It's hard to believe that we're more than halfway through 2021. While it's not been nearly as terrible and chaotic as 2020, it's nonetheless been a massive adjustment across the board. On the upside, one thing has remained constant: great new music from local bands. Whether it's thoughtful hip-hop, infectious indie rock, or a little country and western, these songs only build on the dynamic arts taking shape all across the Valley each and everyday. Here are our picks for the best songs of the month.
Katie Mae & the Lubrication, 'Say When'
Amid all the great music released in 2020, Katie Mae & the Lubrication struck a genuine chord. The Phoenix outfit's five-song Hazy Angel EP was the synthesis of great folk and country, an earnest collection of music powered by vulnerable confessions and a deeply cathartic energy. Now, the outfit looks to follow up with yet another five-song EP, this one titled Yellow Medicine Hills. Before it arrives on October 1, Katie Mae and company have unveiled a single, "Say When." Equal parts acoustic confessional, country ballad, and smoky country and western anthem, the song plays up the project's two core strengths: Katie Mae's soulful vocals and the band's razor-sharp musicianship. Put this little ditty on the next time you need to do some drinking and/or deep soul searching.
Rohith Shaker, 'I Live on The Shore'
Rohith Chandrashaker, who performs as Rohith Shaker, wants to tell you about a dream he had. No, the young singer-songwriter didn't flunk an algebra test while dressed only in his underwear. Instead, the three songs of his newly-released EP, As The End Credits Roll, "revolve around the storyline of a dream I had in early July." In order to fully grasp the dream, you'll have to buy the EP, which includes photos and a "written explanation." But the next best thing is listening to the EP's standout, "I Live on The Shore." In less than four minutes, this dreamy acoustic ballad encapsulates Shaker's sound, pairing heartfelt lyrics of love and loss with gentle guitar that perfectly captures Shaker as the profoundly sentimental protagonist. If more people explained dreams like this, maybe we'd actually want to listen.
The Dust Jackets, 'Jolianne'
In a recent email to Phoenix New Times, Andrew Boese, mastermind of local rock band The Dust Jackets, called his new single "Jolianne" a bona fide "song of the summer." He went on to add that this new track is also "the equivalent of a fuzzy, warm blanket." So, is Boese right, or is he just blowing hot air up our collective tuchuses? As it turns out, the track is pretty great, and Boese uses all six minutes of it to forge something that's both emotionally telling and yet utterly danceable. As he tries and fails, and tries again, to grapple with his feelings over the titular female, Boese proves that The Dust Jackets excel at this jarring yet infectious dichotomy of sounds and intents. Let's hope the rest of the year doesn't need it, but at least you'll have a brand-new breakup jam regardless.
Sean Avery Medlin, 'NeoSoul'
A resident of Phoenix, Sean Avery Medlin describes himself as a "rapper, author, and cultural worker." He's also a poet, and his debut collection, 808s & Otherworlds, drops in mid-September. All of that means that Medlin knows his way around a sentence or two, something he proves with a new deluxe version of his I Never Left EP. Amid the 14-track collection, which includes songs, demos, and instrumentals, is the arguable standout, "NeoSoul." Despite that sensuous-sounding title, the track is far more hard-hitting, as Medlin grapples with where he lives and the state of the world through the lens of his favorite music (Black Thought, Slum Village, Jill Scott, etc.) The end result isn't just a great showcase for Medlin's thoughtful lyricism but a powerful declaration of life, music, and how we work just to get by.
The Deadbeat Cousins, 'Enough'
In the near future, Phoenix blues rockers The Deadbeat Cousins will release their sophomore album. We've already heard five of the 10 songs from the as-yet-untitled LP, including the excellent "Reverse Engineer" and the super catchy "The Wolf." This month, the band unveiled the sixth album track with "Enough." If you've heard the band live (if not, do rectify that pronto), "Enough" feels like a close enough approximation, this sweltering, bare-bones blues track about a man at the end of his rope. In terms of where it lands amid the other five tracks, "Enough" is a highlight in that it exemplifies the band's sound and demonstrates their unwavering cohesiveness. Alright, now where are the last four songs, gents?
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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.