Kinch: The piano has gotten a bad rap lately, thanks mostly to schmaltzy lite-pop bands like Keane and those dueling piano bars that seem to be springing up everywhere. Fortunately, Kinch has come along to give the piano its balls back. The band's debut, Advances, veered from rollicking, up-tempo rockers to understated ballads without ever crossing the thin line between sincerity and cheesiness. Their latest three-song EP hints at a moodier, more layered sound while still avoiding the pitfalls that seem to befall so many of their piano rock peers. — Mike R. Meyer Next Valley show: Friday, March 13, at Modified Arts.
The Love Me Nots: The Love Me Nots' kitschy, skinny-tie-guy-meets-Bond-girl look would be easy to dismiss if there wasn't some serious musicianship backing up their carefully crafted "garage-a-go-go" image. Nicole Laurenne kicks out the Farfisa jams and belts out gritty, sneering vocals while guitarist Michael Johnny Walker delivers fuzzy, surf-rock riffs and bluesy solos. The Love Me Nots' fixation on Detroit is borderline obsessive, but then again, the last time a band from the West tried this hard to emulate a sound from the East, the result was Bayou Country. Obsession can be a good thing. — M.R.M. Next Valley show: Friday, March 27 at the Ruby Room.
Arizona bands at SxSW
The Meat Puppets: It may say "Austin, Texas" on their MySpace page, but The Meat Puppets will always belong to Phoenix. Hell, they predate three of our four pro sports teams. Emerging from the early-'80s hardcore scene, The Meat Puppets pushed the boundaries of punk from the start. Their continuously evolving sound defied easy categorization and helped lay the groundwork for grunge in the 1990s. The band's well-chronicled highs and lows could fill a week's worth of Behind the Music episodes, but similar to fellow Phoenician and former boxer Michael Carbajal, they keep getting back up and fighting on. — M.R.M.
Dear and the Headlights: Emotionally complex, mockingly maudlin indie ballads are pretty much the standard, but few bands do them as well as Dear and the Headlights. Songs like "I'm Not Crying. You're Not Crying, Are You?" and "I'm Bored, You're Amorous" never quite get to the point, but that's kind of the point. Few singers besides Interpol's Paul Banks can match DatH's Ian Metzger when it comes to aloof brooding and, when he finally lets loose, and when the other four guys lock in, this band sounds pretty much unstoppable. — Martin Cizmar Next Valley show: April 2 at the Rhythm Room.
The Maine: If you're looking for a prime example of how the term "indie" is now associated with pretty much every guitar-based band currently on the scene, look no further than The Maine. Playing the sort Plain White T's soft rock that'd be better labeled adult contemporary if their fan base were not mostly teenagers, these guys have the ballsiness of Barry Manilow, with half the B-Man's raw sex appeal. Here's where you get angry: They may live with their parents, but these kids' single "I Wanna Love You" has 13 million plays on MySpace. And, trust us, if you had a teenage daughter, you'd be praying she listened to this shit rather than Lil' Wayne too. — M.C. Next Valley show: March 24 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
What Laura Says: It's already shaping up to be a busy year for What Laura Says. They recently wrapped up a national tour supporting Annuals and Jessica Lea Mayfield and are scheduled to perform at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in April before returning to the studio to work on a follow-up to last year's Thinks and Feels. The band has already become a favorite among hipsters throughout the blogosphere, and their buzz-band status should only increase if they manage another impressive performance at SxSW, as they did at last year's festival. — M.R.M. Next Valley show: March 27 at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.
Howe Gelb: One of the longest-tenured and most prolific musicians in the Tucson music scene, indie stalwart Howe Gelb has released more than three dozen albums as a solo performer and as part of his ongoing Giant Sand project. — M.R.M.
. . . music video?: We'll say this for dot-dot-dot-music-video-question-mark: Even they recognize efforts to disseminate their sweet, charmingly understated electropop are not well-served by their ridiculous name. They're now asking for new names on their MySpace. Our suggestion: Poor Man's Postal Service. — M.C.
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Golden Boots: The Valley has a reputation for being notoriously indifferent toward Tucson bands. With a quirky new album, Winter of Our Discotheque, and an indomitable spirit, Golden Boots are bucking that trend. — M.R.M. Next Valley show: March 16 at the Rhythm Room.
Digital Leather: Just because you're from a sun-blasted, hippified Arizona college town doesn't mean you have any reason not to start a mopey Madchester band. So it is that we have Digital Leather, and their ridiculous haircuts. — M.C.
The Silos: Back when they were founded (1985), The Silos were hailed as "America's Best New Band" by no less a source than Rolling Stone. A quarter-century later, these country/punk/classic rock mutts are based in Flagstaff instead of NYC, and showcasing at SxSW yet again. — M.C.