Local Licks 

This week, we review the Grannies, Sean Christian, Arboles, and Amber Asylum.

The Grannies, Hot Flashes. There's perhaps no better way to begin a punk album by six dudes dressed in glam-rock grandma garb than with a song called "My Little Finger Says You're Wrong" Still, the Grannies aren't all novelty; their old-school punk-rock tunes can be mighty catchy, and the ten-year-old band seems to get tighter with every release. (Wondertaker)

Sean Christian, Soulfood Stir-Fry. The beat may be the basis of all hip-hop, but it rarely takes the spotlight. Sean Christian attempts to right that wrong with this collection of fully fledged beats giving equal room to treble (high hat, claps, synth, even live flute and sax) and a fat, booming bottom end. Oakland's D. Nok, Zumbi of Zion-I, and others lend their voices among a trio of instrumentals. (self-released)

Arboles, Arboles EP. Opener "Roots" applies the Pixies' loud-soft-loud dynamic to an all-acoustic palette, shifting three times from a quiet, nearly lo-fi verse to an amplified, exuberantly strummed chorus. "Our House" isn't Talking Heads, but a cute, whimsical number the Moldy Peaches could've written. And this Oakland duo's emotion-drenched acoustic indie-rock only gets better from there. (self-released)

Amber Asylum, Bitter River. Despite the nagging sense that Amber Asylum's neo-classical concoction of angelic vocals and suggestively sinister strings could at any moment break into all-out metal, Bitter River is a profoundly calming, almost meditative experience. The metal hunch is not far off: producer and multi-instrumentalist Kris Force worked for years with Oakland experimental group Neurosis. (Profound Lore Records)

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