Black Sonny, "Catching Flight": After opening with the sound of either bong hits or a ventilator, this bright, brisk tune then quickly moves on to the stuttering, swaggering, bang-and-clank rawk that bands like the Hives have made us all so fond of.
Golda Supernova, "Split": Equal parts mall-rat belligerence and scene-swallowing garage rock, this Oakland band pops and fizzes on "Split" thanks to the effervescence of vocalist Golda, who belts like a quieter, less pitch-challenged Gwen Stefani.
Astral, "Blinder": Local band Astral kneads echoing guitars, remote drums, and distant vocals into enveloping folds of sound, tucking the listener into this sensuous post-punk track.
Drive Til Morning, "At the Center of the Universe": Elsewhere, Brooklyn-based one-man band Francis Garcia drowns his sorrows in twangy altcountry and lonesome steel guitars. Here, he pares his pathos down to an acoustic guitar; simple, ambient beats; and his reflective voice. Like an electro Iron & Wine.
Broken Winter, "Face Forward": This is your classic screamo soap opera, where we find chugging guitars plowing up and down the scale, dramatic tugs of war with the beat, and retching vocals from Jonathon Tolentino.
Power Struggle, "Letters": Now here's a big, juicy mess of a song: a baritone sax talks dirty to bald, hollow guitars, which duke it out over the tinny din of cymbals as two MCs, rhyming almost polyphonically, narrate the story of things falling apart.
Skyflakes, "Talk About Today": The Skyflakes take their namesake (a Filipino snack food eaten with condensed milk) seriously. With Tricia Saria Ramos' pure-cane-sugar vocals sprinkled over the top and a chewy, heavy bass center, "Talk About Today" is a light, airy, and yet satisfying pop confectionery, the taste of which lingers deliciously in your mouth.
The Stars Misplaced, "Swollen Fingers": Take a little Throwing Muses, some Neko Case, and just a pinch of 10,000 Maniacs, and you've got "Swollen Fingers," a decadently droopy, weepy indie-rock tune with a foot in altcountry territory.
Tensegrity Nine, "Balloon Becomes a Dot": Like Corin Tucker or Stephen Merritt, Peter Lim has one of those distinctive, deal-breaking voices. Let his flat, charismatic monotone burrow into your brain on this track, as he spits and sings over an experimental whir of sound.
From Monument to Masses, "To Z": A well-placed spoken word sample or two makes this track more than just the average driving rock song. In this context, the swooping guitars sound like a call to revolution.