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Music Review: Indie Round-Up – No Girls Allowed Edition

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No ladies need apply to this edition of the Indie Round-Up – it's all guys, all the time.

Steve Northeast, Inside

Steve Northeast crafts energetic and emotional hard rock songs loaded with raspy guitars and cataclysmic rhythms. He puts a lot of emotion into the songs, and that, together with the deep engagement with what's going on the world, means that at times he risks overwhelming the production's generous musicality – and the excellent guitar work – with lyrics that bend towards earnest cliche. But at their best, the songs evoke the David Bowie of Heroes and the Soundgarden of the '90s. Favorites: "The Way It Is," "Out of Here," and the power ballad "Phoenix."

Listen at the website.

Jann Klose, Reverie

Jann Klose makes complex but accessible chamber pop with intelligent lyrics and contagious rhythms. Songs like "Doing Time" and "Clouds" have a European and sometimes Beatlesque sensibility. (It doesn't hurt that Klose's voice sounds a bit like Paul McCartney's.) The German-born, South African-raised singer-songwriter, now based in the Bronx, has been a theatrical performer, and he has a fine feel for how to arrange his songs with "stageworthy" effectiveness, easily slipping in horns, strings, reeds, and more unusual instruments. The touch is light; a song like "All These Rivers" may remind you of some of Sting's solo work, while the gentle "Remember Your Name" could have come out of southern California in the 1970s. Overall, a sweet salve for troubled times. Listen or buy.

The Alternate Routes, The Brooklawn Session

This disc is an acoustic re-recording of The Alternate Routes' superb debut album Good and Reckless and True, with the same eleven songs in a different order. At the moment, it's available only at concerts, and since the band is between tours right now, you'll have to borrow mine if you want it. (Low hourly rates!) You can, however, hear a couple of the tracks at their Myspace page. The disc has a sort of distant, ghostly, furry-wall-of-sound quality, very pleasing if you're in a coffeehouse mood yet want to hear good songs that aren't self-indulgent like a lot of acoustic singer-songwriter fare. Why am I writing about it if you can't buy it? Because it's another opportunity to tell you that you should really check out this Bridgeport, Connecticut band. Go out of your way if you have to; take an alternate route.

This Holiday Life, The Beginning of the End of the World

I sympathize with new bands trying to establish an identity; a band's name is quite important, but all the good ones, it seems, have been taken. Still, This Holiday Life could have tried a little harder.

Fortunately, the abbreviation THL seems to have been available – in any case, they're using it, and it flows off the tongue a lot better. The music, I'm happy to say, flows out of my speakers very pleasantly too.

The San Diego quartet has made a well deserved name for itself on the West Coast, with catchy songs and a modern sensibility which nevertheless nods back to the '80s new wave of Tears for Fears and Flock of Seagulls. A lot of the lyrics are abstract but there's no mistaking the meaning of "This is the end it's alright we're here together." "Undercover" is a strong earworm. "Animal" is a rubbery, surrealistic, evocative look at I don't know what, and "Oh Sister Please!" is another stretchy, hooky little gem. The slight quirkiness in the arrangements is amusing and endearing, not self-conscious. Overall, THL pops. Hear some tracks.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.