Local tracks

Reviewing a fresh batch of albums by Chico artists

Part OneSex Hogs II

“Rock ’n’ roll is dead” is a popular slogan these days, typically used by out-of-touch windbags who don’t know how to use Google. Imagine presenting one of these boobs with the new cassette release from Chico duo Sex Hogs II. Sure, there might be some initial confusion over the album’s title, Part One, but once the guitar fuzz, tambourine clang and sax skronk of opener “Surfin’ the Lake” hit their ears, they’d have no choice but to eat their words with a side of crow, followed by a slice of humble pie. The album is filled with rip-roaring rock ’n’ roll numbers like the Mudhoney stomp of “Kissing” and “Blood in the Dirt” and the Detroit R&B of “Pigtails,” which includes another sexy sax solo. Except for when Sax Hog makes a guest appearance, Sex Hogs II make a big racket with only Guitar Hog (Johnny Meehan of Michelin Embers) and Drum Hog (Nate Daly, previously of Albuquerque garage rockers The Scrams). This is rock ’n’ roll. And it’s alive and well. Available at sexhogs.bandcamp.com

-Mark Lore

Stronger than the Earth – Max Minardi

On his first full-length studio album, Stronger than the Earth, Chico musician Max Minardi adds to his reputation for singing dreamy cover tunes in local bars and cafes by crafting 11 original and mostly acoustic songs full of sweet melodies. There are some classic uptempo Americana tunes with lyrics that explore love and heartbreak—“Spring and Tangerines” (“The devil said, ‘Son, I could give you peace/You’ll find love when you fall asleep,’” and “Growing Old” (“When my open arms are empty at the end of every day/I’ll take love where I can find it, I’ll do it anyway”)—each driven by a shuffling country-ish rhythm. And two of the more distinct songs on the album take that diverse musicality even further: “Doing Wrong” blends deep drum beats with a throwback country-guitar twang, and the classic-sounding love song “Give All You’ve Got” makes its point with the addition of piano and beautiful violins. One of the more enjoyable surprises on the album is a duet featuring Minardi and fellow local musician Pat Hull on the poppy, toe-tapping “Seasons.” All together, a well-produced showcase of Minardi’s songwriting chops. Available at cdbaby.com/cd/maxminardi5

-Whitney Garcia

San Francisco – Kyle Williams

With a little coloring outside the lines on his latest release, San Francisco, the anonymity of Kyle Williams ought to soon become a thing of the past. The Chico troubadour has teamed up with local musician Chris Keene (Surrogate) in the producer/engineer/collaborator seat, with Keene playing most every instrument that’s not acoustic guitar or ukulele. Hallmarks of Keene’s production techniques pock the sonic real estate of San Francisco, most immediately on “I Can’t Wait,” with its plodding keys, layers of fuzzy bass and dynamic shifts in tone. These accoutrements in tow, Williams’ typically strong songwriting is given an extra push, enhancing the nuances of his craft in strokes of avant-garde pop to go along with his folk roots. “Last Time” revels in a radio-ready miasma, Williams’ sunbaked tenor cooing in just the right timbre for a hot summer party, no matter what your mood. The partnership forged between Williams and Keene here is about as mutually beneficial as it gets. Available at cdbaby.com/cd/kylewilliams14

-Ryan J. Prado