Quick Hits 1

Benji, The Damnwells, Dead Celebrities, Fojimoto, Pulp, St. Louis for Peace, The Sayers

BENJI: SECOND BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR

We here at Playback St. Louis count ourselves fortunate to be respected enough by Phil Valencia, ex-Summerhouse songsmith, to receive a two-song preview of his new band’s first disc, due out later this month. If you were a fan of Summerhouse, you’ll find plenty to love about Benji; for the uninitiated, Valencia mixes thoughtful lyrics with heart-stopping rhythms for a combination punch that will have you hooked. Watch for an upcoming CD release near you. | Laura Hamlett

THE DAMNWELLS: HEART HAZARD PMR

The Damnwells were in town recently, opening for Josh Rouse. Like Wayne, the Damnwells have a sound which is downright pleasing. Their sound is a little bit power pop, a little bit alt-country, a little bit modern rock. The Brooklyn quartet gives a very effective and captivating stage show; their self-released six-song EP (available at independent record stores nationwide and at www.thedamnwells.com) also shows glimmers of brilliance, especially on songs such as “Have to Ask” and “Here Comes Everyone,” the latter with the line, “I never hit kissed a boy but I hit a girl/‘You could get in real big trouble,’/she said, ‘in the real world.’” | Laura Hamlett

DEAD CELEBRITIES: CLEANUP ON AISLE 3

Sure, this local punk band may call themselves the Dead Celebrities, and they and they may have a picture of a dead body on the CD cover, but this band’s music couldn’t be any more lively. The band’s 16-track release, Cleanup on Aisle 3, should leave any fan of energetic punk rock, complete with great guitar hooks, feeling swept away.

Lead singer Sid Sinatra is just as entertaining in his recordings as he is when he’s performing live. The man who often encourages male fans to go “talk to girls” during his live shows will no doubt leave listeners singing along to catchy tracks like “X-Ray Eyes” and “Dead Celebrities.” Despite the fact the band begs for “hate mail and insults” inside the CD cover and refers to their music as “crap core,” Cleanup on Aisle 3 is nothing to be thrown away. | John Kujawski

FOJIMOTO: JUST NOW FINDING OUT

Led by ex-St. Louisan Marwan Kanafani, Fojimoto is a Bay-area trio which also includes Jon Fojtik and Ryan Waggoner. Their independently released debut, Just Now Finding Out, is available from their Web site at www.fojimoto.com. Self-described as indie popsters, Fojimoto has that nearly-there sound—as in almost, but not quite. Standout tracks include “Summer Day Parade,” a rocky, headshaking number that transports you to carefree days; “Zig Zag Kid,” the deeper, darker “Map,” and “Upside Down,” with its memorable guitar riffs and singalong lyrics. If you’re still reminiscing about Uncle Tupelo or old R.E.M., then give Fojimoto a try; their sunny alt-country ’n’ pop mix might be just what you need. Catch them at Frederick’s October 4 with the Ambassadors. | Laura Hamlett

PULP: WE LOVE LIFE (SANCTUARY)

Pulp. Formed in 1978. Obscure for too long. Discovered by the masses in the 1990s, seemingly fully formed and amazing. One of those bands some of us hear from time to time by lucky accident. Listen to them. Their new CD, We Love Life (released stateside August 20), is a bitterly amazing album and perfectly timed for a world that has an increasing tendency to view itself in black and white. There is good and there is evil. All too often we are lectured from on high about the rights and wrongs and how we can all get along if we find a nice chorus and just sing the song. Nature, though, does not see life so clearly. Nature is messy. Jarvis Cocker loves nature’s messy world and he uses it as a lens to view society on We Love Life. The album is as fluid and unpredictable as nature. It fascinates and holds attention, while maintaining a wondrous aural groove (with much thanks to producer Scott Walker).

Take a walk through nature with Jarvis Cocker and Pulp. You many not always like the things you find, but they will fascinate you. | Rob Levy

ST. LOUIS FOR PEACE: A COMPILATION FOR CHARITY

Recorded and compiled last fall with all proceeds going to the families of the victims of 9/11, St. Louis For Peace begins with “Freedom in the World,” a “We Are the World”-type original composition penned by Javier Mendoza and Mike Heeley and sung by some of our city’s top crooners. All in all, it’s not a bad disc, with standout tracks from My 2 Planets (“Cydonia”), Somnia (“Open Season”), and Robynn Ragland (“Peace in the Water”). Other familiar names include Just Add Water, Farshid Etniko, Celia, Shine, and Javier Mendoza Band.

The 14 additional tracks offer, at a minimum, an introduction to St. Louis music; even better, you know the contributing artists’ hearts were in the right place when they lent their talents to the making of this disc. Yours can be, too; pick up a copy at all the local independents. | Laura Hamlett

THE SAYERS: UNTITLED 6-SONG EP

Formerly The Turnstyles, The Sayers are a local foursome with an ear toward melodic pop. Though the sound’s a bit unpolished, the music’s pleasing enough, evoking an era when sand and surfboards were more prevalent than sex and semiautomatic weapons. Tony Franco has a smooth-as-silk voice when he sings; not so much when’s shouting. We’re looking forward to checking them out live. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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