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
Whiskey Kiss – “Keep It To Myself”
Whiskey Kiss is set to release the follow-up record to 2014's Dangerous One, and “Keep It To Myself” is the preview single/video unleashed to whet your appetite. It seems wildly appropriate that the forthcoming album is titled Retro Revamped, because that sums up the entirety of their rockabilly-tinged sounds. This track is something of a scorcher largely fueled by the sultry vocals of Niki White and the searing guitar licks courtesy of Nick White. It’s a boozy, smoke-filled number that feels like the music you want with you as you head out on the desert highway in your convertible. This is right in line with some of the finest revivalist acts this town has ever known, like the Love Me Nots and the Rebel Set. Still, as the album title suggests, it’s just as much revamped as it is retro, and Whiskey Kiss has a signature sound that brings it all into the modern age. They’ve got the sound, the look, and the record ready to launch them well into next year and bring them to a much larger audience than they have reached before. Keep your eyes on Whiskey Kiss; their aim is high and so is their trajectory. Whiskey Kiss will release their album Retro Revamped this Saturday, December 10, at the Rebel Lounge where they will be joined by Manual Sex Drive and Roadkill Wranglers.
Ghetto Cowgirl – “Ally’s Gone”
Tempe music scene veterans Ghetto Cowgirl have returned with a last-moment single for 2016. Seemingly out of nowhere and without provocation, Marc Norman (vocals), Curtis Grippe (drums), Scott Andrews (bass), and Thomas Laufenberg (guitar) got together once more to release a straightforward rocker with "Ally's Gone." Marc Norman's vocals just get better with age, with marvelous gravelly depth. I hope he lives to 100 and becomes the Tempe version of Tom Waits. "Ally's Gone" is not just a great rocker, but it also has a great hook, like everything Ghetto Cowgirl has ever done. It's also lyrically clever. If you're only half-listening, the line "Ally's gone to the other side" would suggest that Ally is dead and this is an homage, but if you listen closely, that's not what it's about at all. Instead, this melodramatic ode is about a woman uninterested in his music who goes to the other side of the venue. It's brilliant fun, every second of it. I think this makes two singles in two years from Ghetto Cowgirl, so be on the lookout in 2020 for the next full-length.
Soft Deadlines – “One Hand Clapping”
“One Hand Clapping” is the first single from Soft Deadlines' second full-length album, Go Dark, and it’s a fantastic showcase of neurotic rock that keeps you on edge the entire time. Soft Deadlines have carefully cultivated an art-punk sound, and while the new single may not be as catchy as some of the releases from Critic, the band is exploring weirder territory within the confines of their sound. And that makes this pretty damn exciting. It's got a bit more Wire to it this time and a little less Gang of Four, with a feeling that makes me feel the same way I do when I listen to Mission of Burma. Lead singer Oliver Lemke delivers one of his most intense vocals on record (and that's saying something); meanwhile, the guitars are breathtaking, with the rhythms of Chad Cussen and Parker Douglas making this into something of a formidable juggernaut. Check out the video premiere below and watch Lemke star in a paranoid spy thriller in one of the more creative video concepts of the year. Soft Deadlines will be releasing Go Dark on Saturday, December 17, at Last Exit Live in a dual record release with the Edisons, with support from Paper Foxes and the Echo Bombs.
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Action Jets – “Big Dumb Show”
If you ever need an authentic power-pop fix, I would recommend that you check out the Action Jets. Evoking the likes of Cheap Trick, Raspberries, and the Records, Action Jets seem to have stepped right out of the 1970s and straight into our hearts. “Big Dumb Show” is their latest single, and it’s the first to preview the band's forthcoming sophomore record set for release next year. Action Jets make music to have fun to – nothing more, nothing less. Action Dave has always known how to write indomitable hooks in pop scenarios for quite some time in his pre-Action Jets days, and this song is no exception. Like most great, catchy pop, the lyrics are relatable and vague enough that they could literally mean anything at all, from being awkward at a show to feeling disenfranchised from society. It can go as far as your mind wants to take it, and few songwriters take advantage of that these days. It may be up for interpretation, but there may be nothing to interpret. It will be interesting to find out next year if the follow-up to Action Party Epic Fun! will be every bit as good. With this song leading the pack, the early indicators are all positive.
Sunlaand – “On Edge”
I was originally going to go with “Michael Cera” off the new self-titled debut EP from Sunlaand, but then I got to the end of the record. “On Edge” is the record's finale, and it also happens to be the longest, as the other five tracks end at or around the two-minute mark. The entire EP is a fantastic run through a modern take on skate punk. “On Edge” features some peculiar phrasing, lyrically speaking. Sara Windom takes the lead vocals here, and turns it into art with a bit of affectation that reminds me of early female-fronted punk records. Sunlaand is Michael Chmura (bass/vox), Windom (guitar/vox), and James Hoag (drums), and while the entire EP is great, "On Edge" is something of an indie rock masterpiece. From the bass intro to the uptight guitars to the crashing drums to that vocal, this feels like what the entire EP leads up to, and every minute of it is gold. Sunlaand has caught my undivided attention with this one.