Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new local music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
AJJ — "Junkie Church"
There was a rash of concern when AJJ released the video for "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" that they were abandoning their roots and their folk-punk sound in favor of alternative pop. Any concern over that should be extinguished by the release of the newest video from The Bible 2, which is the animated "Junkie Church." On this number, AJJ returns to form. "Junkie Church" is a far more subdued effort than the previous single, but it should put some fans' minds at ease over how The Bible 2 will sound. It's a beautiful, succinct, simple song, telling a sweet story along the way. The minimalist soundtrack forces you to pay full attention to the lyrics, which tell the story of, presumably, junkies finding love through common ground found in a can of Steel Reserve. AJJ will be releasing The Bible 2 across two nights at Rebel Lounge tonight and tomorrow night, joined by ROAR and John Congleton & The Nighty Nite.
Jane N' The Jungle — "Smoke & Dust"
The anticipation for the debut album from Jane N' The Jungle is maddening. In a year's time, JNTJ has gone from a fringe group on the sidelines of the music scene to one of the hottest tickets in town for a guaranteed good time. I was overjoyed at the release of "Smoke & Dust" this week, because it brings us one song closer to having the record, and it gives us something to enjoy and play to death. It's another raving rock 'n' roller like "Shake Me Out" was previously, and here it's the melody that sticks to your skull throughout, rather than the chorus. Brian Tuffy in particular brings a vicious guitar delivery to this track, Leah Brooks pounds the bass, while Jordan White sings with some slight restraint, compared to how this sounds from the stage. The results are a propulsive tornado of rock 'n' roll. Rachael Smith of Ray² Photography went on tour with Jane N' The Jungle this year and took a ton of footage, film and photos, and some of those results are showing up in this beautiful video of the band in their natural element, letting loose on stage and laying it down in the studio.
Luna Aura — "Madhouse"
Luna Aura has released her first single from the forthcoming EP Madhouse and it shows her alien, otherworldly glow replaced by pop-savvy commercial sheen. It being Luna, the song has its own twist — in this case, it's insanity. This is smart, radio-ready pop in no uncertain terms. This is easily the most accessible song that Luna Aura has released to date, and it will be interesting to see if that holds up throughout the rest of her forthcoming third EP. Luna's voice is absolutely flawless throughout, and that's what makes the verses alluring. The entire strength of the song is found in the chorus, which is catchy as hell and quirky in all the right ways. I wasn't completely sold on the song until I found myself singing the chorus in a parking garage with unabashed joy, fitting since the summation of the song is "Crazy looks good on me." The chorus itself should launch itself into the lives of countless disenfranchised and unstable young people the world over. I have to admit crazy does look good on Luna Aura, and while she seems a little more terrestrial this time around, she's as strange and wonderful as ever. It's cool, calculated, addictive pop made for a soundtrack from a film that hasn't been made yet.
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Blissing Room — "Know You"
There is a lot of good pop coming from Phoenix artists these day, which is an interesting trend on the local scene. Dane Jarvie is the man behind Blissing Room, and they are set to release their debut record, Comfort Life Eternal. If you had to choose between "outsider pop" or "dystopian zodiac punk," the debut single "Know You" would fall into the former description. The songs were born in demos Jarvie made in his bedroom with Ableton, but became full-fledged recordings on the new record. "Know You" evokes the dance-club pop of New Wave bands of the early 1980s as well as the New Romantics. Fans of Yaz, Depeche Mode, Human League, New Order, OMD, and others of that ilk will absolutely adore this song. It will be interesting to see if the forthcoming record will follow suit. It's pretty much club-ready, and filled with remix possibilities. It's an exciting sound with a positive vibe. To add to all of that, Freddie Paull has nailed it once again with a video for the single, which beautifully conveys the celebratory melancholy of the song. This definitely sets the expectations for the rest of the record pretty high.
Speak Easy — "You've Got A Friend In Phoenix"
With all the pop and rock madness around, sometimes you have to slow down, take a breath, and find some salt-of-the-earth tune to keep you smiling on your front porch in the summertime. "You've Got A Friend In Phoenix" is the perfect recipe for just that sort of thing. I've been checking out this alt-folk Americana outfit live for quite a while, lying in wait for something new from them to write about. "You've Got A Friend In Phoenix" gets my vote for the most charming single of the season and certainly the most down-home-feeling song I've heard in a while. The song has a few surprises up its sleeve as well. For instance, in the first minute you wouldn't think the song was going to transform much beyond its minimalist arrangement, though you've been listening to the sound build slowly. When it hits its stride, it's filled with intoxicating layers of sound, beautiful harmonies, ringing guitar, and fascinating rhythmic undulations. Be still my restless heart. When "You've Got A Friend In Phoenix" peaks with its power-packed crescendo swirling around inside your mind, you are led away on a sailboat of sound that slowly carries you into reverie exactly as it began, with only one voice and a guitar. It's a truly stunning song that whets the appetite for the rest of their album.