Like peanut butter & jelly, Secret Abilities and Danger Button complement one another perfectly on this split album. Where Secret Abilities’ surf-y, Cramps-esque punk lurks in dark alleyways, Danger Button’s synth-happy pop punk shoots rainbow lasers as it flies through space, but they find commonality through clever and often humorous lyrics about love. For this album, both bands contributed two new songs as well as a cover of a previously released song by the other band, and it’s fun to see them take those songs and put their own spin on them. For example, the original version of “Sophie” is snappy and filled with ’80s pop-influenced synths, but Secret Abilities’ take on it is slow and sexy, featuring a creeping bass line and Tink Safeer’s brassy voice. Danger Button’s songwriting has one of its best moments in “Beautiful Boring”—about an awkward romance between a partier and a homebody—especially in the line “I won’t skinny-dip ’cause I don’t think that’s right.”
April 12, self-released, SecretAbilities.bandcamp.com, DangerButton.bandcamp.com
The debut album from indie-rock/punk foursome Strong Words can be tough to listen to, but not because the songs are poorly written or the sound isn’t pleasing to the ear. On the contrary, Strong Words have created something truly special in Come Clean, a chilled-out dreamscape of atmospheric guitar and breathy vocals. But the pragmatic manner with which lead vocalist/guitarist Cathy Foy delivers her introspective lyrics—about love ending, feeling uncertain and the complicated connections between people—is sobering. The 10-track album begins with “Come Clean,” which seems to entreat an emotionally closed-off person to communicate honestly: “Speak your mind to me/ Let your voice come clean.” Things seem to pick up in the handclap-heavy snappiness of “Youthful Dream,” but the line “We tend to break each other apart” is unabashedly clear-eyed in its finality. “Collision” encapsulates the doubt that can creep into romantic relationships: “I know I don’t know the movement of your heart.” On Come Clean, Strong Words say the truths and fears that perhaps we were too afraid to think about.
April 12, self-released, StrongWords.bandcamp.com
I could imagine these four dudes getting a packed bar grooving, but take away the alcohol and visual spectacle, and alt-reggae outfit Herban Empire just sounds like another band that has 311 and Sublime posters plastered all over their practice space. Singing silly bro-style lyrics about smoking weed out of bongs, being horny and “dancing to that funky beat,” Herban Empire is all about the good times. The vocal harmonies are pleasant and the instrumentation is solid, especially the duel guitar lines on the easy-flowing “Thank You” and “What’s Supposed to Be,” and the chugging rock-influenced guitar on “Soda Pop,” which is a cool change-up of the album’s overall beach-y feel. The fake Jamaican accents sprinkled throughout the five-song EP, though, are terrible. But, hey, if amber is the color of your energy, Herban Empire could very well be your next favorite band.
April 19, self-released, ReverbNation.com/HerbanEmpire