Local Licks 

This week, we review Humanzee, Ultralash, Ryan Auffenberg, and the Stairwell Sisters.

Humanzee, After the Aftermath. Progressive rock lives on in the hearts of these three guys from Berkeley. Wisely forgoing the heavy, technical spectacle of Dream Theater and the uncompromising sprawl of King Crimson, they favor a more intense and yearning approach. Fans of Live, Tool, and Muse will recognize the cues and perhaps even latch on to some of it. (self-released)

Ultralash, Foamy Lather. Ultralash, née Oakland's Kerry Walker and friends, explores the meeting point between trip-hop and indie rock on this creatively unleashed third album. Foamy Lather's full songs are interspersed with snippets and broken little pieces of sound, much like a Sparklehorse record, creating a multi-faceted, fascinating listening experience. (Fictitious Records)

Ryan Auffenberg, Marigolds. The long-awaited official debut from 26-year-old San Francisco singer-songwriter Ryan Auffenberg gives fans exactly what they crave: contemplative, insightful Americana. His voice is warm and silken as always, yet somber enough to sell the quieter moments. Production, engineering, and drumming from Tim Mooney only reinforce Auffenberg's talent. (Evangeline Records)

The Stairwell Sisters, Get Off Your Money. The second this record opens with a fiery banjo- and fiddle-fueled hoedown, you know you're in for something good. The feeling never lets up across 52 spirited minutes, as Oakland's Stairwell Sisters play a mix of gorgeously arranged traditional Southern pieces and contemporary string-band fare. You can almost smell the straw. (Yodel-Ay-Hee Records)


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