Ear to the (Under) Ground 

Punk, modern rock, ambient noise, and more.

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Jack the Giant Killer — I Was Lost But Now My Feet Are Back on the Ground (self-released)

Jack the Giant Killer (known by day as Jack Kadien) calls his music "something to listen to when you have a lot on your mind," which is a fair assessment, especially since a lot of the songs on I Was Lost But Now My Feet Are Back on the Ground don't really gain "momentum" until about the four-minute mark (at least as much momentum as music like this can generate). Ambient music often can come off as the work of a pretentious guitar noodler who likes the sound of his or her guitar pedals a little too much, but there is a soft, approachable quality to Kadien's music that seems like it could be enjoyable in a live setting or as a movie soundtrack. Recorded at Ardent Studios and mastered at L. Nix Mastering, I could see fans of Slowdive (who Kadien has covered before) or Holy Gallows really getting into this collection of songs.

Favorite Track: "Lost in Space"

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Manateees — Croc N My Pocket (12XU)

The Manateees institution has worked with just about every garage rock label specializing in lo-fi hatred, including Total Punk, Goner, Tic Tac Totally, and Ken Rock. Manateees leader Abe White has remained the constant member throughout many personnel changes over the band's five-year sordid history, but that hasn't stopped them from growing a major fan base in Memphis and all over the country. Croc N My Pocket features a collection of Jack Oblivian-assisted recordings, and fans of Manateees will recognize songs like "Witch," "Under the Gun," and "River of Death" from their live repertoire. Croc N My Pocket is more of what we've grown to expect from Manateees and another solid release in a discography that is almost comparable to Jay Reatard's output, or at least his propensity to work with as many different labels as possible.

Favorite Track: "Under the Gun"

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Gimp Teeth S/T Cassette (self-released)

Gimp Teeth sat on these recordings for a hell of a long time, but this seven-song collection is finally available for human consumption in the form of a cassette tape and a Bandcamp page. About a year ago, I wrote a feature on how interesting it was that a hardcore band (normally a polarizing genre of music) was unifying factions of the typically clique-oriented underground scene. That sentiment is even more true today, as Gimp Teeth perform with garage bands one week and experimental hip-hop acts the next. While they might be open-minded when it comes to playing shows, their music is still paint-by-numbers hardcore punk, following all the rules that bands like Necros, and Negative Approach laid down before them. Overall, this is a strong first release from Gimp Teeth. Hopefully a single is coming soon.

Favorite Track: "Was it You?"

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Jake Vest — Summer Knowledge (American Grapefruit)

Most known as a member of Dream Team, Augustine, Tiger High, and Jump Back Jake, as well as a once-integral part of High/Low Studios in Crosstown, Jake Vest made a respectable name for himself in Memphis before deciding to take his talents to New York. Before leaving, Vest recorded Summer Knowledge, a collection of upbeat, dreamy indie-pop songs that sit somewhere in between Death Cab for Cutie and MGMT. There are attempts at glam guitar leads and Marc Bolan-esque vocals on songs like "The Ocean," but for the most part, Summer Knowledge sounds like a guitar-oriented pop record made in 2015. That's not a bad thing, especially considering Vest has never been heralded as a "throwback artist" when examining his bands like Tiger High and Dream Team. Mostly it sounds like Vest is having fun on Summer Knowledge. He sounds like an artist who's discovered something before leaving his hometown, even on reflective songs like "Weeds in the Woods" and "Forever Chasing."

A "fun" album doesn't negate a collection of songs' potential to be mature, and that's another word I'd use to describe Summer Knowledge, especially the song "Where I Should Have Been," which honestly goes into some Springsteen, maybe even (dare I say it) U2 territory. What I'm getting at here is that Jake Vest made a coming-of-age album in Memphis with his brother Toby before moving up to the Big Apple, and the result is some of his most honest work to date.

Favorite Track: "The Ocean"


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