The Cringe: Play Thing -- If you're dying to relive the 1990s alternative-rock era all over again, make sure you take The Cringe's new CD along for the ride. These guys seem stuck in a time warp, sounding like an amalgamation of Clinton-era riff-rockers like Stone Temple Pilots, Jane's Addiction, and Soundgarden. The songs are serviceable, the production is refreshingly honest, and the performances are solid. Watch for The Cringe at a suburban sports bar near you. Cringe fun fact: Wikipedia says one of the dudes in the band is married to TV cooking person Rachael Ray. Listen: "Ride."
The Delta Spirit: History from Below -- Now, whatcha have hear is some good old-fashioned, warbly-voiced indie rock dressed up like it's going to some alt-country party. It's sort of like The Old 97's, but with about 57 percent less energy, charm, hooks, chops, and, most important, material. Aw, it's not that Delta Spirit is bad -- and there are a few bright spots -- but it sounds less-than-inspired to me, though. Listen: "White Table."
The Dig: Electric Toys -- Like The Cringe, these guys have a terrible name as well as an anachronistic alternative rock sound. The Dig also mine the 1990s for inspiration, but dip liberally into the early 2000, as well. The singer sounds a lot like The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, and the songs use synths to veer toward atmospheric and brooding, rather than straight-up rock. The songs are too long. I lost interest pretty quickly. Listen: "Two Sisters in Love."
Miggs: Wide Awake -- The lead track, "Let the Games Begin," reeled me in with its minor-key verses and "hey, hey, hey!" chants. It sounded like a modernized version of the Greg Kihn Band or The Plimsouls or some other early '80s guitar-based power-pop. Wait, what's this?! In the liner notes, bandleader Don Miggs thanks Rick Springfield for influencing his songwriting. Well, that explains a lot. There are few other great sing-along moments on Wide Awake, but nothing else on this record is as good as that opening track, but that's okay. It was fun while it lasted. Listen: "Let the Games Begin."
Andy Bell: Non-Stop -- The former main dude in Erasure is back with 10 more dance-pop tracks. Unlike those old Erasure hits, the songs on Non-Stop are less interested in great melodies and big pop hooks than they are in the dance beats. Listen: "Running Out"