There's no hyperbole intended, but this might be the most jam-packed monthly local music feature that Phoenix New Times has ever published. With 18 songs total, this month’s list is a veritable who’s-who of both beloved artists/bands and hungry up-and-comers, each presenting everything from obscure electronica to earnest pop-rock and beyond. Sure, Arizona is a desert, but every once in a while the clouds open up and deliver their bounty. So, enjoy this veritable monsoon of high-quality music — what else are you going to do, hang around outside?
Hookworm Records, 'Hookworm TWO'
Back in spring 2022, Hookworm Records released a compilation called "Hookworm ONE." What it lacked in a creative title it more than made up for with great new songs from local outfits The Woodworks, Paper Foxes, SHOVEL and The Psychedelephants. Now, the label's back with "Hookworm TWO," and while the name's not much of an improvement, this time there are six brand-new tracks from six equally compelling Arizona faves. Buy physical copies of the comp here. The album release show is set for Sept. 9 at Last Exit Live.
Fairy Bones, 'Wish I Wasn't This Way' The local faves deliver a big, bold power ballad that’ll resonate with anyone who's ever wanted to leap from their body.
Chrome Rhino, 'Escape Velocity' They may still be fairly young, but Chrome Rhino continue to grow into themselves with this shimmery re-imagining of some Tom Petty-esque classic rock jam.
Birds and Arrows, 'The Chemical Tide' Having crafted a sorrowful and sexy cut, this local electro-pop outfit clearly know how to pull on our collective heartstrings with a near-lethal level of efficiency.
Daphne + The Glitches, 'Power Shifter' If this track were a car, it’d have a funk-rock chassis, an alt-rock engine, pop-rock headlights and the sexiest leather interior imaginable.
Sliced Limes, 'Takes Two' While the band can’t seem to decide a direction between chunky alt-rock and minor shoegaze, it turns out that splitting the difference makes for a top-notch tune.
Weekend Lovers, 'The Beaters' Can a song be both an understated ballad and a slice of oversized indie rock? Yes, it most certainly can, as both "sides" woo with their ample heft.
Bogan Via, 'Everything's OK'
In our recent interview, it was rather clear that Bogan Via knew themselves collectively like never before. The pair have gone through enough big life moments that they'd arrived at some important truths, and those insights helped inform and shape their forthcoming album, Everything's OK. But as the title track demonstrates, the band's understanding doesn't mean they're any less creatively open and hungry. The track itself takes understated indie pop, a dash or two of electronic music, and the self-awareness of folk to create something that's as thoughtful and poignant as it is just hugely compelling. Consider it the first broadcast in a daring new era for Bogan Via.
There Is No Us, 'Killing in the Name' (Rage Against the Machine cover)
With "Killing in the Name," Rage Against the Machine crafted a generational anthem. The song’s shaped the leftist politics of everyone basically born after 1985 (even as some older fans stupidly missed that revolutionary message). As such, Phoenix's own There Is No Us certainly had their work cut out for them as they recently released a cover of the 1992 classic. So, did the band do Zack de la Rocha and company proud, or did they instead kill this anti-authority anthem? Luckily, it's firmly in the latter category, as TINU strip out the song's exaggerated rage for something altogether more dark and sinister. The lesson here is if you're clever, you can sit in the thrones of gods.
Izzy Mahoubi, 'How to Run'
Local singer-songwriter Izzy Mahoubi described her debut EP, the excellent 'How to Run,' as if "you're walking into [my] life." Or like, gazing at the "posters on the wall and these memories of when I was really into this band or this guy." So all of that's to say the record’s clearly nostalgic, and yet from a person and creator very much with their whole life ahead of them. The title track itself expertly picks up on this intriguing, uneven dynamic, and it’s a Pat Benatar-ian slice of pure pop-rock that's all about learning from your youthful ignorance and growing into someone altogether more savvy. In essence, it's a jam for growing up in the very best way imaginable.
Joan of Arkansas, 'My Viper Death Strike'
With "Imperfectionists," local punk outfit Joan of Arkansas accomplished something truly impressive. More than just crafting really great songs, the band demonstrated their ongoing sonic evolution in such a way that it captured that which was most essential about this young-ish but very much hungry band. For an example of that process, be sure to check out "My Viper Death Strike." On the surface, it's a rip-roaring jam mostly akin to a garage rock Blondie. But listen to the lyrics, and it's a totally funny and irreverent exploration of pop culture obsession and finding value in a sideways world. In short, a truly perfect primer for JoA.
It seems that Nikes might be trying to tell us a story. The young-ish producer-DJ from Phoenix has had three releases thus far in 2023, including "Bangers!"and "Heaters." (There's also "The Churchill," which is great but doesn't fit with the theme as you’re about to see.) In July, he extended that list with "Anthems," a four-track effort that includes the standout, "Bossy," which sounds as if world music was spliced together with funk music from Jupiter. So, what's Nikes trying to tell us with "Bangers!," "Heaters" and now "Anthems"? Why that he's building up quite the catalog of infectious music, and as "Bossy" expertly demonstrates, he's only just warming up.
Yellowcake, 'Vinyl Chloride Rain'
We've talked a little before about Phoenix's own Yellowcake, a simple and direct outfit that makes big and brash punk/hardcore music. Throughout August, the band's taking the show on the road by touring the East Coast with fellow punkers Pig City. In joyous celebration, their label, Total Peace, has released a promo compilation of four devastating tracks. Consider it a proper warm-up for the uninitiated, or maybe even a kind of warning to the rest of the world. Regardless, it's just another chance to listen to tracks like "Vinyl Chloride Rain," which at a robust two minutes is quintessential, brain-melting punk from Yellowcake. Enjoy busting heads back East, gents.
Dummy Rifle, '3310'
Phoenix's Dummy Rifle have won the imaginary award for best band description. The experimental electronic outfit describe their sound as "raw, whirling dervishes of live warring synth violence and camouflage psychedelia, bent on total stupefaction." And that's exactly the sort of brain-dissolving eccentricity you can expect from "Live at Subspace," which is basically a 30-plus-minute sound collage recorded in mid-July at Tucson's own Subspace venue. Whether it's your kind of jam or not, expect Dummy Rifle to smash you about the head and neck with unnerving sonics that, if you somehow survive, feel decidedly life-affirming. Just remember, you were warned with "whirling dervishes."
German Army, 'Sticta Alpinotropica'
We've also talked a lot in the past about some of the truly great labels operating out of the Valley. That includes Hookworm Records, which offers multifaceted indie pop, or Total Peace, which leans more toward experimental punk-hardcore. But there are others, too, like IDS Recordings, which also leans toward experimental music but of the electronic variety. Case in point: Boising, from ambient outfit German Army. The record spans some 14 tracks, but if you want to save some time, just spin the clear standout, "Sticta Alpinotropica." Amid this cacophony of thudding drums, wailing sirens and other junk noise, there's something powerfully affective and strangely human. Thanks, IDS.
thankyoumaxo, 'Song B'
There's something rather charming but also a tad asinine about thankyoumaxo. The seemingly brand-new Phoenix outfit has a name that's both cutesy and kind of annoying; their members are "maxo, bago, cam, and jordy"; and the Alphabet EP is filled with "Song A," "Song B," and "Song C." (And that's not even mentioning the crime of asking listeners if they like their songs.) Yet all of that's mostly worth it once you get to the heart of this delightfully lo-fi indie rock. Take, for instance, the aforementioned "Song B," which manages to infuse the best (and maybe the worst?) parts of Superchunk, Guided by Voices, and Pavement into something generally endearing and compelling. B+ effort, gang.
Jade Helm, 'Body Hazard'
Jade Helm appear to be a decidedly young band in the ever-interesting Phoenix punk scene. But so far, they seem to be making all the right choices. That includes a primo aesthetic — very '80s hardcore meets DIY arts and crafts — while playing primo spots like Linger Longer Lounge and The Beast. But the ultimate proof's to be found in their four-track demo, which proves that the band's struck on a solid post-punk sound so early into their career. Like "Body Hazard," a blitzkrieg of frills-free, hardcore-adjacent noise that's as cool and cunning as it is infectious and combative. Also, one of the members is apparently called Nitro, so that has to earn the band even more points.
Common Kid Flower, 'Bad Place'
You've got to give it up to Common Kid Flower. The Phoenix DIY punk duo recognize that even if folks don't appreciate their unique brand of music, "you'll love our cat!" So, is there anything to truly love and adore amid the three tracks of their newly-released Sad Sessions EP (great title, by the way), or are they going to have to tour the Valley with a kitty cat petting zoo? As it turns out, based solely on the back of "Bad Place," CKF have heaps to offer musically. The track is a delightfully ramshackle amalgamation of ska and punk, something seemingly nihilistic but beaming forth a message of genuine positivity. If that’s their music, how awesome is that cat though?
Dinosaur Love and The Pangaea Pals, 'Can I Hold Yur Claw??'
If you don't already know about Dinosaur Love, artist-musician Peter Kulikowski dresses up like a cartoon dino and makes songs with titles like "Leave Them Bones Alone." The gimmick is worth its weight in gold, but Kulikowski has always supported the shtick with increasingly well-crafted, compelling songs. Still, does that hold true for his stage show? The answer for that query rests in Live at The Rebel Lounge, with the 15-track album recorded in early July alongside The Pangea Pals. It doesn't take long into tracks like "Can I Hold Yur Claw??" before you realize that these heartfelt ballads are somehow even better than all the giant dino costumes in the world.
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. Chris has been a freelancer with New Times since late 2018, and writes about all things music. He lives in Central Phoenix with his wife, stepdaughter, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.