MAGIC BULLET THEORY, POST-DEPRESSIONISM (WWW.MAGICBULLETTHEORY.NET) Tampa band Magic Bullet Theory this year released its debut, Post-Depression, a collection of tightly crafted alterna-rock. The five-piece band takes all the right elements of brainy groups such as Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins and churns out thinking people's pop without all the pretension.
MBT has a special weapon in front guy Dustin Buchheister. The singer-guitarist writes terrific lyrics that put refreshing spins on love and the old ennui to bigger concerns such as global affairs and coming into adulthood. Buchheister sings it all in an appealing voice that quivers into a Thom Yorke-like falsetto here and there. Guitarist Darren Doughty packs on another layer; on Slush and other tunes the sound calls to mind Queen's Brian May.
If the "rat tat tat of war" of Combat and the soulless folks living on their Visas in Vintage Skyline mess with your head, there is cheer elsewhere. Billy Tinley's keyboards give Sugar On The Girl a spritely touch. Just don't listen to the lyrics. Buchheister has a commentary on drama-hungry youth these days: Baby, you're no one if you're okay.
TIMEWELLSPENT, TIMEWELLSPENT (WWW.PARASOL.COM) Timewellspent is a duo from Fort Lauderdale whose eponymous debut album was produced by Thom Monahan of the Pernice Brothers. Singer-guitarist Casey Fundaro and Christopher Moll, who plays guitar, piano and various other instruments (vibes, glockenspiel, percussion), write the dreamiest of pop.
If you love the sophistication and airiness of Burt Bacharach tunes, the harmonies of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the layers of 1970s Pink Floyd, you will sink into the songs of timewellspent.
The album is a bit conceptual, beginning and ending with brief instrumentals, Hello and Goodbye, and linked by a couple of interludes.
I Want To Tell You uses Fundaro's gentle vocals, snappy bossanova-ish percussion, gurgling synths and backing harmonies to form the sweetest pop confection. The spacey, downtempo Anyone to Be and the morosely witty piano ballad Millionaire call to mind the Flaming Lips and more modern groups. The horns and maracas of Probably would likely delight Bacharach. Miss the Zombies and all the trippy, organ-fueled psychedelic greats of the 1960s? Crank up Sitting by the Window.
You'd think all this genre hopping would come across as a fragmented mess, but timewellspent sounds surprisingly whole, a collection of smart pop, with the best of influences.
JULLIET, PSYCHO BOYFRIEND (WWW.METAMAYHEM.COM) Do you miss old-school hard rock? The real stuff, without hip-hop beats and synthesizers? Pick up Psycho Boyfriend, Julliet's latest, to remember how it's properly done.
Singer Kenny McGee has been a staple on the local scene for years, and fans know well his growl. McGee is in excellent company with guitar dynamo Jimmy Delisi and fine bassist Ty Westerhoff. (The trio is joined by guest drummer Joe Zaccari and other musicians.)
Delisi gets down to business with riffs galore on opener Quarter Past Four. Check out his dicey shredding and sumptuous bluesy leads on Black Sky.
The band writes songs above and beyond your typical cheesy arena rock. Check out the fancy structures, clever bridges and charming doo doo doo backing vocals on You Said So, where McGee's growl is fine-tuned into a higher wail, a la Ozzy back in his Sabbath days.
Westerhoff, the noble bassist, knows just when to pack it on, thumping with all his might, and when to lay back, letting a note or two do the talking. Subtlety, sometimes, is all it takes. Bravo to these tough guys for the powerful message that gentleness is strong on Love Lights the Day. Also, for having a bit of wit, or did you miss the clever song title Nothing Rhymes With Rachael?
JEN SHAMRO, YOU NEED IT (WWW.JENSHAMRO.COM) Get this straight: Tampa performer Jen Shamro is not a folksinger. Shamro's not a singer, period. Just because she holds an acoustic guitar, do not mistake Shamro for the next Ani DiFranco. (If elsewhere you've read comparisons of Shamro to female folk singers, please disregard.)
Shamro is a SPOKEN WORD ARTIST. She writes poetry. Shamro writes prose. Then, like punk goddess Lydia Lunch and others in her genre, Shamro sets it to simple music, in her case, edgy, dronish guitar and a bit of percussion.
Shamro rants. She raves. She manipulates her voice. On the daring You Need It, her second full-length album, the 22-year-old is in exquisite form. Consider opener May Today, peppered by simple guitar and the titter of sticks on cymbals. On that track alone, Shamro rolls words fluidly, then spits them out cuttingly, understanding the power is not in just the message, but the delivery.
On Eight Books, Shamro's soulful rolls turn into nearly sensual moans, though the sentiment is resentment: It took you ten months to realize that you don't know the difference between my smile and my frown.
Shamro's delivery on Own This has a nearly R&B cadence. She drops her words out as if they are voluptuous, which is fitting; the piece is about a one-night stand.
Shamro isn't afraid to reveal her personal life, but she's strongest - and funny, too - when she's ranting about social concerns. When she gets political, Shamro's sensibilities are feminist and anticorporate. The title track, the album's best, is a lively commentary on rampant consumerism, filled with wit and biting sarcasm.
THE BEAUVILLES, SINGAPORE (WWW.THEBEAUVILLES.NET) Tampa band the Beauvilles is known as much for its savvy fashion sense as for its sophisticated, stripped-down pop. Led by the charismatic Shawn Beauville (nee Shawn Kyle), the trio plays a delectably romantic style of alternative pop that incorporates elements of folk, jazz and a bit of the ol' blues.
Propelled by Beauville's guitar and hushed vocals - guttural and growling when his emotions get the best of him - the trio is rounded out by bassist Lil' Randy McMillian, who plucks his four strings on an upright and also grabs a cello when need be, and Craig Solomon Holmes on drums.
This under-15-minute E.P. begins, fittingly, with Where We Start, a gorgeous tune that finds our boy Beauville pulling a Jeff Buckley, wooing the lady in question with his lovely melodies, candid lyrics and lilting voice. Can a song get any purtier? Hold on. Within a minute or two, Beauville has erupted into a nearly sexual frenzy both vocally and on his guitar. Yow! Things end on a gentle note as the band winds down with tap taps of percussion and bass.
It's late and we've been drinking, Beauville sings to his girl.
Deep in my heart, that's where we start.
Singapore finds McMillian banging the mess out of his bass; the song's choruses are furious blasts. The driving Gasoline finds Beauville again in a feral state, growling and maniacally shouting "yeah yeah yeah." Oriental Rug is a swingier affair, jazzy and made to shuffle feet to.
WILLIE LOMAX BLUES REVUE, BEST BLUES MONEY CAN BUY (WWW.BIGBOSSBLUES.COM) Don't mistake Willie Lomax and his clan for your typical blues rock combo. These fellas play timeless R&B, Memphis-style soul music, the kind you can move your body to. Sultry, foot-shuffling, sweet R&B, and it's all original, penned by Lomax, who also plays guitar and produced the album, which was recorded in Memphis' legendary Willie Mitchell's Royal Recording Studio.
From horn-drenched opener Ransacked - "you ransacked my heart!" - the band delivers zippy, soulful tunes rich in Shawn Brown's quavering Hammond B-3 organ and Lomax's yummy guitar. Brown also sings and, whoo-ee, can he belt out the songs. Think Otis Clay on the upbeat numbers, Al Green on the tender songs.
The plaintive Come Down Mama is punctuated by Brown's piano and Leroy Hodge's bubbling bass. TKO goes a more psychedelic blues route, sounding very 1960s with a jivey, jittery "Oh girl, you really knock me out!" chorus.
If you would like your local act's CD considered for In Our Own Back Yard, send it to Gina Vivinetto, pop music critic, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.