It's only the end of February, but I'm convinced I've already heard one of the best albums of 2013. Destruction Unit's new LP, the six-song mind eraser Void, debuts locally on Monday, February 25, when the band takes the stage at the Yucca Tap Room. The band's been getting some high-profile recognition from outlets like Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, and Impose Magazine. Spinning opening track "Evil Man," it's easy to hear why. The band tops our list of Must-See Shows This Weekend. Read on for more, including sci-fi proggers Coheed and Cambria, dance punkers Doctor Bones, and the farewell gig for one of the Valley's best hip-hop DJs. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Anberlin has never been the band to drop copious amounts of J-bombs in its songs, but the group's music often has served as a musical metaphor for how people maintain their faith during troubled times. Anberlin's latest, Vital, combines aggressive modern rock and New Wave beats with stories of people trying to navigate through the minefield of life while clinging to the belief -- blindly or otherwise -- that God exists.
"Someone Anyone" marries clubby synths and big guitars while questioning if there is anything worth fighting for. Amid the machine-gunfire rock 'n' roll of "Little Tyrants" or the bomb-like guitars and drums on "Desires," singer Stephen Christian unleashes his trademark war-like cries as he laments being deceived by his baser instincts, a not-uncommon theme in Anberlin's songs.
The epic closer "God, Drugs & Sex" highlights Christian's struggle to avoid temptations, and on the piano-led "Type Three," when he sings, "I look to Heaven to save me / And you call me naive / Rather be a hopeless lover / Than cursed with disbelief," you cannot help acknowledging his commitment to such an ideal, even if you disagree with it. Anberlin always positions itself squarely at the intersection of art and faith, and the rocking Vital is the latest exhibit. -- Brian PalmerMonday, February 25: Destruction Unit @ Yucca Tap Room
Long before Pitchfork was taking notice, Ryan "Elvis Wong" Rousseau was blazing his own sun-baked psych-punk path. The band stretches back to the early Aughts, but it was with 2010's Eclipse that its current incarnation took shape. Gone were the spastic freakouts; in their place was stoned and deliberate riff rock, with long, winding guitar excursions roaring over motorik beats and coursing with sandy mysticism. 2011's Sonoran furthered the droning exploration, a six-song -- mostly instrumental -- effort clocking in at 44 minutes.
With the brand-new Void, Destruction Unit furthers its connection to the Ascetic House collective, and the record is the band's most expansive work yet. Opening ripper "Evil Man" speeds along at a brisk pace, guitars phasing and echoing, obscuring Rousseau's throaty tenor. Swampy soundscape "Druglore" expands the band's stylistic template, with bubbling electronics and skeletal guitar figures pulsing over a feedback drone. Eight-minute-plus closer "Smoke Dreams" marries blaring psych rock to tense post-punk melodies. It might be the best thing Destruction Unit has recorded yet.
The band releases Void at Yucca Tap Room, before embarking on a tour that finds the group sharing stages with Merchandise and Milk Music. --Jason P. Woodbury
Since 2001, Claudio Sanchez -- the huge-haired and highly conceptual frontman of prog-tinged emo outfit Coheed and Cambria -- has devoted every moment to building an immersive science fiction storyline known as The Amory Wars. Thus far, the interplanetary narrative has spanned seven albums and a parallel series of comic books published by Sanchez's Evil Ink press. Up next will be a forthcoming feature film (Mark Wahlberg and the Leverage production company inked a development deal with Sanchez last year).
The band's latest album, The Afterman: Descension, is the second half of what could be considered the baseline prequel to Sanchez's fantasy realm, but it's also chock-full of heart-on-sleeve vocal hooks and sweeping guitar leads. Though the new film surely will bring his story to whole new heights, Sanchez's hopes for the project are highly personal.
Just like his albums can be approached either from the sci-fi-superfan side entrance or through the casual-fan front door, Sanchez hopes the Amory Wars movie will be just as accessible for someone seeking an exciting escape. Someone like his blue-collar father, the inspiration behind the Coheed character. "For my dad to work his ass off, come home at 5 p.m., and want to chill out and watch a movie," Sanchez says, "it would be amazing if one of those movies could be my own." --Chase Kamp
It takes some bands months of playing shows to find an identity, but Tempe dance-punk act Doctor Bones skipped those awkward on-stage moments "feeling it out." Though the band has honed its skills with each passing performance, Doctor Bones' sound -- New Wave sensibilities, pop arrangements, dance-ready beats, and manic, punk-inspired verve -- was in place from the very start.
In just over a year and a half, Doctor Bones (singer Anthony Fama, guitarist Chad Stark, vocalist/keyboardist/violinist Hannah Bones, bassist Jess Pruitt, and drummer Mike Vigil) has toured extensively across the Southwest, including a stop at the famed South by Southwest annual music festival in Austin. They've developed a local fanbase, too, staging a residency at The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale and playing opening slots around town and sweaty house parties that often leave band members bruised, battered, and bleeding.
Their sound takes shape around influences such as The Cars, Talking Heads, and Dead Kennedys, and it bears stating that Fama's baritone vocals somewhat resemble those of Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Much as Joy Division did in the late '70s, Doctor Bones finds itself directly impacted by punk's electricity, even if the band's own sound owes as much to its poppier impulses.
"We're pretty aggressive on stage, even though you wouldn't think it," Pruitt says.
"One of the most common ways people describe us is New Wave," Vigil says. "That seems to be the place they go to, but . . ."
"The way people react to the live show and how much passion we put into everything -- it's more like punk rock," Fama says.
"At the end of our show, we want to be completely exhausted and worn out because we gave it every single thing we had on stage," Vigil says. "For some reason, people only equate that with punk rock." -- Anthony Sandoval
We once asked local turntablism guru Logan Howard to approximate how many gigs he's performed over the course of his 16-year stint as DJ Element. While he wasn't able to answer the question exactly -- which you can't fault him for, considering the staggering length of his career -- but estimated it was "somewhere in the thousands."
On February 28, you can add one more performance to that hazy total, and it's probably one of the biggest of the bunch, since it will be Howard's swan song as DJ Element.
Howard, who has decided to turn in his turntables and call it a career when he announced his retirement last month, will provide one final performance behind the decks during a special edition of The Blunt Club on Thursday, February 28, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.
"[Mark] your calendars," Howard wrote on his Facebook page. "I make my return to the world-famous Blunt Club. This will be my final show in AZ, so don't miss out. Come make history with me and my family and friends."
As Howard told Up on the Sun back in August, he'd parted ways with The Blunt Club crew after spending several years as one of the residents of the venerated weekly hip-hop experience. While he declined to comment as to why he'd taken a hiatus from the event, scuttlebutt from the scene indicated there was a bit of drama going on behind the scenes.
All that's apparently water over the dam at this point as Element will reunite with his hip-hop homies for one last hurrah.
"It feels great to head back to my old stomping grounds" Howard recently stated on Facebook. "Having been a part of the [Blunt Club] for many years -- whether it was Priceless Inn, Hollywood Alley, Club Red to Yucca Tap Room -- I felt that it was only right to end my 16 years as a DJ at the spot that opened many doors for me and to work with my good friend Dumperfoo one last time, this man gave me my first gig when I was 17 years old. It's been a long time coming."
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Blunt Club resident Pickster One will also perform during the event, which we guarantee will be an absolute turntablism clinic and gigantic scratch fest. If you've ever wanted to witness the proper way to roll the record decks this will be a perfect opportunity to do so.
We'd recommend buying tickets, but (as always with the Blunt Club) admission is free. Make sure you show up early, however, as the place is guaranteed to be packed. -- Benjamin Leatherman