MUSIC REVIEWS FOR KUCI VOLUNTEER HOURS (Little blurbs to make sure the mountains of music sent to the station by promo people and starving artists is suitable for airplay. This page isn't going to get any more high tech or better organized in the near future--sorry! If it eventually has enough entries that you think it might have something you want to search for, try a CTR-F in your browser and don't waste time scrolling!)

THE STANDARD FORMAT (Station-mandated): Band/Artist - "Album Title", Which tracks contain Obscenity/Profanity/Indecency (OPI), How often I recommend playing it (LOW, MEDIUM, or HIGH rotation), very short review (punchy but not showy, to prevent rambling and self-aggrandizement), this is Recommended If You Like (RIYL:) these artists and bands. Updated Aug. 2015 to include a rating from 0-10.

Bear Hands - “Burning Bush Supper Club”
No OPI (but says “God damn long nails” on #3)
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Rock with drum loops and some synths, vocals range from falsetto, whiny, to crispy clear. Mostly upbeat and often catchy, even a little dancey. Songs are short (none >4min.), tight, and not lacking irony in the lyrics. Simplicity is a virtue here: we don’t notice the verse/chorus song structures because they are mostly sweet, hummable, and over before predictable. Vocals recall Animal Collective minus all experimentation and yelling. First half is more radio friendly.
RIYL: Modest Mouse, Les Savy Fav, Handsome Furs RATING: 6

South Cry - “Blue Moon”
No OPI
Rec. for LOW rotation

Straightforward 1990’s alt. rock whose only mark of distinction is that all mbrs. are Brazilian. Belongs on KROC indeed. Beatles cover “Help” is worth hearing once--they made it deep & tortured. Lyrics, vocals, and guitars all scream: AVERAGE ROCK BAND! Voice isn’t low/scruffy/soulful enough, lyrics highly generic, and nothing melodically approaches Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, which seems to be what they were shooting for.
RIYL: Creed, nu-rock RATING: 3

Nymph - “S/T”
No OPI
Rec. for LOW rotation

Experimental and post-rock, five sprawling “songs”, of which only #3 has something of a melody. #1 (electric guitar), 4 (acoustic guitar) have a yipping Japanese female vocalist, and these tracks are reminiscent of Deerhoof if unwound from tight sequences and allowed to meander for 10-22 minutes. #2 has a gurgling clarinet. Last track is epic, semi-psychedelic, all are fairly repetitive. This is not a pop album, and I doubt its crossover value. Not bad, just inaccessible and tonally shifty.
RIYL: Yoko Ono, Deerhoof, Do Make Say Think, Hella RATING: 4.5

Diego & the Dissidents - “Contaminated Waters”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Instrumental hip-hop microjams interspersed with obscure samples of film dialog. Sits somewhat uncomfortably between reading music, party music, and sound collage. Almost everything is >3mins. but manages to fit a lot of melody and character into every track. Many of the samples will induce a chuckle, if listened to carefully, and there is generally a “stranger in a strange land” feeling to the overall sound, w/out being overtly sci-fi or geeky. Would make nice background music for donor announcements and back-announcing. This UK & Venezuelan collaboration sounds decidedly more British than Latin.
RIYL: Inf., Gold Chains, Baldwin Brothers, Herbaliser, Blockhead RATING: 6

Women - “Public Strain”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Shimmering guitars and zombie vocals give way to broadstroke guitar dirges IN A GOOD WAY for anyone who can handle a little dissonance and noise with their rock. They’re usually mellow, even upbeat and catchy sometimes--not an easy task for how many unusual sounds they can coax out of their guitars. All in all, it may be too well produced to be considered lo-fi, probably best listened to as a whole album, and it rewards careful, repeated listening. The noise in between serves to highlight the beauty of their songs! Trust the promo sticker for which ones to play on air.
RIYL: The Kinks, Sonic Youth, Nurses, Girls, No Age, The Microphones RATING: 7.5

Stereolab - “Not Music”
OPI on #7
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation (A-play grey area)

Lots of groovy synth as expected; not as much long spaciness as previously. Expected more of an Atlas Sound remix than a drony instrumental.
RIYL: Bjork, Air, Ladytron
RIYL Stereolab: Lali Puna, Saint Etienne, Beth Orton, Add N to (X), Atour de Lucie
RATING: 7

Mangan, Dan - “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”
No OPI
Rec. for LOW rotation

Canadian twang from sometimes gravelly-voiced singer-songwriter. Some nice strings, lots of M/f duets, and the Robot song (#2) has novelty value, but his voice makes or breaks every song.
RIYL: listed on promo sticker RATING: 5.5

Sean Rowe – “Magic”
OPI on #4, 8? (sings about being “naked and unashamed”, “jerks off”)
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Distinctive baritone of this singer/songwriter makes or breaks these tunes with understated, often spare instrumentation and female backing vocals on some. Interesting crooning style and generally dark, brooding lyrics, alternating slow folk and rock arrangements with welcome strings. Mostly mellow.
RIYL: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Murder By Death, The National RATING: 5.5

Blank Dogs – “Land and Fixed”
No OPI
Rec. for LOW rotation

Hipster synth-pop with backing guitars on a Brooklyn, NY, label is fairly predictable, lacking the flourish/danceability of the elites, and the repetition grates as a result. Keyboards sound very retro, and while this may be intentional, it doesn’t make for very compelling music.
RIYL: TransAm, Handsome Furs, Gary Numan, Knodel, Lansing-Dreiden RATING: 4.5

I Was a King – “Old Friends”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Playful Swedish rock doesn’t get noisy or precious. Almost everything is under 3 min. long, and the album kinda blends together, though in a pleasant way. Whether fast or slow, loud or quiet, the direction of their beat is up!
RIYL: OTC/Apples in Stereo, Elf Power, Papas Fritas RATING: 6

La Resistance – “Philosophy”
No OPI
Rec. for HIGH rotation

Sunny tunes both rock and synth (the shimmering alternates from guitars to keys and back), straightforward w/out being stupid. Occasionally psychedelic with high-rising choruses more like power pop. Lyrics aren’t a strong suit, but one doesn’t notice unless nitpicking. There are feel-good anthems here.
RIYL: The Helio Sequence, Hypatia Lake, Flaming Lips RATING: 7

Beaten by Them – "Invisible Origins"
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation (really like it, but unsure who’ll play it)

100% instrumental with a good-sized arsenal of instruments, usually a good beat and not too experimental or dull. Most songs, even w/ more electronics, could still be called “rock”, and a vocalist wouldn’t add much. Beware the longer tracks, but the others establish a groove quickly and at very least make for good background music.
RIYL: Ui, Tristeza, Darediablo, Character RATING: 6.5

Prints of China – “False Fronts”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Overhyped on the promo sticker, but this is harmless, laid back rock elevated above mediocrity by its female vocalist. She’s not overly sultry, and there’s a calming confidence to her tone. Nothing is noisy or even very loud, so it might be easy to overlook as just another “pleasant” band that doesn’t take a lot of risks. Take away the edginess and volume of the YYY’s, and you might have something like this.
RIYL: Whale, Autour de Lucie, Chainsuck RATING: 4.5

Junk Culture – “Summer Friends”
No OPI
Rec. for HIGH rotation

Mississippians with Indian names on Illegal Art are out to woo you with their sunny sound. V. short and punchy EP will keep toes tapping and brighten your day. Six slick, synth anthems with occasional guitar sounds which can barely keep pace, and the vocals are pleasant but not lacking in attitude (some An.Col.-ish yelling but toned down). Slight but lots of fun.
RIYL: Self, Oppenheimer, Cex, Annuals RATING: 6.5

Little Comets – “In Search of Elusive Little Comets”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Passable and not impossibly glam rock with some compellingly emotive tunes and an overall starry tone befitting the title. Vocalist sometimes overdoes the “oh oh oh’s” and can sound like a hiccup when reaching for the heights of Walkmen or Vampire Weekend excess (Afrobeat flourishes also abound & seem a little half-hearted). Mostly guitar-driven, often danceable, and thankfully doesn’t try to use keyboards like so many to evoke the 80’s too longingly. Their wave is less than new, but it’s still invigorating.
RIYL: Ima Robot, Hot Hot Heat, Cloud Nothings RATING: 5.5

Modern Skirts – “Gramahawk”
OPI on #2, 4
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Synthetic circus marches with a fair share of falsetto vocals may be catchy or repetitively grating depending on one’s mood. Lots of bounce and generally upbeat, though the arrangements seem a little inflexible, constrained also by a need to get to the chorus/hook as soon as possible. Despite being almost wholly electronic, the songs are never dancey, often on the slow side. As with any essentially 1-man keyboard band, or anything from Athens, GA, it often hits on gleeful, hummable melodies.
RIYL: Russian Futurists, The Show Is the Rainbow, Architecture in Helsinki RATING: 7.5

Silk Flowers – “Ltd. Form”
No OPI
Rec. for HIGH rotation

Mostly instrumentals (but groggy singing, oft compared to Ian Curtis, on #4,6,9) made of plodding synths, angular and primitive without sounding at all dated. These often sound like they’re from a really well-produced after school special (meant in a good way) and no doubt would add a touch of old-fashioned drama & irony to any production (or radio show). Many new bands strive for this sound, to be retro but fresh and smooth, and few achieve it.
RIYL: Joy Division, 80’s synth pop/new wave generally, He Said, Wire (electronic era) RATING: 5.5

Duchess Leo – “Golden Gray”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Googly ethereal synth dirges of some songs mixed with acoustic tracks make a maudlin mess, and the last duet is hopelessly romantic. Cover art is appropriate, as much of this sounds like being lost in the clouds. Similarly, nothing really stuck with me; songs just arrive and drift away like clouds over the horizon. Although the widely varying synths, strings, and acoustic to fuzzy guitar-driven songs are each ethereal and pretty in their own ways, this doesn’t congeal into an album. A very shifty mood piece, and not unpleasant.
RIYL: Toro y Moi, Notwist, A Northern Chorus RATING: 5.5

ensemble – “Excerpts”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

More plucked and bowed strings than the average chamber poppers, the tracks w/ a female vocalist sound a whole lot like Stereolab w/ cellos & violins instead of synths (but who can tell synths from a real harpsichord anyhow?), and not just b/c they sometimes switch to French (the male vocalist only does French, and they include true Quebecers). Both instruments and vocals sometimes go off the rails of song structure, and it’s hard to pick out a single tune where all the elements are in harmony. Still, anyone who needs a break from guitar-driven indie sameyness can hardly do better.
RIYL: Stereolab, Waco, Amber Asylum, movie soundtracks with lots of strings RATING: 7

Loch Lomond – “Little Me Will Start a Storm”
No OPI
Rec. for HIGH rotation

Folksy at times, generally mellow, and arrangements are often enchanting w/out being bombastic. High potential to be left humming the tunes after listening. Guitars share equal time w/ acoustic strings and even some well-placed reeds. Usually sung falsetto with the whimsical touch of the troubadour and traveling minstrels. Quite pleasant and well worth a listen.
RIYL: Lullaby for the Working Class, Pale Young Gentlemen, Aloha, Freelance Whales, Arcade Fire RATING: 8

Malachai – “Return to the Ugly Side”
No OPI
Rec. for MEDIUM rotation

Short, concentrated mood pieces with a dusty southwestern sound (despite being British) and vocal harmonies harking back to old time rock & roll. A standout m/f duet and their sometimes orchestral and electronic flourishes aside, these guys are short, dark, and ugly. And that’s a compliment.
RIYL: The Kinks, Black Heart Procession, Calexico, Firewater RATING: 7.5

Quintron – “Sucre du Sauvage”
OPI on #4
Rec’d for LOW rotation.

If the novelty of shaking your tail to a goofy organ-driven boogie is what you seek, you’ve found your album of the year. If not, there is nothing here for you. Many other instruments are listed in the liners (notably absent: guitar), but even the loud vocals are overwhelmed by the all-powerful organ. Apparently part of an art installation, these would sure liven up a museum. The couple of more experimental tracks near the end resemble museum sound installations all too closely.
RIYL: Alabama 3, Handsome Furs, Money Mark, Baby Elephant Dance and other organ songs RATING: 4.5

The Curious Mystery – “We Creeling”
No OPI
Rec’d for MEDIUM rotation

Mid-to-slow-tempo psychedelic folk rock whose songs’ lead vocals alternate m/f in a pattern which becomes predictable over the course of the album, not a problem one or a few tracks at a time. Neither vocalist really stands out, but a cello, sitars and other unusual sounds amply service them (they apparently play a bowed “gourd with steel rods sticking out of it” and other self-created instruments at live shows). Hard to place some “cultural” tinges in their sound to South/SE Asia/Mexico, and it’s rarely dull despite never being fast. Unfortunately for radio, this is one that doesn’t leap out of the speakers but instead rewards repeated listening.
RIYL: Cat Power, Cowboy Junkies, Caesar, Blood Group RATING: 5.5

The Cave Singers – “No Witch”
No OPI
Rec’d for MEDIUM rotation

Folk rock with scratchy/scruffy rather than crooning vocals, and definitely more Dylan than Waits in the vein of vocalists who’ve swallowed scouring pads. Not as dramatic as other revivalists like MMJ or Fleet Foxes, as a few songs are backed by a chorus/not highlighting the lead vocalist nearly as much (he also doesn’t linger on any lyrics), and these have a faster beat. Straightforward but not simplistic, they’ve got a bright sound harking back to the vinyl era, yet not sounding completely like transplanted hippies, managing to do well both folksier tunes and rock songs (not to mention some which blur the line completely). This will please anyone lamenting they don’t make music like they used to; others might find it too familiar.
RIYL: Dawes, Deer Tick, The Band, CCR RATING: 5.5

The Luyas – “Too Beautiful to Work”
No OPI
Rec’d for MEDIUM rotation

The playful first track and later ones with strings are wholeheartedly recommended, the rest puts the percussion back in “hit or miss”. Clanging, honking, banging, and droning are odd/repetitive accompaniments to the honey-voiced lady featured on all tracks, and it’s not clear if each of these songs is assembled this way b/c this is exactly the sound they were going for, if they aren’t exactly virtuosos on their instruments, or if they just wanted to make something different-sounding to sing over (and leave all the melody to her). Her high notes sound more than a little like Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson). This is different and deserves to be heard; just focus on her voice when the song structures and instrumentation go off the rails.
RIYL: Pram, Asobi Seksu, Stereolab, Squonk Opera RATING: 5.5

Eksi Ekso – “Brown Shark, Red Lion”
No OPI
Rec’d for MEDIUM rotation

Soulful vocals sometimes sung falsetto, dramatic piano octaves, looped synthetic orchestras with room for guitar… sounds like a formula for critical acclaim, commercial success, and oh yeah, TVotR. Subtract a little of each ingredient, and this band is what’s left. Had they waited 20 years to tour as a tribute band, they might find more success and be relieved of obviously derivative imitation criticism, but as they’re contemporaries, this gets a little uncomfortable. It sounds fine (there are plenty of worse, less interesting/pleasant formulas to follow), but how close they try to sound like TVotR may offend, especially since some may find their model band too edgy & experimental. It’s as if they’ve done marketing research on TVotR’s sound, keeping what commercial audiences/focus groups like, removing or toning down what they don’t.
RIYL: TVotR?, Wild Beasts, The National RATING: 5.5

Telekinesis – “12 Desperate Straight Lines”
OPI on #2
Rec’d for MEDIUM rotation

This is a tuneful set of power pop with a sentimental piano ballad thrown in near the end (#11). It’s neither as loud or catchy as the big acts, but there’s a fair amount more craft in these songs than the average band can muster. If the Shins’ vocalist was less wistful and backed by more aggressively straightforward music, it might sound like this. #6 is an upbeat tune on sad topics and sticks in the head.
RIYL: Spoon, Morning Benders, power pop generally RATING: 7.5

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