Various Artists
The Smallest World in the World
Poser Punk Records

There’s a scene in the new movie Hustle & Flow wherein an aspiring rapper hands his demo tape to the guy who could provide his big break, and the big shot responds by saying, “And where the fuck am I supposed to put this?” Which is to say, cassette tapes are a tough sell these days.

No matter to Tyson Ballew and Poser Punk Productions; they just released The Smallest World in the World, a loveable mix tape (yep, just like old times) featuring 34 songs by Montana punk bands old and new. Never mind that I had to go to a friend’s house to find a tape player that still works (my old stereo plays them at a demonic speed), this nostalgic compilation of rarities was worth the trip.

The highlights are eight previously unreleased tracks, including “Ginger” from The Oblio Joes’ last show at Jay’s and “Red Wagon” by Wu Zhen. The quality ranges from good to audible enough, but that hardly matters. As Ballew says, “I know there’s something old and fuddy-duddy about it, but it felt right to put these bands on a cassette.” It sounds perfect to me. (Skylar Browning)

The Smallest World in the World is available at Ear Candy for $4.

The Quiet Ones
Your Inner Ear
In Advance Records

Never underestimate the quiet kid. Sure, everyone says, “Oh that serial killer seemed so nice and quiet,” but in a more positive vein, it’s also often the quiet kid who publishes mind-blowing novels or discovers a new planet. In the case of the Quiet Ones’ release, Your Inner Ear, the subtlety of harp-like guitar, controlled drum beats and sweet, self-deprecating vocals makes it easy to mistake these songs as a soundtrack for drinking your morning coffee or eating a popsicle in the green grass of summer.

Secretly, this local band is more subversive than that. The falsetto in “Something to Listen to” appears happy and dreamlike until you begin to discern lyrics like: “Listening to the sound of you, it can waste away my boyish youth.” The album is speckled with jabs and quirky revelations such as, “running from the law ain’t no trip to Cleveland” in a song (“Running from the Law”) that could be by the unsuspected love child of Al Green and Built to Spill.

At times Your Inner Ear tilts toward alt-country twang or ’50s bop, even while maintaining the ambient melody of a slow dance. It’s a strange, quiet album and a close listen proves it’s worth getting to know. (Erika Fredrickson)

Cake Records

Bo Bice, beware. The runner-up of the latest “American Idol” has some stiff competition in the department of over-coached, listen-to-me, ultimately empty soulful vocals placed against mind-numbingly bland power-pop productions. Shimmer, a Seattle threesome led by singer/guitarist Skip Peri, offers a sound as transparent as its name.

“Don’t Trip on Your Way Out” is basic three-chord rock with Peri doing his best imitation of Lenny Kravitz circa Let Love Rule. It’s simple and stripped down and as close as Shimmer gets to passable. “Here I Am” gets lost around the time Peri breaks into a falsetto and painfully repeats, “If you want me baby, here I am. If you need it woman, here I am. If you want me baby—if you really want me, baby—here I am.”

Shimmer tries desperately to invoke ’80s pop, with a heavy Prince/George Michael influence. But none of it is catchy, and it certainly isn’t edgy. Most annoying is the fact that the musicianship fails on every level—a decent Bar Mitzvah band could hit these notes.

But then again, if you want to relive those awkward teenage years, if you want to return to cheese pop—if you really want it, baby—Shimmer’s the place to turn. (Skylar Browning)

Shimmer plays the Top Hat Thursday, July 14, at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

…For the Moment
Look Sharp Records

The echoing minor chords so prevalent in most heavy emo-rock have a certain aesthetic charm. Coupled with bitter harmonies they capture a landscape of gothic beauty that induces a romanticized dissatisfaction with the world. The new album by Fresno, Calif., band Camera dives deep into this familiar environment with “Drowning in My Sleep,” a song slathered with melodramatic repetition of lyrics like, “Will I sink or will I swim,” which ultimately evoke a little too much Creed for comfort.

Still, the album jumpstarts each track with compositional diversity, whether it’s math-rock drums, funked-out bass lines or grungy riffs with synthed vocals. Despite smart beginnings, the songs tend to be homogenous, buried deep in innocuous and sugarcoated torment. Highlights include “New York,” which ends with a gorgeous heavy-metal lullaby, and “Lie to Me,” which hints at Camera’s claim of The Cure as an influence.

The unfortunate “Forever and Always” may sound like the waning years of Def Leppard (at best) or boy-band balladry at worst, but fortunately it’s followed up by the title track—a strong, reckless piece that adds vim to the vinegar. (Erika Fredrickson)

Camera plays with City Sleeps, Your Divine Tragedy and Casual Drama Wednesday, July 13, at the Elk’s Lodge. Cover TBA.

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