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Dead Highway: Dead Highway [Independent]

Dead Highway

The brainchild of singer/songwriter Brandon James Olson is the soundtrack to the open road, and true to its title, Dead Highway is modestly scaled and simply structured; the groovy insouciance established in opener ‘Desert Wind’ continues throughout. But even within these confines, Olson rarely retraces his steps: ‘New Mexico’ pogoes to the new wave boogie of Elvis Costello, while ‘Velvet Hand Hills’ borrows from the nerdy, guitar-driven power-pop of Weezer, and to a lesser extent, Big Star. A personal triumph.

The Off White: The Off White [EP]

theoffwhite

Ah, to be young and reckless. The New Jersey ensemble’s self-titled debut sounds like it was written and recorded in about six hours, with one set of eyes on the clock and the other on the wallet. This isn’t a criticism. In fact, if anything, it’s a positive. The band’s effortless execution of ragged guitar-punk stays true to the genre’s off-the-cuff aesthetic, not to mention their youthful exuberance.

Hombre Lobo Internacional: Hombre Lobo Internacional [EP]

Hombreloboin

Anyone who has seen Hombre Lobo Internactional in the flesh will know that this isn’t your average garage band. Firstly, there is no band. What you’re greeted with is a charismatic individual who has pilfered from David Bowie’s dressing up-box, and wacked on a Halloween mask for good measure; its creepy, bizarre and intriguing. Now for the music: If you’re into shock and sleaze and over-the-top bravado, this forlorn brand of trashy, voodoo rockabilly is for you. If not, you may want to move along.

The Midnight Dealers: Of Crows and Storks [EP]

Midnight Dealers

Costa Rica isn’t exactly known for its thriving rock scene. However, this San José four-piece are looking to start a revolution. Having quietly released a series of EP’s since 2012, Of Crows and Storks is their strongest work to date; it’s a record packed with fabulous leads and funky rhythms from a collective filled with soul.

Meticulous Women: Meticulous Women [Independent]

Meticulous Women

Meticulous Women’s groovy approach owes as much to the Cramps and the Seeds as it does to anything else. Combining rock’n’roll high-school naivety with biting punk-rock energy, every track on this sinister debut is a charming fumble-in-the-back-seat anthem. Who said romance was dead?

1886: 1886 [EP]

1886

The song remains the same: Every chord and drum roll harkens back to an Aquarian age, when paisley and platforms were the norm, and leather and denim ruled supreme. 1886’s debut EP is nothing that you haven’t heard before, and while this is clear proof that everything old is new again, there are few bands armed with the passion and the talent to create something worth revisiting.

Black Fruit: Black Fruit [EP]

Black Fruit

The opening seconds of ‘You & I’ – a howling, barroom guitar swoon – spell out Black Fruit’s manifesto perfectly. Clinging to the back of Dan Auerbach’s El Camino, the Spaniard’s slidin’-and-a-jammin’ energy elevates them above their peers.

Mariposa: Mariposa [EP]

Mariposa

Accomplished Chicago-based musician, Benjamin Gates, is the mastermind behind Mariposa, and his debut EP aims to “help people [to] love Mother Earth, and each other, in a more positive way.” Throw in a few Fire and Water licks alongside altruism values and you’ve got one of the most uplifting releases of the year so far.

Forest of Beards: Forest of Beards [EP]

forestofbeards

Forest of Beards are a Galliac trio whose roots lie in loud, raucous rock, which is all very well – many have built a career on testotorone-fuelled anguish. However, this one-dimensional approach often obsures their songwriting nous: The brooding swoon of ‘Desert’ is beautiful and haunting in equal measure. Maybe the Beards should rethink their schtick?

Hollow Sun [Demo]

HollowSun

Looks can be deceiving: Fuzzy guitars? Check. Soulful vocals? Check. Californian stoners? Err, no. Based in the Ukraninan coastal city of Odessa, Hollow Sun are a band laying on the beach of a primordial ocean, wondering where the chicks have got to, and why the beers are salty.

Evil Can Evil: Winter Rider [Independent]

EvilCanEvil

Everyone needs Winter Rider: How else are you going to get through the post-Christmas blues? The follow-up to 2010’s self-titled effort continues to milk the ‘no-filler, all-killer’ aesthetic of blues-rock titans Clutch, not to mention the weighty, fuzzed-out approach of Fu Manchu. Impressively consistent from beginning to end, Evil Can Evil are a rare commodity in the world of modern-day rock: They churn out grooves that truly matter.

T​-​Rex Quiet: T​-​Rex Quiet [Self-Release]

T-Rex Quiet

The debut from this Italian trio is based on a very un-2014 approach. The very idea of freeweeling funk-meets-psychedelica in a world driven by new technologies and urban ideologies seems almost obsurd. However, there’s an against-the-odds chrisma about T-Rex Quiet that worked equally well for the Palm Desert clan of yesteryear, and like the band’s aforementioned heroes, T-Rex Quiet have a charm of their own.