On and off the record

On and off the record

Get Poor or Die Trying
on1Haunting, moody, textural indie music from possibly the only band ever to ever make aggressive use of the autoharp.  References to “raven’s claw,” and the “gates of dawn” would seem to place it snugly in the goth category but Cheetahsaurus is neither  gloomy nor predicable.  Renaissance man Ryan Hull — who wrote the songs, drew the cover artwork and is a published poet — provides vocals that are reminiscent of James Walsh of Starsailor (who mimics Jeff Buckley). This is a good thing.  Lots of layering and interesting backing vocals are perfectly balanced with unexpected and dreamy melodies on this satisfying debut release by a band that’s gonna break big. See them at Billy O’s on New Year’s Eve.

—Michel Cicero

Available on iTunes and at Salzer’s Records in Ventura.

Franklin for Short
on2If the latest offering from another of Ventura’s most promising bands, Franklin for Short, had a scent, it would be “salt air.” Crisp and refreshing, invigorating, cheerful and reflective, Swell is a neat package of well-constructed pop/rock songs. Deft use of surf riffs and Beach Boys-style harmonies nicely punctuate Franklin for Short’s solid songwriting. And there’s no shortage of hooks to keep their songs continually swirling like a riptide in your head. They sing a lot about love and nature, especially trees. “Let’s go to sleep in the field, get out of town for the night/ I know a spot where the ground will stay hot, my darling don’t put up a fight.” Campfire songs for 20-something hippies who get high on bicycles.

—Michel Cicero

Available on iTunes and at most local record stores.

Champagne Sunday
on3Champagne Sunday has been paying its dues around the county and the country for a few years, and this, their second record, makes good on a lot of the promise of their live shows. Essentially a guy/girl duo, but known to perform with a full band, the focus is on lead vocalist Jessi Reems Terrell, who has an undeniable set of pipes. Her theater background is evident on the record’s stand-out track, “Music Box,” which is part kid’s song, part love song and part musical theater. Slower, bluesy numbers like “Bound” and “Long Day,” come across weak in contrast with energetic tracks like “Stronger” and “So Inclined,” where Terrell’s lovely vocals shine. By far one of the best local releases of the year.

—Chris  Jay

Available on iTunes and www.cdbaby.com.

On and off the record

On and off the record

1God Has a Cadillac Too
The Maheekats (Ojai)
This record makes me think of flying dreams, air conditioning and convertible Porsches. That is to say it transports me someplace cool. Day dreamy and breezy without being vacuous, it leaves space to reflect and breathe, giving the music at times a meditative groove. Torchy, lush vocals and lingering melodies sparkle like the California coast on a perfect day; a landscape the musicians are obviously familiar with.  Hailing from Maheeland, a mystical portal to other dimensions located deep in the Ojai Valley, the Maheekats are Casey Camp and Clarabell (an accomplished poet), who started their project in 1999. They don’t seem to play out much, so if you want to hear them you’ll need to download their music. They call it “psychedelic dub:” I call it “good.”
Available on iTunes.

2A New Canvas
Le Meu Le Purr (Ventura)
Sometimes when a band’s sound covers a broad range of styles, it is because they are casting a wide net, reaching for mass appeal. This is not the case with Le Meu Le Purr. While a touch bipolar, their musical identity is solid. The sound is not unfocused or contrived but rather the chemical reaction resulting from a combustible mixture of organic compounds: life + the band members’ various moods, personalities and musical influences = a sonic explosion that engages the whole being.  Songs range from glossy power-pop and melodic rock to primal punk rock, and sometimes all in the same song. Great musicianship all the way around. Check out “Medical Animals” which goes from a buoyant Joy Division vibe to unbridled rage in seconds flat.
Available at Salzers, Buffalo Records and on iTunes.

3Head Over Heals
End Transmission (Ventura, Moorpark, Fillmore)
End Transmission are a bunch of nerds. Lovesick nerds, as is evidenced on songs like “Stick Around,” where they sing, “I wish I didn’t call you 50 times a day.” But they descend from an esteemed lineage of lovesick nerds that includes Teenage Fanclub and Weezer, so their nerdiness is forgiven and even endearing. Besides that, they play super-tight, Moog-driven pop songs that anyone who ever obsessed about someone they were hopelessly attracted to can use to burn all that lower chakra sexual tension. Catch them live at Rock City Studios in Camarillo on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Available on iTunes and at their live shows.                                              




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