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Slider Pines & Starkeys

In the middle of a grim winter on many fronts, not least the number of musical heroes we've been losing lately (R.I.P. Lux Interior), a couple of new, guitar-drenched EPs from hitherto unknown bands turned out to be just the ticket.

Slider Pines
Wire To Ear Records

Slider Pines are a pretty new band from Dallas, TX; this EP follows up last year's full length Road Avenue Railroad, which I'll definitely be checking out after hearing these tunes. As well as cranking out boss tunage, they've got a good sense of humour - the cut'n'paste band bio on their MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/sliderpines) is hilarious!

The 'Pines Web site mentions Tom Petty and The Shins, but the ace first track "Pulling Teeth" on EP reminded me of none so much as the Rain Parade (admittedly I have been on a bit of a Paisley Underground binge lately; most of those mid-80s psych-rock heroes still sound great today). It's a fab slice of chiming, electric psych power pop with ringing Rickenbackers and soaring harmonies; if it weren't for the vocals, this could be some late 60's Byrds outtake. Yes, pop pickers, it's that good !

The next couple of songs are a bit more straightforward, but well above average; bringing up the Byrds again, the driving, chunky "The Pinch" reminds me of one of Chris Hillman's great country-chuggers.

"Faster Than The Roads" starts off a bit pedestrian, but cranks it right up again with some more fantastic lead guitar, like a cross between "Eight Miles High" and a groovy Shack tune.

Overall, this is a great slice of guitar music that I cranked up right away and has been in heavy rotation ever since. You can download it for free from the band's website, so what the heck are you waiting for ? Bet they shred live, too - there are some live dates in March for those within reach of Texas.

Dilmun EP
Tigers Against Crime

Starkeys are a Portland,OR duo and this is their debut EP; not sure if they are the "Star-Keys", or are named after Ringo Starr's real name. Main men Sam Phillips (no relation) and Oliver Francis have an interesting backgound, having grown up in Bahrain playing traditional Bedouin songs with friends alongside listening to the Beatles.

Their press blurb says they have "stirring middle eastern melodic flourishes", but I only heard that a bit in the percussion and keyboards on the last track "Dilmun". The EP is mostly pleasant, jangly indie pop; upbeat opener "Shift Drink" (now that's an option I could use on my computer keyboard!) sets the tone nicely with its jaunty rhythm, lively acoustic guitar and swelling keyboards.

Starkeys' singer sounds a lot like Ambulance Ltd singer Marcus Congleton, and the music has some of the breeziness of that band's lighter moments. (Side note - Ambulance Ltd finally have a new album in the works after many record company hassles, yay!)

Overall, a nice antidote to the winter blues; I couldn't find much more info about the band, but a full length record from these guys would be most welcome.

-Gareth Bowles

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