Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Huckleberry — "Trouble Is Real"
I've been waiting for Huckleberry's follow-up to Fine Highway for far too long. In fact, it's been more than two years since their debut album's release. Well, I guess I've been waiting two and a half years, to be exact. This week, they released the first single from the album and "The Trouble Is Real" has a much more indie pop/rock feel than the heavily Americana vibe found on the band's debut. As with the standout song from Fine Highway ("Handle Me"), there is a heavy nod to Harry Nilsson, which is simply perfection for my taste. This time around, it is later period Nilsson, but there is something in the songwriting, the arrangement and Ian Kelman's vocals that evoke this. I don't even know if it's on purpose at all, but supposedly they occasionally cover "Coconut" during live sets. Produced once more by Jalipaz at Audioconfusion, he may well have another masterpiece on his hands. The song is so laid back and easy on the soul that I can hardly stand it. It has an amazing hook for a song driven by a bar room-style piano line. Everything here is a beautiful reflective drink on a summer afternoon, with an occupation spent on acute observations at the more mundane elements of modern life. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable singles of the year and it more than whets my appetite for the entire album, which will be released in September with a grand celebration you won't want to miss.
Bad Neighbors — "Life's No Cakewalk, But We'll Have A Slice"
Bad Neighbors were my favorite debut band of last year, and from the first time I saw them live, I have been hounding them about recordings ever since. They have an amazing combination of manic, near spoken-word poetry and an indie rock aesthetic that I just adore. This week, they have released their debut single with "Life's No Cakewalk, But We'll Have a Slice" and it's a stunning debut, far more than I expected. Although from their recent shows I've attended, I should not have been too surprised. It begins with a sample of the distress call from Apollo 13 to NASA, before the mesmerizing guitar work of Tim Allyn begins, Collin Fall's drums kick in, and Levi Hardee's bass underlines it all. It's nearly two minutes in when Martin Shaffer launches his verbal shotgun lyrical approach, reminiscent of early records by The Hold Steady. Every second of this near five-minute single is pure enjoyment, as Shaffer delivers his poetry over a driving groove that never gives up. One thing is for sure, the forthcoming EP is going to be one of the best records of the year, one of the most challenging, showcasing the truly unique sound of this band. Their debut EP A Conscious Collection of Unconsciousness will be released on Thursday, August 6, at Crescent Ballroom, joined by Fairy Bones. Let's all just cut our strings and dance with Bad Neighbors.
Day Before Plastics — "Space Beach"
Day Before Plastics had my second favorite single of last year with "Watch You Walk Away," off their debut EP, so it is with much excitement that they released the first single from their forthcoming album, Explosive Sadness, this week. After a preview song of "Wrong" back in January, I wasn't sure what to expect, but DBP delivers the goods in spades with the official single. It's classic Plastics, with a brilliant Caribbean guitar bit that is reminiscent of Talking Heads at their prime. While musically jaunty, the lyrical content is depressing as hell — but strangely hopeful. Either way it's an instant addition to my continually growing "Summer Soundtrack," and it's a great groove to dance to, at the very least. While "Wrong" was quite a departure from their usual fare, "Space Beach" is a return to form in all regards, and I would be surprised if this wasn't in my top 10 for singles of the year when all is said and done. The aforementioned guitar, in combination with Dominick Provenzano's vocals, the groovy bass work of Travis Snowberger and the intricate percussion of Chris Zagami, just makes this a brilliant delight. I cannot wait for the full album. Explosive Sadness certainly sums up this song and I wonder if that will be the case with all of the other tracks. I hope so, because this is great.
Snailmate — "Sociomedia"
Snailmate is a new power duo formed from the love and musical vision shared between Kalen Lander (TKLB?) and Ariel Monet (Sister Lip), and it is a crazy combination, with Lander on vocals and synth and Monet on drums. Here you essentially have the drums and synths wrapped around the hip hop ravings and falsetto chorus that makes grand commentary on the narcissistic pitfalls of the modern realm of social media. It's funny because it's true and for the same reason, there is also a hint of sorrow. It is probably the delivery of Lander's falsetto chorus that is the most fascinating, because he is actually singing and doing it well, but still it sounds like he's doing it to be comedic. I've only ever really heard Lander do his shotgun rap bit on his own material and songs with Japhy's Descent and Sister Lip. It's a nice change and a sweet surprise to find out that if he wanted to, he could actually sing. Wait until you hear the rest of the forthcoming EP. Snailmate will release their debut EP this Saturday, July 25, at CASA Sunba in Tempe. After a near month long tour of these handsome Western states, they should be more than primed to take the stage with Korbe Canida, The Pubes, Genre and Ana Log for a pure celebration of Escargot.
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Marc Norman — "Drink About You"
More than likely, you know Marc Norman as the no-holds-barred, eccentric, emphatic frontman for Ghetto Cowgirl. You may also know him as the frontman for Narc Morman. If not, you may know him as a notorious and legendary presence in the Tempe music scene — you may not know him, but you would probably recognize him the moment you saw him. He is often found at venues carrying a pitcher of beer from which he is sipping and smiling wildly, always smiling and greeting his many friends. He is a character who actually has character and he's a damn fine songwriter as well. It's surprising, but somehow, he's never released a solo song before now. Last week, Norman asked me to share his new song and after listening to it a few times, I couldn't think of a finer way to share it than doing it here. Truth be told, "Drink About You" is something of a heartbreaker, but it shows a vulnerable tenderness that isn't apparent in his work with other bands. I have to admit, it wasn't what I expected, but I can sure as hell relate to the sentiment he sings about here, swimming in memories with a bottomless bottle. I also have to admit that his voice has a semblance to early Kings of Leon, which I never noticed before. All in all, it's a great song, but not necessarily a fun time — this is best served immediately after a break up in full reflection mode. Brilliant, nonetheless, especially if you've been there or you are there currently.