Koala Temple, The Circulars, Anthony Pena 

Local CD Reviews: Blue Milk, Ornamental, Apology

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Koala Temple,
Blue Milk

With its warm, hazy atmosphere, the latest full-length album from garage-rock/glo-fi quartet Koala Temple feels like a sweltering, multicolored trip into the desert. And with its ear-catching variety, Blue Milk never settles into a predictable rut; instead, the mix of slow-burning rockers and upbeat pop numbers keeps things interesting. Kicking off the lo-fi album’s 10 songs is the heavy, psych-tinged “Man of Mud,” which batters the listener’s ears with droning vocals, pounding drums and chugging guitar chords. However, the following track, “King Ruby,” is light and snappy, with ragged, punk-esque vocals from Craig Murray, who does killer work throughout Blue Milk. The track “Dance Hit” is aptly titled—even if it’s a little tongue-in-cheek—as a danceable beat is given the Koala Temple treatment with spacey effects and spooky vocals. Blue Milk is far from an album you can listen to once and be done with it; you’ll be sucked in before you know it. Self-released, May 12, KoalaTemple.bandcamp.com

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The Circulars,
Ornamental

The second full-length album from four-piece band The Circulars is moody pop-rock/shoegaze at its best, something to slip into and float away on. Most of the tempos on Ornamental are stately and steady, staying around a speed that’s comfortable to sway or nod your head to, and the melodies—often featuring ethereal harmonies between frontman Sam Burton and bassist Dyana Durfee—seem to hover in the same soothing mid-range. As a result, the album’s eight songs are an impressively arranged and cohesive collection, a blend of tight percussion, ghostly vocals and mellow guitar as well as watery synths that give the edges a blurred feel. After introductory track “For Laura” meanders through a mist of reverb, the song “Laudanum” picks the rhythm back up with its dance-friendly but still relaxed beat. “What Rots After” is a perfect example of The Circulars’ ability to weave a mood that’s as enveloping as heavy fog. Clocking in at six minutes, “What’s to Say” slowly builds to a climax of relentless, noisy guitar and Burton’s soaring voice that brings Ornamental to a cathartic finale. Self-released, June 27, TheCirculars.bandcamp.com

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Anthony Pena,
Apology

The debut solo album by Anthony Pena has a sure indie-rock foundation, made with solid percussion and reverbed-out guitar that goes between dreamy and gut-punching, although there are a few spots where the vocals don’t quite work, and the layered moments can come across as discordant and harsh. Coinciding with the album’s theme of admitting one’s mistakes and seeking to make amends, Apology’s mood is mostly a somber one. The first half of the album—bookmarked by the tension-filled “Kaiju” and the Western-tinged “Ghost”—is largely serious, with “Junius” at the halfway point injecting some energy into the mix with squealing guitar and rocking percussion, even if the off-key backing vocals mar an otherwise well-done song. The concluding “Ways” is difficult to swallow, as too-loud acoustic guitar overpowers the rest of the track, and the offbeat percussion and various sounds piled upon one another turn into a dissonant, confusing jumble. Apology works in its message, but its execution leaves something to be desired. Self-released, July 7, AnthonyPena.bandcamp.com

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