Though they've begun to be replaced by newer tech, CDs and demos are still a great way to get industry people to notice. Everyone's got a MySpace account, after all, so it's easy to get lost in that multitude. Where it was once the standard, bands are now using physical demos and CDs to set themselves apart. To quote Boris the Blade, "Weight is a sign of reliability," and packaging a CD or demo along with your growing collection of press clips is still a hefty bundle to offer a club or alt-weekly. In our digital age, snail mail is going the extra mile. Especially if your CD is as good as some of these are. — Luke Baumgarten

Aytch, The Soundtrak — Aytch has a melodic, earnest flow. It works all right on his shadowboxing tracks, but he's more suited for social consciousness and narrative. His voice on "If I Fall" is determined but unsure, his voice almost cracking with the future's uncertainty. It's the beginning of something -- he just needs to embrace it like Ghostface. "Mafioso" opens with wordplay that would make MF Doom do a double-take. (Luke Baumgarten)

Free Range Robots, Instant Wisdom — If you like variety, then you've been waiting for Instant Wisdom from the Free Range Robots. This disc is like taking one of those little plastic spoons at Baskin Robbins and trying every flavor of ice cream. The music is beautiful, combining jazz, blues, country, pop, indie and rock. They've thrown some great vocal variety into the mix. (Tessa Schilter)

Hayden Janssen, Irish Hands — This clean-sounding demo aptly illustrates what one would get at a live show: plaintive vocals and earnest guitar work. Seems to be pretty standard coffeehouse fare. Each song tends to blend into the next, so Janssen seems like the sort of act that won't keep everyone from discussing the value of Kafka or Lindsey Lohan while they listen. (Josh D. Smith)

Jigsaw Republic — Nothing says jam band like a 10-minute song on a three-track demo. This will probably be the perfect fit to slap in the CD player at the next THCF fundraiser, chock-full of rockish blues noodling. But even the best blues acts sing something sometimes, don't they? (JDS)

Localized Tenderness — A guitar-bass-drums jazz trio that features guitarist/composer Mike Frederick without giving Josh Simon or Chris Teal much room to step out. Where John Scofield or Jason Moran develop their ideas, Frederick noodles aimlessly -- "20 Bars for Lars" could've ended in any one of several places. Appearing at Brooklyn Nights this month. (Michael Bowen)

Man of Action, The War At Home — It's punk that sounds like (insert name of any mainstream punk band here). These guys succeed in doing what they probably set out to do: be a punk band. There just isn't anything on their six-song CD The War At Home to set them apart from all of the other punks. But then maybe they don't want to try to set themselves apart ... (TS)

Milonga — Milonga plays what you'd expect to hear on the Muzak at Toro Viejo or Azteca. Which isn't at all bad -- because you can't listen to the bouncy, horn-heavy arrangements of "the Inland Northwest's premier Latin band" without salsa-swaying your shoulders. Brian Lassiter's solos on sax and flute and Nicolas Vigil's sultry vocals enrich the fiesta beats. !Viva la musica! (MB)

Mistress and the Misters, Live at the B-Side — A mildly muddy mix from a live show gives an accurate depiction of what this group is capable of. (In the studio, they might be capable of even more.) Guitar-driven, mildly syncopated, and with a ferociously delivered vocal style. (JDS)

Seven Years Absence, Literally Thousands of Miles an Hour — Literally Thousands of Miles an Hour has a clean rock sound with great vocals and musicianship. What they may lack in originality they make up for with a smooth sound that's familiar and easy to listen to. Sounds like they used the seven years' absence to their advantage. (TS)

Smilelinespark, Smilelinespark — The correlates are obvious: U2 on some tracks, Coldplay on others. There's a little Radiohead too, at times, reminiscent of the five minutes when Thom York was neither a hopeless cynic nor a rabid paranoid. It's a pretty, big-sounding record played with skill and sung with lots of on-sleeve heart, but Pat McHenry shoots lower vocally than he should. C'mon, throw some falsetto in there, you know you want to. (LB)

10 Minutes Down, Of Cabbages and Kings — A good mix of songs demonstrates a range of sound that explains TMD's ability to tour so well. The mix seems a little off but not so much that you can't get a clear picture of what the band is capable of at a live show. (JDS)

The Voiceless Among Us — Full marks to Redhawk of Covenant Christian Church and to the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program for producing an awareness-altering collection. In truth, this school-assembly-quality music isn't much good. But at least these homeless kids are doing something to transform their own invisibility. What have you done for them lately? (MB)

Fine Print of a Truce, The Thin Places — Starting off with a staccato burst of electric guitar, this disc is full of loud, powerful, minor-key drama-rock. It's almost too indicative, though. It was sharply recorded, the vocals are astonishing, and the band's tighter than a horse's ass at fly time, but the ceaseless parade of power chords can leave you feeling battered and bruised. (Joel P. Smith)

Days of Decadence

Jan. 31-Feb. 14
  • or