The SoundDiego Record Club features some of the best new musical releases from around the county. Read on and listen in. As always, be sure to support our local artists and purchase their music -- and if you can, go see them at a show.
Barbarian, released Jan. 27
When Barbarian dropped their debut EP, "City of Women," [listen to it here] in 2012, it was an odd mix of pulsing indie rock and shadowy surf pop we couldn't help but be intrigued by. Apparently, we weren't the only ones: The band was asked to join Bat for Lashes' North American tour in 2013 and was handpicked to open for Arctic Monkeys just this last August at SDSU's Open Air Theatre. But for all their burgeoning success, we couldn't help but feel like the band (composed of singer/guitarist Andrew Mills, guitarist Seton Edgerton, bassist Jon Greene, keyboardist Dan Nichols and drummer John Heger) was still in the midst of sorting out exactly who and what they wanted to be. Identities, relationships and influences have a tendency to change over time, and as good as their first EP was, it only hinted at what they seemed capable of. Sure enough, as we suspected, Barbarian take the threads from "City of Women" and weave an entirely more intricate (and impressive) tapestry on "Night Blooms." Mills oozes campy, cocksure confidence on barreling, disco-tuned footsteppers like "Pheremoans" and "Phantom Vibrations" while bringing slow-roasted sex appeal back to San Diego in a huge way on "Mourning Sickness." The band takes a sledgehammer to categorization on this record -- easily switching gears between '80s New Wave acoustic ballads ("Hot Climates"), Nick Cave-esque gothic sludge stomps ("Into Thin Air") and gorgeous melodic post-rock ("Last Call Withdrawal") -- with each song, even while incredibly varied, acting as a crucial piece of the puzzle. No matter where your musical affinity lies, Barbarian's got your number with this new record. See "Night Blooms" come to life at the band's Casbah record release show on Feb. 12. [Listen/buy it here]
Shady Francos, released Jan. 17
A few weeks back, Shady Francos' frontman Joshua Kmak told us: "We went for the Stooges sound on the first EP." No s---, dude. With a relentless energy tapped directly from the veins of iconic rock & roll shamans like MC5, the Seeds, the Sonics and, yes, the aforementioned Stooges, Shady Francos' debut self-titled EP is a high-kick to the face. Clocking in at a brief 10 minutes, the four songs bristle with a furious propulsion -- not quite fast enough to be punk, but not slow enough to catch your breath either. A couple years back, the band set out as the unfortunately named Nformals with a debut record spirited enough to warrant intrigue. In a live setting, they've been consistently phenomenal. But with the addition of Jerrica Ojeda on bass and a revamped musical direction (more Ty Segall, less Green Day), Shady Francos finally have recordings that match the live firestorm they've become known for around town. Fittingly, the EP comes across like the band found itself recording right smack in the middle of a back-alley knife fight: Kmak's strangled vocals get smothered in delirious amounts of slapback echo, while Ojeda's growling bass meets Cameron Sisti's frenetic drumming in a spiraling cage match -- ultimately resulting in an explosion made in psych-garage rock heaven. This record is exactly what they needed to make. And hell, this is exactly what we've needed too -- it never hurts to get hit with a refreshing breath of rock & roll air now and then. And even though there's no attempt to recreate any wheels here, sometimes you just don't need to. As they say: If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- even though we have a feeling this band breaks a few things now and then. Another good thing? Now you'll get to hear Shady Francos every Saturday night after SNL: We've tapped their song, "Lucy's Kickin' the Habit," for our new SoundDiego TV show theme song. See them in action at their next show, the No Friends Mini Fest on Feb. 24 at Stronghold in Barrio Logan. [Listen/buy the EP here]