ARTIST: The Mots
RATING: 4 out of 5

When it comes to Kiwi rags-to-riches stories, it doesn’t come much more intriguing than The Mots.

Formed from the remnants of local groups Gasoline Cowboy and Motocade, The Mots – made up of brothers Jolyon, Wil, and Eden Mulholland, and bassist Greg Hillier – formed in May 2008 and got a big boost when they were asked to support prodigy Liam Finn in a sold-out show at Auckland venue The Powerstation.

Fast forward 6 months, and the group are putting the finishing touches on a debut, self-titled album through major label Universal.

The album itself expertly combines any number of influences, from folk-rock to 1980s ska-punk to the falsetto-based balladry of Evermore; the guitar work of brothers Eden and Jolyon is notable, forming a solid basis to the 11 tracks presented here.

Second-track “500 Years” gets things moving along, leading into the slower, but no less impressive, “Here Lies The Devil”, its quirky acoustic guitar riffage providing the perfect backing for a catchy, easy-to-follow vocal line, before giving way to rocker “Halfway Through Making Myself”.

All in all, with less than 6 months work The Mots have formed, written and released one of the better Kiwi albums of last year, proving that sometimes good things don’t take time.

ARTIST: All-American Rejects
RATING: 3.5 out of 5

I know what you’re thinking – ‘where have I heard that name before?’

One of the most played bands on radio, the All-American Rejects hit big in 2006 with the release of their second album, Move Along, and the radio success of singles “Dirty Little Secret”, “It Ends Tonight” and the albums’ title track, which succeeded on both rock radio and mainstream-pop radio around the world.

December saw the release of their follow-up, When The World Comes Down, produced by Eric Valentine (Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth, Queens of the Stone Age, Good Charlotte), behind the release of radio hit single “Gives You Hell” in September, a full 3 months ahead of the album.

This release gets off to a quick start with opener “I Wanna”, a piece of fast-paced pop-rock that sets the tone for the record, while smatterings of piano, such as on “Fallin Apart”, and acoustic-based ballads like “Mona Lisa” prove the groups musical chops.

Aforementioned single “Gives You Hell” is definitely the best track here, but the album’s brisk pace and Tyson Ritter’s excellent vocal work make When The World Comes Down more than just a pop album – this is laid-back rock at its best, and should form a decent soundtrack to summer.

ARTIST: Glasvegas
RATING: 2 out of 5

Named for a play on the name of their hometown, Glasgow, combined with Las Vegas, Scottish alt-rock group Glasvegas are another group who released a high-profile, critically acclaimed debut towards the end of 2008.

Formed in 2003 by frontman James Allan – himself a former professional soccer player with Scottish Premier League club Gretna FC – the group spent several years touring and refining their sound, before settling down with producer Rich Costey (the man behind work by Muse, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol – all reviewed in this column previously) to make their debut, self-titled record.

The group also released a Christmas-themed followup titled A Snowflake Fell (and it Felt Like a Kiss).

Glasvegas draws heavily on the indie-pop sound made famous by peers Snow Patrol and Bloc Party – jangly, almost repetitive guitar work combines with a deep, rumbling drum sound to form the core of tracks like opener “Flowers and Football Tops” and first single “Geraldine”, while Allan’s thick Scottish augments each track, the singer spitting out almost libretto-style vocal work. Therein also lies the problem, as Allan’s thick accent makes the lyrics unintelligible at times – and when you consider that in combination with the generic indie sound, the result is a less-than-engaging record.