Strange Lot- "Gods & Clods"
The debut album by Strange Lot, Another Mind, still stands up as one of my favorite pieces of psychedelic rock, local or otherwise. "Gods & Clods" is the title track for their highly anticipated sophomore effort, set for release next week. This particular tune has more of a "Phoenix" sound to it than the first single, "Born." This isn't a bad thing, but on this track I think of erstwhile companions in the garage rock sound like Snake! Snake! Snakes! or Slow Moses or even PRO TEENS. "Gods & Clods" is more restrained and yet a bit more dreamy than the first single, and I have to admit it makes me even more eager to wrap my ears around the full album from beginning to end. You can catch Strange Lot at the release show for Gods & Clods next Saturday, March 4, at Valley Bar where Desert Beats will release their long awaited album, and they will be joined by Snakes! and Dead Canyon.
Soft Deadlines - "This City Is Hell"
I feel like I've been listening to Go Dark on repeat since its release in the last moments of December. It's an album that grows on you until you start to crave it. It starts by playing the whole album from beginning to end, then the next day you're listening to a track here and there, or another spin through the whole thing, but you still need just one more taste. No matter how many times I've listened to it though, "This City Is Hell" is still my favorite track, and I can only see that being bolstered by the warm weather ahead. I suppose there is a certain novelty to this song, because it's the closest approach Soft Deadlines has ever made to power pop. It's an angsty, neurotic tune for sure, but so is most of their catalog. They've had hooks all over the place before, but this song just brings all the right elements together. They've created a post-punk anthem for the niche experience of summer in Arizona. Not unlike the first single, "One Hand Clapping," this too comes with a video in tow, which is something I love about how Soft Deadlines are going about it on this round. It's a pretty great demonstration of just how overwhelming the sun can be, and it may well only make sense to those who live here — for those who do, you can feel the heat coming off of every frame.
Phantom Party- "Tunnel of Love"
Last year I was totally psyched by everything that Phantom Party had planned. They were actually the first band I saw live in 2016, so I kept my ears open with great expectations. They put out a nifty cassette that apparently will never see the light of day online or in any format beyond its limited run. Still, that wasn't what I was waiting for, and 2016 was actually pretty quiet for them other than a growing reputation for being a great live band and good people. "Tunnel of Love" was released appropriately on Valentine's Day with a trippy, kitschy video to accompany it. It's the first single from the soon-to-be-released full-length Hundred Skeletons. If this single is any indication the 14-track album will be on heavy rotation for the entire spring/summer/fall pool-going season we have here in Phoenix. The dreamy quality of the recording, deeply steeped in reverb, bends your mind in time with the melody. So they've got the intoxicating indie surf sound down without fail, but it's clear that during the time they were in hiding, they were working on their songwriting chops. While the "desert surf" sound they established on their debut is still intact, the musical depth they achieve with this release is impressive. Phantom Party will release Hundred Skeletons on March 4 at 51 West with support from Paper Foxes, Sunlaand, and Good Grief.
Blank Waves - "Dream Palace"
I was finally able to catch Blank Waves live a month or so ago. If I hadn't checked in at that show, their new single "Dream Palace" would have seemed to come completely out of left field. I did go see them and I was stunned by the live renditions of their Syd Barrett-soaked debut record. But I was more surprised by the avant-disco they were pursuing on new tracks. It will be interesting to see how far they take this sound and if they give it the same treatment as their Syd obsession for an entire record. Either way it will be exciting. Don't get me wrong, "Dream Palace" is just as trippy and psychedelic as their previous efforts, but in a completely different way. This particular track incorporates disco, classic analog synth treatments, samples, and a touch of hip-hop and house to ensure you go all the way down their newest rabbit hole. Blank Waves seem like the kind of band that could just show up in Prague and take Europe dance clubs by storm.
Devil Grass- "St. Joes's Spitting Image"
A little less than a year ago I was pretty stoked on Devil Grass' most recent single enough that I went so far as to say, "I'll be very interested to see what Michael Roberts, Joshua Motley, Bernard LeVautour, and Craig Codvington do next as Devil Grass." I've seen them a few times live since then and kept my ears open wondering what would follow "In The Cut." I finally got my answer on Valentine's Day, when Devil Grass released its debut EP, Dog + Cross. They bolstered the release by unleashing the emotionally powerful video for their new single "St. Joe's Spitting Image" at the same time. I had listened to the song a few times through without watching the video and I was struck by the sheer poetic manner and imagery of the lyrics. It was nice to check my head that "In The Cut" wasn't a one-time moment to shine, and with this song, Devil Grass has shot to the top of my list of local alt-country/Americana acts. Michael Roberts' lyrics turn this song into a work of art. Once you combine the wistful lyricism with the actual video it becomes a somewhat emotional experience if you've ever loved a child — or if you've ever been one.
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