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Abe Gil of Treasure MammaL.
Abe Gil of Treasure MammaL.
Melissa Fossum

The Five Best Local Songs of January 2020

The Valley's music scene is always moving and churning at its own unique pace, with bands and artists continuously putting out new music, from thoughtful pop-rock to jagged lo-fi noise.

We've collected some of their more recent offerings that continue to define and perpetuate our fair city. Now turn 'em way up.

Commiserate — "Grain of Sand"

This "emo-wave-try" band out of central Phoenix have been going strong since late 2017, releasing an excellent self-titled EP and gigging across the Valley and beyond. What's most appealing about Commiserate is their ceaseless curiosity that constantly pushes the outfit in new and more daring directions. Case in point: their single "Grain of Sand." The track is a hazy surf-pop ditty that features a 12-person chorus. You could describe the song as a collaboration between Polyphonic Spree and The Beach Boys, but even that explanation misses out on the sheer joy and earnestness this song exudes. Next time you're cruising down a lazy river, spin this breezy ballad pronto.

Audrey Heartburn "Siren Song"

In just a few years, Audrey Heartburn have released an impressive sampling of songs and EPs, including last spring's Round 2: Fight!, which is best described as "sonic Lucas powder." More recently, they've returned with another great single in "Siren Song." Although the band have nailed the hyper-power-pop formula, this tune feels a little more understated, a blend of Pat Benatar's pop ferociousness and The Trucks' indie angst channeled into an earnest four-minute gem. And while past efforts hinted at more "playful" subject matter, they're tackling slightly headier ideas of heartache and separation with equal measures grace and nuance. If you need to be in your feelings, this one can take you all the way down.

Treasure MammaL — "The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers"

Anyone who's seen Treasure MammaL over the last decade-plus will know to expect the unexpected (and then some). But even their latest single seems a little left-field: a cover of The Aquabats' "The Ballad of Mr. Bonkers," released late last year on the 20th anniversary covers album commemorating The Floating Eye of Death. Aquabats' original is weird even for those ska superheroes, a slow-moving spaghetti-western-meets-lounge-rock ballad that's nonetheless silly and saccharine. In the hands of Abe Gil and company, the song transforms into a delightfully ethereal '80s Kraftwerk jam — if that band were fronted by a bargain bin Siri-inspired A.I. Now, it's not exactly the most enthusiastic cover ever, but it earns high marks for sheer weirdness.

Holy Fawn — "Tethered"

In mid-January, local dark rockers Holy Fawn returned with a surprise three-song EP, The Black Moon. With more electronics and tape textures than previous releases, the band described it as "a little different, but it's still who we are." Maybe that's what led to "Tethered." Less than three minutes in length, it doesn't quite feel like a full song, just a slow saunter of light atmospherics and gentle keys. But in that brief span, something beautiful unfurls, and your ears can't help but saunter through the soundscape. Just when things pick up, everything drops out and leaves the listener churning for a moment or two.

Soft Shoulder — "Thin Red Straw (High Tension)"

Hailing from Tempe, Soft Shoulder describe themselves as "post-punk/no-wave/junk-kraut," which may invite just as many new questions than answers. If you're trying to get to know this trio, then you need only devote four minutes listening to "Thin Red Straw (High Tension)." If you believe the band, this single (part of a 7-inch with "Wellness Line") was born from the spontaneity of a haphazard "studio" session. But there's a bit of control displayed here, and the band found an intriguing way to marry post-punk grit, no-wave nihilism, and the haunting drone of krautrock. Does such skill take away from the song's sense of chaos and deeply disturbing vibes? No, it does not. Just please listen to this one away from small children and animals.

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