The Must-Hear Songs by Phoenix Musicians of October 2022

The members of Popsiclestickairport.
The members of Popsiclestickairport. Courtesy of Bailey Fletcher
October is the time of the year when we all get to act a little weird. (At least, more weird than normal these days.) And that inevitably means the same for local artists, who joyfully celebrate Halloween with extra spooky singles and EPs/LPs. But this month also had regular, non-frightening music to balance things out. The end result, collected here as our best songs of the month, reflects some horrifying highlights of the holiday as well as business as usual for the great acts that call the Valley home. Either way, enjoy what's essentially the musical equivalent of a full-size Snickers bar.

Popsiclestickairport, 'Brighter'

Phoenix New Times recently caught up with Popsiclestickairport as the band were set to release their latest, EP for Fairies. Some readers may have noticed how young and excited the band were — with each one in their early 20s, they exude a youthful exuberance that's hard to ignore. And that's certainly true of their music, and EP for Fairies is the product of a band channeling ideas and energies in real-time. Just take a listen to a singular standout from the project, "Brighter." The love-child of Young the Giant and a Beach Boys deep cut, the song practically grabs you by the face and bashes you with its charm and big hooks.

Mega Ran feat. Penny The Great, 'Prime'

There's a kind of unspoken rule that the fall is a big time for video game releases. It only makes sense, then, that it might also be a big time for Mega Ran releases. The pop culture-obsessed MC has been on a roll as of late with a handful of releases, including OVERKAST to commemorate Overwatch 2 and a "Tractor Beam" remix honoring the original's inclusion in Clerks III. But the one worth a little extra mention is "Prime," a collaboration with fellow Phoenix MC Penny The Great. And, sure, it may not be about video games specifically, but Mega Ran rapping about Megatron is nonetheless something you have to hear.

Lana Del Rabies, 'Toxicity' (System of a Down cover)

It's been a minute since we've heard from Lana Del Rabies. Sam An has, in recent years, mostly shelved the project for other projects, including the more-recent Beata. Now, though, An returns to her goth-pop outfit with a brand new three-song covers EP. So, which one deserves the nod: "Toxicity" by System of a Down; "Cornflake Girl" by Tori Amos; or "Everytime" by Britney Spears? It's a close race for sure, but ultimately the victor has to be "Toxicity." Because no one else but An could transform that modern rock classic into some giant-sized IDM anthem made for blaring across a post-apocalyptic rave.

Touré Masters, 'Gangsta'

Local rapper Touré Masters continues to surprise listeners with his ongoing career arc. While he's drawn influence in the past from his own life and his love of pro wrestling, this month's April 23rd is "inspired by the life, talents, and accomplishments of William Shakespeare." (The title is a reference to the Bard's popular birthday celebration.) So, just what sort of effect has Shakespeare had on the otherwise thoughtful, inventive MC? Just take a spin to "Gangsta," a song that, while not Masters' most robust lyrical display, has the kind of heart and passion that'd make even Romeo and Juliet feel jealous.

Courtney Marie Andrews, 'Me & Jerry'

After months of waiting, and a few preview singles to hold us over, Courtney Marie Andrews has released her latest, Loose Future. The follow-up to 2020's Old Flowers, which earned Andrews a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album, is a profoundly compelling LP, and more proof that Andrews is a powerful musician still very much coming into her own. So, in celebration of the LP's arrival, it seems only right to give the spotlight to one final album track — specifically, the 10-track's closer, "Me & Jerry." It's a seemingly unassuming piano ballad that quickly sees Andrews transcend toward true musical heights.

Weston Smith, 'Arizona Deletion'

You can call Weston Smith's music weird, and even unsettling at times. But you can never call the Phoenix musician lazy, as he's seemingly always delivering new tracks/singles in preparation for yet another EP. And that continues with Arizona Deletion, a seven-track effort due out December 23. (Just in time for your extra kooky Christmas party.) Weston's already released "PUNY HUMAN," and this month he dropped the EP's title track. Regular listeners of Smith's work will find more extra heady, borderline unnerving synthwave like an experimental rewrite of Phantom of the Opera. And that, surprisingly or not, is a truly wonderful thing.

Sunny Climbs, 'Telekinetic Visions'

Regular readers of this column will already recognize Zombiewoof Records. The label/artistic collective has spent the last few years organizing some great punk-and-hip-hop-centric releases from a slew of local and national acts. And with this month being Halloween, it only made sense that Zombiewoof would release the third volume in their TUNES OF TERROR collection. And, sure, all 13 tracks deserve your attention (and a spot on a freaky Halloween playlist), but we've got to give the nod to "Telekinetic Visions" from experimental producer Sunny Climbs. Because no other song could be described as "trap music from hell."

Sam Haggard, 'Leaves'

A year ago, we highlighted Rohith Shaker, a singer-songwriter who makes extra dreamy folk-rock. Turns out, Shaker's also a great collaborator and accompanist, as he's joined up with Sam Haggard, another young, acoustic-oriented performer, for the three-track Summer Is Gone EP. There's magic to be found across all three cuts, but there's something about "Leaves" that really seems to excel. Perhaps it's the clearest instance of the Shaker-Haggard dynamic, as the pair forge something that's both off-kilter and nonetheless poignant and evocative. Who'd have thought we'd feel so sad about summer's departure?

LUCKYKAT, 'Doppelganger'

Follow along the best you can. Katnap is the "music production company" of LUCKYKAT, a local producer whose catalog leans toward progressive house music. As such, it would make sense that Katnap/LUCKYKAT would churn out projects for various properties. That now includes a soundtrack for a game called Vampire Police that we can't confirm exists (at least yet). Don't let any of that pull too much from the fact that there's solid tunes across the 12-track effort. That includes "Doppelganger," a three-minute barrage that seems to be best suited for a vampire rave scene a la Blade.

Faded Lady, 'Holy People'

Here's how we know Faded Lady could be a big-ish thing in the Valley. When we asked several other established local acts for their recommendations, a not insignificant amount pointed to this still-young Tempe outfit. And, sure, with only a couple songs out via Bandcamp, they do remain mostly untested. But if one of those songs is October's "Holy People," then it's easy to see why some folks are already so eager. It's a track that seems to reflect huge parts of the Phoenix music scene, be that a heaping helping of folk-punk, the riotous energy, and/or a dash or two of alt rock vibes. Here's to a bright future, indeed.

Teek Hall, 'ChinaTown'

As far as releases go, 2021 was a big one for Teek Hall. But after both Thirty Six (January 2021) and Fall From Grace (October 2021), the local MC's been mostly quiet. Until now, of course, as he prepares to release the 14-song ChinaTown on November 4. In the meantime, he's released a couple tracks over the last few weeks, including what's bound to be a proper standout in the title track. It's the sort of thing that exemplifies what makes Hall so great: backed by a straightforward beat (and plenty of bass), he gets three-ish minutes to deliver wordplay that's equal parts verbose and evocative, creative and confrontational.

tassel, 'pity'

Sure, lots of bands used October to release spooky cover songs and other musical goodies. But there are those bands who remain dark and foreboding all year round, and they deserve just as much attention. Case in point: tassel, the darkwave/post-punk outfit led by local musician Trey Sequeira. The band's latest EP, steel patch, pretty much checks every box for moroseness and existentially terrifying vibes. That holds doubly true for the track "pity," which expertly pairs gothic poetry ("a painted youth slithered into the bathroom") with pristine '80-style synth. Who said Halloween just has to be the one day a year?
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan

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