We’ve collected some of the recent local music offerings that make the scene shine. Now turn 'em way up.
Post Hoc - "Specters of the Western Night"
Post Hoc made quite a statement with 2019's excellent Wilderness, the Villain. It was a declaration not born of a specific style or set of emotional goals, but an unyielding sense of curiosity. That same commitment burns just as bright in the Phoenix band's slick new single, "Specters of the Western Night." This track would certainly be right at home on Wilderness, with similarly angular rhythms, abstract lyricism, and a groove that combines Pearl Jam and Coheed and Cambria. But there's a slightly more celebratory quality throughout altering the song's shape. This is a massive anthem for when the world could use a revolution.
Ash Barrett - "Nothing Lasts"
Punk doesn't feel the same in Phoenix as it does in other hubs. There's something about the sun that warps minds and music alike. Case in point: Ash Barrett, a post-punk-leaning musician who has been quietly releasing singles over the last few years. Barrett's latest offering is "Nothing Lasts," which plays like the lo-fi love-child of Lou Reed and Television. Yet Barrett's far more than the sum of those parts. There's a real charm to his slightly sullen ways and delightfully odd lyricism ("Buried twice, buried alive/In your cheetah print cape"). Like Arizona, Barrett's proof that the bizarre can still be utterly beautiful.
The Maine - "I Must Be Dreaming"
The Maine's brand of emo and pop-punk feels like a prime example of just what the Valley has to offer artistically. But they're still capable of so much more. That notion permeates a new full-length live version of their 2008 debut album Can't Stop, Won't Stop (which the band recorded at January 2019's 8123 Fest). "I Must Be Dreaming," for instance, feels more grand and sweeping than even the album version, achieving new heights of emotion and energy. More impressive, though, is the song maintains the band's peppy punk roots amid an ever massive showcase.
Qais Essar - "The Waves"
In 2017, the Phoenix New Times declared Qais Essar as "unlike anyone else in the Phoenix music scene." And other people have come around to this rabab player who blurs the lines of psych and world music. He's played big-time national festivals, won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Song, and continued to regularly release music. Essar's latest single, "The Waves," builds on his ongoing flirtation with jazz, resulting in a breezy tune that feels almost like satin in the ears. (Yes, it can cause low-grade synesthesia.) Play this when you need reminding of the warm promise of a perfect spring day.
Celebration Guns - "Taking Sides"
After almost two full years, Celebration Guns returned in February with new music. The song "old man tells at cloud" made a severe existential crisis highly palatable thanks to its lush guitars and gentle harmonies. The band then followed up with March’s equally great "Taking Sides." Here, they tweaked the formula a teensy bit, replacing the fear of aging with an exploration of interpersonal conflict. The end result, though, feels more emotionally poignant and sonically playful If this is what to expect from their upcoming On Aging Gracelessly EP, Celebration Guns should record more often.