Local CD Review Roundup: Catching Up With All the New Releases From Local Acts

Kat Brock

C (Theory 8 Records)

On this stripped-down three-song EP, recorded in her new home in Nashville, Kat Brock still manages to capture some of the fragile poetry of her former band Dixie Dirt. Brock doesn't have the strong, emotionally expressive guitar of Angela Santos here, but she's taken full advantage of a seven-track recorder to create gauzy, dreamlike layers of voice and guitar over Simon Lynn's whispering drums. It's a withdrawn and inward-looking disc—it's intimate, but not confessional—and there's a remarkable amount of detail for such a primitive recording. Brock and Lynn create such a full sound that long stretches of "Crooked Space" and "Colors in the Trees" are strictly instrumental and yet sound essential to the songs. (Matthew Everett)

Steve Brown

Within

There are few things more cornball than describing an album as a journey, but drummer/bandleader Steve Brown's new album really is. Within, recorded with a handful of local jazz luminaries and Brown's partners in the Hector Qirko Band, starts off with a few tracks of fairly traditional post-bop jazz. It gets weird on the 10-minute title track, a guitar raga played by Qirko that gradually unravels into a cosmic sax freakout. That's followed by another 10-minute song, the elegiac jazz-chamber piece "Rose Suite," the Middle Eastern-flavored "The Wind and Sand," the layered, ensemble complexity of "The Village," and the solo piano piece "Threnody." The songs on Within date back to Brown's college days, and reflect his career in jazz, blues, and rock combos, as well as his early classical training. But it's also a trip for the listener, its sequencing nearly as important as the top-notch performances. (M.E.)

The Dirty Works

Get Wrecked

The Dirty Works got their third CD out just in time to coincide with the long-awaited premiere of Rebel Scum, a documentary tracking two years in the shambling, self-destructive life of the band. Get Wrecked, a seven-song EP, captures some of the Dirty Works' gutter punk 'n' roll—scuzzy, three-chord rock, rudimentary guitar solos, frontman Chris Scum's fascination with blood and other body fluids. (The album starts with the couplet, "I woke up on the street/puking on my feet.") The Dirty Works' vision of what rock 'n' roll is and means is a limited one, but there's no denying their commitment to it. (M.E.)

Hyfantis and the Bishops Band

Carnival Authority

Carnival Authority, the debut full-length from Kevin Hyfantis and the Bishops Band, sounds like a greatest-hits collection from the late 1970s or early '80s. The 12-song disc has everything from sing-along pop gems and stripped-down acoustic ballads to wah-drenched funk jams, and frontman Hyfantis belts out Springsteen-esque vocals around melodies that Steely Dan might have written. "Wrongtime," especially, features a desperate recurring chorus that resembles the Boss. The upbeat "Dirty Lullaby," equipped with searing slide guitar, is a straight-ahead blues number about ditching a bad girlfriend. "Malvolio" starts with sombre, twinkling piano and culminates with a Rolling Stones-ish chorus. Swirling, ambient guitars and straight-ahead drums punctuate the mellow "Summer." Guitarist Josh Hobbs seems to have a different tone on every song, and saxophonist Ben Cohen was on fire during the recording session. But Hyfantis is the star, and the instruments work around his vocals with skillful mastery. Carnival Authority's not completely free of instrumental noodling—"Summer" clocks in at just over seven minutes, and half of that is a long jam. At times the disc flirts with adult contemporary, but there's enough psychedelia, adultery, and drug use in these songs to keep them relevant for a younger audience, too. A solid album from start to finish. (John Faulkner)

Jag Star

Static Bliss

Jag Star has carved out a decade-long career against the odds, not by breaking a big radio single or signing a high-profile label deal but by a kind of canny opportunism. The band's shimmering, glossy pop rock might be out of step with both radio trends and indie critics, but Jag Star has survived—and thrived—by getting their music out through whatever avenues they can. Lately that's meant television; the band has had songs appear on The Hills and several other MTV reality shows over the last few years.

Static Bliss is their most polished effort to date, and that's saying something. The disc—produced by singer Sara Lewis, her husband and guitarist J Lewis, and Travis Wyrick—sacrifices the aggressiveness of 2006's The Best Impression of Sanity in favor of mid-tempo anthems with booming, Kelly Clarkson-style choruses. It's like nothing else that any local bands have ever done. In fact, it's hard to think of Jag Star as a local band. As Static Bliss indicates, their ambitions have always been bigger than this town. (M.E.)

Thenderfin

Yume

Thenderfin's debut, released last fall, is rooted in folk music, but the influence of contemporary indie bands like Animal Collective is apparent in the group's shining, almost psychedelic harmonies and offbeat rhythms. The folk underpinnings remain firm throughout the disc—"Bougainvillea" and "For Real" sound like mid-'70s Neil Young or American Beauty-era Grateful Dead—but both the songwriting and the arrangements keep it all sounding like something else altogether. The short, all-percussion title track is a highlight, and evidence that Thenderfin's absorbing some inspiration from way outside the usual spheres of traditional music. (M.E.)