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Less Than Jake, Mardo, Heavy Blinkers, Chevreuil, Versus the Mirror, Hailstorm & Charlotte Kendrick 

with Zane Ewton

Less than Jake - I'm with the out Crowd

The third track from Less Than Jake's new album is called "Overrated (Everything Is)" and is an indictment of everything useless and well, overrated in popular culture today. It is funny that the band would deliver a song that calls out the current trends while playing the same three chords in the same manner that ever other pop/punk band currently attacking the airwaves with.

It is also funny how the band then flies through an album of way too catchy and nearly perfect ska/punk/pop/whatever music that would fit perfectly sandwiched between Green Day and any other nameless punk band. It is too bad I'm with the out Crowd sounds just like its smack in the middle of the in-crowd, pandering to everything that is overrated in music right now. Yeah, too bad, since the album is actually pretty good, nearly flawless.

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The Heavy Blinkers - The Night and I are Still so Young

This Nova Scotia-bred band provides their biggest and best sounding album to date with the lush The Night and I are Still so Young, a warm piece of orchestral pop perfection that leans heavily on the Beatles, Brian Wilson and the Mommas and the Poppas.

The songs are almost too smooth though, which is probably the product of studio anal retentive syndrome. The record is sprawling at 12 tracks and the overall mellow vibe may put you right to sleep. Unfortunately, the Heavy Blinkers don't have anything to really set them apart, and while the music is technically quite good. There isn't much of a hook to keep casual fans of orchestral pop coming back though, unless you like songs similar to the theme to television's WKRP in Cincinnati. 

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Mardo - The New Gun

Mardo argue a strong case for their sleazy rock and roll. Some tracks are reminiscent of Nazareth strutting around "Hair of the Dog". The band can then switch gears and deliver a ballad that Def Leppard could have turned into a massive hit back in '87. The New Gun is such a promising record it even withstands an unfortunate cover of "Papa was a Rolling Stone".

Mardo wears its influences on its tattered sleeve but rarely sound like copycats. The New Gun is an old-fashioned rock record with the right amount of sleaze and tenderness to please both kids making out in the back of the car.

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Chevreuil - Capoeira

Math rock? A little research shows it to be an offshoot of the more familiar term of indie-rock. Odd time signatures and syncopated rhythms create sounds rather than songs. Chevreuil are propelled by the drummer, Julien F, who owes more to the classic rock drummers of yore than any indie icon.

Steve Albini recorded Capoeira as he has done for each Chevreuil record, with minimal interference. The band can create some astounding noises but the basic moods and soundscapes fail to take the listener anywhere. The tracks meander, usually falling into a steady rhythm, sometimes breaking into a dirge. Tony C's guitar sounds steal the show. At least if you can sit around long enough to hear the whole thing.

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Versus the Mirror - Home

Versus the Mirror would fit in quite nicely somewhere on the second state at Ozzfest. Muscle up the sound a little and their streamlined metal and hoarse vocals would blend into the same wall of noise that permeates parking lots every summer on that tour.

Home might be a better album if vocalist David Siebold stepped back from his Deftones scream and actually sang a song. The tracks show promise with melodies, fine musicianship and some influences from outside the metal world. The one-note, shouted vocals just kill any semblance of emotion or variety that the music builds.

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Halestorm - One and Done

A live EP of sorts. The female-led Halestorm plow through five songs of mixed quality. The band has moments that demonstrate what could become an exciting little rock band. The music consists of the stop/start riffs that Helmet brought to metal and countless bands have since stolen.

Vocalist Lzzy Hale takes too many solo moments, particularly since her soulful yet run of the mill voice doesn't quite match the rest of the band. Once Halestorm tightens up the screws, expect to hear some good things from them.

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Charlotte Kendrick - I Get Stupid

Looking for a sensitive singer-songwriter ripe for a prime spot on the Lilith Faire? Charlotte Kendrick's I Get Stupid blends the kind of citified folk that is reminiscent of Shawn Colvin or that chick with the hairy armpits.

Kendrick's voice is plain and pretty. The songs deserve the same description. Pleasantly non-assuming.

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