Honky-tonk heaven or hardcore hell?
You don’t have to choose: Both can be found in the latest roundup of Vegas releases you need to check out:
The Reeves Brothers, “King of Country Music”
For fans of: The Johnnie Walker Blue Label of country: smooth, impeccably crafted.
The lowdown: “I still like waltzes and Western swing / I love to hear twin fiddles ring / Bob Wills play and Tommy sing … ”
That’s the opening line to “King of Country Music,” whose title betrays no honky-tonk hyperbole, and it neatly encapsulates the timeless sound that is the hemoglobin in Cole and Matt Reeves’ rich musical bloodlines: Their father, Jack Reeves, was a renowned country artist in ’70s California.
You don’t need to be told they’ve been singing country standards and playing guitar since they learned how to walk: It’s palpable here in the lonely ache of “Honky-Tonks and Cheap Motels,” the two-step boogie of “Damn You Whiskey,” the fleet-fingered lap steel of “Riverboat Gambler.” Turn this one up and drown out the tired debate about what is and what isn’t country with the sound of boots scuffling on the dance floor.
Song you need to hear: “Mama You Raised a Ramblin’ Man,” a sweet-voiced ode to a mother’s love that rides the breeze like these boys do the open road.
Indigo Kidd, “Sad Daze in Happy Valley”
For fans of: Earnest, emotive indie rock that lays it all on the line.
The lowdown: It’s a question he spends an album, a lifetime answering. “How am I supposed to feel?” Eli Curtsinger wonders on “Lies,” his upper-register croon doubling as a beacon, poking through this thick fog of emotions.
On the punchy jangle of “Nicotine Queen,” Curtsinger wrangles with expressing himself in a way that doesn’t feel cliched. “I know my life’s a mess / But I won’t say that I’m depressed / ’Cuz then I’ll sound like every other pissed off teen.”
He need not worry: The best bands take familiar sonics and sentiments and make them their own, which is what Indigo Kidd does here wonderfully with the group’s poignant, punk-informed songbook.
“This is real life,” Curtsinger notes at one point, but by the time he does so, you’ve already felt as much.
Song you need to hear: “Hungover Again.” Guitars swell like the throbbing in Curtsinger’s temples following a battle with the bottle in which the latter emerges victorious. Decisively.
Jerk!, “Get Rad”
For fans of: Pop punk earworms you’ll be singing in the shower for weeks — you know, if showering is your thing.
The lowdown: Girls are alternately radical, irradiated and boneheaded in these breakneck, bittersweet jams, where the sound is raw as these dudes’ abraded hearts.
Jerk! cites the Beach Boys and Bouncing Souls among its influences, connecting the dots between the two here with hopped-up harmonies and shout-along choruses that earn Jerk! its exclamation point.
Song you need to hear: “Hate Guys Like You,” a pogoing kiss-off to all those thankless dudes who continually bum your weed and trample your nerves in steel-toed boots.
Halsey Harkins, “Darling of Mine”
For fans of: Elegant yet tough piano pop.
The lowdown: Heart broken, resolve unscathed, Halsey Harkins navigates the end of a relationship here like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a former flame.
“Though it may sting and bleed sometimes, these calluses, they help us on our way,” Harkins sings, her voice lithe yet poised over gently shimmering keys and an elastic bass line on “Hidden Path,” a song that finds the purpose in pain.
Richly textured and meticulously arranged, these tunes are a joy to parse even if a lack of that very thing seems to have inspired many of them.
That’s OK. This album isn’t about cloudy days, but rather all the blue skies that lie in their wake.
Song you need to hear: “Next Time Around.” A slinky guitar line gives way to a chorus you’ll be humming for days.
Unfair Fight, “False Walls”
For fans of: Thinking-man’s hardcore with brains matching brawn.
The lowdown: “You can count on me …” they sing in unison on the aptly titled “Maladjusted Behavior.” “ … To watch you drown.”
Humanity gets no life raft on the third full-length from these metallic hardcore standouts. This is a bleak, brutal soundtrack to reaching one’s breaking point and breaking out in song instead. The vocals are gruff as a pitbull’s bark, the grooves are deep and punishing, and everything here is designed for maximum impact.
The truth about “False”: It’s one of the best heavy releases of the year from these parts.
Song you need to hear: “Perverse Resolutions,” which begins with a near-grindcore blast before climaxing into a fist-in-the-air anthem. You’ll be ready to fight a yeti afterward, dude.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.