The Five Best Songs by Phoenix Artists in December 2020 | Phoenix New Times

The Five Best Songs by Phoenix Artists in December 2020

The rocky year of 2020 closes out with even more great music from local artists.
Harrison Fjord explored new sounds with their single "Lights."
Harrison Fjord explored new sounds with their single "Lights." Michael Carter
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Live concerts are on hold, but local bands releasing new music? That's still going strong.

We’ve collected some of November's local music offerings that make the scene shine. Check 'em out.

Harrison Fjord, 'Lights'

If you happen to recall our fall music preview, Harrison Fjord are documenting the next phase of their musical journey with a string of new singles leading well into 2021. This month, the multifaceted Chandler outfit made good with the first such track, "Lights." Longtime fans of the band may instantly recognize this ELO-tinged track, marked by massive harmonies and a slightly elegant, almost-orchestral vibe. Yet beyond those gorgeous sonics, it's clear the band have hit their stride, infusing new heart and soul while bumping up the overall scope and quality. We can't wait to hear what comes next as the band further explore the musical cosmos.

Asphalt Astronaut, Pity Party'

Jessica Tanner may technically hail from Tucson, but this 23-year-old singer-songwriter feels like a true gem for all of Arizona. Her earnest approach to folk, all self-recorded and produced, is as earnest and thoughtful as it is utterly beguiling and compelling. For a taste of this "one-woman band," take a spin with "Pity Party" from her recently released debut album, antares. With little more than guitar and random, string-based noise as accompaniment, Tanner's voice takes center stage, a deeply gorgeous croon that tugs at the heartstrings before drop-kicking listeners squarely in the solar plexus. It may sound reminiscent of some other beloved folk crooners, but there's a certain heft that makes Tanner's evocative stylings all her own.

AJJ, 'You Swan, Go On' (Mount Eerie Cover)

AJJ started off the year by releasing their latest album, Good Luck Everybody, among their most politically venomous efforts to date (and that's saying something). Now, they're ending the year with another project: a two-song EP featuring "Horsehair Vaseline" and a cover of Mount Eerie's "You Swan, Go On." Standouts though they may both be, it's the latter that deserves your full attention. Because it's a cover, AJJ are a little more confined musically and lyrically then they might be otherwise. Yet the end result is a genuinely moving folk ditty that's nonetheless a little weird and edgy. It just goes to show the sheer diversity and emotional scale this long-standing Phoenix band has always maintained. Thanks for the 2020 soundtrack, AJJ.

Dadadoh + The POC, 'Trouble'

A long-running institution of indie music in the Valley, Trunk Space has struggled through 2020 like countless other concert venues nationwide. To help raise money, staff from The Coronado, Dark Hall Coffee, and Related Records released the massive Comp for a Cause. The 42-track compilation features a slew of local acts, including Playboy Manbaby, Treasure MammaL, Dinosaur Love, Sean Bonnette (of AJJ), Dwayne And The Rock Hard Johnsons, and Hi My Name is Ryan. For those needing added incentive beyond assisting the local music scene, be sure to spin "Trouble" from Dadadoh + The POC. This blistering punk-rap hybrid is just a very small taste of the excellent unreleased music featured for an especially excellent cause.

UPSAHL, 'Arizona'

Singer Taylor Upsahl (a.k.a. UPSAHL) has blown up in recent years, building a decent-sized name for herself with a diverse and driven blend of pop music. Yet she retains her roots here in the Valley, a fact she emphatically celebrates with "Arizona," a new "bonus track/holiday gift" from this fall's Young Life Crisis EP. Opting for a kind of half-sung, half-rapped approach, UPSAHL strikes back at bad dates and an indifferent world by declaring herself a "girl from Arizona," one with a "bottle in my hand / trying not to give a fuck if no one understands." It’s a totally direct, hugely catchy tune about standing tall amid seemingly endless bad vibes. Listen long and hard, citizens of Arizona, we just may have a contender for the state anthem.

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