Local Licks 

This week, we review Cave Clove, Mortar & Pestle, and Tumbleweed Wanderers.

Cave Clove, Bases of Pyramids

At first, the music of multi-instrumentalist Katie Clover seems summery and sweet, but there's a wistful melancholy underneath. On "Not That Good Anyway," sultry sax and doo-wop sha-la-las float over a soulful guitar riff, but the lyrics are about a relationship caught in the crosshairs of self-destructive behavior. "Yellow Light" is just as lyrically heavy, but with a downtrodden drumbeat and sorrowful clarinet to match. Dark overtones also pervade "Fluke Wiring," in which warm cello and fingerpicked guitar become distorted and strained as Clover's echoing voice trembles. (self-released)

Mortar & Pestle, Mortar & Pestle

Mortar & Pestle singer Janaysa Lambert does most of the heavy lifting on the trio's debut, adding a sexy edge to otherwise average R&B-tinged synth-pop. "Electric Angel" pulses with bubbling synths and dance beats, but dissolves into a sentimental melody while Lambert's belted refrain supplies all the energy. Standout track "Pristine Dream" is the only exception: The hooky pop percussion and simple keyboard melody unravel midway through, weaving in and out of Lambert's layered vocals. The quiet, at times faint, music may have been an attempt at something dreamy, but it ends up sounding rather dull. (Post Primal)

Tumbleweed Wanderers, Worn Down Welcome

Tumbleweed Wanderers has already proved that it can craft freewheeling blues-rock jams, so it's nice to hear the band explore a tighter, more nuanced sound on its latest EP. The vocal harmonies and tambourine on "Troubadour" lend it a mellow, Sixties pop feel; a blues guitar solo is the only nod to its previous style. There's also an old-timey blues breakdown on "Fire," but the head-bobbing, harmonized chorus is pure indie rock. Even the groovy horns and intricate folk melodies on the other two tracks distill into crisp pop music. (self-released)

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