Natalie Wood inspires "Natalie W.," a track on [DARYL]'s new EP.

Talk about timing. Quite a few local bands have album releases pending for spring 2004, leaving many scenesters' hopes for indie-rock stocking stuffers in the coal pit. But where Chomsky, Pleasant Grove and The Polyphonic Spree have placed their fans in Christmas limbo, [DARYL] has flown in like a sweaty, skinny, new-wave Santa Claus with its Uneven Surfaces EP, which serves as both a teaser for its forthcoming album and a sign of better things to come. One listen to this EP should ease any worries about changes in [DARYL] personnel. The guitarwork, shared by former member Dave Wilson and newcomer Justin Wood, is as loud and adventurous as ever, and the addition of Angie Comley on keys and backing vocals is quite a treat. Her singing parts are sweetly supplemental rather than overbearing or Rentals-esque.

Uneven's acoustic version of "Rooms 31 & 30" is vastly different from the upcoming album's electronic counterpart, if not wildly superior. Lead singer Dylan Silvers strips down the song in highly un-[DARYL]-like fashion, and when Comley's coos and Silvers' growls battle each other in singing, "There's no way to make them understand we are the way we are," "Rooms" gets to sounding like the coolest campfire song this side of "Puff the Magic Dragon." On the louder side, "The Make" quickly jumps from the Wedding Present to Fugazi to the Pixies (if those bands had synthesizers, anyway), but by song's end, the influences melt into each other, resulting in a distinctly [DARYL] sound. This track, along with the skank-inspiring "Natalie W." and the re-recorded single "Jenny," reveals a confidence previously unheard on their albums. The balls-out sound is terrific, although it's unclear whether the band or the production is to blame. The only flaw on this EP is the title track, which, while solid, pales next to its EP-mates. Oddly enough, it's the only song direct from the new album. Is [DARYL] hiding its best until the release of Ohio, or is the band lousy at picking B-sides? Either way, the EP is a promising sneak peek and a cheap stocking stuffer. At four bucks, you might as well.

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