It's 2014 and high time you got some new music into your playlist — seriously.
It'll help that Phoenix's music scene has plenty of fresh jams and brand-new tunes to offer, as there's an overflow of gifted and prolific musicians cranking out sounds.
Since many local acts will make waves, turn heads, and get listens this year, we're highlighting 14 that you simply must hear.
Think of it as a mixtape shared between friends. And it contains talent drawn from the various musical milieus in and around Phoenix — from up-and-coming rappers to weirdo indie rockers to folk acts found at house shows.
These are the 14 bands you owe it to yourself to check out in 2014.
Celebration Guns' songs take listeners on an ambient indie-pop journey, with fuzzy guitars zigging and intricate bass lines zagging over busy drumming and unexpected turns from a toy piano or xylophone.
Evoking the found sonic objects sprinkled throughout its songs, the foursome (assembled in August 2013 from several dismantled projects) goes against the grain. To wit: The band's most recent album, Quitter, and its upcoming self-titled split EP with fellow locals Twin Ponies are available on cassette tape.
"I think there's a sense of nostalgia that comes with cassette tapes that makes me really appreciate them," says vocalist/guitarist Justin Weir. "It reminds me of a time when I wasn't overwhelmed with a flash drive of 18,000 songs from hundreds of bands I never quite feel connected to. Instead, I had to rely on whatever cassette tapes I could get my hands on, and when every new band sounded novel and fresh and worth holding onto."
Celebration Guns, drawing comparisons to Minus the Bear and Maps & Atlases, hope listeners are inspired to hold onto their music and tunes about awkward dating experiences and lost loves.
"These songs are written by a jaded person trying to find credibility in taking the optimistic approach to life and love and whatever happens between," Weir says, insisting that tones of dating disenchantment are balanced by hints of optimism. And when bells, accordions, and trumpets permeate your melodies, even the most heartbreaking lyrics hit a happy note.
The band, which includes guitarist Chris Blanco, bassist Ryan Miller, and drummer Timothy O'Brien, finds plenty of love, however, when it plays shows in town. Celebration Guns strive to perform in an array of venues, be it nightclub, house show, or Urban Outfitters, and usually on bills as diverse as the collection of musical instruments you'll find onstage during the band's set. — Nicki Escudero
West Phoenix's Andy Warpigs is on a one-man folk-punk mission to infiltrate and influence every pocket of Arizona counterculture — and the out-of-control coffeehouse cowboy just might succeed.
In 2013, he popped up seemingly everywhere playing acoustic guitar and ukulele with a backing band of whoever happened to be standing around him.
Warpigs' self-described "heavily improvised art-punk music" has made its mark at benefit concerts, art shows, comic book conventions, comedy gigs, literally any venue willing to let him play. He became a mainstay at Lawn Gnome Publishing's Live Music Tuesday, as well as a regular conspirator at Sister Lip's neverending Monday night residency at Long Wong's in Tempe.
His bizarro originals and eclectic covers are meant to reach out and grab "freaks, geeks, punks, nerds, squatters, stoners, and thought criminals," according to the liner notes of his debut album, Folk Punk Yourself.
And after linking with local label 56th Street Records, Warpigs hopes to step up his performance schedule and add songs to his repertoire. Some of Warpigs' original songs include "Drown My Baby" (off his latest album), "Love Is Like a Stabbing Pain in the Dick," and an ode to profanity called "N-Bombs and C-Bombs." At his shows, Warpigs also plays the Ramones classic "The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "Hybrid Moments" by The Misfits. But whether he is singing a cover or an original, it always is in his amazingly soft — yet intensely punk — voice.
Warpigs mixes absurd lyrics and silly stage antics with the look of a homeless meth-addict cowboy, and it all adds up to a great show.
His eccentricity even has gained the onetime solo artist a respectable backing band, featuring Jelly Roll Jenkin (a.k.a. Jorge Garcia, formerly of Los Fukn Ramirez), Jackson Bollocks of Nerdzerkr, and Justin White, formerly of Andrew Jackson Jihad.
When asked whether Andy Warpigs is the name of his solo act or the entire band, Warpigs says it's both: "It's the same crap that Alice Cooper has been pulling for decades."
The musician is unapologetic about his appearance and his music. "I'm not overly concerned about anyone who finds my music offensive," Warpigs says. "Fuck them." — Jeff Moses