left-field genre inclusions. It takes a careful listen to sift the latter out, but it’s worth the ride if you want a mellow escape. Trivia time: In March, some of Neff’s music was added to the workable library of the Omnicom Group, one of the largest advertising conglomerates in the world. Some of his work is also featured on the roster of LA imprint Jamboe Entertainment. Both do a sturdy business in atmospheric-music sales. So the next time you open an app or walk through the lobby of a spa, hotel, mall or restaurant, you may be listening to Neff’s music on the PA. It beats Kenny G. (RDW)

Glen Neff
Chains to the Moon

Santa Fe/Madrid musician and painter Glen Neff fuses his love of instrumental improvisation with a steady hand in the digital studio on his new 11-track album of globally influenced electronic music. For once-devout followers of the ambient/chill movement that nearly dominated local radio airwaves in Santa Fe a few years ago, Neff’s work will tickle that perhaps-dormant spot in your ear canal in some pretty intriguing ways. While there is a heft of traditional African, Punjabi-Bhangra, Eastern European and Middle Eastern influence running through the album’s rhythmic and vocal-sample veins, Neff deftly adds more contemporary meat to the musical muscle, with layers upon layers of synth, live instruments, effects, drum programming and out-of-left-field genre inclusions. It takes a careful listen to sift the latter out, but it’s worth the ride if you want a mellow escape. Trivia time: In March, some of Neff’s music was added to the workable library of the Omnicom Group, one of the largest advertising conglomerates in the world. Some of his work is also featured on the roster of LA imprint Jamboe Entertainment. Both do a sturdy business in atmospheric-music sales. So the next time you open an app or walk through the lobby of a spa, hotel, mall or restaurant, you may be listening to Neff’s music on the PA. It beats Kenny G. (RDW)

Flamingo Pink!
Grace & Ease

There's a lot to be said for Megan Burns' dramatic and emotional songwriting style when she breaks out her acoustic guitar and goes it alone, but the new indie-synth direction she dove into with last year's It's Our Job to Know We're Dinosaurs proved that even when she's evolving, she can get the point across. The new songs are more confident and layered than past keyboard-heavy tracks we've heard from Flamingo Pink!, and when Burns breaks out multitrack vocal harmonies with herself, it's downright beautiful. She deftly avoids the pitfalls of today's faux indie-kid obsession with Korg-driven hipster-synth garbage for seven endearingly lo-fi tracks that seem to be the natural progression of her newly minted experimental side, and although she may not have written the book on how to dabble in electronic composition, if she holds onto her trademark vocal style and continues to probe nontraditional means of musicianship, great things are bound to happen. (ADV)

Glorieta
The Wind, It Grew Legs

Melissa Gail Klein knows how to find the proper backup for her bluegrassy Americana tunes. Folks like Ben Wright, Greg Butera and Paul Feathericci pop up to help out with guitar, pedal steel and drums, respectively, but it speaks volumes about Klein that she would be the standout aspect on Wind. In a genre where female vocalists tend to sound the same, Klein's phenomenal voice sounds unlike anything else you already know, and she goes even further by being a great lyricist who can tap into a youthful innocence while projecting a wise worldliness. Plus, she plays the banjo, so yeah, suckers—it's good. If there is even any complaint possible, it's that this release is an EP, and we want more. (ADV)

Hidden Whale
I'm With the Band

Hidden Whale's debut takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to serious musicianship by cooking up silly themes and conveying them through funky rock beats, jazzy bass lines and some of the catchiest vocal melodies of all time. Topical tunes like "Cell Phone" point out our society's weird tech obsession, while the super-funk-meets-lounge-act jam "Medication Time" recalls the later work of the Aquabats and actually contains a timely, sad-but-true portrayal of prescription drug abuse. And what else would you expect from the mind of the Gluey Brothers' Jim Goulden and his insanely talented wife, Angela Gabriel? The drag may be that Hidden Whale's penchant for novelty music is best experienced live, and saving the overtly serious songwriting—which seems much more sincere—for closing track "Rollin' With the Punches" is disappointing. If that's the tip of the iceberg, show us what else you've got! The bottom line, however, is that it's fun, and that's really the point, right? (ADV)

High Diver
High Diver

Bands like Hum and Duster proved that there's a place for soft beauty within the realm of heavily distorted rock jams, and the newly formed High Diver (comprised of St. John's College students) takes this concept to exciting new places with their eponymous lo-fi debut. Droney in nature and brimming with subtle nods to blues-rock, poppy metal, '90s alterna-rock and beyond, vast ballads form amid the fuzzed-out avant-garde movements. This shit is the reason college kids were put on this earth: to form bands that forge new styles from well-worn territory, and to distill the coolest parts of their influences into new sounds. It would be great to make out the vocals, which sadly never happens, but if one has to choose between discernable lyricism and unearthly killer jams, the latter should usually win out. (ADV)

Human 2 One
Under a Tree

Recorded in a spare room in the Santa Fe home of singer/guitarist Chris Courtney, this 14-track album of folksy ballads speaks volumes to the power of the pared-down male duo—an endangered art form in more mainstream acoustic circles. Courtney and guitarist/vocalist/songwriting partner Derek Todd Fisher sing a lot about the abstract concept of harmony here, and they definitely nail it from a vocal perspective. Delicate and focused finger work on dual six-strings adds a certain Simon and Garfunkel-ness to the proceedings, while a few clumsy flute interludes distract from the album's otherwise-infectious lazy-Sunday, early-'70s feel. (RDW)

Indigie Femme
Justify

Tash Terry (Diné) and Elena Higgins (of Samoan/Maori descent) are back with their fifth studio album, and their soothing voices are as strong as ever. Expertly produced and engineered by Grammy-winning producer Larry Mitchell, Justify finds the duo ditching much of the indigenous-instrumental flavor found on past releases for tamer American-folk arrangements. Switching instrumental formulas may seem risky, but it shows just how protean these two artists truly are. As always, themes of loving the earth and each other abound. For the uninitiated, this album is a perfect entry point to the band. (RDW)

JQ Whitcomb and Five Below
Tales of Enchantment

If you wish to enjoy this record, you must fall into a very specific category of music fan. That is to say that even though Whitcomb and crew are all clearly stellar musicians with a knack for breezily enjoyable fare, anyone who hasn't done their jazz homework will find it hard to get into the swing of things. Don't get me wrong, they've managed to skirt the mind-numbing irritation of free-form noodling (which is really more for the player, right?) or the sadness of saccharine-sweet elevator bullshit—though "Enjoy the Silence" comes awfully close—it's just that you really have to be a jazz person to get the most of these tunes. Now, if long-form songs, familiar melodies and serviceable structures are high on your list of album priorities, Tales was made for you. Think of it as your "Break Glass in Case of Jazz Emergency" record for when the albums from guys who already did this a million times over have all mysteriously gone missing and you've just gotta get your trumpet on. (ADV)

Jack Lorang
Triennial Discography

Shoegaze lyrics and drugged-out late-night guitar arrangements take front and center in this compilation, which draws from three previous releases by this Taos indie folkster. Although delivered in a laconic, delicate manner, Lorang's lyrics share a vivid and bittersweet perspective on life and nature as recounted by the lonely drifter. Fans of '90s grunge rock and lo-fi indie folk of all eras will gravitate toward this hodgepodge. (TEL)

SPOTLIGHT

 SPOTLIGHT Luke Carr’s Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand Southwick Howls It’s almost hard to believe that Luke Carr actually pulled off Southwick Howls, the ambitious opening chapter and soundtrack to his fascinating sci-fi world of New Europe. If nothing else, he coordinated over a dozen musicians throughout 20 tracks, so “ambitious” would be putting it lightly. And yet the whole thing—yes, the whole thing—is a revelation. There is no stone left unturned in Carr’s musical repertoire, and he deftly stitches indie and rock and punk (aesthetically, at least) into a concept album and story where there’s beauty and there is…everything. In Carr’s dystopian tale, a lowly worker realizes the dire consequences of his leaders’ choices and attempts to flee the region with his son. The songs accompany this journey, but it’s only the beginning. Carr has teased the idea of follow-up albums, a graphic novel and more, but for now, he is taking a breather; the damn thing took up 2+ years of his life and damn near consumed him. As for us, the listeners, we are gifted with a tremendous undertaking that pulls together a veritably unreal cadre of local musicians for the first irrefutably must-have album of 2015 and, without a doubt, one of the best pieces of musical art to come out of Santa Fe in as long as we can remember. It doesn’t matter where your tastes lie, all Southwick Howls needs is one listen in order to understand its brilliance. And it is brilliant. We often hear that Santa Fe has so much talent for a town so small. Luke Carr elevates that concept in a damn artistic fashion, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. (ADV) Storming The Beaches With Logos In Hand - Episode: Southwick Howls by Luke Carr
SPOTLIGHT Luke Carr’s Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand Southwick Howls It’s almost hard to believe that Luke Carr actually pulled off Southwick Howls, the ambitious opening chapter and soundtrack to his fascinating sci-fi world of New Europe. If nothing else, he coordinated over a dozen musicians throughout 20 tracks, so “ambitious” would be putting it lightly. And yet the whole thing—yes, the whole thing—is a revelation. There is no stone left unturned in Carr’s musical repertoire, and he deftly stitches indie and rock and punk (aesthetically, at least) into a concept album and story where there’s beauty and there is…everything. In Carr’s dystopian tale, a lowly worker realizes the dire consequences of his leaders’ choices and attempts to flee the region with his son. The songs accompany this journey, but it’s only the beginning. Carr has teased the idea of follow-up albums, a graphic novel and more, but for now, he is taking a breather; the damn thing took up 2+ years of his life and damn near consumed him. As for us, the listeners, we are gifted with a tremendous undertaking that pulls together a veritably unreal cadre of local musicians for the first irrefutably must-have album of 2015 and, without a doubt, one of the best pieces of musical art to come out of Santa Fe in as long as we can remember. It doesn’t matter where your tastes lie, all Southwick Howls needs is one listen in order to understand its brilliance. And it is brilliant. We often hear that Santa Fe has so much talent for a town so small. Luke Carr elevates that concept in a damn artistic fashion, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. (ADV) Storming The Beaches With Logos In Hand - Episode: Southwick Howls by Luke Carr

It’s almost hard to believe that Luke Carr actually pulled off Southwick Howls, the ambitious opening chapter and soundtrack to his fascinating sci-fi world of New Europe. If nothing else, he coordinated over a dozen musicians throughout 20 tracks, so “ambitious” would be putting it lightly. And yet the whole thing—yes, the whole thing—is a revelation. There is no stone left unturned in Carr’s musical repertoire, and he deftly stitches indie and rock and punk (aesthetically, at least) into a concept album and story where there’s beauty and there is…everything. In Carr’s dystopian tale, a lowly worker realizes the dire consequences of his leaders’ choices and attempts to flee the region with his son. The songs accompany this journey, but it’s only the beginning. Carr has teased the idea of follow-up albums, a graphic novel and more, but for now, he is taking a breather; the damn thing took up 2+ years of his life and damn near consumed him. As for us, the listeners, we are gifted with a tremendous undertaking that pulls together a veritably unreal cadre of local musicians for the first irrefutably must-have album of 2015 and, without a doubt, one of the best pieces of musical art to come out of Santa Fe in as long as we can remember. It doesn’t matter where your tastes lie, all Southwick Howls needs is one listen in order to understand its brilliance. And it is brilliant. We often hear that Santa Fe has so much talent for a town so small. Luke Carr elevates that concept in a damn artistic fashion, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. (ADV)

Jeronimo Keith Band
Jeronimo Keith Band

Here is the challenge with creating convincing blues music in 2015: How does one produce a sound that pays tribute to a time-tested form in a way that avoids the pitfalls of a genre that has become riddled with clichés and platitudes? The Jeronimo Keith Band seems to have found an answer that works for them, and it's a sound that works well for the listener of the band's debut self-titled album. The answer is diversity. Released earlier this year, the eight-song effort explores a variety of subgenre blues, ranging from train shuffles and swing blues to Southern and alternative rock. As one might expect, Keith's electric guitar propels the tunes with nimble and melodic dexterity, and his contemplative lyrics ("Try to stay strong by writing a song/Don't care if I'm doing it wrong") reside nicely on top of the mix. Jess Sussman (drums) and Jesus Cabrales (bass) anchor the band with journeyman-like competence. This record won't create any new converts among those who view contemporary blues through a jaundiced eye. But in the hands of the Jeronimo Keith Band, the venue-shaking, roots-rocking tradition of straight-ahead American blues-rock remains nicely represented in Santa Fe. (TEL)

Jessie Deluxe
Jessie Deluxe, Vol. One

The novel resurgence of straight-fucking-rock that came in the form of post-hipster nonsense bands like Jet was a real heartbreaker, and the world cried out desperately for something they could down beers and smoke cigarettes to. This may finally be that record. Jessie Deluxe seems to have found this glorious middle ground that exists someplace between dirty Southern riffs, the fast-living thrill of the late '80s Sunset Strip and Hole (if Courtney Love ever had a clue about what counted as punk-fucking-rock). This lady has range, both vocally and musically, and can get you dancing with a song that grooves, like "Whiskey," or just as easily give you a reason to cross your arms and angrily bob your melon with "Dummy Dust." "I Tried to Warn You" all but announces a teenage fascination with PJ Harvey but is still made all her own as she takes the vocals lower than you'd think she could while keeping it sexy. Hell, this whole damn record is sexy. (ADV)

Jim Almand
I'll Call You

Americana/country solo artist Jim Almand doesn't play in Santa Fe terribly often anymore, which is a damn shame. As a guitarist, vocalist and lyricist, Almand shines on I'll Call You. Complex finger-picking rhythms meet with harmonious forefront flourishes and minimal banjo plucking. The sounds of gospel vocals transition into what seems to be Almand paying respects to his heroes, like on the Bob Dylan-esque Dylan Thomas tribute number "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" or the Orbison-meets-Ronstadt piece "The Likes of You." Almand can subtly showcase how fantastic a harmonica sounds when in the right hands, and the crisp production on this varied work seals the deal—you need this. (ADV)

Jim Shearer, Celeste Shearer, Darrell Fitzpartin, Dena Kay Jones and Laura Spitzer
Haunted American Suite

New Mexico is, reportedly, a hotbed of supernatural activity. Thus, it seems fitting that this release of neoclassical compositions, written and performed by musicians currently or formerly involved with New Mexico State University, would explore the themes of the afterlife. It would surely be cliché to call the music haunting, but there is an other-worldly sound to the movements and instrumentation and a chilling, soft beauty—perhaps a paean to respect of the dead—that seems to reach out and place an icy hand on your shoulder. At home in a cavernous concert hall or as a whisper-quiet soundtrack moment in the horror movie you've just seen, Haunted American Suite rings true to classical foundations while perfectly encapsulating the exhilarating thrill of the ethereal beings who shake off this mortal coil. (ADV)

Karen Marrolli
Twilight Songs

Fresh off the heels of The Homestead EP, Karen Marrolli returns with Twilight Songs, a four-track collection of adult-contemporary lullabies. In the hands of Frogville Studios' mixmaster Bill Palmer, chamber pop instrumentation—piano, cello, acoustic guitar and Marrolli's voice—offers up a sound that is sparse yet sonically complete and dynamic. Marrolli's voice is a rare and beautiful bird: vibrato-charged, richly contralto and choral in nature. Admittedly, many of the same qualities that make Marrolli's music beautiful, at times, come across as a bit cloying and melodramatic when overapplied, particularly during the moments when Marrolli's mellifluous vibrato is layered on top of itself. But as the title suggests, this is lush, starry-eyed stuff that packs enough melody and romantic energy to soothe even the most savage of beasts. (TEL)

KrayZe Soriano
SoundCloud

Hailing from Albuquerque, rapper and beatmaker KrayZe Soriano is a man on the rise. "I went from hundreds to making grands/I went from rollin' in a Kia to rollin' Benz," he raps on the lone verse of "I Went from Bagz to Richez." KrayZe creates club-banging music that is rich in reverberated synth stabs, four-on-the-floor kick drums, dubstep-inspired sub-bass and tempos laid back enough to suggest copious amounts of herbal assistance. KrayZe's vocal delivery is as equally blunted. KrayZe's shit is pretty raw. Many of his rhymes proclaim that he's an artist on the rise, but he could also be metaphorically admitting that he's an artist still in development and in need of some polish. This is underscored by no formal album release (that I could find), a lack of a website, a pretty sloppy SoundCloud page that contains double song entries, poorly mixed material and most importantly songs that lack catchy hooks or, in some cases, any hook whatsoever. Haters gonna hate, but I am a newly converted fan of KrayZe Soriano. Keep an eye on this rapper from the south as he continues to amass a following and hone his craft. (TEL)

Melissa Christopher
Running Masters

Visions of Melissa Etheridge dance in our heads during Christopher's passionate 12-bar blues delivery on "Darkness," and here's where things get weird: It's not terrible. Electric blues-wanking ranks pretty high on the most bafflingly overrated of all musical genres and generally ruins two perfectly wonderful musical styles simultaneously, but the ache and tenderness conveyed by Christopher's vocal work somehow cancels out these feelings. God damn, does she shred, too. Guitar parts manage to avoid predictability, and her band nails super-catchy backup vocals with ease. Throw in the Chrissie Hynde-meets-Traveling Wilburys-esque country groove of "Running," and you've got a solid two-song EP that may not speak to everyone but stands head and shoulders above its contemporary competition. (ADV)

Mi
And My Edges

Of all the projects Ben Wright is involved with (see page 18), Mi might be his most varied and interesting. As an instrumentalist and DJ, Wright is surely among the most talented guys around, but when he merges his love of live music and electronic composition, an eclectic and moving mélange is produced. "Ocean Ave." particularly stands out, with off-kilter guitar plucking and some of the most satisfying synth sounds you'll ever hear. Certain corners of the record sound more aggressive than previous works from Mi (I'm looking at you, "Ogallala and the Time After"), but if the goal is to wrap up multiple styles into one neat package, it's hard to complain or see how it could get any better. (ADV)

Octaveleven
Octaveleven (EP)

Ditch everything you think you hate about rock/jazz fusion and come sit next to Santa Fe outfit Octaveleven. The 11-year-old brainchild of keyboardist-songwriter Philip L Maddux, this trio, which also includes percussionist Ben Durfee (CassoVita, As in We) and bassist Paul Wagner, is poised to release its debut instrumental EP this summer. Crammed with über-mathy arrangements and Durfee's signature double-kick madness, the four-song affair is short on individual riffs but tall on collaborative technical prowess. If you've ever lost yourself in a rhythm breakdown of a Rush song, you'll lose your goddamn mind in this release. (RDW)

Out of Context
Zen Noir

Out of Context is an apt name for this act, and Zen Noir sounds like the atmospheric background effects of certain black metal bands were divorced from the more musical aspects. The results, which are described as an electric guitar choir, are alarming at best and unlistenable at worst, a sort of confusing journey through ambient sound-sculpting that may be enjoyable live—or while high—but, as a record, come across as a series of sounds that are created without a plan. High Mayhem is known for more eccentric releases, and certainly this album could be described as such, it's just that these are noises, plain and simple. Just noises. Now, there are impressive names found throughout the roster of players (Jeremy Bleich, Ross Hamlin and Carlos Santistevan, to name a few), and though the noise-rock set or people who've matured past the need for musical music might fall in love with Zen Noir, if it's songs you're after, this ain't that. (ADV)

Despite being a one-man band, the Proxemics' Alex Neville manages some serious layers throughout his indie-rock songsmithing. And he is varied for it. Take a song like "a soft opening" and compare its more traditional structure (laced with some of the coolest bridge work since…ever) to an off-the-wall, psych-laden shredder like "traction," and it's clear Neville has big ideas that he's culled from across the rock 'n' roll spectrum. Cells presents similarly to later Cursive records like Happy Hollow or that certain something Modest Mouse used to have before they decided to get boring, but Neville also has this unique, gravelly vocal work going for him. He's a songwriter who knows the value of quiet versus soft and how, when done properly, they inform each other well. Throwback breakdowns recall classic rock anthems, and it is notable that the whole damn thing is a lesson in how guitarists don't need to noodle in order to write mathy or complex things. Plus, there's his passion, and that isn't always easy to come by. (ADV)

Public Address
One Two Three

Would it be taken the wrong way to say that Public Address' One Two Three EP sounds almost like a new age release? It's not that you'll hear it playing in a yoga studio per se, and the usual beats-meets-samples structure is there, but there is also a sort of spiritual chantlike foundation lurking just underneath the façade of every song. And though the four songs and one remix, courtesy of Doubting Thomas, might be a testament to decent production and nontraditional beatsmithing, the songs are generally too minimal to offer up anything beyond a curious listen before moving on to find tunes with a little more going on. (ADV)

Repetitardz
Stuporstar

First things first, the art for this record is absolutely amazing. Seriously—look at it! It's too bad, then, that Repetitardz seem unable to nail down a cohesive style. Are they out to write acoustic-y love numbers, or do they want to get into surf-shred punk tunes? We wish it were entirely the latter, because when they're good, they're great. Unfortunately, they seem to want to be funny, which is also too bad. Goofy is usually fun for a listen or two, but sincerity always trumps silly and gives the listener something to connect with. All the same, Stuporstar does rock hard when it chooses to; we just wish that's where the jams would stay full-time. (ADV)

Rockfox
Rockfox

Heavy, heavy rock meets Mother Earth in Rockfox's debut eponymous album—the brainchild of artist/writer/musician James Fox and Nosotros founder Randy Sanchez. Fret-scorching guitar riffs and bonecrushing double-kick drums seamlessly blend with Fox's terra-themed and indigenously informed lyrics, which are made even more impressive by the singer's impressive, vibrato-laden voice. Best known for his Cuban tres work in the Latin band Nosotros, Sanchez is actually a metalhead at heart, and he lets it fly on Rockfox, offering virtuosic lead guitar and masterful drum programming. Fans of '80s thrash and '90s alternative metal will want to sink their teeth into this one. Side note: This was my 6-month-old's favorite album. He bounced around in his Jumparoo with a wild glint in his eyes throughout the entirety of the record. (TEL)

SPOTLIGHT

 SPOTLIGHT Two Ton Strap Let You Down Being the only reviewer with a working record player, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to review the new full-length vinyl album from the rambunctious country-punk Taos outfit, Two Ton Strap. Recorded on 2-inch reel-to-reel tape in an all-analog studio barn in Questa and packaged in a cardboard handprinted LP sleeve, Let You Down is a throwback, both inside and out. Since forming seven years ago, Two Ton Strap has released a smattering of homespun recordings, an approach that matches the band’s DIY ethos but has left fans secretly yearning for something a bit more polished. Let You Down is a triumph in that it successfully captures the band’s reckless concert vibe while presenting the music in high-quality audio—no easy feat. It might be complete bullshit, but I genuinely believe that music sounds best heard through a stylus and a phonograph record. Let You Down offers up all the vicarious aural gratification that New Mexicans have come to expect from the songwriting duo of Kan Namba (banjo) and Kevyn Gilbert (guitar), as well as the deceptively tight rhythm section of Max Moulton (drums) and Conrad Coops (bass). “The Uppers” revels in the highs and laments in the lows of copious drug consumption and heartbreak (“The uppers will get you going/The downers will level you out/The whiskey keeps you up/So I can let you down”). “Tribute to the King” pays homage not so much to Elvis’ legacy but to his flaws and idiosyncrasies (“Mixed amphetamines doesn’t mean that Elvis was a sinner/He played his guitar loud and sang his songs so we could feel better”). “I Remember” is a slow-burning honky-tonk ballad as performed by a lovesick patriot junkie (“I pledge allegiance to the flag/of the United States of America”). Let You Down is a gritty analog gem from one of Northern New Mexico’s most eclectic and unabashed independent bands. (TEL) Let You Down by Two Ton Strap
SPOTLIGHT Two Ton Strap Let You Down Being the only reviewer with a working record player, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to review the new full-length vinyl album from the rambunctious country-punk Taos outfit, Two Ton Strap. Recorded on 2-inch reel-to-reel tape in an all-analog studio barn in Questa and packaged in a cardboard handprinted LP sleeve, Let You Down is a throwback, both inside and out. Since forming seven years ago, Two Ton Strap has released a smattering of homespun recordings, an approach that matches the band’s DIY ethos but has left fans secretly yearning for something a bit more polished. Let You Down is a triumph in that it successfully captures the band’s reckless concert vibe while presenting the music in high-quality audio—no easy feat. It might be complete bullshit, but I genuinely believe that music sounds best heard through a stylus and a phonograph record. Let You Down offers up all the vicarious aural gratification that New Mexicans have come to expect from the songwriting duo of Kan Namba (banjo) and Kevyn Gilbert (guitar), as well as the deceptively tight rhythm section of Max Moulton (drums) and Conrad Coops (bass). “The Uppers” revels in the highs and laments in the lows of copious drug consumption and heartbreak (“The uppers will get you going/The downers will level you out/The whiskey keeps you up/So I can let you down”). “Tribute to the King” pays homage not so much to Elvis’ legacy but to his flaws and idiosyncrasies (“Mixed amphetamines doesn’t mean that Elvis was a sinner/He played his guitar loud and sang his songs so we could feel better”). “I Remember” is a slow-burning honky-tonk ballad as performed by a lovesick patriot junkie (“I pledge allegiance to the flag/of the United States of America”). Let You Down is a gritty analog gem from one of Northern New Mexico’s most eclectic and unabashed independent bands. (TEL) Let You Down by Two Ton Strap

Two Ton Strap
Let You Down

Being the only reviewer with a working record player, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to review the new full-length vinyl album from the rambunctious country-punk Taos outfit, Two Ton Strap. Recorded on 2-inch reel-to-reel tape in an all-analog studio barn in Questa and packaged in a cardboard handprinted LP sleeve, Let You Down is a throwback, both inside and out. Since forming seven years ago, Two Ton Strap has released a smattering of homespun recordings, an approach that matches the band’s DIY ethos but has left fans secretly yearning for something a bit more polished. Let You Down is a triumph in that it successfully captures the band’s reckless concert vibe while presenting the music in high-quality audio—no easy feat. It might be complete bullshit, but I genuinely believe that music sounds best heard through a stylus and a phonograph record.

Let You Down offers up all the vicarious aural gratification that New Mexicans have come to expect from the songwriting duo of Kan Namba (banjo) and Kevyn Gilbert (guitar), as well as the deceptively tight rhythm section of Max Moulton (drums) and Conrad Coops (bass). “The Uppers” revels in the highs and laments in the lows of copious drug consumption and heartbreak (“The uppers will get you going/The downers will level you out/The whiskey keeps you up/So I can let you down”). “Tribute to the King” pays homage not so much to Elvis’ legacy but to his flaws and idiosyncrasies (“Mixed amphetamines doesn’t mean that Elvis was a sinner/He played his guitar loud and sang his songs so we could feel better”). “I Remember” is a slow-burning honky-tonk ballad as performed by a lovesick patriot junkie (“I pledge allegiance to the flag/of the United States of America”). Let You Down is a gritty analog gem from one of Northern New Mexico’s most eclectic and unabashed independent bands. (TEL)

Rumelia
Lost & Found

Hats off to Rumelia for delving deep into the world of Balkan folk music with respect for tradition and unparalleled skill (and also without succumbing to the hipster nonsense of acts like oh, I don't know—Beirut). Everything here is gorgeous and steeped in what must be an almost obsessive attention to detail from the first ladies of local world music. Lost & Found has something for just about everyone to love and comes with the added benefit that, for most of us, these songs sound completely new, no matter how old they may actually be. It's hard to convey how phenomenally well-played the instruments are throughout this record, but we can summarize it by giving 50 points to Gryffindor for multi-instrumentalism and about a bazillion more for authenticity. (ADV)

Salt for Knives
Conglomerate of Misery

Diehard NM metal fans are perhaps familiar with the names Frank Green (ex-Grinkai) and Augustine Ortiz Jr. (Carrion Kind), who converge on this five-track ear bleeder, along with vocalist Teodoro (TJ) Ortiz. A definitive death/groove slant to the low-tuned proceedings treats listeners to plenty of Ortiz Jr.'s slappy, staccato bass and Green's crunchy guitar prowess and studied guttural vocals, while TJ's voice lends two closing tracks a serious slab of angsty, almost hardcore-punk ethos. Natural-sounding (mostly) digital drums are programmed by Ortiz Jr., also the album's producer. It's short, sweet and typically perfectionist fare from this devoted bunch. (RDW)

Sattva Ananda
Chiznickens Remixed

Fresh off last year's Breakdancing Jellyfish, the local DJ takes a crack at remixes, with excellent results. Everything here is a little more accessible to the DJ layperson but every bit as technically proficient for those who follow the medium. Ananda grooves his way through nine head-bobbing tracks with elements of hip-hop, space funk and the roots of house, techno and beyond. Though it may be preferable to check the jams live while sashaying across a dance floor, Ananda's carefully crafted production speaks volumes about his work ethic and makes for one of the more original DJ releases we've heard this year. Admittedly, that's not saying a lot, but if you find your toes tapping to music you don't usually jive with, you don't question it. (ADV)

Sleeptaker
Could Have Moved Mountains

We open with "Birth," a waste of track space that uses synth to….uh, actually, what's the point of this number? It makes one wonder where the fucking metal's at, but just when you want to skip the damn record altogether, you are suddenly ass-deep in the crushing sounds of the rest of it and wondering how low these dudes have tuned their guitars. From there, we are given a tour through a veritable metal trope checklist that Sleeptaker does well (if not originally). Luckily, there are groovy head-bumpin' moments and some serious shredding guitar bits that narrowly avoid wanking for chugga-chugga brilliance—but only by so much. Fans of Botch or Between the Buried and Me (or a million other bands who've released a million other records that sound exactly like this) will probably have heard this noise before; people new to metal will have their faces melted off and their brains blown the fuck up. (ADV)

Stiff drum machine beats, gravelly vocals and liberally applied electric guitar riffs make up the sonic landscape of Opus, an album that plays out like a concept album for a spiritual vision quest gone terribly awry. Beeson's liner notes extol the bounties of the natural world: "I went to my church in the forest. The elements of nature healed me." But given these organic topics, the tone of the music is surprisingly sinister and unnerving: Layered minor-scale electric guitar licks fill every open space, chord changes modulate into unexpected and dissonant places and Beeson is not afraid to let out a lycanthropic ululation at any given whim, as is the case in the 7-minute-plus and seemingly never-ending "Where the Moon Goes." Opus is a claustrophobic, indulgent, eclectic bedroom project that is creative and ambitious but wildly challenging to the listener. (TEL)

Strange Magic
Endless Summer

If you spent the late '90s and early-oughts at shows in the Railyard or Warehouse 21, the new solo project from former Mistletoe and Cherry Tempo frontman Javier Romero probably won't surprise you. And that's a good thing. Romero has always had a knack for writing songs that fall someplace near the early days of indie, but through a John Lennon-meets-Jeff Lynne lens. The man has a gift for sweetly harmonizing guitar parts and concocts vocal melodies so totally perfect, you'll almost be jealous of his ability. Standout tracks like "Lavender Seahorse" could very well appear on an album from the criminally underappreciated Polaris while holding onto Romero's well-established sensibilities, and if you hear a cooler or catchier song than "A Sunset in the 70s" this year, we'd be surprised. Romero has toiled in relative obscurity long enough, and Endless Summer needs to be in your rotation immediately. (ADV)

Thieves & Gypsys
Chasing Giants

One of the more promising bands to come out of Santa Fe, Thieves & Gypsys avoids the sophomore slump with Chasing Giants, courtesy of frontman Jared Garcia's innate ability to write a great fucking song. Shadows of the Strokes or even Talking Heads do shine through from time to time, but there are also refreshing yet retro doo-wop moments that pop up and prove that sometimes a killer flourish is better when you keep 'em wanting more. Much of the credit goes to drummer Adam Cook's phenomenal ability to simultaneously keep perfect rhythm while making the drums worthy of attention in their own right, but it's in how the trio meshes well as a unit that might just be the ultimate draw—especially in a town where musicians insist on letting everyone know they're a big deal. (ADV)

Various Artists
Mesa Remixed

Growing local imprint (and brainchild of Paul Feathericci, Ben Wright and Brian Mayhall) Mesa Recordings offers up their impressive roster of artists to other talented songsmiths for new arrangements of previously released tunes. You might have to be an existing Mesa fan to be overly excited for this one, kids, because those of us who didn't have an intimate knowledge of the songs to begin with couldn't tell you what the difference is. Kudos are in order for certain Mesa songs and artists in their utilizing of actual instruments and for songs that seem to be less about the dance floor and more about actually listening and digesting the material. You do have to wonder exactly who this album is meant for, if not the artists themselves to feel important, but perhaps it's a cultural thing, and a good remix is a good remix is a good remix…and so forth. (ADV)

V&L is probably getting sick of being referred to as "young" musicians, but the quartet that blasted out of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design is absolutely that, which only makes their songwriting all the more impressive. Absinthe is somehow riffy and classic rock-y and funky all at once, and it certainly doesn't hurt that they've got Maggie Johnson's gritty yet flawless style onboard. At four tracks, this is absolutely a great debut EP, but the operative word here is "debut." It's easy to tell you've got a first record from inexperienced college kids, and though there's little doubt Venus and the Lion will grow and evolve and release something unbelievable down the road, the production on Absinthe is not quite there and leaves a lot to be desired. Other than vocals, the whole thing comes with a strange muffled quality that isn't fair to the carefully crafted guitar, bass and drum work. Still, if the endgame of music love is seeing your favorite bands live, that's actually the preferable way to experience Venus and the Lion. They're fantastic live, that much is true, but when it comes to picking up albums, you might want to hold out until their sophomore effort—you can bank on it being superior. (ADV)

More outsider ethereal tunes head our way from the High Mayhem-affiliated duo of Roland Ostheim and Michael Smith, and they've proven yet again that they're geniuses. There's a beauty to six that comes across in both the quiet slow builds and the almost-jazzy heaviness of the soundscape they've created. It is the sort of thing that might appear softly in the background during a hard-to-recall dream that plays in slow motion, an amalgamation of musical styles—from rock to punk to shoegaze to jazz—that one might assume would fight each other for attention but that ultimately make so much sense together as one composition that the lack of vocals no longer becomes a consideration, and you're so glad there aren't any track breaks to muck up the experience. Keys from Aaron Jenks sound amazing as well, but the interplay between Smith and Ostheim is well-known to many a Santa Fean and the true draw of this fantastic release. (ADV)

Yar
Yar

When a super-band of local metal champions forms, there is almost no doubt it's going to slay, and given Yar's roster of musicians from bands like Torn Between Worlds and Obelisk, superband is not going too far. That's a lot of pressure but a notion that is backed up and then some by Yar's self-titled debut EP. It's like a history lesson in thrashy metal that holds on to the more punk rock aspects found in the early days of the genre while headbanging headlong into the underground highlights of right now. All the usual metal qualifiers like "brutal," "crushing" or "ferocious" can be assigned to Yar, but it's imperative to experience these three tracks firsthand. Fans of Slayer, Exodus or Ratos de Porão—this motherfucker is for you. (ADV)