This month's SoundDiego Record Club features new releases from around the county -- read on and listen in.
"Desperate Love" EP
For fans of Brazil's CSS and the now-defunct (and highly missed) Death From Above 1979, Glass Spells' "Desperate Love" EP will prove to be a welcome (and frequently played) addition to your music library. The self-described "dance punk" group, whose members live along the U.S./Mexico border, also straddle the line between disco, electro and psych pop. The EP is a harsh, distorted barrage of cold dance beats; prominent, fuzzed-out bass lines; frantic New Wave synthesizers; and alternately sweet and barbed vocals from singer Mellany Ramirez. The lead single "I Feel It
" mixes a cowbell-heavy disco beat with wavy bass lines and a Blondie-esque vocal swagger -- which makes it impossible to resist. The rest of the five-song EP is just as infectious, with "Disco in Black" heaving with grungy sex appeal and the opening track "Everything Else" shredding speakers with its harsh, gothic funk -- owing just as much to LCD Soundsystem as it does to Joy Division. It might sound sweet when Ramirez sings lines like, "Your love is all I need," but when layered over the band's delirious, dissonant stomp, she might as well be singing, "Go f--- yourself."
Once an impressive trio of Ron Bocian's splashy drums, Felipe Benavides' surfy electric guitar and Jay Reilly's upright bass, the Red Fox Tails recently added saxophonist JP Balmat to the lineup, and needless to say, the North County group's music has taken on a whole new feel. These guys have always had a remarkable touch, as evidenced on 2012's "Aloha" album and 2011's debut "Drop In" EP, and the new album "Ornamental Gypsy" is no different. They're just as comfortable playing salsa or New Orleans-inspired gypsy jazz as they are playing blues-tinged lounge pop. Recorded at Bocian's house over a six month period, the band seems to be a stronger -- yet leaner -- beast. Their purely instrumental aspect may be off-putting to some listeners used to hearing voices leading the way, but Benavides' tasteful guitar lines are always so melodic that it seems a vocalist would just be a waste of space. Now, with Balmat trading time with him upfront in the solo department, the group has really come into its own. "Benson" finds the two playing in tandem during sections, while "Dancing Birds" fittingly has the two twirling around each other throughout. "Marsh Mellow" does more in 1:31 than most songs will accomplish in four minutes: A low-key groove finds subtle electric guitar whispering along to a drunken, woody bass dirge. Whether they're encircling African rhythms ("La Patrona"), dreamy psychedelia ("Sombra") or exotic flavors ("Chicha"), the Red Fox Tails have taken their eclectic formula to the next level.
"Something to Lose," the opening track on Second Cousins' debut self-titled EP, is a staggering introduction to the band. The song lunges forward with an immediate and deliberate flow -- distorted electric piano and soaring chorus vocals joining strummed acoustics and wispy, springy electric guitars. All at once, it feels like we've been listening to the group for years. The Encinitas-based quartet (comprised of guitarist/vocalist Austin Burns, bassist Tim McNalley, keyboardist Dillon Casey and drummer Nolan Greene) doesn't exactly break new ground with its musical recipe, working with such familiar ingredients of folk, indie rock and alt-country as banjo, mandolin, upright bass, fingerpicked acoustic guitars and lap steel, but none of them particularly stand out; that is to say, if you weren't looking for them, you could miss them entirely. The recordings are sublimely balanced and have a homey feel, like we're joining the guys on a creaky porch with a tape recorder. "Time Capsule" is the perfect example of this: gentle acoustic guitar and Burns' ragged yet soothing voice swirl around like wind blowing through wooden fences, long, lush grass and the wings of lightning bugs firing off in summer. "Layer Up" is a fine example of how the band melds together: A breezy melodica intros the song while steel snare drum clicks join barely-there banjo plucks and everything builds into an atmospheric, reverberated climax. Burns' vocal style is a curious one: Occasionally, he has a strange way of meandering from one syllable to the next -- like water twisting in a canyon -- his pronunciation liberal, like he's sounding out foreign words that aren't exotic at all on paper but spiral out through his mouth unexpectedly. Even more intriguing is the fact that his raspy voice implies that he's smoked two packs a day for the last 30 years -- belying the fact that he's only 21 years old. That's good news, of course; if this EP is just the beginning, we'll want to hear from Second Cousins for a long time coming. Buy it here
Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.