By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
As 2012 draws to a close, we couldn't be more optimistic about the state of music in the Valley of the Sun. With new bands emerging from various scenes and subgenres, it can be hard to keep up with the latest in Phoenix music.
What follows are our picks for 13 acts that will make an impact on the Southwest in the coming year:
Trapzillas (www.trapzillas.com): Bragging seems to be as natural a biological process to Adolfo Salazar as breathing. Ask the outspoken local EDM/hip-hop producer about some of his life experiences or the recent exploits of Trapzillas, the two-person trap music act he founded with L.A.'s Logic Ali, and you'll be inundated by stories involving the duo's collaborations with eccentric white boy rapper (and Pitchfork fave) Riff Raff or Salazar's misadventures with a certain cult film director that are too scandalous to print.
Thing is, a majority of his tales are true, at least when it comes to Trapzillas. "People are usually even more surprised about me when they realize I'm really not bullshiting," says Salazar, whom we spoke with via Facebook chat.
The past year was huge for Trapzillas, as both Salazar (who performs as Dolfz) and Ali (a.k.a. Ten Pill Shawty/Pete Flipper) provided the beats for Riff Raff's "Neon Freedom" and "Midnite Sprite," appeared in his music videos, and backed up the hip-hop star onstage at Mad Decent's block parties in both Philadelphia and NYC. Trapzillas' successes in 2012 weren't born only from hitching themselves to Riff Raff's kooky fame train. They've also worked with controversial Chicago rap star Lil' Reese, and Salazar currently is brewing up a joint mixtape/album called Wavy in the Trap (due out next year) with hot Brooklyn-based hip-hop producer Harry Fraud at his studio/house in Scottsdale.
And in each of their projects, Salazar and Logic refine their intoxicating and entrancing trap music creations, which invoke the hip-hop/EDM hybrid genre's mix of Southern rap bombast and the crunchy hooks of hardstyle. Salazar, who digs trap's obsession with "808's and dope dealer fairy tales" more than anything, says that the duo's sound is closer in spirit and content to hip-hop than the EDM-heavy trapstyle that's become hugely popular in the past year. It's even earned them some haters, and not just from the anti-trap crowd that's sprung up as of late.
"The whole 'trapstyle' movement catching on right now has been presented as some new form of music — it's all just hip-hop. We build songs that can be actually rapped on by a MC," Salazar says. "We are making music for everyone — but with the energy to stay on a dance floor and with a solid appreciation and respect for what the culture [is] behind this sound."
"We don't get hate from hip-hop world [and] the trapstyle movement doesn't know what to do with us really. I'm just an old school raver and Logic's old school hip-hop. We go back and forth, but we love the music and it shows — real nerds of hip-hop will understand and respect our approach." — Benjamin Leatherman
G-Owens (www.g-owens.com): G-Owens' full-length debut, The Feeling, is dizzying. Owens croons, raps, and emotes over 11 tracks that deftly mix jazz, soul, R&B, boom-bap hip-hop, and sensual Quiet Storm aesthetics.
Like Frank Ocean's breakthrough Channel ORANGE, Owens' The Feeling never slides into full-on retro-soul territory, instead taking elements from the past four decades of popular music: The sweeping strings of "Love You Better" could come from D'Angelo's Voodoo; "Second Time Pt. 2" rides a stuttering beat and Stevie Wonder electric piano; "The Thought that Counts" is haunting, sounding like it could come from Common's neglected Electric Circus.
This kind of ambition often sacrifices artistic clarity, but Owens sounds confident throughout album, with a brazen, earthy voice that finds equal footing in nimble hip-hop verses and aloof singing. As part of the Earsweat Drops crew, Owens finds himself in good company but stands out as the most pop-focused vocalist, one poised to make big moves in 2013. — Jason P. Woodbury
Sundressed (www.sundressed.bandcamp.com): Indie-folk band Sundressed is a sad bunch, and that's good. Led by singer/songwriter Trevor Hedges, the quintet thrives on all those things that make pop music so endearing — you know, things like heartbreak, rejection, and misery.
Sundressed paves the way for hopeless romantics at heart and unrequited love addicts everywhere with Hedges' often down-in-the-dumps lyrics, which are offset by surprisingly upbeat arrangements. The band released a very promising five-song self-titled EP earlier this year, highlighted by the love-story-gone-wrong track "Golden Boy." Over the course of the five-and-a-half-minute track, Hedges' vocals soar effortlessly, singing, "If only I could have been warned about you, then I'd known something was impure."
Tyler Kees dazzles as a jangly guitar strummer, while drummer Garrett Tretta and bassist Evan Kees show off their finger-snapping pace-keeping. Timely piano touches and harmonica warbles dance around the band's sound, which features influences ranging from Conor Oberst to Chuck Berry.
After a productive year, Sundressed has set the stage for a breakout 2013, starting with a full-length record scheduled for release in January. For that perfect balance of playfulness and wistfulness, lament and celebration, somberness and sweetness, keep an ear out for Sundressed. — Anthony Sandoval