The Well Wishers, Dreaming of the West Coast
The fact that San Francisco surf rock group The Well Wishers starts its album with a kiss-off track called "Escape the Light" suggests that the whole thing is supposed to be a travelogue — or maybe a homecoming. And every song is more pleasant if you read it through either of those lenses. The music is bubbly, unvarying, backbeat-laden surf rock with a few dorky jokes. Singer Jeff Shelton is at his most British on "Have Some More Tea." (Thatwasmyskull Music)
Adios Amigo, Adios Amigo
This indie pop group bolsters itself with warm, murky harmonies and lovely, listless vocals. All four instrumentalists sing on every song, and the resulting music is more akin to British invasion-style rock than contemporary pop — three-part harmonies rather than a lead over backing vocals. Most tracks start with a tantalizingly drawn-out major seventh chord. Sometimes the musicians hover on one tonal center for an entire song, the same way a painter might obsess over a single color. They're forgiven. (self-released)
Junior Toots, A Little Bit of Love
I don't know very much about reggae, so I outsourced this review to fellow Express employee and self-proclaimed reggae enthusiast Ben Grambergu. "Track 8 was by far my favorite. I think it was the best example of him mixing his dad's sound with his own take on it. That, along with his live shows, is going to be the key to his success." Toots' dad is reggae vocalist Toots Hibbert, which makes him part of a dynasty. (self-released)
A'Jae, "Six Sins" and "Beautiful Baby"
Delivered in a style that's somewhere between a sermon, a spoken-word poem, and the regular dispensing-of-advice, A'Jae's raps are as disarming as they are simple and plainspoken — perhaps they're disarming for being so plainspoken. I never thought I was a queen, she broods with an audible sigh on "Six Sins." The song sounds more like a girl's diary entry than a conventional rap, and its earnestness makes up for what it lacks in artistry. (Musik Maniak)