Being Cool Is Lonely
In the late '80s, Keith Walker was rocking it (and a sweet orange-toned mullet) with Power of Dreams, an Irish pop rock band that British taste-making magazine NME once named as one of its "stars of tomorrow." Power of Dreams' chiming pop melodies were a far cry from the dark, synth-ridden sex party that was taking place in London's seedy underground, where Depeche Mode and New Order were mastering the delicate concoction of leather and drum machines. Decades later, Walker, now drumming for Tempe indie rockers Sister Cities, was downing a bottle of Jameson with Andy Rourke of The Smiths and William "Fucking" Reed, the hipster DJ king of Phoenix, celebrating a successful guest appearance at Reed's weekly dance night Sticky Fingers. His future girlfriend and musical partner, fashionista Tiffe Fermaint, was just seats away. It was the night that sparked a relationship, both musically and romantically (Rourke and Reed excluded from the later). The pair formed Being Cool Is Lonely, which skillfully combines the sounds of '80s synth pop with sexual shades of nu disco and electronica, with songs like the tingly-in-the-pants, moaning epic "Your Love" and "Find You," a meant-to-be ditty that would be too sweet if it didn't have a healthy dose of "fuck you," too. — Christina Caldwell

The Sh!t
The name may set up high expectations, but if the flows of The Sh!t are any indication, MCs Nate Sourpuss and Ian Influence want to prove themselves right. Their track on Arizona hip-hop collective Earsweat Records' latest mixtape, Ass Dro Not, is a perfect extraterrestrial summer jam: Minimal sci-fi synths are cut with Wu-Tang trash snares while The Sh!t talk sharp-tongued trash in the cosmos. The rhymes burst with Beasties attitude, but it's also got the funky smoothness of Beauty and the Beat-era Edan while harnessing the playful quantum force of Deltron 3030. The Sh!t should play nicely with '90s hip-hop heads, good-time backpackers, and too-faded aliens. — Chase Kamp

"Godard said film won't be a valid art form until film is as cheap as paper," says J.S. Aurelius of Tempe-based swamp-disco combo Marshstepper (Aurelius, N. Nappa, and D. Pupillo). Aurelius would know — his artistic output is defined by paper (he's written a couple-dozen zines' worth of poetry released by Ascetic House), and Marshstepper has yet to release music in physical or even MP3 format. Only grainy, spectral films of the band's live performances of pulsing EBM meditations are available online. Despite the varied formats, each aspect — music, print, video — is part of a grander statement. "[Marshstepper] is, in a lot of ways, a continuation of what we've been doing," Aurelius says. "It's weird — for me at least — putting names on bands, because it all comes from the same place, regardless of sound. Marshstepper is a little bit weirder and little bit more eccentric than some of the bands we do [like Desert Vibrations, Avon Ladies, and the controversially named Tempe SS]. They're all different in sound, but they all come from the same place." The goal is less about entertainment and more about admittedly "philosophical or New Agey" aims: "It's all done with as much humor as an aggressive pointed attack on anything," Aurelius says, "but it's all a means to an end, trying to transcend the bullshit." — Jason P. Woodbury

Top row (from left): City in the Sea, DINERS, Glass Popcorn. Middle row (from left): Tommy Ash Band, Sareena Dominguez, Being Cool Is Lonely. Bottom row (from left): The Sh!t, Marshstepper, YUS, TABS
Top row (from left): City in the Sea, DINERS, Glass Popcorn. Middle row (from left): Tommy Ash Band, Sareena Dominguez, Being Cool Is Lonely. Bottom row (from left): The Sh!t, Marshstepper, YUS, TABS

Experimental hip-hopper Youceff Kabal, better known around Phoenix simply as the performing/recording artist YUS, has a knack for melding electronic bleeps, blops, and whirls into a pleasing concoction of chill-out music that's more groovy than it is ambient. Establishing his penchant for slinky synth strokes with his 2010 debut, Palms, YUS has since gone on to release a B-sides compilation that builds on the musician's willingness to toss around off-tempo beats and trippy samples while also being so bold as to venture into providing some of his favorite songs with the YUS treatment. So far he's extended his touch to tracks by Animal Collective, Crystal Castles, How to Dress Well, and James Blake. — Anthony Sandoval

Whatever you do, please don't refer to the team of Ben Anderson and Eric Hoss as mere DJs. Not only is it vaguely insulting, but it's also entirely inaccurate. After all, the duo known collectively as TABS does far more than the sort of rank-and-file selectas or mixer monkeys working the local club circuit. Anderson (better known as by his moniker Swookie Monster) and Hoss (who goes by the stage name Speedy Graffiti) specialize in producing bombastic electro dance tracks that go beyond the usual club banger swagger and are alive with an infectious energy and riotous verve. Stylish electronic flourishes are added with aplomb to produce unique audioscapes that get the listener's adrenaline pumping into the stratosphere. Their adroit remixes of indie artists like Gossip and Foster the People, not to mention of the works of such EDM superstars as Sander Van Doorn, have earned laudings from the dance music blogosphere, and cause dancers to lose their shit whenever TABS performs at club gigs. — Benjamin Leatherman

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