Ellul Ellul (Sounds Are Active). Just another Radiohead rip-off? Only until you grasp Ellul's reasons for calling its style "contemporary vocal music" by digging into upfront lyrics about "the painful history of a transplanted Haitian son." Intriguing music and vocals give this debut two legs to stand on.
Shaken Prose & Cons (D&M Records). Adult pop-rock out of San Rafael featuring earnest vocals, light ska rhythms, and a dash of metal from "Mega" Dave Henderson's Flying-V guitar. Sounds a little flaccid on record, but could make for a fun live show.
Cast of Thousands This Is Where I Confess (self-released). Over and over again, right as it starts getting good, Cast of Thousands reverts to predictable post-hardcore mode. The sublime moments of clarity will remain outnumbered until this band develops a sharper sense of identity.
French Disco Mirror Stage EP (self-released). The name's not as misleading is it may seem. French Disco plays stylish, subtly droning rock with lyrics in French and English. Mirror Stage succeeds as a teaser, and a full album of the stuff would likely go down just as well.
The Hot Toddies Smell the Mitten (Asian Man Records). The Hot Toddies tread close to novelty terrain on this quirky debut. Chipmunk voices singing simple pop songs beholden to doo-wop, surf, and folk memes and loaded with sexual innuendo is cute for only so long. So it goes for the line You are so swell, just like DSL/You touched my modem, you touched my modem.