I AM GIANT, Science & Survival (Sony Music)
New Zealand quartet I AM GIANT is back with a second set of heavy, dynamic rock music that defies trends. Offering a sound somewhat reminiscent of Lostprophets, Blindside and even early Thirty Seconds to Mars, Science & Survival excels on the strength of Ed Martin’s acrobatic vocals, backed by giant guitar riffs, machine-precise rhythms and surprisingly catchy melodies. Even when I AM GIANT takes a breather from its insistent wall of sound on songs such as the lush, almost delicate “Dragging the Slow Dance Out,” the music is still sonically interesting and emotionally compelling.
Alejandra O’Leary and the Champions of the West, Heartspace Timepiece (Self-released)
With a sound as diverse as the cultural mix hinted by her name, Portland, Oregon-spawned, Detroit-based singer-songwriter Alejandra O’Leary leads her band through nine songs spanning the breadth of popular rock music’s history. From the opening track (“Now Now”)—which shifts from moody grind to rollicking rave-up—to the bratty, Blondie-esque “Talk Me Down,” Heartspace Timepiece works despite its scattershot approach, even when the band approximates an alt-country pose on songs such as “Windows.”
Vow, Make Me Yours, (The Native Sound)
Deviating from the rest of its 1980s-revivalist peers, Los Angeles-based duo Vow’s latest recording—a woefully short five-song EP—eschews radio-friendly dance-floor ditties in favor of dark, driving songs that owe more than just a small debt to Cocteau Twins. Featuring the rich, sultry vocals of Julia Blake, songs such as “Miles Away” and “Palm” build on multi-instrumentalist Andrew Thomas’ rumbling bass lines and programmed drum-machine beats to create the perfect soundtrack for a rainy day.