The Sammies – “Sandwich”
(Morisen Records) ***1/2
The Sammies celebrate their sophomore release at 8 p.m. Saturday at Visulite Theatre. $8. www.visulite.com.
The Charlotte band's self-titled 2006 debut burst from the speakers with chaotic abandon, refusing to succumb to the pop-punk tag. Its follow-up finds the group maturing.
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The tempos and arrangements are more refined, with nods to Southern jangle-pop and new wave. Frank Backgammon's voice seems to have gotten even deeper, adding a layer of sad sexiness and intellect (think Joy Division or Interpol) to the band's otherwise bright guitar pop.
The band combines sunny '60s harmonies and psychedelic pop with the melodic spirit of late '80s/early '90s British alt-rockers like the Mighty Lemon Drops or Echo and the Bunnymen.
With its melodic subtleties, “Sandwich” doesn't pounce the way its debut did. But its winding hooks prove even more memorable.
Stephanie's Id – “Grus Americanus”
(Nine Mile Records) ***1/2
Stephanie's Id plays Neighborhood Theatre at 9 p.m. Aug. 15. Free. www.neigh borhood theatre.com.
On its latest full-length album, this Asheville duo-turned-full band exhibits the eclecticism, strong writing and arrangements that won it a spot at this year's Bonnaroo Festival.
Stephanie Morgan's chameleon-like voice morphs to suit each song's style. She can go from Nikka Costa-like soaring soul to the sweet gentle pop of the Cardigans to rapid-fire scat-style spoken word. That's one of the things that makes “Grus Americanus” so engaging.
While maintaining enough identity to thread through the entire record, Stephanie's Id doesn't always sound like the same band from one song to the next – instead coasting from the tension-filled tidal wave of the epic openers to the soul-rock of “Cindy” to Portishead-style trip-hop, without missing a beat.