Haymarket Squares — "Let's Start a Riot"
Your favorite punkgrass anarchists are back and better than ever! The Haymarket Squares are ready to release their highly anticipated new full-length, Light It Up, at Last Exit Live on February 27, and last week, they released a video for the album's first single. "Let's Start a Riot" is the anthem for anyone dissatisfied with the 9-to-5 grind that is their day job. For the subject matter alone — not to mention how well it's executed — this may well be my favorite Haymarket song ever. They are on point here: "I’m tired of trading hours for so little in return / Don’t want to take a sick day, man / I want to watch it burn" and "Well, here’s what they don’t tell you ‘bout how growing up will be / The crushing weight of boredom and responsibility." Musically, they are the ever-familiar punk grass heroes, with a searing guitar solo, accordion for miles, and a brilliant building crescendo that makes you, well, want to start a riot. Directed by local maestro Matty Steinkamp, the video is just as entertaining as the song, illustrating perfectly the desire to just burn the mother down, as well as a dutiful nod to Office Space. Next time you're mixing cocktails, you may want to consider a Molotov to switch things up.
Troubled Minds — "Silk Flowers"
I'm not sure how I came across Troubled Minds. I remember landing on their Bandcamp page randomly last year and marveling at the two songs they put out in 2013 and wishing they'd put out something new I could write about. Well, long story short, I got my wish. Just this week the group released a seven-track EP called Something Worth Saving, and I've been spinning it over and over. They are definitely on the neo-emo/pop-punk side of the fence. That said, it's impressive how much musical territory they can cover in any single song, and nearly none of them go in the direction you think they will. A great example is "Silk Flowers" which you think is going to be pure screamo, laden with the guitar weight of Helmet, but only half a minute in they hit indie rock territory, with a hint of the angst that made early Nirvana and Pixies so great. "Silk Flowers" is all about being trapped in someone else's confines and being angry about it. The best line: "You asked me to speak, then you sewed my mouth shut / Now you're blaming everyone for this rut." The EP is filled with great songs, and I can't wait to see these songs brought to a local stage.
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Nanami Ozone — "Desire"
Word from Nanami Ozone is that the group is hitting the studio to record its first album, but "Desire" will give you a little taste of what to expect. Nanami Ozone is Colson Miller (The Thin Bloods), Sophie Opich (Numb Bats), Mo Neuharth (Numb Bats), and Chris Gerber (Sun Ghost). The song is a great introduction to their sound now that they've found themselves after releasing a series of demos over the past year. In this case, the desire in question seems to be for youth and wanting to feel like you did when you got turned on as a teenager — turned on by anything and obviously filled with burning desire. It's a reflection you face in your 20s, that things don't feel like they used to and somehow you have to reignite. Neuharth handles the vocals on this one, and they're lain across a dizzying Miller guitar part that's been driving me crazy for days. The only thing I desire fiercely now is Nanami Ozone's debut record.
Dadadoh — "Do It"
Dadadoh is going to do some amazing things this year — mark my word. The first hint is the new single "Do It." It's a soulful hip-hop number that totally hits the spot. Against a sinister and synth-heavy backing track, Dadadoh tells the story of a sexually insatiable female acquaintance. With any other music backing it, it would be a party anthem for the sex-positive, but the music is ominous and haunting. It's a fascinating dichotomy as Dadadoh tells of a narcissistic woman who is all about her phone, going out, being seen, and taking lots of pictures (presumably selfies). That said, what she really wants to do is get laid, again and again, until she can't go on. It's a touch celebratory, a touch sad, and a bit reflective — which may not seem that way lyrically, but the beat provides darkness surrounding the whole affair. At song beings, Dadadoh seems resistant and "ain't even tryin' to see just a little bit," but by the end, he's come around, advising: "Fuck anybody that be throwing shade / 'Cause I'm gonna be up in the pussy till I'm in my grave."
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Jade Helm - "Days Gone"
It appears Jade Helm is assembling songs for an EP or album release, and just over a week ago, the group unleashed four new songs on its Soundcloud page. They've got a great hook-heavy combination going, and with Jackie Cruz leading the way, they just can't be beat (seriously, her song at the Phoenix Rock Lottery was one of the best of the night). "Days Gone" is my early favorite track among the new tunes, most notably because of Cruz's fantastic vocals — she starts sounding like Courtney Love and ends up sounding like Debbie Harry. It's a brilliant juxtaposition and a fantastic transition. Also, it must be said that the guitar hooks are simply killer — heavily steeped in early ’90s grunge. Check out the accidental outro for the song, too. I asked Cruz about it and she said, "[The engineer] bought some used tape for the reel-to-reel Tascam we recorded on, and that music was already on the tape. We recorded over that song, but it fit so nicely at the end. And I loved it, so we decided to keep it." It is such a perfect accidental moment that it makes this track stick out from the others.