Live concerts are on hold, but local bands releasing new music? That's still going strong.
We’ve collected some of August's local music offerings that make the scene shine. Now turn 'em way up.
Secret Attraction — "Strawberry"
Here’s a theory: In our socially distant society, romantic music is now more vital than ever as we cling to this final thread of human connection. But it has to be the right kind of love song; something that feels deeply nostalgic and unabashedly hip. That’s where Derek Wise (a.k.a. Secret Attraction) comes in. This Phoenix musician performs a brand of dream pop and chillwave that hums with '80s vibes and exudes youthful passion and intensity. "Strawberry," the title track from a brand-new EP, has bright, syrupy synths tailor-made for a TikTok depicting your first kiss. We may be touch-starved, but this tune hits all the right spots.
Kareem Ali — "You Know What It Is"
The word "prolific"” gets thrown around a lot in music journalism, but it feels especially apt for Kareem Ali. In August alone, the 26-year-old DJ/producer dropped four new tapes via his Bandcamp. There's the extraterrestrial vibes of We Are Stardust, the meme-inspired Deez What?!, and the hugely sentimental Black Love. But for a more balanced take on Ali’s unique approach to house, the clear winner is Jamz Vol. 1. Specifically, "You Know What It Is," a slick techno song that’s equal parts bass-heavy anthem, sensuous ode, and experimental barn-burner. Can you ever really have quantity and quality? Yes, if it’s Kareem Ali.
Micah Bentley — "Scarcity"
Micah Bentley never hides his spirituality. As the singer for the indie worship band Wild Earth, and the worship arts pastor at Peoria's Axiom Church, he lets his beliefs take center stage. But he was also a young punk kid once, and those same undertones remain essential to his solo work. That includes this month's No Rivalry LP, which offers a cutting indictment of our "toxic," self-absorbed culture. In "Scarcity," the album's big single, Bentley unites his worlds into a hazy, slow-burning folk tune that's rooted in a deep spiritual tradition while lambasting society's boundless greed. Amen to that, brother.
Ryan Alfred — "Solar Wind"
Ryan Alfred has made his career in Americana music. Between playing bass in Calexico, and fronting Tucson’s Sweet Ghosts, he knows his way around thoughtful, folksy music. But after years of experimenting on his own, Alfred’s released his debut solo EP: a six-track collection of electronic "sketches" called A Sudden Rush of Noise. The entire 23-minute EP is worth your attention, but "Solar Wind" is a standout. Here, Alfred relies on his entire bag of musical tricks, unfurling some ambient/free-jazz hybrid that's as delightful as it is confrontational. Listen to this tune on a loop while staring contemplatively out a predawn window.
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Ass Wipe Junkies — "Stumblin' En La Calle"
Pre-COVID, Tucson's Bleach Party used to throw massive house shows featuring a slew of local/regional punk bands. Since such shindigs are a no-go right now, the band's found a new way to promote their friends: the 21-track Party at the Bleach House Volume 1 collection. The LP is packed with a slew of Phoenix punk sounds, from the lo-fi nihilism of Crank Lab Explosion's "Planet Plague" to the frenetic madness of the Disgraced's "Angel Street." But ultimately it's Ass Wipe Junkies that have us feeling truly nostalgic. Their song "Stumblin' En La Calle" is the perfect gnarly soundtrack for a friendly barbecue turned raucous house party — when we can finally attend one.