What a year it’s been.
They said it themselves on their debut LP earlier this year, but it deserves repeating: 2019 was the year of Injury Reserve. After signing with Loma Vista Recordings last year, the Arizona rap trio arrived on the global stage with a stunning 40-minute statement, proving their work u p to this point was only an introduction. After a busy year of touring, the group are returning home for a year-end celebration. Joining them are some of the Valley’s best rising acts, each of whom deserve a proper primer ahead of this all-night bonanza.
Separate Ways kicks things off. The electronic duo of MacAndrew Martin and Matthew Johnson previously worked together in the jangle-pop quartet DRAA. Their penchant for the bittersweet carries forth into this project. Separate Ways’ effortless “Free Time,” together with its B-side, “Callback,” marries the melancholy sweetness of The Smiths with the soundscape of Toro y Moi.
Shoegaze quintet Dovi make perfect music for Arizona summer nights. The group formed only a few years ago, but in that time have given us a debut EP, the stunning single “Shimmer,” and played (roughly) a billion shows across the Valley at various venues. Their soaring arrangements nod in the direction of Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, while Aislinn Ritchie’s powerful vocals evoke the spirit of Dolores O’Riordan and Margo Timmins. The group are powerhouses live, and hearing them at full force at The Van Buren will be a real treat.
Gasol’s experimental approach to indie rock often results in sprawling seven-minute adventures across territory ranging from Sonic Youth to Parquet Courts. The quartet’s soundscapes are challenging and virtuosic. They don’t repeat themselves often. The result, while occasionally dizzying, is a magnificent conglomeration of sounds and images. This year’s “Cardinals / Vatican II” is a strong level-up on their 2017 debut.
Tony Velour does not waste your time. The rapper manages to cram in an absurd amount of energy, emotion, and finesse in two minutes. Early Soundcloud singles like “Uber Black” and the Blink 182-sampling “Vh1” showcased Velour’s knack for making small pleasures feel like five-star living. With this year’s LP, Vices Hurt, he flexes his best work yet. Production from fellow Injury Reserve confidante Dylan Brady (who also joined Velour on the track “New Hawaii”) makes the 20-minute LP a delightful and addictive collection.
Lil QWERTY is the poet laureate of snark and guests on Injury Reserve in an odd way. The “QWERTY Interlude” is a snippet of his 2016 bop “Kodi Fire Stick.” The full track is one of the cleverest commentaries on the Soundcloud rap era out there. His LP Jumpdrive is a gem, featuring extensive production from IR collaborator Melikxyz and a fantastic guest verse from Steppa J. Groggs. With the excellent new single “Juugenomics,” it’s clear QWERTY is aiming high for his next chapter, and missing out is not an option.
When Complex magazine detailed the oral history of Injury Reserve, Pro Teens’ Andy Phipps recalled his contribution to “Jawbreaker.” “Get your jaw off the floor” was Phipps witnessing the magic at Injury Reserve’s Flagstaff rap camp and challenging himself to step up. The mood must have stuck, because with new Pro Teens album, Twos, the indie rock group explore invigorating new territory. Like so many of the bands joining them and Injury Reserve on the lineup, evolution will continue to define them into the foreseeable future.
Injury Reserve Comes Home is scheduled for Friday, December 27, at The Van Buren. Tickets are $22 via Ticketweb.