If you believe The Summer Set (singer Brian Dales, guitarists John Gomez/Josh Montgomery, bassist Stephen Gomez and drummer Jess Bowen), then everything’s fine. As produced by John Fields (Jimmy Eat World, Jonas Brothers, Switchfoot, Andrew W.K.), the sound of this record veers into light pop with the breezy air of those who just don’t care. The 2009 Love Like This debut put these Arizona boys on the board. This should cement their rep as lightweight popsters with an ear for the catchy hook. They’re a little harder live, as evidenced by their Vans Warped Tour shows last year. Everything’s Fine (Razor & Tie Records) is purposely ironic since the lyrics document the dissolution of a relationship.

Join Us (Rounder Records), by Brooklyn’s They Might Be Giants, is one of their best albums.

The self-titled Cerebral Ballzy debut (Williams Street Records) gets the award for best band name, but their New York City punk rock sounds dated.

Speaking of punk, Two Foot Stomp (Lucky Buck Records) by The Von Ehrics, can be called Texas punkabilly. I give an added plus for any band who names itself after a famous professional wrestling family and has a song called “Last Of The Working Slobs.” This, their fourth, was at least listenable.

Back in Arizona, Psychostick dub themselves “humorcore.” They complain about “My Clingy Girlfriend” and rant ’n’ roll about all kinds of meaningless things. Space Vampires Vs. Zombie Dinosaurs In 3D (Rock Ridge Music) did make me laugh… but I couldn’t get through it all.

An unholy triumvirate of death metal came to my door from Unique Leader Records, out of Osos, California, and damned if I didn’t wind up really liking all three discs. In The Ire Of Creation by Immersed is a short, solid blast of drum-machine propulsion with song titles like “Colossal Abomination” and “Transparent Monstrosities.” I used it to fall asleep to (I listen to one, two or three CDs a night by my bedside, depending upon how long it takes me to fall asleep). Its metronomic consistency was lulling me into the arms of Morpheus but I had to pee so that meant I was still up when silence pervaded the room. Fine. So I put on Embryonic Anomaly by Rings Of Saturn, and damned if it wasn’t even better. I remember celebrating the day I knew I wouldn’t have to listen to this kind of shit again but now I realize I sort of miss it. Finally, Oblivion by Devolved upped the ante on the death bellows to incorporate some real rock-styled musical action. Taking it all creatively one step further was actually a strike against them as, in this type of music, I prefer no melody, harmony, lyrical-content or vocals. I want my frontman to just vomit out gurgling belches of phlegm. Immersed and Rings Of Saturn are keepers for their eye-punch and ear-pull of pain and anguish. I think I need this sort of stuff in my daily experimentations to make me appreciate even more everything else I listen to.

I saved the best for last. Finally, The Lost Cause Minstrels (The Royal Potato Family), by Grayson Capps, his fifth, is a real Americana gumbo stew of roots-reverent influences that he wears on his sleeve. Gray’s a good ol’ boy from Mobile, Alabama, and his Southernisms are a true delight. His songwriting is philosophical, his vocals are deliciously edgy and his characters are, well, take Mr. Jim, for instance. He’s a real character all right and he resides at a Mississippi barbecue joint where “sweat be drippin’ from between your legs and underneath your arms.” His spirit inhabits the song “Coconut Moonshine.” And he’s just one of many. Damn! How come I’m just now gettin’ turned on in such a big way to Mr. Grayson Capps? Dude’s terrific!

 

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