Local Licks 

This week, we review Grand Lake, Kowloon Walled City, Buttercream Gang, and Super Adventure Club.

Grand Lake, Nevermint. Grand Lake's slanted indie pop toes the line between curious and satisfying, never straight enough to be pop and never weird enough to be outside. Keyboardist Erika Pipkin is a Mills College grad, while guitarist Jameson Swanagon's minimalist lines expose his conservatory roots. The more mainstream chops of Caleb Nichols (Port O'Brien) and Ryan Parks (No'S) provide valuable balance. (500 Records)

Kowloon Walled City, Turk Street EP. Named after a monolithic Hong Kong city notorious for brothels, opium dens, and general lawlessness, this SF quartet delivers the sonic equivalent of living with 50,000 other people in an area one-hundredth the size of Emeryville. Its five-track EP is stoner-sludgy and punishingly heavy, yet more than dynamic enough to skirt fatigue. (Wordclock Records)

Buttercream Gang, Drumalley. Young rock bands often like to claim they're doing something new, fresh, and not heard a million times before. Here's one that actually does. This sophomore record is the work of a tight postpunk band playing with African and Latin rhythms, as well as more adventurous, experimental song structures and instrumentation (witness the sax). When it clicks, it's brilliant. (self-released)

Super Adventure Club, Üntz. Industry vets Michael Winger (he's recorded and engineered for big names like Kronos Quartet and Feist) and Jake Wood (a freelance drummer, teacher, and occasional Express writer) belie their somewhat serious rap sheets with this goofy blend of party rock and Eurodance. "Former Ladies of the Cold War," for example, goes all Borat with a shout-out to Eastern European hotties. (self-released)


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