In years past, October has been dominated by novelty songs because of Halloween. And while we tried to represent some of that in our list of last month's best songs, this year maybe felt a tad different. Was it continued collective burnout? Or maybe just not enough time to make this century's "Monster Mash"? Regardless, one thing remains appropriate for the season: the scary levels of quality among this diverse cast of musical artists. It's a multifaceted, genre-spanning collection of tunes that'll shock you with its depth and all-around inventiveness. It sure beats getting pennies or apple slices during your annual trick-or-treating.
Tassel, 'bestowed apathy'
We last heard from Tassel back in June around the release of their "NEW COVENANT" project
. Now, just in time for Halloween, the goth outfit have unveiled their spiritual sibling/predecessor, the conveniently-titled "OLD COVENANT," which includes remixes from Confines and Lana Del Rabies. But if you want a real taste of what Tassel's version of Halloween music sounds like, you need only spin "bestowed apathy." This glitchy slice of EBM would be right at home on the soundtrack to a lost John Carpenter film or used in a ritual for summoning some dark demon from the very depths. And yet amid the overt horror of it all, Tassel remain endlessly hip and unwaveringly suave.
Gonzi Supreme, 'Gloats'
Gonzi Supreme, a member of the duo Train of Thought, has come a long way to get here. After stints in both the Bronx, N.Y., and Orlando, Fla., the producer has made Phoenix his new hometown. And based on his efforts across the 11-track "The Adventures of Guapo Supreme," the savvy producer is already a compelling figure in the city's insular but dynamic hip-hop scene. Case in point: "Gloats," in which that mesmerizing horn pulls us in close before all the East Coast bass smacks everyone squarely in the jaw. This is instrumental rap that doesn't need words to tell a story or move hearts and minds. Welcome to the Copper State, Mr. Supreme.
Fine China, 'Whitebelt'
We love it when a band uses their name to forecast just what they might sound like. And that's exactly the case of Phoenix's own Fine China, who blend and blur ambient, pop-roc and a little New Wave to make something that's as gorgeous and pristine as that titular dishware. But don't be fooled — there's some real heft to these songs. Take, for instance, "Whitebelt," one of six new tracks on the "Eyes In The Water" EP. All those shimmery guitars and lush harmonies might feel quaint and joyous, but there's a deliberateness and intensity under all the proper beauty. And unlike any actual fine china, these songs never break no matter how you handle 'em.
Yellowcake, 'Visage of the Flame'
Regular readers of this column should already know Yellowcake (and appreciate them dearly). The hardcore band are quite prolific, and they've released a suite of records and EPs across a number of punk and DIY labels. Next up is the seven-track "Can You See The Future?" EP courtesy of Oakland, Calif.'s Transylvanian Recordings. Almost any cut will blow your mind and ear canals alike, but we're especially partial to "Visage of the Flame." As its name would suggest, it's all hellfire and vinegar, and yet there's something nearly melodic to the machine gun dissonance. If you don't know Yellowcake, now's the time to do some proper listening and learning.
Trill Gates, 'Fukt Up'
There's not a ton of info online for one Trill Gares — aside from his Phoenix location. That may or may not explain why he called the 10-track "To Whom It May Concern" the "first and only album from Trill Gates." And if that truly is the case, we're both saddened and overjoyed that Mr. Gates went in and out of the game with this collection. Because as songs like "Fukt Up" help demonstrate, Gates has the attitude and depth to make some truly compelling gangster rap, a sound that playfully toes the line with trap music for added oomph. Spin this LP as both an introduction and a farewell.
Flower Festival, 'Stolen'
According to Phoenix singer-songwriter Flower Festival, it took him some eight years since 2015's "Cry Baby" to wrap up his latest record, "Age." And while that nine-track effort doesn't actually debut until Jan. 1, 2024, we get to hear why the wait was totally worth it with the album track "Stolen." Featuring Nicholas Krgovich, the track feels like a proper distillation of Flower Festival's jittery, soulful take of psych-pop, a song that pokes the brain as much as it soothes and uplifts. If we're waiting till 2031 for the next record, consider us copacetic.
Eva Noxious, 'Nightside'
We've written a lot about local hip-hop over the course of this column. And yet amid those great producers and MCs, there's been not a single female name — until now. Eva Noxious doesn't just have perhaps the best stage name ever, but a solid presence that she expertly displays across the seven-track "Call Shot." That proves double for the record's standout, "Nightside," in which Noxious sounds both alluring and utterly terrifying across this '90s West Coast-honoring beat. There's something to that flow of hers, and it weaves stories that feel intimate without ever scrimping on the attitude and drama.
Throat Check, 'Heat Wave'
There's really no nuance or mystery to a band like Throat Check. The Tempe outfit's name alone is both massively visceral and singularly violent. Then, you add in their rather direct, frills-free blend of hardcore and metal, and you quickly get the sense that they're not playing around. And yet across the four-track "No Good Times" EP (there they go again with the direct approach), the band proves that being simple doesn't mean boring. "Heat Wave," for instance, is a skull-obliterating jam that'll have you smashing into walls whether you're at home or in the pit.
Madilyn Mei, 'Kleptomaniacrow'
We couldn't let October go by without having at least one generally charming and enthusiastic selection of Halloween music. And as far as her takes are concerned, singer-songwriter Madilyn Mei brings the full-size Snickers bars for great original Halloween tunes with "Promise You Won't Scream." That includes "Kleptomaniacrow," which may sound a little more cutesy folk-pop to the undiscerning crowd. Yet lines about dead bodies and thieving crows, plus the turn-of-the-century folk vibes, has this sounding like Edgar Allen Poe fronted The Decemberists. Consider this both trick and treat.
Gentle Organisms, 'RHCP'
Could local musician Michael Kelley have chosen a less deliberately weird name than Gentle Organisms? Perhaps — even his government name would have sufficed. And yet that weird, subtly blue moniker somehow still works, especially given the scope of Kelley's robust fusion of indie and folk in the recently released "RHCP." A sneak peek from this December's eight-track "I Wish You Could See Yourself Right Now" album, the song emanates cozy vibes and lots of earnestness while letting Kelley show off his musical chops and poignant harmonies. Band names are certainly a thing, but Kelley delivers in all the right ways with big heart and bigger ambitions.
Grim Moses, 'Weapons Expert'
Sure, "He-Man" isn't exactly Halloween-specific content. But given that it's among both the coolest and nerdiest things to call your album "Skeletor," we're just going to say Grim Moses celebrates the season in his own way. And yet the long-time, unwaveringly prolific MC isn't talking about Eternia or Prince Adam on a song like "Weapons Expert." Rather, the song is more of that slightly hazy, perpetually hard-hitting flow from the Phoenix rapper, and the fact that the beat's basically "spooky organ" music only adds to the overt intensity of Moses' efforts. By the power of Grayskull, it's a smash.