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Salt Lake Top 50



AFTER EDEN Stark (After Eden) After Eden leans toward the eerie ’n’ gothic while dangling an appendage or three in the great grunge lake of ’92. Singer Eddie Wayne Howell’s howling, expressive growl keeps everything from degenerating into Alice in Chains 101, fortunately. —Bill Frost

ANTIX Stop/Judge (Age Records) Five songs long with enough hair-flinging guitar grindage to clog the drain at Lake Powell, Antix’s Stop/Judge EP cranks some serious biker metal, Armor-Alled to a slick sheen. There are more bands out there carrying the old-school heavy metal torch than you realize, dude … —BF

BAD APPLE Sister Sarah (Ruby Records) If they weren’t filtered through Gared Moses’ off-kilter twang and a Beck-in-an-indie-mood lo-fi production, the tales told on Sister Sarah would come across as downright weird. As they are, well, they’re still weird—but the good kind. Going to hell never sounded quite so soothing. —BF

STACEY BOARD Not Love Art (Sky Songs Music) “Play that pissed-off music, white girl/Play that pissed-off music right/Infringe on someone’s copyright,” Stacey Board sings on “Me,” sideswiping Wild Cherry and inventing a new catch phrase for the Lilith Nation simultaneously. Not Love Art, Board’s second CD, is as sparse as 1998’s Simple Thing, with just her full, rich voice and acoustic guitar to lead the way. What sets her apart from the rest of the local-folkie pack is her keen ability to turn a phrase: “If I can’t make it better/It won’t stop me from trying” is just one of the many simple truths contained within. —BF

BRITTON Alien Romper Room (Song Haus) Over the years I’ve had some fun with Michael Britton, the main force behind Britton the band. Due to that obsession, I’ve spent more than a few hours with his previous recordings and I’ve come to enjoy what he does. The disc isn’t a local product. This baby has national distribution and as a whole it is an excellent example of pop metal. Power ballads, upper register choruses, sadomasochistic sex, bizarre artwork and a bizarre title. Give the guy credit. —William Athey

CHOICE OF REIGN Live ’99 (Choice of Reign) Big, dramatic and live—how many local bands release live albums, anyway? Baritone boomer Steel Croswhite and COR usually do things their way, and Live ’99 shows off their prog-rock tendencies to the fullest: The shortest cut is over five minutes; the longest around 12. Great dynamics and humorous asides and stage banter keep things from becoming too pretentious. Sadly, this will be the last Choice of Reign release to be produced by band mentor/manager Bill Croswhite, who passed away earlier this year. He’ll be missed. —BF

CURIOUS BIRDS Year and a Day Between Sea and Sky (Shapeshifting Inc.) Desperately searching for peace? The Curious Birds and their “ambient” recording will bring peace through music—almost. One song is “Year and a Day,” the other is “Between Sea and Sky.” Two songs do make an album. Birds twitter, guitars ring and all appears so right, until the sheep start ba-a-a-a-ing. A statement perhaps? A statement on the dumbing down of America? Blues and sheep aren’t commonly found in record shop bins devoted to meditation, healing, relaxation or yoga. —WA

DEAD MAN’S HAND Malice (Dead Man’s Hand) Here’s another example of Salt Lake City metal, and this could be the best of them all! Dead Man’s Hand is a group of quiet young gentlemen who take the buzz-saw riffs and howling-growling of an injured puma to a new level. Part stream-of-verbs and part scream, Jason Groce puts so much energy into the vocals that he can’t remain standing. As anyone who has seen this group live can state, this guy rolls and crouches and kneels and basically gets into things. Once again, Herc and his Living Room come through, but he had a great band to work with. —WA

DOUBLEWIDE Thirty Weight (Trailer Trash Tunes) As unavoidable along the Wasatch Front as potholes and meth labs, Doublewide has scorched a path of shameless self-promotion and reckless redneck rock in the past few months that would do Regis Philbin and the Supersuckers proud. The rip-snortin’ Thirty Weight, which actually sounds tame compared to the live deal, started it all. It’s still a hella fun listen. —BF

EROSION I Love You. Goodbye. (Erosion Arts) Splitting eardrums and breaking hearts on a more esoteric level, Renaissance slackers Erosion backstroke through the smoldering ruins of alt-rock to create some beautifully crafted noise pop, as well as covert instrumentals (a criminally overlooked song form). If the Pixies/Nirvana/Sonic Youth annex of the rock university is closed, no one told Erosion before they laid down one of the best albums of this or any year in SLC rock. —BF

ETHER Music for Air Raids (Pinworm) Actually a 73-minute sound cycle, Ether’s most recent apocalypse document probably should have been called Music as Air Raids, or at least Your First Blackout: The Original Soundtrack. Hooks or rest stops be damned, Ether barrels down Route 666 with percussion, atmospherics and a wall of guitars resembling a swarm of iron butterflies in tow. —BF

FIDDLESTICKS Playing Favorites (FiddleSticks) Local music wouldn’t be worth much without the Irish. FiddleSticks is a family group, actually the Davis Family Folk Band, and they play a combination of traditional folk tunes from the Celtic lands, England and America. It isn’t all Irish. The recording begins with “Cranking Out/Mutts Favorite/Lively Steps,” and if father Mark’s bodhran doesn’t cause a toe to tap, or even a jig, then visit an oxygen bar. —WA

FISTFULL Fortune Cookie (FistFull) Too long in the making but worth the waiting, Fortune Cookie is FistFull’s 16-cut sonic salvo to any doubters who had previously dismissed them as merely “that noisy punk band with the hot blondes.” As important as kamikaze singer Brita Amundsen and ace bassist Carol Dalrymple are to the FistFull sound, Fortune Cookie reinforces the vital-yet-overlooked roles of drummer Troy Lemmon and guitarist Todd Grossman. It may be punk, but it’s meticulously orchestrated punk that’s as smart as it is visceral. A wild punch will knock you down; a well-placed one will knock you out. FistFull are knockouts in more ways than one. —BF

FIVE MINUTE MAJOR Headstage (Rat Lab Music) Like a tricked-out Camero flying off a cliff at 200 mph, Five Minute Major is too fast to live, too fast to care and too fast to replace that smelly tree on the rear-view mirror—impact is imminent, man. A veritable convenience store of speedy riffs, kill-’em-all attitude and punk-metal abandon, you’d have to rewind the security video to tell if Headstage stole anything. Parents, police and posers beware. —BF

JOHN FLANDERS A Prehensive Tale (Squidisc) Manning all of the saxes, flutes, clarinets and keyboards—as well as writing and arranging the disc’s 20 cuts—himself, journeyman SLC player-about-town John Flanders and a virtual phonebook of top-flight local jazzbos laid down the instrumental collection bit-by-bit over the past year. The collection alternates between silky balladry and rocked-up jazz-fusion that’s far too ballsy to be relegated to background music. Killer stuff. —BF

JULIE HILL Seven Sisters Rivers & Beyond (Up-the-Mountain Music) Farm-folkie Julie Hill’s second CD isn’t too far removed from her first—until you get to the 11th cut, a banjo-driven, hillbilly-stomp tale called “Nothin’ Finer Diner.” Who’d have thunk she had it in her? Sell that baby to the Dixie Chicks and retire in style, Julie. The rest of Seven Sisters Rivers & Beyond is more in-character: plaintive, sometimes serious sometimes playful folk, sung and strummed exquisitely. —BF

BRYAN HONEYVILLE The Skinny (Ruby Records) Loopy alt-country twangin’ gives way to grunge metal ennui within the first two songs, then the third crashes the party like Uncle Tupelo channeling Kurt Cobain and Neil Young simultaneously—and there are still six tracks to go! The Skinny is one of those tuneful lo-fi wonders that leaves you asking yourself, “Why isn’t this guy huge?” —BF

HOSTAGE So What (Woodshar Productions) Anyone who’s ever caught them live knows Hostage is adamantly rooted in ’70s-’80s hard rock, delivered with spandex-tight musicianship and singer Shar Wood’s alternately growling and soaring vocals. So What has the expected mullet-metal moments, but they’re stylishly balanced by surprising twists of Black Sabbath undertow (“Mirror”), Garbage techno-rock (“Little Mind”), Jefferson Airplane acid-blues (“Before”), ’60s pop-psychedelia (“Happy Song”) and jagged garage-punk (“So What”). A surprisingly good debut from a veteran local band. —BF

JONES-BOYZ Are You Ready (Jones-Boyz) First of all, I hate boy bands. I hate girl bands too. I hate teeny pop. With that out of the way, it’s safe to say the Jones-Boyz are cool. All songs are credited to Kelly Eisenhour. You have a credible jazz musician writing songs for a boy band. She also produced the disc and sings backup. The result is about the cheesiest example of crap the mind can fathom—which makes the disc an astounding listen. If you can listen to “Simple Life” and not walk around the rest of the day with the song trapped inside your head, I can’t help you. —WA

LOST TOKEN Generation in Chains (Lost Token) Choose any song of the 12 presented and discover Christianity. Lost Token is a blatantly Christian rock band. Their sound relies on ringing acoustic guitar and a burning desire to express their religious beliefs in song. John Perry is a praiseworthy vocalist patterned after about 100 gruff-and-growling alternative rock heroes. At first such a description might read as criticism, but check out the lyrics! Utah is basically a divided community. On one side is the dominant religion, and on the other are the heathens. Lost Token straddles the chasm as devout Christians. —WA

GIGI LOVE Coyote Bones (LoveCha) Emphasis on the bones—as in, bare bones. Love’s 1997 debut CD, Scorpio Rising, was a slickly produced collection of full-band arrangements. Preparing to record another album similarly, she laid down raw vocal and guitar tracks, planning to add more players later. The plan changed—Love has released the 10 songs unsweetened as Coyote Bones, and her naked blues-folk CD has become one of the regional top-sellers on Her instantly recognizable voice—soaring between tremulous soprano and sultry alto—drives her breezy pop hooks home, even on coulda-been-cheesy cuts like “Ode to Kurt Cobain” and the dark blues of “Mercy.” Low-fat, but still tasty. —BF

MAMBO JUMBO Latino Heat (Mambo Jumbo) No, Latino Heat is not a new cop show on UPN—it’s an instant party of a CD from SLC salsa-merengue-cumbia faves Mambo Jumbo. Leading a small army of musicians through 11 feet-friendly tracks, vocalist-percussionist Ricardo Romero swings this sucker like nobody’s business—dig “Yo No Bailo Con Juana” for a complete workout. —BF

BOB MOSS & LUNI TROUPE Clowns, Monkey & Aliens (Luni Troupe) The Luni Troupe comprises Rick Soderburg (vocal, blue drum), Bob Moss (vocal, banjo, guitar), Richard Lawrence (vocal, keyboards), and Joe Judd (vocal, ukulele, bass, drums). Phil Miller (saxes) and Dan Salini (lap steel guitar) make special guest appearances. More than anything else, Clowns, Monkeys & Aliens recalls Leon Redbone. The tendency to engage in jug-band jazz, gypsy and carnival rides inspires that comparison. Phil Miller is absolutely brilliant on the sax, and these cats, monkeys, aliens and clowns investigate Tom Waits’ bohemian bop. —WA

NOTHINGSOMETIMES EP (More Than Meat Music) Nothingsometimes works a territory familiar to many Salt Lake City bands. Ringing acoustic guitars and anthemic songs invoke a vision of what has become known as alternative rock. The disc is an EP containing five songs, and that is good. Instead of stretching for a full-length with inferior material, Nothingsometimes recorded the best they had. —WA

WENDY OHLWILER Pave the Planet (Wendy Ohlwiler) The most original and tunefully eccentric CD produced locally in years is only three songs long. Sounding somewhere between jaded urban woman and carefree country girl, Wendy Ohlwiler tangos with tension in “Noisy Ears,” rocks on a flatbed truck heading for environmental oblivion in “Pave the Planet,” and unironically serenades her lover in “Doo Dat Doo.” David Prill’s beautiful, multi-textured electric guitars are as present and important as Ohlwiler’s lilting, off-kilter voice. It’s not folk, country or rock, but far more. —BF

ZACH PARRISH BLUES BAND Zach Parrish Blues Band (Zach Parrish) First let’s give credit where credit is due—Zach didn’t do this album by himself. Brad Wheeler blows harp. Len Thomas plays drums. Tom Krug is on bass when Matt Parrish isn’t. The live band may have changed since the recording, but the recording remains incredible. This disc is down-and-dirty blues; it’s gut-bucket blues, it’s acoustic blues and it’s country-blues played electric. The fact that such a recording came out of Salt Lake City still baffles me. Get a copy and boogie down. —WA

LANCE PERRY & THE PRAIRIE DOGS Lance Perry & the Prairie Dogs (Lance Perry) Nine out of the 10 songs on this disc could slide easily into rotation on mainstream country radio. The odd cut out, “Solitary Man,” is a haunting plaint worthy of the Mavericks, or even Chris Isaak—don’t hear them much on K-Bull, now do ya? —BF

MEGAN PETERS Queen’s Bed (Sweet Receiver) Missing last year’s local CD round-up by barely a week, Megan Peters’ sweet ’n’ solid sophomore album has had a full 12 months to knit its way into the collective consciousness. The result? Yep, more critical raves for the clip pile, because Queen’s Bed is still one gorgeous set of urban cowgirl blues and countrified folk tunes that’s intimate enough to make you cry, yet strong enough to let you know there’s no need for that kind of girly crap. —BF

PROMISQUES Gehenna (Pandora Enterprises) As sexy as a cherry red Corvette and heavier than said ’vette parked on your skull, Salt Lake City’s premiere (formerly) all-female death-metal band Promisques would scare the bejesus out of Gayle Ruzicka if she knew of the pure evil residing right here in Zion—let’s send her a few copies of Gehenna, OK? The stamina, speed and sepulchral symphonics of this five-track CD are impressive as (dare it be said?) hell, regardless of gender and geography. —BF

GLEN REGISTER Just So You Know (Glen Register) There are so many female singer-songwriters in Salt Lake City that a male with a new release is rare. Glen Register works singer-songwriter territory in a pop fashion. Information on who played what and where the recording was created and nearly everything else, except lyrics, is missing. I could make some guesses based upon the slick sound and lightness of the playing, but it’s better not to. Just So You Know is a pleasant disc hiding deeper messages between the lyrical lines. —WA

SALIVA SISTERS Delusions of Granger (Saliva Sisters) “This CD—15 years in the making and 15 minutes in the mixing—exemplifies the Saliva Sisters philosophy. Get as far as you can go on as little as possible,” goes just one of the many quotable quotes from Utah institution (not yet institutionalized) the Saliva Sisters—Byla (Kristen Merril), Plethora (Michelle Nunley) and Uvula (Rebecca Terry Heal). Is Delusions of Granger as funny and musical as the seemingly endless local hype would have you believe? Much to the chagrin of jaded critic-types, yes. The hysterical (and still not dated) “Merrill Don’t Lose Your Marbles,” taking off from “Ricky Don’t Lose That Number,” nearly wipes out any recollection of Steely Dan—the Sisters are heroines for that alone. You’d think they could crank out an album more often than every 15 years, though … —BF

SATANIC BLACK Satan Speaks (Unholy Goat Productions) Satanic Black is a local death metal/black metal duo with a large following at Don’t be fooled by others claiming Satan as their Lord: Jason Black and Thadeus James are serious! While the songs describe acts of unholy violence, the duo won’t be attacking small children or neighborhood beasts in the neighborhood anytime soon. —WA

SEA OF JONES Little Kings (Sea of Jones) Delivering pure pop for now people in Zion is a thankless job, and Sea of Jones isn’t expecting a Hallmark card for recording this gem: 13 hook-laden rock songs, split between three vocalists, that sound as if they were knocked out in the relaxed atmosphere of a garage—the cleanest, best-sounding garage on the block. Just don’t mention Portland. —BF

TEMPER Subhuman (Temper Entertainment) With a name like Temper and a professed metal sound, one would expect complete rage. Temper begins with rage, but they also have some ability with pretty ballads. From the breast-beating of “Mad Dog” to the lovely of “Subhuman” and “F.E.A.R.” to the rage of “Intro-Mental” and the slow grind of “Long Hard Look,” Temper have more depth than the common everyday metal ensemble. And they have some clever lyrics that will make you laugh. If you must play metal, play it with a Temper. —WA

THIRSTY ALLEY We’re Thirsty Alley (Thirsty Alley) How could representatives of our community possibly select Thirsty Alley to participate in Portland’s North by Northwest Music & Media Conference? What are they, nuts? Like a Fellini film shot in 3D claymation, Thirsty Alley will do that to unsuspecting brains. Balancing the bizarre with the brilliant, Thirsty Alley’s fictitiously named musicians can play anything and everything—yes, even those difficult blues—with otherworldly skills, preferably all within the same song. Just let sanity melt away into something far, far cooler. Our community will better for it. —BF

THROWAWAY GENERATION Tomorrow’s Too Late (Cyclone) A punky Logan rock & roll band signed to a New Hampshire indie label? Hey, it still qualifies as local. Somewhere on the stylistic highway between Social Distortion City and Rancid Heights, Throwaway Generation’s brand of never-say-die punk doesn’t go out of style because it is style, pure and simple. Despite what your ringing ears may tell you, this is hopeful stuff. Guess you’ve gotta have something to keep yourself going in Logan. —BF

THUNDERFIST Trash Culture (El Chango Grande) Ever crushed a beer can on your forehead? Try it with a full keg and you’ve got an idea of the sheer rock terror/hilarity inflicted by Thunderfist, a deceptively literate punk machine that’ll make old-schoolers misty for the days of D.R.I. and PBR. Singer Jeremy Cardenas has something to say about every stupid little thing the media feeds us—sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s impossible to tell. Now that’s punk. —BF

TOPAZ HENRY This Machine Kills Fascists (Henry Topaz) As many times as I’ve listened to Henry Topaz since a copy visited my house, I still can’t believe it. This cat sings and writes like Bob Dylan. His backing band can get a groove going that would cause a whore to sweat from exertion. Topaz has the harmonica hanging from his neck, and he has the acoustic guitar gripped, and he’s got a poem in his head and a life of tragedy. —WA

TRIGGER LOCKS Broken Halo (HoldYerFire Music) Alternative-country? Americana? What the hell are the Trigger Locks, anyway? Broken Halo kicks off with “Dirty 12,” a rocker filled to the brim with fuzz-ugly guitars and hollerin’ choruses. Then, “July Snow” twangs it back to the honky-tonk. Later, “Mind Over Morals” hitches a ride to Whiskeytown, and “Aleyska Rag” throws a square dance at the barn on the edge of town. These guys are all over the place, but the constant is the sweetly ragged harmonies and attention to detail—B3 organ here, fiddle there, perfect guitars of all breeds everywhere and 13 songs that count, no filler. Broken Halo is one of the best complete song cycles ever produced in Salt Lake City, and the Trigger Locks are one of the best, period. —BF

UNLUCKY BOYS Fat, Drunk, Bastard! (Unlucky Boys) Somewhere, somehow, Provo’s Unlucky Boys got tagged as a rockabilly band—if this porn-fueled, sweat-soaked hick-rock rave-up is passing for rockabilly, the purists must have gone on vacation. The band on Fat, Drunk, Bastard! is an entirely different animal than the one you may have seen falling off the stage at your friendly neighborhood dive. It’s actually (gulp!) musical, with some unexpectedly sophisticated instrumentation. Don’t worry, it’s dumb ’n’ loud, too. —BF

VARIOUS ARTISTS SLUG Compilation: Filthy Bunnies & Teenage Tramps (Mafioso Records) Some you’ve heard about, some you’ve never heard of, some you haven’t heard from in years, some you’ll never want to hear again—that’s the thumbnail for this double-CD compilation of local music from SLUG magazine. A grand total of 41 wildly varying bands from SLC past and present are represented, but track 18 on Disc 2 is still missing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Kung Fu Grip cut. —BF

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Wedding CD (Sky Songs Music) This compilation of (mostly) unreleased new tracks from Wendy Ohlwiler, Glade, Gina French, David Prill, Bryan Honeyville, Melissa Warner, Gene Deal, Kris Zeeman, Lisa Verzella and—the compiler herself—Stacey Board, is a great sampler of the local neo-folkie set. It’s not just acoustic guitars and vocals (trumpeter Lisa Verzella, featured below, closes with the 14-minute “Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra”), and every track’s a keeper. Even better, because it’s subtitled Salt Lake City Compilation No. 1, more could be forthcoming. Keep watching —BF

VEIN MELTER Vein Melter (George Rockwell Sound) Vein Melter is James Holder, Jeremy Nielsen, Brian Hardy and Patrick Young. The production could be called an EP because there are only six songs, but the length, nearly 45 minutes, makes it an album. Instrumental rock is hardly the ticket to fame and glory these days. What Vein Melter does is highly reminiscent of the Dixie Dregs or some other fusion act from the late ’70s. Some might place a progressive-rock tag on the project, but I’ll stick with fusion. —WA

VELL-KRO Credentials (Vell-Kro) It’s not that rap-metal unilaterally sucks—the real problem with most bands is simply a lack of skills behind the mic. Situation solved here: Vell-Kro not only has the requisite Godzilla crunch-groove goin’ on, but an authoritative MC in frontman Smoke, who spits critic-killin’ lyrics while hanging 10 on the edge of control. Coupled with bassist Brannon Murphy’s virtuoso carpet-bombing in the sub-funk levels, it’s a lethal combo. Welcome to the Terrordome, SLC style—and do not miss the comedy bit at the end of the disc. —BF

LISA VERZELLA Twentieth Century Trumpet (L&V Records) I’m not even going to pretend to have the necessary credentials to review a CD of classical music—classical trumpet music, no less. That said, Verzella—who plays with the Utah Chamber Orchestra and the Utah Symphony—has crafted an alternately chilling and pretty album of three movements, culminating with the serious chops display of “Sonata for Bb Trumpet and Piano.” You don’t have to be a music scholar to recognize a dazzling technical player, but it helps. —BF

STEVEN WELLS Blame It on Love (Clumsy Buddha) Adult-alternative grooves dressed up in glam-rock trappings? There are stranger things, and singer Steven Wells along with a cast of local musicians blasts through 11 Wells-penned tunes like it’s a natural blend. Wells’ rough vocals sometimes lean more toward John Cougar than the desired David Bowie on the cross-eyed ballads, but the rock & roll moments achieve Billion Dollar Babies nirvana—that was before Alice Cooper discovered golf and sobriety, kiddies. —BF

JAMES WOODS Mood Swing (Cypher) After years of hard rock hammering with ASA, singer James Woods retired from metal and struck out into romantic, groove-oriented pop. Thing is, he doesn’t really sound that much different, which is the ultimate sign of a guy with his own style. Moodswing is top-drawer adult-alternative music with brains and a beat—naturally, he’s since moved to San Diego (not Portland!), but you can find him at —BF

WOOLF-BELL BAND Looking Forward (Woolf-Bell Band) At first I tossed this CD off as just another local bar band treading in familiar hippie jam-band muck. However, spend some time with Looking Forward, and you’ll discover a deep Neil Young influence. Neil Young is still cool, I think. “Looking Forward” is so Neil Young that the Woolf-Bell Band could have lifted it directly from a session out-take around the time of Harvest. Along with the Neil Young fixation comes the boogie, the blues and the country. —WA

WORMDRIVE Speed Capitol of the World (Redneck Roundup) Wormdrive titled the disc appropriately. This meth problem simply has to go! There are a bunch of young punk bands coming up around Salt Lake and Utah counties, and each and every one of them should check out Wormdrive. Live is best, but the new release can serve as an instruction manual. Bare-bones rock & roll is the emphasis. They call it punk rock these days, and they called it punk rock in the old days. But punk rock has changed some from the old days. Like a steak on a black eye, Wormdrive soothes the pain and shrinks the swelling. —WA

YOUNG C-MAJOR Ice Cold (Lazy Boss Records) Nothing like some local misogynist rap to get the joint jumping—or is that blunts smoking? Young C-Major comes from the old school. That means the old school currently hugely fashionable among young, suburban, white males and maybe a few females. It’s all about the crime and the pussy and the ’hood. Local hip-hop easily competing with the national acts doesn’t seem possible, but as Young C-Major proves, it’s here. Hopefully, the local hip-hop crews will catch up soon. —WA