Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new songs in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Merit - "Take Care"
I try to keep pretty close tabs on the bands I enjoy, but somehow, Merit was able to release an EP in March without it setting off my radar. The Sun Will Rise was the first of three EPs to be released this year that are a concept piece dealing with the cycles of life, as far as I understand. Pretty heavy stuff. "Take Care" is the first song to be released from the second installment of this concept, The Comfort and The Confusion EP. Self described as "Arizona Bummer Jams", Merit offers so much more than that. It might be easy to call them "emo" and perhaps they are to a degree, but with the possible exception of likeminded partners in crime Sundressed, no one is putting out music like this, right here, right now. Here the verses are reflective and poetic, acoustic and haunting, while the chorus roars up to meet the ears with the yearning "Take care my one true friend, I'm sure I'll see you again." It's a beautiful song and it's the finale of the forthcoming EP that I truly look forward to hearing in its entirety. Luckily, I don't have to wait long. The Comfort and The Confusion EP will be released this Sunday, July 12, at Rebel Lounge as a double release party with fellow local indie rockers Sundressed.
Mike Montoya - "Trailboss"
Mike Montoya is something of a Phoenix music scene legend having fronted Fatigo, The Montoya Clan, and Two Visions, each featuring songs that are as influenced by his geography as much as they are by his heritage. He has since moved to New Mexico, after a few years in Bisbee, and is now releasing his first ever solo EP Kind. The first single from this enigmatic EP is "Trailboss," which features the very much missed and dearly departed Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl (the late Derrick and Amy Ross) on the recording. Still, one of my favorite aspects of all Montoya recordings is his unique vocal delivery, which I just recently figured out reminds me of a very young Willie Nelson. It is slightly haunting to hear Amy's voice on the recording and hear Derrick's electric guitar as well, but the song is a dreamy Sonoran desert number that falls right in line with everything Montoya has produced in his prolific catalog. It also happens to feature Anji Kate on accordion from his all too short lived Two Visions project. Just enjoy and drift off into a desert dream with this one. After that, check out the rest of the EP as it is truly worth your while. Montoya assures me that after this, new records from The Montoya Clan and Fatigo will follow in its wake.
Harper And The Moths - "Chemicals"
It appears that Harper And The Moths like to release twin singles at the same time to adequately and accurately show the many facets of their style. This year it has meant releasing an insanely pop-geared song like Nighttime Tremors in tandem with a rocker like "What Are We Giving Up". In this case they released the over the top pop daydream of "Walking Through Fire" with the rollicking "Chemicals". Both songs are great, both sides of their songwriting and performance are fantastic as well and apparently, "Chemicals" is starting to get some airplay as well. The song, lyrically, is either about being attached to an addict whether it's drugs or sex, or it's the most clever play on the fact that really all we feel is serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins. Either way it's pretty impacting, especially if its the latter. Still, I must admit that Harper and The Moths is probably my favorite local band right now and it seems that they are just on an upswing of putting out great songs again and again—in my book they are four for four this year. This song, as with "Walking Through Fire" was produced by Bob Hoag and I honestly believe this is a winning combination. I look forward to more from that combination. In the meantime, catch Harper and The Moths at Valley Bar this Saturday, July 11.
MRCH - "Highway Drivin'"
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MRCH (pronounced "march") is the indie electronic side project for three-fifths of The Prowling Kind, which is to say Mickey and Jesse Pangburn, with Erin Beal. MRCH is working up to a record to be released later this year and the second installment of this is the lushly quick and simple "Highway Drivin'," which was co-written with Joel Marquard (Gospel Claws, The Through & Through Gospel Review, Spiritual Warfare). This is a completely dreamy number that truly captures the feeling of driving late at night on the city streets as though it were your own emotional highway without another car in sight. In contrast to their first single "Validation", this is less of a pop number and presents a darker side to this incarnation, with Mickey choosing a more sultry tone for her voice. There is a sexy sense of danger found here and it relies heavily on all of the members to deliver that between the vocals, guitar, keys and drums. It is the moon to the previous singles sun — and perfectly so. Be sure to check out the amazing video for the single above, brilliantly directed by Frank Thomas, who had worked with The Prowling Kind on their videos and catch them at Crescent Ballroom on Sunday, July 26, for more of this magic live.
Blanche Beach - "Vitamin"
Sometimes rock 'n' roll needs to be dirty, frenzied, crazy and a big hot mess. I think we forget that sometimes in this world of perfect digital production. That's not what indie rock is about, and in the ’90s it's sure as hell not what grunge was about. True rock has never been about polish; it's always been about passion and drive and catharsis. Blanche Beach is the perfect example of this. They may be seen, and justifiably so, as ’90s revivalists — but they just make such great music that appeals to my garage rock senses I can't stand it. I stand by the idea that if you can't say it in under three minutes, it probably doesn't need to be said, and most of Blanche Beach's songs are in alignment with that ideal. "Vitamin" is the kind of the song that would have been an underground hit crawling to the top of the CMJ charts in 1993 with incredible ease. It is one of the clear singles found on their new EP Ira Battles, and if you match it with "Highway" you would have a perfect Sub Pop 45 in your hands. Now, I just want more bands to put out music that is this in your face and urgent, because this is simply one of the best songs of the year. The same goes for the EP it calls home.