Steff Koeppen - "Celebrate (Atom Child Remix)"
Steff Koeppen has been fronting Tucson's amazing Steff & The Articles for over six years. On Friday, November 20, she will release her first solo EP, the dazzling Game We Play. If you are expecting it to be her doing solo piano pop, you'll probably need to reset your head and your ears for something completely different. Koeppen has taken a radically unusual approach to her solo outing, and it's damned exciting. On Game We Play, she shows off that she still has a knack for compelling pop, but she's staging it in an extremely danceable synth-heavy setting. Of all the tracks I've heard, I fell in love immediately with the Atom Child Remix of "Celebrate," which shows off the diversity of her new recordings better than anything else. The remix is from Ian Hultquist, a founding member of Passion Pit, no less. It's an engaging change, and this track will be included on the EP when it drops November 20, but today it premieres here. No matter how Koeppen applies her vocals or delivers that magical voice, it is one of the most enchanting to be found these days, and when the dance flourishes kick in, the song will get your hips swinging in no time. So get ready for the lovely new world of Steff Koeppen.
Diners - "Must Be Nice"
One of the year's most eagerly anticipated albums is Diners' third record, titled simply, III. Well, it turns out that III won't be released this year, but Diners, never ones to let their fans down, have released a stopgap EP called It's All True. Released Wednesday, November 18, the EP is a short, lovely indie pop treasure. My favorite track on the EP is "Must Be Nice," performed entirely by Tyler Broderick, who plays everything on the song with the exception of drums, played by Tristan Jemsek. It's a wry little pop tune with a catchy hook and lyrics tackling envy, jealousy, or sour grapes but delivered as sweetly as possible. If you don't pay attention, it sounds like a hook-heavy number that's sweeter than pie, but it's a subtle attack on the protagonist of the song. I don't know whether the object of the jealously is real, but I've known enough folks who seem able to do anything they want, whenever they want that it's not a stretch to think the person is real. On the other hand, it's a vulnerable confession of a base response that you may not be proud of but must admit crosses your mind. Here, the individual can throw an art installation, create a picture, make a movie, record an album, and so on. It's a brilliant, honest commentary with such a winsome delivery, you might be none the wiser.
Good Friends Great Enemies - "Hot Sea Men"
Last week, Good Friends Great Enemies released its first record in over two years at Valley Bar, and I have to say that Cautiously Poptimistic is one of the best indie pop albums of the year. It is composed and constructed to be listened to as an album in its entirety for maximum enjoyment, but there are plenty of single-worthy songs throughout. Don't be dissuaded by the bawdy title "Hot Sea Men." The song titles contain a lot of wordplay, and this is one of the best in the bunch. It also captures the quintessence of the entire affair. It's an upbeat, fun number that gives you a slightly woozy feeling, as though you are actually aboard a ship rocking back and forth. I'm not sure how the band achieves it, but it's just a damn fine groove that shows off the group's talent in spades. I highly recommend checking out the entire album from beginning to end, because it works so damn well as an entire collection, which obviously was the intention. As a bonus, check out the teaser video they did for one of the brilliant short tracks found across the Cautiously Poptimistic below. "Who You Are" packs a punch, just like the rest of the album, but does it in 82 seconds.
The Wretched Desert - "Dead Reckoning"
You may recall that earlier this year Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World) and his wife, Holly, released their first three-song EP as The Wretched Desert. Well, it appears they are making good use of their living room music studio, because they just released their second three-song EP last week. I'm beginning to wonder how many of these EPs will be released, because if the new Dead Reckoning is EP is any indication, each one is getting progressively better. The release was "made with love and determination to challenge ourselves and share ourselves with others," and it's as much as it is synth-pop as it is prog rock, which is an interesting mix. It was a tough choice between highlighting the title track or "Awaken" upon which Holly takes lead vocals. I have to say it was the aggressive tilt of "Dead Reckoning" that kept me coming back and it featured Zach taking the vocal helm on this round. In addition to the magnificent soundscape of synths and drums, the first single from the EP also has a great guitar rave up going for it. It definitely broadens their sound a bit and as Holly provides dreamy backing vocals the whole thing coalesces about half way through for the total payoff. It's a fascinating musical adventure watching these two grow through their releases in such a short time. Now when will they take my money for a live performance?
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Hollowbodies - "You Came to Life"
I have been waiting for Hollowbodies for about a year now. Who the hell are Hollowbodies, you may ask? They are something of a local supergroup composed of former members of Constellation Branch, Morning Theft, Wizards of Time, and Mergence. That's a damn impressive résumé, if you ask me, and they have just released their first song. Hollowbodies (Jordan Cruz, James Mitchell, Bryce Hill, Brandon Shupe, and Lorne Mills) have released "You Came to Life," the first song from their debut EP. It is a fascinating track, to say the very least. It's as jazzy as it is trippy as it is retro in an intrinsically radioactive way. One thing is for sure: No one sounds like this in Arizona, and that's always refreshing. If you are a fan of Celebration Guns, Small Leaks Sink Ships, and Twin Ponies, I have a feeling you will love this band. They have started playing shows around town, and I am champing at the bit to catch them on the stage. This song also has me eagerly anticipating the rest of the EP, because I can't wait to see where this is going. There is a hypnotic dreaminess to the entire song, with complex percussion, soulful sax, mesmerizing vocals, and a beautiful bass line. It's a stunner, that's for sure, and a song that seems be unstuck in space and time.