Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it. Mondays suck (we've read Garfield). But it means the start of a new week, which means a bunch of killer shows in and around Phoenix.
And here are a few of the coolest, our top five must-see shows this week.
Earlier this year, soulful goth songstress Zola Jesus confessed to New Times that she has a secret dream of transcending modest indie success and becoming a full-fledged Mariah Carey-type pop star.
There's a significant number of art-warped pop singers whose R&B hooks and highly cultivated visual aesthetics betray a similar desire for Gaga-level popularity, quietly and steadily subverting pop norms, but perhaps the most conflicted and fastest-rising of these singers is Grimes, the 4AD-signed project of Canadian-born Claire Boucher.
Her synth-driven songs contain the sugary vocal swirl of K-pop and the kind of house beats that get bodies sweaty, yet somehow everything is submerged in ambient dynamics and contemporary hypnogogia. Her fashion choices are like a Tumblr scroll on MDMA: army jackets with hot pants, ambitious bangs, rings shaped like labia.
Her newest video for the solemnly sweet "Genesis" is a confounding mix of knowingly cliched pop iconography, sunny Southern California locales, and couture Lord of the Rings cosplay. A serpent-draped Grimes rolls with a bunch of Echo Park elves in a Cadillac SUV while a shimmering post-rave necromancer in platform Nikes dougies in the desert. Oh, and flaming swords.
In the early 2000s, around the time when 'N Sync was all out of whack and "La Vida Loca" was (still) driving everyone nuts, the "The" bands seemed to fall from heaven, bombarding fertile eardrums with sass, bombast, and chutzpah aplenty. Voilà! The garage punk revival was born again.
While their relevance stateside may have waned in comparison to American counterparts The Strokes and The White Stripes, Sweden's The Hives were as integral a part as any in ushering in a new era of post-punk bands.
Even household names like The Killers and Kings Of Leon owe a debt of gratitude to Sweden's finest noise merchants for helping to parlay a reinvigorated genre into a commercially viable one, a feat that the post-punk godfathers of the '70s and '80s were largely unable to accomplish. --Rob KroehlerWednesday, October 10: The Weeknd @ Celebrity Theatre
Last year, two mixtapes dropped that shifted R&B on its axis: Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra and The Weeknd's House of Balloons. Both took the standard propulsive club groove and softened it with production nuance, the lyrics conceding to self-doubt and disappointment. Soul jams were supposed to be the providence of sexual dominance and drama: R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet is the result of this logic taken to absurd levels, but that's because no one does it better, or bigger, than Robert.
Some blithely chalked up the difference to hipster context: Ocean is on the Odd Future roster, The Weeknd samples Beach House and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But for The Weeknd in particular, the difference is not only the hypnotic production but the poignant expansion on the standard R&B lyrical narrative of clubs, drugs, and ambiguous women.
The Weeknd combines rap swagger, psych spectacle, and emo introspection in a way universal to those erotically seasoned or romantically meek. If my bespectacled ass is rolling on the freeway -- en route toward or on the way back from the kind of shimmering Friday night that every young person envisions -- I want The Weeknd at head-nod volume while a still-amped dance partner releases Parliament Light exhaust toward the ether. --Chase Kamp
So, the drummer of a massively successful, NPR-adored indie-folk band quits said band, buys a van, loads it with psychedelic drugs, and drives down the West Coast to Los Angeles, where he cranks out a record that's equal parts Waylon Jennings honky-tonk and Richard Brautigan "mayonnaise," with songs about driving dune buggies with Neil Young on the beach and John the Baptist and Jesus Christ talking about girls down by the river. (He writes a novel, too, and packages it with the album's liner notes.)
It's a familiar story if you've read the loads of press about Josh Tillman's debut record under the name Father John Misty -- a story that borders on rock 'n' roll myth. The band was, of course, Fleet Foxes, whose second collection of mystical, naturalistic psych-folk was greatly enhanced by Tillman's booming percussion. Regarding his transformation from sad folkie to hip-shaking showman? One has to wonder if he's getting tired of talking about it.
"Go for it," Tillman says of my questions, walking down a street in San Francisco to get a cup of coffee. "I won't scream or cry or anything."
He laughs when I point out to him that he's put up more than a few promotional videos featuring him both screaming and crying, certainly more than the average Sub Pop-signed singer/songwriter uploads to the Internet. Tillman's emergence as Father John Misty has been marked by a penchant for theatrical comedy.
"I love getting in front of the camera and making an ass of myself," he says. "For some reason, I enjoy that so much. [I think] the conventional wisdom [regarding] making music videos is that you just want to look cool. It's kind of dorky for someone to be in their own video, because everyone thinks it's going to be this cheesy, hyper-romanticized portrayal of the artist. [I'm in my videos because I want people to say], 'There's something he's trying to say, more subtext he's trying to convey.'"
His stage show has taken turns in the same bizarre direction. In concert, he performs sans guitar, hands on his hips and fingers wagging at the audience. "I want to do what a stripper does, and in another way do what a carnival barker does, or a shaman, some kind of Pentecostal preacher," he says. "Those are all more interesting archetypes than a guitarist to me." -- Jason P. Woodbury (Read more about Father John Misty.)
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It's not a simple binary, but someone like Kendrick Lamar--lyrically skilled yet decidedly un-preachy, quick-tongued but hook-driven-- has what it takes to split the difference between unflinching gangster rap audiences and ponderous "conscious" hip-hop heads. Hailing from Compton and boasting the endorsement of west coast vicelord/expensive headphone impresario Dr. Dre, Lamar has cited 2Pac, Biggie and Nas as the primary informants of his style.
However, his rise was predicated by his affiliation with L.A.'s "Black Hippy" crew, a mélange of thoughtful yet concise rappers like Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. Lamar is also just as quick to turn inward on his own shortcomings as he is to decry the injustices of the outside world. His forthcoming major label debut, good kid m.A.A.d city, shows his ability to address both without alienating anyone. "Swimming Pools (Drank)" is a hazy slow-stepper about the romance (and subsequent downside) of alcoholism, harnessing a slick groove that doesn't get weighed down by its own message.
Dre-produced first single "The Recipe" is a funky nocturnal snap-back that shows off Lamar's honed chops, his tight phrasing not dwindled by the sheer speed of his rhymes. Lamar shows why fans in both camps can agree on masters like Dre or 2Pac: be real, and be real clear. - Chase Kamp