The quasi-ska “Shootin' Dice” is an unfortunate misstep (especially with regard to the vocals), but the rest of Hit By a Bus' debut reveals an impressive blend of hardcore rock and borderline techno beats, punk and metal guitar figures, and a whole host of juicy pop elements that, taken as a whole, offer multiple moments of sheer delight. The record's harder side is expertly performed (“Pumpkin,” “Tarot's Tale”), while the more ambient material (“Unfazed,” “Speed Limit 42”) is equally as effective in its subtleties. Vocals could be better overall, but the songs are rock solid.
In all of the few ways I pine for the '80s, Unit 7 Drain more than satisfies the monkey. But what makes them special is not just their unabashed reverence for new wave nuance that's now more than 20 years old, but their ability to embrace post-punk and straight-out rock with reckless abandon, and hold it all together with meaningful grooves, thoughtful lyrics and, courtesy of Harry Redus-Brown, the best male rock voice in Albuquerque. They're an enigma taken with a grain of salt: fully accessible, yet in some ways wonderfully unpredictable. A band to love!
The album opens wide, instrumentally into a vast void left by sadly defunct groups like Starfish and then rushes headlong into a beautiful psychedelic haze that owes as much to the Beatles as it does to the Flaming Lips. A Sugared Mind, the Mindy Set's debut, is a rush of pop that encompasses several decades of rock—from classic to paisley underground to shoegaze to the quiet comfort of contemporary ambient a la American Analog Set. Brit-pop underpinnings lurk beneath shadows of The Jam and Fall-like grooves, creating a finely tuned psych-pop aesthetic that's downright addictive.