Joel Marquard already plays in one of the coolest bands in Phoenix, the much-adored Gospel Claws, but he can't seem to figure out what to do with his downtime. In 2011, he released a solo album of scratchy agnostic gospel music called The Through and Through Gospel Review. In 2012, he went another direction, with his mod-R&B combo Samuel L and the Cool J's.
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Feel free to ignore the punny name and focus on the music: Whereas Through and Through explored the Marquard's sacred influences, Samuel L and the Cool J's is all pure pop for now people. Marquard himself hangs in the back, letting Los Angeles-based frontman Haendal Balzora lead a pack including members of Where Dead Voices Gather, Dear and the Headlights, Wooden Indian, and Yellow Minute.
Balzora's vocals are wild, careening over arrangements that suggest The Animals had they signed to Stax Records, with the demented organ grinding, spiking electric guitars, and tight drumming that implies. The long distance affair makes shows rare, but if the band continues to impress like it did while debuting at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room, it won't be long before its recognized as Phoenix's premier soul combo.