After a hot minute, Mail Call returns in a slightly revamped format...
Pick of the Litter
Diagonals (Austin), Valley of the Cyclops (Monofonus Press)
They Say: "A sweet-and-sour dark-pop soundtrack for the dawn of the post-Bush era."
Rocks Off Says: Loose-fitting, lo-fi melodic garage that may have been inspired by a bong hit or two (think the desiccated Sub Pop '90s blues of Chicago's Red Red Meat). Never cooks, never stalls, but Steve Garcia's lyrics keep it interesting - "Suitcase Packed" is a no-punches-pulled tour diary, and it's hard not to smile at titles like "Clown Fucker" and "Neil Diamond Blues."
Coming Through?: Only one hometown Austin show is listed on Diagonals' MySpace page (February 6, Emo's), but undercover Houstonians the Octopus Project are fans - Diagonals opened OP's Warehouse Live show last year - so don't rule it out. Rudz and the Mink should both make the appropriate overtures.
Fun Facts: Diagonals' keyboardist is Dazed and Confused and Waking Life co-star Wiley Wiggins. CD comes with I Could Be Happy, an R. Crumb-ish comic by Michael Berryhill starring a ventriloquist's dummy (or is it?) with an attitude.
More to come...
Fountains of Wayne (New Jersey), No Better Place: Live in Chicago (Shout! Factory, DVD): "The band's warm, feel-good vibe has long endeared them to fans, and this performance catches them unleashing the hooks and humor that have made them champions of power pop."
Coming Through?: All that's listed now is a brief acoustic tour of the Northeast.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Lightning Rod): "It's not simply that [Isbell] lives in Florence, Alabama, just outside Muscle Shoals, nor that he recorded Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the famed FAME studio there. That guarantees nothing."
Coming Through?: Not at the moment, though a road dog like ex-Drive-By Truckers hand Isbell will be here eventually.
Various Artists, The Best of Chess Records (Universal Music Group): "Includes some of the most important recordings of the '50s and '60s from some of modern music's most important artists - every one of them a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Coming Through?: In a matter of speaking - these songs are all featured in Cadillac Records, due on DVD March 10. Also makes a very nice, if up-the-middle, introduction to the seminal Chicago label and mid-century American R&B in general.
Fun Fact: Little Walter's "Last Night" is the only original Chess track featured in Cadillac Records; all the others are remakes. Alumna Etta "Beyonce Who?" James just signed on for House of Blues April 25.
Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves (Austin), Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You (8-Track Mind): "While Your Nearest Exit... is the most varied Sudden Moves effort to date, both rhythmically and lyrically, the bon mots flow very quickly and rarely overstay their welcome."
Coming Through?: Yes, at Meridian's Merge + Music + Fest, April 11 with a slew of other Houston and Austin bands. Perhaps before that, too.
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Burn Halo (Orange County), Burn Halo: "A dynamic, gripping collection of gritty rock songs that immediately engage their listener."
Coming Through?: February 12 at Meridian with Escape the Fate, Black Tide and Attack Attack!
Carlon (New Jersey), Johari Window (Ropeadope): "Features the infectious single 'Cantaloupe,' an irresistable display of Beatles and Pink Floyd influences."
Coming Through?: Playing Ropeadope's SXSW showcase in Austin March 19. No Houston date listed (yet).