The Five Best Songs From Phoenix Musicians in March 2021

AJJ has a brand-new live album recorded in Glasgow, Scotland.
AJJ has a brand-new live album recorded in Glasgow, Scotland. Steph Carrico
We're more than a year into the pandemic, and plenty of questions still remain. When will live concerts return across the board? Are livestreams actually going to be part of the "new normal?" Will people find time for another bread-baking phase? Luckily, one thing has been true throughout the past year: Local bands have continued to release great new music. Here are our picks for the best songs of the month.

Citrus Clouds, 'Summer Everywhere'

Phoenix New Times has awaited the latest album from Citrus Clouds for more than six months already. This month, just in time for spring to rear its beflowered head, the Phoenix dream-pop trio has finally unveiled Collider. The 10-track album feels like a key moment in the band's sonic story, a potent encapsulation that effortlessly abounds with equal parts dreamy nostalgia and playful romance. The clear standout, though, is the forceful "Summer Everywhere," which manages to be both an arena rock anthem and an angsty shoegaze jam all at once. Here is your go-to soundtrack for all the summer flings and desert road trips to come.

Celebration Guns, 'Rip It Up (Orange Juice)'

As the band explains it, "Rip It Up" was recorded several years ago and then locked into the vaults as it released other projects like ...on aging gracelessly. But now, thanks to a new charity compilation, the track's been unleashed onto the world at last. It's one of 37 tunes featured on Sore Eyes & Twin Shrieks Presents (Mostly) One Hit Wonders For Charity, which benefits the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and its efforts to support Black transgender people. As for the song itself, it's a lo-fi, mostly jangly slice of folk-punk that seems to revel in its endlessly catchy refrain of "rip it up and start again." Was this worth the wait? Oh, yeah, definitely.

CERAMICS?, 'Heavy Duty/End of Daze'

New-ish band alert: CERAMICS? features guitarist Michael Tellone and singer/bassist Blake Garmon of local garage-punk favorites DOMS. The duo is joined by two members of the slightly mysterious outfit WR/Astrologer. Together, the foursome has released a two-song single via Tellone's Leisure World Tapes, and even with just eight minutes of music, they're already clearly on to something. "Heavy Duty" is a blistering barrage of blown-out garage fury. Meanwhile, "End of Daze" dials things back for a more deliberate and doubly weird shot of psych-punk. Whatever track you lean toward, both affairs bring the noise and then some.

AJJ, 'People II: The Reckoning' (Live)

Local heroes AJJ have released several live records over their long and storied career, from shows at our very own Trunk Space to Nashville's Third Man Records. This month, they returned with Live from Glasgow, a 22-track collection originally recorded way back in 2015. The record is a career-spanning celebration of AJJ, and sees the band flourish as they leap and bound from one inspired performance to another. If you're looking for a true highlight, give an extra spin to "People II: The Reckoning." This 14-year-old track sounds just as vital and emotionally devastating as it ever has, demonstrating just how potent AJJ are in a live setting.

Playboy Manbaby, 'Strip Club Buffet'

Thanks to the digital hellscape that is TikTok, Playboy Manbaby has gained a new audience of sorts. But frontman Robbie Pfeffer is clearly intent on further conquering the web as the band unveils Now That's What I Call Songs We Made For The Internet. The 18-track collection is comprised of extra quirky micro-songs (all 30 seconds or less) recorded by Pfeffer and bandmate TJ Friga during COVID. Are these songs "good" in the traditional sense? Maybe not. But just listen to "Strip Club Buffet," which distills everything both cool and dumb about modern rap music, and it's hard to ignore the outright catchiness of this whole collection. This album is yet another reason to love and hate internet culture.

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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan