Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Harper and the Moths - "In the Shadows"
Last weekend, Harper and the Moths released their new EP, Rock.Pop.Soul., to a packed house at Crescent Ballroom. The collection gathers the group's four singles from last year, with two new songs and three remixes. For fans of the band, it's a dream come true. The most exciting thing for me on the release is the new "In the Shadows." These days, Harper and the Moths explore two different styles: upbeat nouveau disco numbers and high-energy indie rockers. Rarely do the two sound intertwine, though, until "In the Shadows," the crossroads where the two distinct styles meet. It has the indie flair of the Moths' early work, which evoked the sounds of the Killers, with an irresistible nightclub vibe that is beyond danceable. Essentially, it is a crossbred disco-rock song that's also catchy as all hell. It showcases the talents of every member of the band, whether it's the tight rhythm section of bassist David Campbell and drummer Nick Ramirez, the spectacular guitar work of Chan Schulman, or Harper's vocal theatrics. On this particular track, the spotlight really shines on the voice of Kelsee Ishmael. It seems every song on Rock.Pop.Soul. could be a single. If you're a fan of "In the Shadows," you are in luck — this track gets a remix treatment as well.
IAMWE - "You're the One"
Once upon a time, a band called IAMWE looked as if it might be the next big thing, riding a wave of success. One of the most impressive local album releases of late 2012 was the band's full-length debut, Run Wild. IAMWE was on top of the world. Then it disappeared, went completely off the map. Suddenly, there were rumblings of a return. With a new lead singer, there was talk of recordings and IAMWE palyed a handful of shows. At the start of the year, it was announced IAMWE's new EP, Love and Loss, would be released on February 2. Still, the newly reinvented IAMWE was shrouded in mystery until this week, when the band released the video "You're the One," its first single in four years. It is not breaking new ground, but it is very accessible, radio-ready pop rock. It makes me curious to see if the rest of the new EP follows suit, because from this preview, we're looking at our own local Maroon 5. The video is peculiar but hilarious, and it matches the song perfectly. Now we only have to wait until next Tuesday to find out what the new IAMWE has in store for us with Love and Loss.
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Don't Panic - "Perfect Drug"
On the heels The Sleep EP last September, Don’t Panic dropped a four-track covers EP this week called Reanimation. I’m honestly not sure what is more fascinating, Don’t Panic’s versions of these four songs or the song selection itself. I knew that a covers EP was coming, but what I didn’t know is that it would include songs by Wham!/George Michael, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, and Nine Inch Nails. Clearly, one of these is not like the others. Though the covers of the first three are very interesting as novelties, and they certainly showcase Dylan Rowe’s amazing vocal prowess, it’s the cover of Nine Inch Nails' “Perfect Drug” that really gets me. Maybe it’s because of all four songs, I actually enjoy the original version and the others are pop hits I’ve tried to avoid. It’s more than that. I love this version because it really shows off the band’s madness — they go all out on it and I can really dig my teeth into it. Rowe is featured only on the chorus and the finale, and she’s flawless. Nevertheless, this cover works so well with Don't Panic's style and sound that I can’t get enough of it. Plus, it’s just heavy as fuck. You may want to see if they play all the covers this Friday when they perform at Club Red in Mesa with Ghostwalk, Sons of Providence, and The Spider Hole.
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Celebration Guns - "Hold Still"
It might seem strange to include a song that is nearly three years old in a “new music” column, but in this case, it’s justified. Nearly three years ago, Celebration Guns released its debut EP, Quitter, which instantly put the group on the local map. The EP largely was recorded using GarageBand. Along with the band's early live shows, the EP left most people stunned — I know I was, and I’ve been following Celebration Guns ever since. In anticipation of the release of its long-overdue EP, The Me That Used to Be this spring, Celebration Guns is re-releasing its debut along with two previously unreleased bonus tracks through Saint Joseph Music & Arts Collective. Quitter has always been one of my favorite local EPs, but especially the opening track “Hold Still.” Since its release, I find myself thinking at random times, “At least you made a mess of me / At least you got the best of me” and scrambling to remember what it’s from. This is the song that started my affection for the group, with a neat little jazzy arrangement and a foot firmly planted in indie rock. I’ve always wanted them to re-record this track with the band as it is now, because it’s one of the finest pop notions the band ever committed to record. If nothing else, I’ll have to settle for the re-release and two new tracks. You can catch Celebration Guns on Wednesday, February 3, at Valley Bar for the official cassette re-release show, where they will be joined by Holy Fawn, Hollowbodies, and Portland’s Mothertapes.
Cait Brennan - "Madame Pompadour"
Last week, Cait Brennan released her full-length debut album, cleverly titled Debutante. It’s a pleasurable pastiche of 1970s sounds coalesced into an impressive ode to a time when music was filled with grandeur, theatrics, and eternal hooks. It comes across as something of a period piece, and every song wears its influences on its sleeve. I’ve been living with the demos for a month or two, and once I got my hands on the finished album, I gave it a few spins, indulging in its familiar yet original 13 tracks. Of all the tracks, “Madame Pompadour” is the one that just stays in my head. Every song on the album has something to it that will stick with you, but this one shines a little brighter. First of all, there is a feeling of joy and all-out celebration, and the chorus is just catchy as hell. There are a lot of pop hits in waiting from Debutante, but this one is over the top in that regard. It’s a fascinating album, and this song is the jewel in the crown. Plus, with a crazy image-evoking title like “Madame Pompadour,” it has to be brilliant, doesn’t it now?