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.
Sundressed — "Autopilot"
Sundressed is one of the hardest-working bands in Phoenix, and in my opinion they are also one of the most underrated. Right now, they seem to be on a roll, with single after single that each tops the previous one as they play a ridiculous amount of shows, constantly tour, and work on recording their next full-length record. "Autopilot" is the latest single. Whether you watch the video or you listen to the lyrics, the meaning behind the title becomes pretty clear. Let's face it; at some point, we've all been on autopilot at some point in our lives, where you are clearly alive and living and doing things, but you are just not there, you are not engaged in life as the world spins around you. Musically, the song shows even more growth in the songwriting of Sundressed; the mix sounds great with the pounding drums and chunkier, grittier guitar and of course, Trevor Hedges' emotive vocals. The video is brilliant and funny and clearly set in the 1990s, and they play it up for all it's worth. Best Sundressed single yet? Possibly, but I'm sure they have even better in store for us when they release their next album. "Autopilot" will be released along with an acoustic version of "Best Of Worst Of" on a split seven-inch with Secret Stuff on Spartan records on July 29.
Gorky — "She Spoke"
Gorky has been on my radar for a while now, but until a couple weeks ago, I had never been able to catch them live. I suppose seeing them at Last Exit Live showed them in their best light and sound, because I was immediately impressed, and their entire set had my rapt attention. Gorky hails from Show Low, which isolates them from the scene a bit, but when they come to town next, I highly recommend catching them. One of the most moving moments of the evening was a new song they dedicated to their late friend Skye Perez, called "She Spoke." If you haven't heard Gorky before, this happens to be a great introduction to their sound. The band is Jesse Valencia on lead vocals and guitar, Tevin Crabdree on bass, Ben Holladay on drums, and Houston Ellsworth on guitar and backing vocals. Together, they strike me as just a great indie rock band that has no pretension whatsoever. This is true of their recorded works and their stage presence. Skye Perez was killed earlier this year in a motor-vehicle accident, and this is their heartfelt elegy that celebrates her life as much as memorializing her passing. This single was released on what would have been her 18th birthday.
Scattered Melodies — "Legacy"
Scattered Melodies is one of my favorite bands in town because of the gentle and beautiful world they paint with their music. Even when they are edgier and more aggressive, they still have this underlying warmth about them. This was true of their stunning Modern Repair album from last September, and it's certainly true of the new song they just released last week. "Legacy" is one of the most moving, heartfelt local songs I've heard in a long time, especially after you understand that this song was written by Josh Montag for his mother, and he debuted it at his wedding during the mother-son dance. The song features Jake Johnston on bass, Montag on drums/percussion, Jack Howell on piano, guitar, and strings, and last but certainly not least, Laura Hamlin on lovely, lush vocals. Hamlin is one of my favorite vocalists; I think I could listen to her sing the telephone book and I'd still be lulled into adoration. I feel honored just to have the pleasure of being allowed to listen to this beautiful song, and I can't even imagine how Montag's mom must have felt upon hearing it for the first time. Allow the lush textures to surround you and feel the love with Scattered Melodies, a band both in tune with their community and their hearts.
RPM Orchestra — "Song of Sheba"
Last year's Hit On All Sixes by RPM Orchestra was one of my favorite albums and one of the weirdest. They had released the opener, "Bury Mine," as a single, and there was only one song of the remaining four that could even be another single — "Song of Sheba." Well, they just released an amazing video for that very song. "Song of Sheba" was shot on location inside a restored 1928 street car at the Phoenix Trolley Museum and includes archival footage (circa 1948) of that same trolley during its final run. The song's lyrics are in slang first popularized in the 1920s. The video couldn't be more fitting, with Jocelyn Ruiz delivering some strange-yet-haunting vocals as well as a haunting toy piano part. It's almost a pop song, but one from another world where it's always the early 1900s and everything is in sepia tone. The video itself is just as fascinating, and it's filled with a delightful array of recognizable locals like Debra Minghi (playing the conductor creeping up the aisle), Erik Hunter, Amy Jean Page, Sheri Amourr, Kristina Kuhl, Joe Sawinski, Henry Dupuis, and Cady Stella. The video is absolutely perfect, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise since RPM Orchestra regularly perform entire scores for silent movies — they only had to create a movie to score this one.
FITS — "Take A While"
I finally got a chance to catch these new upstarts FITS a couple weeks ago at a gig at The Rogue Bar, and though the set had a bit of a rocky start, by the time they hit their stride in the second half, I was completely sold. Raquel Willand, Nick Smith, Blair Furmanski, and Jared Wood are FITS, and "Take A While" is their new single. This time around, they are showing off a quirkier sound than their previous tunes, but it's every bit as appealing — still, I love the unusual percussion and rhythmic play throughout the track, as well as the wild guitar and the guiding light of Willand's lovely vocals. It's a bit hypnotic, and on every listen I hear a different element to the sound, and after more than a few spins I have to say the bass line really speaks to my soul, because it's perfect and apparent and not buried in the mix. Warning: If you think this song is good, wait until you hear what I can only assume is their next single — it will put them firmly on the local music map, but that's all in good time.