Local Licks 

This week, we review Mist and Mast, Straggler, Astral, Mushroom with Eddie Gale, Rachel Efron

Mist and Mast Mist and Mast (self-released). Anyone familiar with Oakland indie-Americana group the Red Thread probably wishes it hadn't disbanded this summer. Frontman Jason Lakis' ensuing solo effort roams the same clouded realm, though less effectively.

Straggler Bow Down Lions (Happy Retard Records). "Real rock 'n' roll" is always a mixed blessing. On one hand, you've got loud, straightforward, no-frills hard rock; on the other, obnoxious, derivative, dumbed-down bar fodder. Straggler straddles the line as well as any local group, with an extra dash of soul.

Astral Transmitter (Vibraphone). Dim production muffles Astral's passionate, yet clichéd take on UK post-punk and shoegaze. Sure, Joy Division, the Cure, and My Bloody Valentine were great. What else is new?

Mushroom with Eddie Gale Joint Happening (Hyena). Mushroom is an experimental, heavily psychedelic, anything-goes outfit pushing ten years in the Bay Area. Eddie Gale is an avant-garde and free-jazz trumpeter who made his mark blowing minds in Brooklyn during the late '60s. Together, they're downright dirty.

Rachel Efron Say Goodbye (self-released). Utterly laid-back piano-pop that sucks the tension right out of the room. Efron makes it sound easy, but there's a reason so few artists get it right.

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