Royal Teeth – “Hard Luck”

THE GOOD: Louisiana indie pop band Royal Teeth smash into the dreaded sophomore slump head-on.

THE BAD: Keep reading…

THE NITTY GRITTY: 2013’s “Glow” was nothing more than an enjoyable, catchy romp, but that was enough. 2016’s “Amateurs” EP also showed promise. Now, “Hard Luck,” the band’s second full-length, raises the question “What were they thinking?”

I’m tracking the album a third time as I write this, and things aren’t sounding any better. The set’s biggest issue is sheer shallowness. Royal Teeth uses every trick it can think of to score a legit radio hit — flirting with hip-hop, pointless voice manipulations and lyrics dripping in sugary sweetness. The end result is a pop/rock hybrid with the ability to bore at every turn.

About five years ago, the band did a guest spot on “American Idol.” That’s probably where it belongs because if the group keeps releasing records like “Hard Luck,” you won’t be able to tell it apart from the weekly roster of vapid hopefuls.

BUY IT?: Oh no.


Hembree – “House on Fire”

THE GOOD: Missouri indie rockers Hembree are off to a good start.

THE BAD: Not a GREAT start, but every band needs time to develop.

THE NITTY GRITTY: After releasing a couple of singles (“Holy Water” got a boost after being featured in an Apple commercial), the band has gotten around to making its first album. “House on Fire” ends up an upbeat collection of rhythmic indie pop where guitars and synths carry equal weight. The catchy tunes ride high atop tight, multi-layered beats.

Tracks like “Culture” and “Skyline” are banging and bouncy, three-minute bits of instant gratification putting the usual modern rock tropes to good use. No game changers, but nothing disagreeable either.

But Hembree is just getting started. You get the feeling these guys will break away from the formulaic and develop their own musical identity on future records. For now, just enjoy the ride. Thankfully, “House” is good enough to make us actually want to come back for the next one.

BUY IT?: Sure.


Bleached – “Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough”

THE GOOD: Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin return with their third collection of instantly fetching pop/punk/garage.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Press play, and the infectious sway carrying opener “Heartbeat Away” immediately grabs you. After that, it’s one potential single after another; the entire album damn near perfect. Bleached brings together the rawness of fellow female rockers like the Coathangers and Ex Hex while reaching back for the pop polish of the Go-Go’s.

This new record is easily its most cohesive effort yet, perhaps because the sisters got sober after the release of 2016’s hazy (but equally cool) “Welcome the Worms.” Songs like “Daydream,” “Valley to L.A.” and “Awkward Phase” are built on a wicked combination of tight backbeats, big basic riffs and massive hooks across the top. It’s a formula that never gets old and these ladies push it to the absolute limit. Feel free to crank this sucker repeatedly.

BUY IT?: “Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?” Not of this wonderful stuff. YES!