It’s a new year, and that means change is inevitable. But while you’re losing weight, or trying to stop smoking, the column is also undergoing a minor transformation. Because in the two years that the New Times has put out this column, we recognize that not enough is being done. There are still plenty of artists who aren’t getting their time in the spotlight, and that’s a detriment to the entire arts and culture scene.
So, in the name of greater exposure, we’re opening this space up to hopefully spotlight even more great music. It's a chance to see a greater picture of what's happening across the city, and to foster good old-fashioned musical discovery. Three cheers to awesome new music, however it may sound.
Mississippi Nova, 'Sunrise Rider'
Several local artists reached out about the latest album from this "swampy space blues" band. And rightfully so, as this month’s The Desert in Winter is packed full of songs that toe the line between cosmic grandeur and dirty rock ‘n’ roll. But pay special attention to "Sunrise Rider," a grimy, hyperkinetic jam that tests listeners' stamina across three blistering minutes. Proper Pet, 'This is It'
According to the members of Proper Pet, they "got tired of being sad, so we started a band." Maybe there are better uses for one's time than playing pop music, but Proper Pat doesn't seem to mind. Their new single, "This Is it," emphasizes earnest lyricism and the kind of ironically sad vibes that feel genuinely cathartic. Expect more tunes like this when the pair release their until we die LP sometime in 2022. Barefoot, 'Air You Call'
You’ve got to love a band with the grace and humor to use puns in their album title. As it turns out, though, there’s plenty more to love about this Phoenix band’s latest album. The Whole Year Inn exemplifies Barefoot’s hook-centric, totally accessible take on indie rock a la Thrice and Circa Survive, including the utterly soaring "Air You Call." Come for the wordplay, stay for the heartfelt rock goodness. Weston Smith, 'Dry Dry Desert'
Technically, Weston Smith is from Phoenix. But the songwriter/musician operates out of his own so-called "Crystal Kingdom," where he doles out the romantic, nostalgia-tinged synthpop of his latest album, DUNGEON. Songs like "Dry Dry Desert" prove that his little world is one where the '80s are alive and well and great music is powerful to the point of being all-consuming. Taylor Glasheen, 'Mogolion'
With Tip Me A Dollar, singer-songwriter Taylor Glasheen launches a career in earnest. As far as debut albums are concerned, the entire nine-track LP defines a kind of down-trodden, utterly heartbreaking take on old-school country and western. Give an extra spin to "Mogolion" — it may pick up the pace considerably, but Glasheen's heart-on-sleeve honesty remains front and center. Chzbrgr Picnic, 'Fire'
Fans of Katie Mae and the Lubrication will recognize that hugely talented singer as a core member of this kooky psych-rock band. The swirling ecstasy of songs like "Fire," from February's six-track Somewhere Out of Under Places EP, are a galaxy away from Mae's main gig. However, a certain down-home charm and sentiment remain steadfast amid all that wondrous experimentation. Freud, 'Way Out'
Sort of like with Mississippi Nova, this Phoenix-based alt-rock band was touted by other local acts. There’s not a whole lot of info available, but "Way Out" is the kind of music that all mysterious young acts should lead with. It's three minutes of snarling, uneven alt rock akin to some revitalized, extra nihilistic Candlebox, and that's all you ever need to know. Social Raygun Music, '100 Battles'
Life in the desert often makes for truly bizarre art. Case in point: Social Raygun Music, the extra bizarre project of local musician Andrew L. Lewis. With songs like the menacing, Tool-adjacent "100 Battles," the 13-track Music for the Apocalypse feels like a perfect commentary on our very weird modern age. Should we perhaps be more worried now? Hank Topless, 'Cut My Head Off'
The Valley’s country scene tends toward lots of mainstream-leaning acts and more blues-inspired fare. But Hank Topless perpetuates this state’s great honky-tonk scene with Thank Your Dirty Stars. The LP’s charm, wit, and country-fried grooves are exemplified in "Cut My Head Off," demonstrating that Mr. Topless has the humor and heart to bring true honky-tonk to the masses. KRXS, 'HuMTiShLuMPti'
Local rapper KRXS recently released X i S T E N T i A L, a six-track EP blending distinct emo and pop-punk vibes in equal parts. But even KRXS' non-official releases are impressive, including the song "HuMTiShLuMPti," which was tossed up on SoundCloud in early January. This trunk-rattling, stream of emo consciousness could have easily been an EP standout.
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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.