Kaki King / Junior / Rounder
It’s taken Kaki King five records of experimenting with complex sounds and emotions for the guitarist to finally reach out to the ears of average listeners. Junior isn’t just another release from the Georgia musician. Instead, it’s everything her admirers (Dave Grohl, actor Sean Penn) revel in, but cocooned in an indie rock shell that’s rigid on the outside with a tender core. Both her words and guitar licks are poetic and spiteful, as they portray King’s instrumental ability to produce guitar melodies that tease, anger and even drug, a trait some modern guitarists in this lifetime severely lack.
Download: “Spit It Back In My Mouth”, “Sunnyside”
The Spill Canvas / Realities EP / Warner
For those who haven’t noticed, The Spill Canvas are getting on fans’ nerves. While announcing they’ve been working on a follow-up to their 2007 release No Really, I’m Fine, they’ve polluted the Internet airwaves with a cover of a Ke$ha track and a three-song EP that sees them favor pop moods perfect for teen magazines like BOP and Tiger Beat. Then they issue Realities, a new EP that’s less hearthrob but still lacks the creative angst singer Nick Thomas once reeked of. If “Our Song” and “Dust Storm” are proof of what’s to come (and possibly a Taylor Swift duet), then maybe it’s time followers anticipate other releases that show signs of progression, not trails of descent.
Download: “Our Song”
Jason Castro / Jason Castro / Warner
The Texas singer captured the hearts of teenage girls and their moms with his laid-back nature on American Idol, but now with the release of his debut album, the hippy vibe has disappeared. Jason Castro surprisingly traded in creativity for a mainstream pop spotlight reeking of lines about love, isolation and oh, love. The self-titled record uses an acoustic sound to embrace the songwriter’s polished vocals, but it does little to truly reveal a style reality television viewers cradled because it was different.
Download: “Let’s Just Fall In Love Again”
Amber Pacific / Virtues / Victory
Bands have lost and gained vocalists but none like the Seattle pop punk quintet have fallen this hard. Bloodied and scarred after losing singer Matt Young, Virtues is a crippled representation of what a band sounds like after they’ve seen their dear trademark sound depart. Mixing in a new guitarist is a great addition, but lead vocalist Jesse Cottam’s 70s’ glam rock voice collides (not fornicates) with the acclaimed vintage pop punk sound. In a way, it’s bearable, but it’s really the outcome of dropping Airbourne and Yellowcard into a blender and holding your finger on the “Pulse” button.