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.
Harper and The Moths - "Walk Through Fire"
I would be hard-pressed to admit that Harper and The Moths were not my favorite local band right now. Their 18-month-old debut, Love Songs for the Damned, is still on daily rotation. Since February they have released a cavalcade of singles, including the brilliant "Nighttime Tremors," "What Are We Giving Up," and, just this week, "Walk Through Fire." Add to that an incendiary live show every single time and you've got something special — they aren't just musicians. They also are fantastic performers, which is something rare these days on the local scene. In their most recent recording foray, they entered the studio with Bob Hoag at the helm and a hell of a lot ’70s-era disco rock backing them up. There is a lot of fantastic pop action happening here, but just as much disco as there is, say, Some Girls-era Rolling Stones. There are so many elements on point here, whether it is the brilliant guitar, or that bass line you can actually hear throughout the mix, the female harmonies, and those goddamn drums. It's a brilliant single. Now I just want the entire album.
'I'm talkin' about love, whatchya know about love?" So good.
Saddles - "Comfort"
First of all, it has to be said that Saddles is one of my favorite local bands, and it excites me to no end that they are finally putting out some new music for the first time in over two years. In that time, they also have significantly expanded from a duo to what is now a five-piece, and their performances are better than ever. "Comfort" is the first single to be released since 2013's amazing album, Shell Art, which was in my top five that year and something I still listen to on a near-weekly basis. The song doesn't reflect the addition of three members to the band, but it does pick up where Shell Art left off. And I hope there is a lot more of this to come. It's a dreamy indie pop song with wry, cynical lyrics reflecting a clear dissatisfaction with what many would consider success in modern life. It's lo-fi and indie all the way, like a Pavement outtake from the early 1990s, but it's no less brilliant. If this single doesn't convince you, check out the album on bandcamp. Then schedule yourself to catch the entire band in the act at The Rebel Lounge this Saturday, when they will release a special disc featuring new, rare, and unreleased material while being joined by Shady Elder, Paper Foxes and Wild Orca. As a bonus, the super-cute/bizarre/adorable video for the song can be found below.
Twin Ponies - "Merciless and Masculine"
There are a lot of bands from the Class of 2013 that are getting ready to unleash follow-up recordings, including Saddles, Celebration Guns, and another of my favorites, Twin Ponies. They are readying the release of Friendly Pet Mass Graves, their first full EP since their debut, Twin Pores, nearly two years ago. The last time we had new songs from this crew was with a split cassette release with Celebration Guns over a year ago. I just caught them last week at Last Exit Live and their entire set was stunning (they clearly have enough material for an entire album and probably then some). "Merciless and Masculine" is the first single from the new EP, and it gives you a solid idea of the direction that Twin Ponies are headed in. Their music is getting more complicated, more fascinating, and compositionally stronger. They may well be approaching territory that fills in the enormous gaps left in the local music scene by The Constellation Branch and Small Leaks Sink Ships. Their shows are just as mesmerizing, and I am champing at the bit to hear the rest of the EP. You may want to mark your calendars for July 17, when they release the EP with Celebration Guns, Lips, and Daisy Face at The Rebel Lounge.
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Injury Reserve - "Everybody Knows"
I have a feeling that Live at the Dentist Office by Injury Reserve is going to be the one of the greatest hip-hop/rap albums to come out of Arizona this year. The group recently claimed to be the only good rap act in Phoenix, but I'd like to amend that sentiment. There are a lot of "good" rap acts in Phoenix. Injury Reserve is great, and that's several steps above good. "Everybody Knows" is the third single from the highly anticipated follow up to Cooler Colors, following in a wave of indescribable brilliance behind "Whatever Dude" and "Washed Up." The video is great and you can see it above, I've included the link below so that you can download the track and enjoy it on your own time. I for one can't wait for the release of Live at the Dentist Office, because from what I can tell, it's a departure in sound and it may also be one of the best original local albums of the year. The album is scheduled to drop Thursday, July 30, at Crescent Ballroom.
Spar Afar - "Maybe"
I actually have no idea how I even heard of Spar Afar. I've never seen them live. Maybe I got an email or they commented on some other band's post, but either way, the name stuck in my head and I remembered that I had to check them out. I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled up the single "Maybe" from their brand-new EP, Stoic Poet. To tell you the truth, the only thing I really know about the band is that they've made their EP cover impossible to download in a suitable format, and I probably spent an hour trying to find an image of it so I could post it here instead of the stock press photo you find above, which is a shame, because it's a cool cover. Nevertheless, "Maybe" is just a damn likeable song in the range of somewhere between alternative music and jam band territory. I mean anyone that smokes weed will probably dig this groove completely. It's got a jaunty guitar bit going on, but it's slow to start, until they hit the first chorus and then they hook you, the lead singers voice hits a higher register and pretty much stays there for the rest of the song. I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from Spar Afar and maybe getting a decent image of that EP cover.