By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
It's a common question: What does the Phoenix area sound like? The answer — a resounding and emphatic "who knows?" — is upsetting only to the kind of people who want easy, tidy answers to questions like that. The truth is, Phoenix sounds like a lot of things, and if you go looking under BandCamp rocks and digging in the fertile soil of Facebook, you're likely to come across a wealth of music. Bands are creating meaningful music in Phoenix, but an open ear and keen eye is sometimes required to find it.
This list isn't one about the best bands in Phoenix, nor does it claim to be anything comprehensive. It's a tasting menu comprising bands that have turned our heads, bands that are doing cool, interesting things, making vital musical statements in the Valley of the Sun. These are the 10 Valley bands you should be listening to this summer.
City in the Sea
Hardcore tends to breed fierce loyalty to the "underground" scene, and Scottsdale-based metalcore band City in the Sea is no exception. Their raw, brutal passion stems from gritty basement shows, where the acrid air is thick with swampy humidity. Its five members — all between the ages of 18 and 21 — have performed with genre standard-bearers like The Word Alive and Greeley Estates since forming in 2009, and they bring a heavy dose of pure metal energy to their melodic post-hardcore sound. Tattooed and sweaty, the band plays to the kind of fans who are almost as much fun to watch as the show, clawing over each others' backs and running up on stage. The band's debut EP, The Long Lost, is available on iTunes, but new tunes from their forthcoming LP demonstrate that the band's initial bursts of glory are far from their last. — Lauren Wise
The seven songs featured on Throw Me a Ten, the debut EP from Mesa-based indie-pop band DINERS, are sparkling, boasting ebullient vocals and harmonies, chiming guitars, and sprightly snare pops. It's not the first we've heard from 19-year-old songwriter Tyler Broderick, but it's the best, and it's the most intentional. When his former group, Hello the Mind Control, splintered, he took to AudioConfusion studios and mostly was left to his own devices by studio wizard Jalipaz. "I started out with a vision of wanting it to be really lo-fi bedroom-pop songs," Broderick says. "Then I was, like, that's a stupid idea. I should just have it be good quality and not try and hide." Songs like "Good Friends" and "The First Time" don't trade bedroom sincerity for quality. Instead, they efficiently combine both worlds, crafting an album that thematically centers around the idea of going out to local shows. "I live for these nights," Broderick sings, and it's easy to see why fans around town will one day sing the same thing about DINERS' shows. — Jason P. Woodbury
Fifteen-year-old high school junior Will Neibergall, known to Internet art purveyors as the blossoming brain behind avant-rap entity Glass Popcorn, doesn't make one-note joke rap to amuse the YouTube masses. His bizarre yet competent style reads like a Tumblr scroll, earning him accolades from outsider art publications and production help from up-and-comer Clams Casino. What is so surprising about his repetitive, brand-name-dropping rhymes is the level of straight-faced severity he conveys. Whether performing at the MoMA in Manhattan or on the tiny stage at Trunk Space, Neibergall doesn't smirk when rhyming about pop culture flotsam like energy drinks or Ed Hardy. Laugh, scoff, or shrug in disbelief, but Glass Popcorn challenges the basic preconceptions of rap music, brand identity, and the aesthetic sophistication of the Twitter generation. — Chase Kamp
Tommy Ash Band
No genre takes as much critical beating as contemporary country music. You've heard the complaints: Red Solo cups and pouty blondes singing about hanging out on the bleachers can't compare to the rough-around-the-edges sounds defined by the genre's greats — Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, and Loretta Lynn. But the Tommy Ash Band draws on enough modern sass and classic freight train beats to appeal to fans of both words. Her name sounds tomboyish, but Tommy Ash has the kind of front-page good looks that earn folks American Idol deals and a voice that's big and boastful enough to command the fierce Western band behind her. Ask the band who inspires them, and they're as likely to say ZZ Top and Katy Perry as the Man in Black or Miranda Lambert. That diversity pushes Tommy Ash Band onward, as they blend rock and country, hinting at rockabilly and Southern rock, creating a unique sound that will please both country diehards and folks who associate country with red Solo cups and songs about trucks. — Melissa Fossum
Gilbert-based singer/songwriter Sareena Dominguez's early work found her working easily within the acoustic indie-folk mold, but she's changed things up lately. Leaks from her upcoming album, Moonbeams, indicate an expanded, well-produced sound, apparent on "Unwoven," which features soft, tinkling piano and a gentle, drowsy beat that brings to mind whispy breezes of tropicalia. Dominguez's voice hasn't changed, however — it's still a soothing, dreamy tranquilizer invoking Ingrid Michaelson or Rachael Yamagata. At just 19, Dominguez has done a lot in the mere months she's been attached to River Jones Music Label, including a trip to Austin's SxSW festival, and has a busy schedule ahead of her this summer. All signs point to her looking to stray even further from the indie-songstress path; her Facebook lists "I have no clue dude" as her genre. — Troy Farah