In the Jukebox 

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Modern Day Monks
(Indie Records)

Produced by studio engineers Jordan Herschaft and Jeff Leonard at their Fusion Five facility, Charleston pop/rock band Modern Day Monks' debut album is a full-length gem. The 10-song collection starts off slow and steady, very gradually building momentum from the mid-tempo Europop-ish "Bleed Me" (replete with rich vocal harmonies from guitarist/pianist Jon Hager and keyboardist Johnny Boyd — and a snappy syncopated kick/snare rhythm from Kellett Arnold) into the Oasis-sized, three-chord anthem "Soul to Sell" and the peppery, organ-driven hand-clapper "Beautiful to Care," which sounds a bit like Squeeze jamming with Gary Myrick & The Figures. Things get slinky on the echo-y "Different Way." They sound downright heart-wrenching on the dynamic piano ballad "Save" and the harmonically-complex anthem "Say Hello." It's a show of strength from a confident young band — and a great debut for a brand new local record label as well. (www.myspace.com/moderndaymonks) —T. Ballard Lesemann
Modern Day Monks perform at the Pour House on Wed. Dec. 5.

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Jay Clifford
Driving Blind
(Thirty Three & 1/3)

Don't believe the title: singer/songwriter Jay Clifford (formerly of local band Jump) isn't exactly fumbling around on this well-polished solo debut. Recorded mostly at Swing House Studios in L.A. with producer Warren Huart (known best for his work with Howie Day), Driving Blind is a mature, expressive, and focused guitar-pop collection featuring some of Clifford's finest work in recent years. Fans familiar with Clifford's breathy, delicately emotive singing style will appreciate some of the gentler moments on the album — especially on the echo-laden, piano-led tunes "Caught in the Rain" and "Driving Blind," the atmospheric "Don't Be Fooled," and the acoustic guitar-based "Dissolves." They may be surprised by the more aggressive delivery on such shimmering guitar-pop anthems as lead-off track "Know When to Walk Away" — a song Clifford assures has nothing to do with his former band's hiatus — and the Cure-esque "Paralyze." It's a winner. (www.myspace.com/jaycliffordmusic) —T. Ballard Lesemann


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