Album: Angels and Demons, Space and Time by Hypatia Lake
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: This cover reminds me of something a high school art student might do to raise controversy at her school. Or post on her DeviantArt page. Either way, it looks amateurish and stupid, and not in that awesome, minimalist, and iconic Daniel Johnston kind of way. So, I'm expecting ham fisted gothy rock.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: While it's admirable for bands to have a sound that can accommodate so many different sounds, the important thing is that they do it well. Hypatia Lake do not do it well. Yes, it's impressive that this album has prog rock, folk, psychedelia, noise rock, and a few tracks that remind me of REM circa Monster, but none of it is done well and it makes the album a fucking mess instead of a coherent work. Meanwhile, the band really wish they were alive in the 70s, when the ridiculous concept of this album (for a baffled laugh, go read up on what the band and the overarching 'story' of their albums are about) might have flown.
Album: La La Land by Wax Fang
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: Let's be frank here; let's not mince words, and just get right down to it: this is a terrible cover. It's the kind of thing you might make as a joke to piss off a record label or in case you don't want anyone to buy your album, ever. Seriously. I'm all for kitsch and randomness and absurdity, but this is awful. What I expect from this is a really adolescent punk band with neither imagination nor skill.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: You know, not bad. It's not punk rock, let's clear that up right away. Rather it's more akin to the distinctive sound of mid 70s rock, warm-but-distorted guitars and all. The singer sounds like a combination of Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes and David Bowie, too, which makes it a strange beast. All in all, it's pitched somewhere between Brian Eno's mid 70s solo albums (but not as experimental) and how Pink Floyd sounded on the more rocking tracks from The Wall (but not as good). While La La Land is not a bad album, there isn't enough unique stuff about it to get me excited enough to completely recommend it.
Album: Waves On Waves by Waves On Waves
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: What a garish mess. I don't want to come off as a homophobe, but this cover reminds me of the self-consciously weird fashion photo shoots involving gay men that I randomly came across while flipping through fashion magazines while bored in bookstores waiting for ex-girlfriends to check out. Thus, I pretty much expect glammy piano driven rock a la the Scissor Sisters.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: A lot of 80s pop music has a sound to it that always makes me think of nightclubs and parties held by the upper crust of New York society. It's not even always dance music but it just sounds like it belongs in a dance club, you know?? That's what Waves On Waves sound like: 80s pop music, but recorded with a modern sheen and production techniques, so it's also vaguely-spacey-at-times pop/rock. Some of the song titles are genuinely terrible, too--witness 'U Moved Me In2 The Future' and 'We Want 2'--which is always a bonus. I should mention that I hate this kind of 80s coke party, vaguely gay, dance clubby kind of music and just move on.
Album: John Eichleay by John Eichleay
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: Using your name for your 'band' and your album title usually implies one thing: singer/songwriter. Otherwise, this cover is vague enough to be nearly anything.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: Competent, incredibly faceless pop/rock, with terrible lyrics. Like most singer/songwriters who dabble in other genres--in this case, country-rock ('Great Love'), ska ('Countdown'), and Southern Fried boogie ('Subway Shuffle')--they manage to do so with skill but little personality or invention. John Eichleay also bears the disadvantage of really bad lyrics, which trot out such trite, unoriginal sentiments no one could sue him for plagiarism because there are a million other songs saying the same things in the same ways.
Album: Leavetaking by Peter Bradley Adams
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: A badly drawn owl?? OK. Owls are generally symbolic of the country and rural-ness. Meanwhile, Leavetaking is the kind of odd turn-of-phrase that people who write a lot of poems/lyrics fixate on. All signs point to country-ish singer/songwriter music, fit for coffeehouses and the record collections of intensely uninteresting people.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: I was really close. Leavetaking is a pleasant, totally unmemorable singer/songwriter album in a crowded field. There's nothing inherently wrong with this music, but there's simply so much of it that sounds so much alike that it's hard to care. You really need something--a voice, songwriting, instrumentation, etc.--to set you apart, and Peter Bradley Adams doesn't have it. Still, it'd be a nice album to overdose on sleeping pills to, or as background music for bedding a vapid co-ed who thinks Jack Johnson is too challenging.
Album: Re-Education by Rurik
What Does The Cover Make Me Expect??: Something about the band's name and the cover itself makes me expect a techno or techno pop sound. Call it a hunch.
What Does It Actually Sound Like??: A slightly-more-deeply-voiced Weird Al leads a band who can't decide if they're synth pop, pop punk via Good Charlotte, ora long forgotten one hit wonder of late 90s alt. rock. Being unique does not automatically make you good, and while this may come off as needlessly vindictive, I have no problem with telling you that this album is incredibly irritating and I truly regret the time I wasted listening to it.