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Right Hear, Right Now: 5 New Songs From Phoenix Artists

Harrison Fjord - "People I Meet"

Last week at Revolver Records, Harrison Fjord dropped its debut EP, Puspa in Space, at a First Friday release party. They band has one of the more unusual sounds in town. The first single, "People I Meet," is an unusual blend of synth pop, jazz, and sophisti-pop, reminiscent of the new romantics and blue-eyed soul artists of the early ’80s in the UK. Let's get this straight: No one is doing this in Phoenix. It's a brave start for a new band, and the entire EP is a fascinating look at their interests and influences. The single is downright catchy and would have been a European hit in 1983, in no uncertain terms. You expect it to almost spin out into Eurodisco, but they keep the reins tight. It's startling at first, for the very anachronistic reasons I've stated. But, man, after a few listens, it's pretty damned brilliant. I don't know if the members of Harrison Fjord have ever listened to the Style Council or Everything But the Girl, but they nail it effortlessly. 

Soft Deadlines - "Death Of You"

This week, Onus Records released a one-off single from Soft Deadlines for the label's Sound Explosion compilation that's coming out next month. There are few sounds that I enjoy more than the angular guitar work found, as well as the atypical rhythmic work found in the songs of Soft Deadlines. Yes, it recalls bands such as Gang of Four and Mission of Burma, but vocalist Oliver Lemke's vocals add an unusual varnish to the entire affair that makes it completely unique. It is one of my favorite singles of the summer, though it's not a particularly summery song — it's just a great song and one of the band's best yet. Quick on the heels of this year's full-length album Critic, this song continues in much the same vein, but with a bit more urgency. Yes, it still reminds me of all the art-punk faves of my youth, but this is vital for the times, and it just sound good to these ears. I can't wait to catch them playing this one in concert. At less than two and a half minutes, it's terse, it's abrupt, it comes crashing into your mind and leaves nearly as soon as you realize it's altered you. This just makes me want a follow-up EP from Soft Deadlines as soon as possible, because they seem to be on a roll and they've truly found themselves.

Flower Festival - "What a Sob Story"

I've been keeping my eye and my ears on Flower Festival for a while now. Part of the Moone Records collective (Bear State, Lonna Kelley, Justin Moody), the band has my attention. So it was surprising when they released a brand new EP called Cry Baby out of nowhere. Flower Festival is Micah Dailey (Bear State), and on this occasion, he recorded his songs presumably in his bedroom with magnetic tape on a Tascam 246 & Tascam 488. The analog warmth overflows on the entire EP, and after several spins, I have to say that the opener, "What a Sob Story," is the one that sends me into bliss every single time. There is something about the vaguely surfy guitar, along with the minimalist rhythm section and, of course, the amazing reverb vocals, that I've been trying to find a comparison to for days. It's a damned dreamy number drenched in a poolside summer sound. It's a touch shoegazey and it makes me think I'd love to see a lineup of Flower Festival with Bear State, Daisy Face, and Wooden Indian. It would be a great time that probably would require chemical enhancement, and it would be well worth the ride. Check out this song and then listen to the whole EP. It's a great dream to lose yourself within.

Ten Cent Dinosaur - "Sorrows"

If you want blues-soaked rock 'n' roll in easy-to-swallow bites, you may want to check out Ten Cent Dinosaur. Like any decent blues song, this is about loss, sadness, drinking, smoking, and generally rambling around your mind while you stumble through reality. The song itself is adorned with pounding drums and fantastic guitar licks, all augmented with a vicious lead vocal that leaves you wondering how impressive the band's live shows might be. If there is one thing I've learned about blues rock bands, it's that no matter how good they sound on record, they sound 10 times better in concert, because on the stage, they are going to take liberties that they would never dream of on a recording. This is what makes this kind of band exciting to see perform. The combination of Brennan Sarver (vocals), Roger Yelton (guitar), William Unkefer (bass), and Will Brown (drums) is an alluring mix. If you like what you hear, head on over to The Rogue Bar on Tuesday nights this month as they hold their weekly residency with a ton of other great acts joining their side.

The Brave Optimistic - "Love in the Time of Climate Change"

Kody Holmes has been assuming the identity of The Brave Optimistic for some time now, and he is one of my favorite, albeit lesser-known, finds this month. The Brave Optimistic is releasing a new song every three days that will eventually coalesce into debut album Oh, Odanata. Holmes, who primarily sticks to vocals, guitar, and ukelele on the album, is joined by collaborators Timothy O’Brien (drummer for Celebration Guns), Alex Dorr, and Devyn Running, as well as a gang of studio musicians including local luminaries Danny Torgersen (Captain Squeegee), Megyn Neff (Dry River Yacht Club), Naomi Newman, and Dan Parker (Change of Pace). The songs released thus far are all over the place stylistically, ranging from indie rock to bluegrass to prog-folk drenched in Americana. The most fascinating track for me so far is "Love in the Time of Climate Change," which starts like a solo bedroom demo on acoustic guitar, before exploding 40 seconds in where it goes absolutely manic with vocal histrionics unlike any other and then softens to present a near Elvis Costello ballad delivery. It's just so fucking weird and exciting. 

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Mitchell Hillman