The Brobecks, Royal Bliss, The Street ... 

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THE BROBECKS The Happiest Nuclear Winter

The Brobecks’ second basement epic kicks off like a Saturday-afternoon disaster flick, then cranks the indie-pop charm with chiming guitars, cheesy synths, nimble piano and vocals sweet enough to make fillings ache in Albuquerque. The Atomic Café concept continues throughout The Happiest Nuclear Winter, but the kitschy interludes and lo-fi edges can’t distract from perfect tunes like “C’mon Vietnam,” “You Stole My Head” and “She’s a Robot,” just three of 12 equally-primo cuts you’d be hearing on The O.C. with the right Cohen hook-up. The disc won’t be released until Jan. 22 at Kilby Court, but the Brobecks are well on their way to becoming 2005’s anointed Local Music Press Darlings. (

ROYAL BLISS After the Chaos

They’ve released a handful of CDs prior, but After the Chaos is more tightly focused than anything Royal Bliss have done before—might as well call this their real first album. The streamlined sonics are pure Rock Radio format, short on surprises but fortunately long on the kind of guts and melodic determination that makes said format tolerable between hits of Switchback. Bottom line: Neal Middleton is now a capital “S” Singer, and SLC’s favorite bar band doesn’t sound like a bar band anymore. (

THE STREET Evolution

The softer side of The Street? It’s on Evolution, as are a few other sides, as well—with 18 tracks and clocking in at over 77 minutes, plenty of room for all of ’em. The band’s gritty heavy metal is intact on several scathing ragers as expectedly dirty as a biker bar’s bathroom, but the occasional ballad and inadvertent tribute to Poison (too much Metal Mania on VH1 Classic?) stick out like a corsage on a leather jacket. Diversification is fine, but The Street’s suit is ramming it down, hard. (

VICTROLA Foolproof

The disc arrived in a cool, chopped LP sleeve of Foreigner’s Head Games—not the real cover, but it oughta be. Victrola’s art-trio indie-rock thrives on passionate minimalism; the clanging guitars and he/she vocals are college-radio classic. But, they wring head-turning newness from each of Foolproof’s seven cuts, a mini hit parade of found hooks, culminating with the sprawling, Led Zep-informed “Life Is Easy When You’re Beautiful.” Yes, it’s better than Head Games. (

KATAGORY V A New Breed of Rebellion

By the beard of Zeus! Katagory V are so serious about their metal, they’re damned near European! Over-the-top vocals, squealing twin-guitar harmonies, ominous double-kick/bass rumbling, extra-long songs about pain, death and painful death—A New Breed of Rebellion has it all. Euro-metal isn’t for the timid, and Katagory V wisely take it to the extreme with a zero-compromise attitude that, even in a metal-resurgent climate, is admirable on this side of the Atlantic. Book that Norwegian tour now. (

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