By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Feel free to ignore the punny name and focus on the music: Whereas Through and Through explored Marquard's sacred influences, Samuel L and the Cool J's is all pure pop for now people. Marquard himself hangs in the back, letting Los Angeles-based frontman Haendal Balzora lead a pack including members of Where Dead Voices Gather, Dear and the Headlights, Wooden Indian, and Yellow Minute.
Balzora's vocals are wild, careening over arrangements that suggest The Animals had they signed to Stax Records, with the demented organ-grinding, spiking electric guitars, and tight drumming that implies. The long-distance affair makes shows rare, but if the band continues to impress as it did while debuting at Yucca Tap Room, it won't be long before it's recognized as Phoenix's premier soul combo. — Jason P. Woodbury
French Girls (www.facebook.com/frenchgirlsphx): The Phoenix foursome French Girls follow a familiar formula in their punky approach to rocking out: stripped-down chords played at a vivacious pace.
Harking back to the early "Blitzkrieg Bop" days of punk rock, this local crew has a knack for catchy melodies and sing-along-friendly chants that are fun to listen to in any setting. Singer and bassist Che Beret and drummer Chiffon Baton are the lovely ladies anchoring the rhythm section, while the balls of the band, Jean Jacques Clouseau III and Michel Ouioui, churn out grinding guitar riffs and wailing backup vocals.
With the aptly French inspired noms de plume — not to mention oddball lyrics, foot-stomping beats, and Beret's purring delivery — there's plenty to enjoy at a French Girls show. Individually, these rockers are no strangers to our increasingly impressive music circuit, but this particular lineup is relatively new on the block.
Since their debut in March, they have managed to string along several shows across the Valley, setting up what should be an exciting upcoming year. With a vixen of a woman at the helm, Beret and company are a local lock for Phoenix artists you need to know in 2013. Get ready for more 1-2-3 drumstick click-clacks and howling "oh oh ohs." — Anthony Sandoval
Of the Painted Choir (www.ofthepaintedchoir.bandcamp.com): There's a rustic sense of familiarity listening to Lula, the three-song debut EP by Phoenix indie-folk combo Of the Painted Choir.
Composed of elements we're well aquainted with — M. Ward mumble/slapback vocal here, fuzzy British Invasion guitar lick there — the collection doesn't sacrifice quality employing such recognizable signifiers.
Instead, Of the Painted Choir — comprising songwriter Frederick Huang, Darren Simoes (The Bled/Dead Western Plains), Phillip Hanna (Tugboat/Kinch), and John Blades (Dorsey) — wrings out every bit of emotion and joy from the indie-pop format.
"Lula, My Baby" bounces on a strident, anthemic beat, bolstered by Huang's lilting voice, while "A Spanish Mountain" is more restrained — that is, until its ramshackle, ecstatic solo breakdown.
Bonus track "Mr. Bumblebee," with its whimsical Donovan/novelty jam vibe, feels unnecessary — but mostly because the two tracks before it are so much better-composed and executed. — Jason P. Woodbury
Me Vale Madre (www.facebook.com/pages/Me-Vale-Madre): If you need to brush up on your español, "me vale madre" is slang for "I don't give a fuck." When guitarist Tony Patiño was 6 years old, he was gifted a t-shirt featuring four pissing dudes wearing sombreros with the Spanish phrase written on it. It was, of course, the perfect name for a band.
"Spanish, being the romantic and beautiful language that it is, takes this aggressive, lackadaisical, and indifferent attitude, and makes it beautiful," PJ Waxman, Madre's guitarist and lead singer explains via e-mail.
Waxman, who is in Yellow Minute, also used to play in Valley buzz band Dear and the Headlights, says he doesn't "want to ride on the coat tails of past successes."
That's fine, because I sort of sense Me Vale Madre is going to be something big this year, making something truly unique that grabs the genre by its teeth, shakes it like a chew toy, and tears it apart.
When Me Vale Madre opened for Gospel Claws at their album release a few weeks ago, they started in some traditional indie guitar, post-punk style, stretched it out into a shoegaze pastiche, and ended songs with noise rock thrashes that shook the stage.
Part of Madre's DGAF edge comes from their endless list of influences; the other half comes from their time in other bands. Patiño once fronted the post-rock progressive rock band Attack of the Giant Squid, Matthew Gilbert does a solo project called POEM and was once in Goodbye Tomorrow (now Alive in Wild Paint), and Mike Bell is the drummer in Lymbyc Systym, Knesset, and Spirit Cave.
Waxman says you can expect a full Me Vale Madre album by summer 2013, as they've been recording all over the place.
"Our recording process has such a wide musical source. Tony did some tracking at Flying Blanket recently, we have done a lot of recording at home and at friend's studio," Waxman says. "I did vocals at my house using some equipment that my old roommate, John from Black Carl has. He has a little studio of his own and produces really awesome vinyl/analog driven music."