Though boxed in by descriptors like “doom pop” and “bubblegum metal,” Miami’s heaviest, most harmonious foursome Torche have refused to stand still. Boasting vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks’ patented (and gimmicky) “bomb-string” assault — guitars down-tuned so low that the strings practically dangle off the bridge — Torche has evolved from the low, viscous roar and grimy-massed guitars of the Melvins in its sludge metal phase to a still-blistering attack that folds the shiny “Mr. Showbiz” pop-smarts of David Lee Roth into a surprisingly stable mix of ’90s Green River grunge, ’70s bong-water backwash from stoner forebears like Lord Baltimore, and the space-rock of Hawkwind. The acrimonious 2008 departure of guitarist Juan Montoya seems to have unleashed the pop-metal tune-smith in Brooks, with brisk, perky songs slicing through the tar pits, delivered in Brooks’ appealing everyman bellow. Current buzz cut “Kicking” marries the muscular mod rock of early Futureheads to bright and squiggly Eddie Van Halen-meets-Brian May guitars. Perhaps Brooks’ decided his best way forward is embracing his inner Diamond Dave.
Since their founding in 2004, members of HRVRD — originally spelled Harvard — have been setting a standard in the local scene for musicianship and songwriting. In an environment that often seems more defined by short runs and relocations than staying power, HRVRD has lasted, stayed local and at the same time broken out into the wider world. This year, the members released the album From the Bird’s Cage on Albany, N.Y.,-based label Equal Vision Records. It continues the band’s tight, yet atmospheric sonic experimentations, but this time with an even more focused edge. HRVRD hasn’t entirely abandoned its progressive roots, but they are certainly less pronounced in the band’s latest effort. The songs are more driving and intense, but one imagines them loosening and flexing a bit in live versions. However they’re presented, you will be seeing one of the finer outfits our local music scene has created during this past decade.