August 8, 2008

Local Bands Rock Dance Jams

By Jason Bracelin

Solar-powered pop and death you can dance to top this month's roundup of local releases:

THIS ROMANTIC TRAGEDY, "Like Drama, Like Karma" ( thsromantictragedy): It sounds like a dance party thrown in an abattoir, a mix of concussive, butt quakin' beats and the anguished screams of the dying.

That's these dudes' twist on the increasingly staid screamo ranks, buffering the subgenre's trademarks (hair-on-fire vox, burly thrash riffs, breakdowns galore) with pockets of bright synth, electronic handclaps and lots of processed vocals.

As such, their tunes swing from near-death metal dirges to wide- eyed pop from one breath to the next. Sure, they could definitely stand to ease up on the processed singing a bit, but at least they're attempting to offer a whiff of fresh air in a scene suffocated in sameness.

A PENNY FOR JANE, "A Penny for Jane EP" ( apennyforjane): Chances are, you've heard this bunch without even knowing it: Their tunes have been played on a smattering of TV shows, from "Friday Night Lights" to "The OC,""Smallville" to "America's Next Top Model."

And understandably so: The band comes with the kind of polished, heart-in-the-throat pop rock meant to soundtrack big kisses and those climactic moments where the bad guy finally gets what's coming to him. Frontman Anthony Valentino sings in a pleading lilt, backed by swelling guitars and layered harmonies. The group doesn't attempt to add too many pages to the radio-friendly, alt-rock playbook, but they mostly run the right routes regardless.

RED HOT RADIO, "That's What We Said" ( "I'm too aware of all the things I feel," Red Hot Radio frontman Kevin O'Connell confesses on "Sell Everything I Know," a soft-hued nugget from a band whose emotions are as bare as the staff at Scores.

Driven by frisky guitar interplay, cooing harmonies and more smiles than a roomful of lottery winners, the band's debut comes on like one prolonged pop pep talk.

"I'd need 2,000 pounds to bring me down," O'Connell announces at one point on a disc that's a pretty tempting invitation to join him in the clouds.

DJ SCOTT STUBBS, "Retro Mix" ( A trip back through the '80s and '90s without the ugly specter of voodoo economics or parachute pants, this consistently enjoyable mix tears through two decades of hits at a hyperventilating pace. Stubbs slices and dices a jukebox worth of rock and pop standards, veering from the Eurythmics ("Here Comes the Rain Again") to Nirvana ("Lithium"), employing a battery of cresting synth lines and hydraulic beats to render even Def Leppard's "Photograph" dance floor-worthy.

If nothing else, the mix proves that at least something fun came from the Reagan era.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at [email protected] or 702-383-0476.

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