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.
The Gentle Hits — "Walk Out"
To tell you the truth, I was beginning to think that the one-off Gentle Hits show back in 2014 with erstwhile Dear and The Headlights alums in Gospel Claws and Party Gardens was a dream. Then, nearly two years to the day of that show, The Gentle Hits announced that a complete full-length album was ready to be released in November. In anticipation of that release, Porch Party Records has released "Walk Out" as the album preview teaser, and boy, does it leave you wanting more, as in the rest of the album as soon as possible. The Gentle Hits are Ian Metzger and Mark Kulvinskas from Dear and The Headlights, James Mulhern (What Laura Says), and Wayne Jones (Twin Ponies), which is to say that they are something of a local supergroup. "Walk Out" has a bit of a down-home vibe about it, and anyone who's been missing Dear and The Headlights since their breakup will have a hell of a lot to celebrate just with this one song. To my ears, Metzger's voice has never sounded better, and it's been far too long since we've heard him on record.
Wolvves — "Billie Holiday"
Wolvves has proven to be the most charmingly unpredictable band in the entire Arizona music scene. Last year they immediately broke up upon the release of their full-length debut album, Whatever. Then Aydin Immortal said they would be calling themselves Paradox Valley, then at the start of the year they started releasing singles as Wolvves from the forthcoming album Paradox Valley, then they released an entire EP called Songs before Paradox out of the blue with none of the singles from the year so far. Finally, two weeks ago, with no announcement or hype, they released Paradox Valley, and it's one of the finest albums of the entire damn year. That's the brief history of why they just seem to be constantly full of surprises. The finale, "Billie Holiday," I simply can't get enough of for its near-Pixies indie rock vibe, mixed with Immortal's unmistakable vocals and Wolvves' signature sound. Just building from a monster bass line and Immortal's vocals, the guitar kicks in and finally crashing drums as soon as they hit the chorus. The lyricism is clever and filled with references for days, while the bridge actually references itself lyrically.
Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers — "One For Your Heart"
If the preview single for the new Carol Pacey & The Honey Shakers album is any indication, their soon-to-be-released sophomore album, Eyes On The Prize, will live up to every bit of the Americana-thrash-pop they created on their debut two years ago. "One For Your Heart" has been a fan favorite in their live set for some time, at least one of my favorites, but it's one I've noticed where other people in the crowd have seen it enough to sing along to it. It's a song steeped in the alt-country sound to be sure, but there's this amazing friendly aggression behind all of Pacey's best songs (as well as guitarist Andy Borunda) that takes you to a tempo you simply don't expect. Add to that Pacey's speedy delivery of sharp, cynical wisdom lyrically and you're just waiting for it to explode, and two minutes in it does exactly that. Borunda's guitar wails, Ben DeLuca's drums detonate with excitement, and Dante Fiorenza's bass groove kicks in. It's an amazing build up to a tremendous pay off. That said, if you weren't aware of The Honey Shakers' style, the moment that the song soars for the sky may surprise the uninitiated, and the velocity never really abates, even though it may soften for a moment. Eyes On The Prize is set to be released next week and if this is any indication, it may well leave Yeah, Yeah, Yeah in the dust.
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Dadadoh — "Just What You Like"
I've been listening to Dadadoh's RADICAL a lot since it came out last month. I mean a lot, like every chance I get in between all the other stuff I'm spinning. I keep coming back to it. Having already attended to obvious singles like "Do It" and "What I Got," I wanted to shine the spotlight on one of the deep-cut gems on the album, of which there are many. It's on songs like "Just What You Like" and "Get You Away" where Dadadoh really shows off his songwriting chops and delivers some ultra-smooth R&B performances filled with layers of sound. The obvious thing that sets "Just What You Like" apart from the other songs is the magnificent saxophone work by Dirty Dalla$. The track would be phenomenal without it, but it sure pushes this over the edge into otherworldly territory. It's also one of Dadadoh's slickest vocals on the record — it's got swagger, it's sexy and seductive. It doesn't seem like an obvious choice for a single and I'm not sure it will ever be one, but it is one of the finest album tracks of this year and it's definitely a crucially important track in Dadadoh's catalog. The song also happens to be a rare moment where Dadadoh seems authentically romantic in a tale of a long-distance entanglement. For that reason alone, this song is elevated to a new level of soul for Dadadoh.
Headstrum — "You Wouldn't Be Shit"
I caught Headstrum a couple weeks ago at a multi-artist release show at The Rebel Lounge and they really blew me away live. These young guys really knew how to rock, and after the show, I have to say that I enjoyed their EP even more with that experience in mind. Queen Creek's Headstrum is Alex Hedstrom (guitar/lead vocals), Tyler Hedstrom (drums), and Sam Lehtinen (bass/vocals), and while it takes a lot for me to get interested in a blues rock band, these talented kids have exactly what it takes. One song that was unforgettable that evening was "You Wouldn't Be Shit," which is where the record gets its title (get it? Without love, you wouldn't be shit), and it's probably their finest, as well as their final, moment on the EP. There's no way around the obvious Queen influence on this song. The first time I heard it, I had to make damn sure that it wasn't a remake of "I Want To Be Free" (it's not), but there may certainly be homage going on here. Whether it's Hedstrom's stunning vocals that easily recall Freddie Mercury or his heavy-as-hell guitar, this song is a nice hard-rock finale to a towering EP.