Local Wire

Awake and Alert

The debut album of Tempe-based Awake and Alert, Devil in a Lambskin Suit (Five One, Inc.), is one of the most welcome surprises in the indie pop scene this year. The band's sound is a mix of classically inspired rock with touches of soul and musical theater, which seems to stem from the fact that the quartet's members come from diverse musical backgrounds. All the musicians seem highly accomplished in their instruments, and miraculously do not overpower each other — Blake Clayton Kimball's guitar riffs expertly provide the perfect backdrop for the vocal strains of Maya Nicoleya Pearl, who does double duty on keyboards. The rhythm section of Yes-inspired bassist Spencer Derek Reed and jazz-inflected drummer Tony William Reed complete the group's sound, and the music on the CD has you from the dreamy first track, "Flight," all the way to the folky "Eternal Life."

One of the highlights of the disc is "Flawless," a high-energy rock tune in which Reed shines with complex rhythmical patterns during the middle section, and where Pearl also shows that she can handle louder rock tunes as well. Listen also to "Let Autumn Lift Me," a slow tune with a highly creative arrangement that showcases Kimball's guitar chops. Kudos go to producer Bob Hoag, who gave the disc a tight sound rarely found on an independently recorded disc. If Awake and Alert sound this good in a live setting, we might very well be hearing from them in major venues very soon — it's just a matter of time until they make it to the big leagues.

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Ernest Barteldes