Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly feature, Sound Off, in which Jason P. Woodbury is joined by a different guest each week to listen to and discuss three tracks from local Phoenix artists. If you would like your songs to be considered for future Sound Off columns, please email email@example.com.
Today's guest is DJ Dana, Phoenix's resident "Queen of Country," who handles the wheels of steel each Sunday night at Valley Fever, Tempe's country night at the Yucca Tap Room. DJ Dana graciously agreed (with only the promise of coffee when she arrived to entice her) to meet at the New Times building early Tuesday morning to listen to three new local tracks from Courtney Marie Andrews, Source Victoria, and Sun Ghost.
Valley Fever hosts The Whispering Pines (described by Dana as akin to early Eagles) and The James Parks Band this Sunday, November 13, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.
"Bumper in the Hail" is the first single from Phoenix-based songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews' upcoming album, No One's Slate Is Clean, scheduled for digital release on December 7, and physical release on January 1. Andrews recently was featured in Nylon Magazine's roundup of the Phoenix music scene, and has toured and recorded with Jimmy Eat World.
Up on the Sun: That was "Bumper in the Hail," by Courtney Marie Andrews. I'm trying to verify that it was produced by Jim Adkins. I'd be willing to bet it is; it sounded so much like classic Jimmy Eat World at the end.
[Update: Both No One's Slate is Clean and Slow Luck were produced by Chris Testa, who worked on Jimmy Eat World's Chase This Light.]
DJ Dana: I could hear the influence. It was good. Jim knows what he's doing.
Whether or not it was produced by Adkins, she's been touring as a member of Jimmy Eat World. She played with them on Conan, I saw her at Coachella this year.
It's a pretty song.
I liked the line "My mind is the critic that has nothing to complain about." I always love when songs talk about critics. It's like, "Hey, that's what I do."
Maybe the song is about you.
I would assume. I generally assume every song is about me [laughs]. Songs that single out the critics usually aren't saying nice things. It's like, "Screw the critics." It builds toward that big crescendo at the end, kind of that rock 'n' roll part, and I liked that.
[It's] very current. This is what people seem to be listening to. What is interesting to me is the evolution of the female singer/songwriter. From the folk singer thing of the '60s to what was going on in the '90s to what's going on now. Even the pronunciation of her words -- that's why I asked you where she's from. The way she pronounces her words . . . it's almost like every female singer has that same accent. I'm always curious how that happens, like how in the actresses from the '60s they all have that same lilt, but I don't know where it comes from.
It's not geographic. It's like, this is how you sound when you do this.
But it's changed over the years.
Yeah, I mean, some people would classify this as "folk," but this isn't what I think of when I think of folk.
No, I don't think it's folk, but her voice reminds me of a folk singer's.
Sort of Joni Mitchell.
And Joan Baez.
She's got that. When people describe her music as "folk," that's the element they're talking about: her voice. She has a classic folky voice.
Great, great voice.
Kind of a Greenwich Village thing. A little Karen Dalton. But arrangement-wise, this owes a lot to Jimmy Eat World and post-rock. This is the first song released from the record, and I wouldn't be surprised if this record is generally bigger and more auspicious than her former releases. Sounds like she's going for a big, giant sound.
I haven't heard her last album. Is it sparser?
Yeah. There are some nice arrangements on it, too, but this is definitely a step into that world. I can only assume that if you're hanging around Jimmy Eat World, that's something that's going to rub off. Those guys don't write small songs.
That's true. They have a big, big sound.
Courtney Marie Andrews is scheduled to perform Wednesday, December 28, at Crescent Ballroom.
Source Victoria is a rock band from Phoenix -- also featured in that Nylon Magazine article, where Jimmy Eat World mainman Jim Adkins compared them to one of my favorite bands of all time, The Afghan Whigs. Fronted by Brendan Murphy, brother of longtime Valley blogger Kevin "So Much Silence" Murphy (I've contributed to SmS over the years), this song also features guest vocals from singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb.
Up on the Sun: So that was "The Only Road" by Source Victoria. I picked that because it features Lisa Loeb, and it ties in nicely to what we were talking about, the evolution of the female singer songwriter, but I kind of wish I had played one of the more upbeat songs on the record, because we've just done two . . .
DJ Dana: . . . Very melancholy songs in a row [laughs]. But I liked it. The beginning reminded me of a Randy Newman song; then you have that same wall of sound coming in [at the end] again. I liked the piano a lot.
The chord change in the chorus was very classic. Randy Newman is a good one -- him and a little Beatles. What's interesting about these guys is that before this, they released a single of three different versions of the song "Once I'm Dead." The one on the record features Jon Rauhouse, but the single has different versions of it. One is the demo version, one is the album version, and one is a big rock 'n' roll version. What's interesting is that, to me, one of the defining aspects of a classic song is that you can play it any style.
You can interpret it any way.
Right, you can do a country version of it, a reggae version. If it's a really good song, you can do that.
Like Waylon Jennings. He made great decisions about what songs to cover. He covered everything from Bob Seger to Steely Dan to Stevie Nicks; just based on the song. If it was a good song, he could make it in his own style.
That's something I miss -- well, I can't say I miss it, because I wasn't alive when it was happening -- but a lot of my old records I'll dig through and see the same names in the credits over and over again. You'll see Randy Newman or Tom Waits' name on songs from every type of record. You'll see Kris Kristofferson's name. On Donny Hathaway live, you've got Carole King's "You've Got a Friend."
Maybe now, it's just so much bigger. Everyone can produce their own thing. Which is good, but things kind of get diluted.
And they get so stylistically spread out, too. Covers become like a novelty. Like, look, it's a sad version of "Hey Ya."
[Laughs] I know that guy you're talking about.
Not to talk crap about that guy. Maybe that's the same exact thing I'm talking about, an example of it still happening. A song transcending its genre. What I was getting at, with this Source V. song, is that I could have just as easily heard it as a power pop song, more upbeat. It's got a great melody.
The lyrics tied into what we were talking about. Going back to better times. Simpler times. With this economy, and everything happening, people want to go back to that time. Inevitably, it's going to. It's cyclical. People want things to be more home-based, home-made, and local. And it's reflected in the music.
Source Victoria is scheduled to perform and release a brand new album, Slow Luck, Friday, November 25, at Crescent Ballroom.
"La Di Da" is the first single from Sun Ghost's upcoming release, Glitter, Guns & Gold, due out in January.
DJ Dana: It's definitely Beatles-inspired. It was interesting, because it's like the pop-era Beatles mixed with the mid-range Beatles. It had some of that Paul McCartney thing -- of putting, like, eight songs into one song. Like "Band on the Run." I liked it. I like anything that seems like it's over 30 years old [laughs]. I've been listening to the Beach Boys Smile record a lot, and I feel like these guys have also been listening to it. The vocal harmonies are great -- even though it's a demo, and there are some rough parts. I loved the "He went to college, she went to church" line. Just loved that lyric. It sounds so evocative.
When I hear that, I just think "Beatles." I really admire the amount of work that went into it. Instead of just the monotone drone-y rock thing [mimes strumming], they put a lot of effort into it.
There's actually an arrangement. You don't hear it very often, but a lot of my favorite stuff doesn't go for arrangements. I like three-chord pop songs.
Country, too. It's pretty straightforward. But, something like this is really refreshing to hear. Have you ever heard Ryan Taverna and The Threads? It's very similar. That's exactly what it reminds me of.
It reminded me a lot of a group called Dr. Dog. I don't know if you've heard them at all. Had some of the same sort of . . . like . . . sort of featuring one of those discordant, chromatic piano climbs . . . [laughs]. It's a great song. I spent a lot of time interviewing the songwriter, Trevor Denton, for this thing I did about Ron Paul. I feel like it's a little bit of a shame that I spent time talking with those guys, and we talked about their music so little. After listening to this, I feel like I should have talked with about his band more. It's not like I can't, I guess. They haven't moved away or anything.
I think people like to hear upbeat stuff like this. Poppy, but not in a stupid way, like American Idol or Britney Spears. There's some depth and substance.
Yeah, that's the word.
You just like it because it sounds like it's over 30 years old.
[Laughs] Did you see the last Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris?
No, not yet.
It kind of warns of about the dangers of permanent nostalgia.
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To some degree, he's making Woody Allen is making fun of himself, but sitting in the theater, I was like, "Oh, no, that's me," in regard to different eras of music.
Me, too, but that's a whole genre now: "Nostalgia." Everything is obviously influenced by older things, but I tend to go back to the originals. Clothes, furniture. I don't want to just get something that "looks cool," I want the original. That's how I am with music, but if it's a good rendition, then I'll like it. I'm eclectic, but if it sounds pretty close to the real thing, chances are I'm going to like it.
Sun Ghost is scheduled to perform Saturday, November 12, at The Fixx in Tempe.