Here are some short reviews of four recent local band releases that I’ve been listening to for the last several weeks. Check ‘em out and see what you think.
• Bash, “Black Swan Theory” — Local heavy rock fans who’ve watched this band — which started at Eastwood High School — grow up will notice a growth spurt here. Bash has never sounded better or tighter than it does on “Black Swan Theory.” While singer and writer Sebastian Felix, whose dad and band bankroller Peter Felix III exec produced, still has a ways to go as a singer and a lyricist, he comes into his own here. L.A. producer Noah Shain, who’s worked with Atreyu and produced Dead Sara’s strong debut, helmed the sessions at Tornillo’s world-class Sonic Ranch studios, and seems to have upped the ante for young Felix’s quartet. Whether he’s fuming over a breakup (the subject of a few songs), lamenting the loss of a loved one (“Angel”) or defending his decision not to get mixed up with drugs (“Outcast”), young Felix has graduated from aping his musical influences to finding his own voice. bashtheband.com; facebook.com/bashthebandofficial.
• Frontera Bugalu, “Frontera Bugalu” — Former Fuga! frontman Kiko Rodriguez, whose band specialized in a politicized blend of rock and Mexican traditional music, strapped on an accordion a few years back and decided to put his imprint on boogaloo, a New York-based blending of R&B and mambo from the 1960s. Kiko’s new band adds a Mexican musical accent and punk urgency to the music that made Fania Records and Willie Colon famous. From the opening notes of “Sácame a Bailar,” with Joel Osvaldo’s salsa piano splashes and Adrian Perez’s spindly Mexican harp, it’s clear Bugalu is out to stretch some boundaries.It’s music for the hips and the head. The multi-talented Amalia Castro contributes “Embarazar,” a soulfully jazzy vocal (think a Latina Erykah Badu) song about pregnancy. You could take Rodriguez’s salsafied “Rompe Las Cadenas (Break the Chains)” a few ways. “Frontera Bugalu” is seven songs of heart, soul and a conscience that you can dance to. fronterabugalu.com; facebook.com/fronterabugalu.
• The Iveys, “Days & Nights” — This brother-and-two-sisters trio from Tornillo came on like a breath of fresh air a couple of years ago with a sound rooted in ‘70s folk-pop-rock and breezy natural harmonies reminiscent of Stevie Nicks-Lindsey Buckingham-Christine McVie-era Fleetwood Mac. With a lot of touring and singer-songwriter Arlen Ivey’s vocal problems behind them, the trio returns with a six-song collection that deepens their sound but doesn’t necessarily grow it much.Arlen is the main writer and singer. He has a gift for compelling melodies, which lend themselves well to his restrained, lyrical vocal style on songs like “Falling,” which local pop and public radio should be playing, and first single “Lady Made of Stone.” But even though there’s only six songs on “Days & Nights,” there’s a sameness that wears a bit thin at times. A little more variety wouldn’t hurt. It may be time for the group to start sharing the lead vocal and songwriting chores, much like the big Mac did in its glory days. Jillian Ivey makes a solid lead vocal debut on the lilting “Keeping Me Strong.” Makes you want to hear what pianist Jessica Ivey can do. theiveysmusic.com; facebook.com/theiveys.
• Radio La Chusma, “Rasta Mexica” — Frontman, singer and acoustic guitarist Ernesto Tinajero widens the net on the ubiquitous border reggae band’s lively new album. The core band is solid enough, what with the powerful vocal presence of singer-actress Selina Nevarez (her duet with Tinajero on “One and Only One” is a highlight) and David Angerstein’s violin accents. But “Rasta Mexica” is a coat of many musical colors, and a lot of local musicians try it on. Aztec Zodiac guitarist Adriana Esparza, Nosotros multi-instrumentalist Leo Martinez, Liquid Cheese trombonist Marco Guerrero, Jim Ward’s right-hand man Gabe Gonzalez (who engineered and contributed lap steel) and Brit toaster Pato Banton all chime in. “Rasta Mexica” is more musically adventurous than it is lyrically, but Tinajero and crew’s music radiates positivity, respect and love, where it’s their own Mexican reggae manifesto (the title song), the blue-collar tribute “Night Shift” or a song like “Keep the Fire Burning,” which starts with war vet Scoop Valdez going all Southern rock, but turns into a reggaefied shuffle. By the time this 10-song journey is over, Tinajero and merry his band of musical gypsys have crossed the border (sympathizing with those who’ve headed north), ventured deep into the interior and deeper into Tinajero’s Mexican ancestry. It’s infectious stuff. facebook.com/radiolachusma.