By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
St Ranger — "Right On": Our pick for best local band of 2012 didn't quite make it into 2014, breaking up in November rather than replacing members as the individual pieces of its super-precise indoor-pool surf-rock sound got busy. But its last two songs were at least a proper send-off, combining their serpentine melodies with a fittingly strange casualness. "Right On" sounds like nothing so much as St Ranger getting almost too busy to keep being St Ranger.
Fairy Bones — "Like Like": If No Doubt hadn't started out as big fans of Madness, they might have sounded like Fairy Bones by the time they got to Tragic Kingdom. Vocalist Chelsey Louise bounces all over their self-titled debut EP, but "Like Like," the first single, distills their sharp edges into two thrilling minutes.
Captain Squeegee — "Shift Happens": Captain Squeegee raised a little over $10,000 to record To the Bardos in a spring crowdfunding campaign, and it turns out that that's exactly what it costs to get a clear picture of the Valley's weirdest ska refugees and self-actualizers. The unstated goal behind the sheer volume of gnostic ideas and off-kilter instrumentation in Bardos is to trigger an out-of-body experience in the listener. But if it doesn't work, don't worry — they have an instructional web series that will help.
Mergence — "White Bark": Mergence is doing some weird things on its second album, Songs for Humans Volume 1, but "White Bark" is unique for its fusion of the stark, alone-in-the-desert thing the band is cultivating with the classic-rock sensibilities that make it a welcome anachronism around town. "White Bark" has a melody that you'll be stuck with after a minute and a half of unprotected exposure, but the component parts of that melody are unconventional enough that you'll keep coming back for the real thing.
Future Loves Past — "Lupa": Future Loves Past's debut LP, All the Luscious Plants, is a blurry photo of a band that's rapidly gaining confidence. "Lupa" might not be its best track, but its mix of Duran Duran urgency and danceability with a just barely noticeable metaphysical weirdness — her name is Rio, except she's also some kind of wolf-goddess — showcases everything this band is doing right. The band's next project, a concept album about the solar system, raises the main question it will contend with in 2014: Is there room on a larger scale for a band that's this polished and this weird all at once?