Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new local music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Emby Alexander – "Phoenix Sons"
On the Fourth of July, Emby Alexander released their third full-length album with Sound of Phoenix, and it is another mesmerizing collection of neurotically paced, indie art rock. This time around, the music is notably less whimsical than their previous efforts, but it's no less engaging and every bit as compelling as last summer's Frontispiece and their self-titled debut from the summer before. One of the most spirited songs on the album, aside from the pre-release single, "In Your Doorway Bleeding," has to be "Phoenix Sons," a play on the basketball team name. Each song on the new album is noted by cross streets from across the metro area, and this one is Fifth Street and Roosevelt, the corner where all the action starts on Roosevelt Row. It's a classic Emby track in every way, but the lyrics are a little surprising and unfortunately or fortunately, you will have the hook "Phoenix sons, who fucked you first?" rolling through your head after only a listen or two. It's a pretty perfect single except for the fact that it will never be able to get airplay, but luckily this album is full of single-worthy material that will just as easily spread the gospel of Emby Alexander to indie kids and art-school students everywhere.
WOLVVES – "Untitled"
In a slightly surprising move without little publicity or fanfare, Wolvves recently released their first record since they "broke up" after releasing their full-length debut, Whatever, in 2015. I haven't gotten a chance to check out the entire record, but oddly, the previous singles released this year, "Bouquet of Lightning" and "Ivory Drive," are nowhere to be found on it. The five-track EP is called Songs Before Paradox, and that leaves even more unanswered questions. Is this EP simply a teaser for the full album Paradox Valley, mentioned only a few months ago? Will the previous singles end up there? At the same time Wolvves did all this, they dropped a new video for "Untitled." First of all, it's one of Aydin Immortal's finest moments as he delivers a heartwrenching vocal that is nearly spoken word throughout most of the track, while it is lyrically devastating. The real star of this track, beyond Immortal, is the trumpet work of Torrey McDannald, which provides a stunning, jazzy punctuation to Immortal's lyrics and consumes the final two thirds of the entire track. I'm going to trust in Wolvves that they have a plan, and I can't wait to check out Songs Before Paradox, because I think it's only the middle step to all that Wolvves will do with their new direction.
Complicate Simple – "Vignette"
Complicate Simple just released their debut record, Blue, a couple weeks ago at Last Exit Live. In anticipation of that release, they had released a couple preview singles including "Rewind" and the one I can't get out of my head, "Vignette." I have been spinning the record since the release and while this song is great, I encourage you to check out the entire thing, because the pre-release singles aren't even the best songs to be found on there. Nevertheless, I think "Vignette" represents Complicate Simple's best, and it's a nice gateway drug to their intoxicating sound. There's a magic in their musical darkness right from the start with the bass, guitar, and drums immediately painting a picture with their riffs alone, before Michael Jon's fascinating vocals come in and add the imagery to the entire portrait. While his voice would have blended in well in the '90s, it stands out like the intricate instrument it is, especially on this track. There's also a fantastic, near-villainous phrasing he uses on the near spoken vocals that just kills me every time. It may not be my favorite track on the record, but it certainly showcases the talents of the entire band and serves as a damn fine introduction to this simple, but complicated rock outfit.
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The Expos – "White Sox"
Aaron Ponzo may well be a madman, but I like his style. I've kept my ear on his musical outfit known as the Expos for at least the past year or so. Since that time, he's released three albums this year alone. The newest of these records is Happy, self-described by Ponzo as his "no rules, do anything album." (I thought he had been doing this the entire time, actually.) I'm not going to try to tell you the album is an easy listen, but I listened to all of it, every second of the 45-minute "Pinball" trilogy that ends the album, which ends in a 20-minute discussion of In'N'Out Burgers and Soda reviews. That said, I kept coming back to "White Sox." It's my favorite song that's actually a song here, and a damn fine one at that. I would actually recommend the whole album for at least one listen all the way through, maybe after a breakfast of mescaline. Like the Expos' other albums, it's a fascinating mixed-bag affair that's ultimately just a hell of a lot of fun, with songs that rival Guided By Voices in brevity and impact. This one also has the only rap found on the album, and it's pretty genius amid the sheer indie pop.
TSAL – "Hard Wire Snatchery"
I don't actually know how I found TSAL, but I always get a little cautious when I see a band that refers to themselves as "experimental." Sometimes I'll get 30 seconds into the experiment and want to forsake science and shove knitting needles in my ears; that is not the case with TSAL. They just released the four-track EP Studded Everything this week, and it's one of the more fascinating records to come across my plate in a while. The EP really plays as more of a double-sided single with short introductory songs before each one. Still, "Hard Wired Snatchery" is one of the two full-fledged songs, in this case preceded by the stunningly hypnotic "Kyab Su Chio." This, on the other hand, is a fine blend of thrash metal, audio experiments, tribal rhythms, dubstep, and a psychedelic grunge pastiche that maintains most of the song's body. It's a little bit Tool meets Alice in Chains meets the avant-garde. The entire thing is best enjoyed within the context of the record itself, because it's a wild and completely engaging audio experience. I don't know what to make of it, other than I like it, and I like it a lot. I'm looking forward to see who is behind this musical project and where this is going.