First, a "dumb drummer" joke: How do you get a drummer off of your porch? Pay him 10 bucks for the pizza. Now, our Top Five Must-See Shows in Phoenix This Week.
How do you figure a song called "I Am the Antichrist to You" should turn out? Awfully metal, right? Well, in the hands of Kaoru Ishibashi (who records and tours as Kishi Bashi), the track materializes as a fleet-footed, cloud-soft slice of folky chamber-pop -- practically the mathematical opposite of what its subversive title hints.
Ishibashi specializes in creating distorted, fantastical tunes -- the kind that would flawlessly soundtrack an indie-friendly adaptation of Alice in Wonderland -- through an unusual cluster of tricks. When he's not putting some three decades of training as a classical violinist to use (as he does most of the time), he's singing English lyrics in a distinctive falsetto -- weaving in passages sung in Japanese -- beatboxing, utilizing synths and guitars, or pulling some other trick out of nowhere. Ishibashi slipped "Antichrist" into 2012's 151a (a title connected to a Japanese phrase meaning "one time, one place"), the debut record from the Seattle-born, Norfolk, Virginia-based musician and former Regina Spektor and Of Montreal collaborator. If the one-man-band trope ever needed to remind the world of its rare magic -- just how does a single person do so much so well? -- Kishi Bashi serves as a fine delegate. -- Reyan Ali
It takes a special kind of guts to open a song with pure Marshall amplifier distortion, cowbell, and a couplet as earnest (and potentially Cheez Whiz) as "I'm alive, and the night is young / I survived, now the time has come." Philadelphia rockers Free Energy do exactly that, with the Def Leppard-meets-ELO-meets-modern-Weezer sendup "Backscratcher." Free Energy walks a fine-ass line, tip-toeing between Bics-in-the-air glory and some sort of muddled, impossibly smug post-OK Go/post-sleeveless denim jackets on sale at Urban Outfitters parody.
There are indeed moments on the band's new record, Love Sign, suggesting that maybe there is some sincere desire to rock the heartland at work here. Skip "Hanging," which should have been saved for the Jonas Brothers, and go for "True Love," which embraced giant pop tropes in a way so unabashed it's undeniable. "Girls Want Rock" sounds like prime Fountains of Wayne (minus that band's sly, subversive lyrics), and album closer "Time Rolls On" features the kind of guitar solo that's impossible to resist for anyone whose father ever played them a Boston record, air-guitaring in the living room with Dads are the Original Hipsters abandon.
The record isn't quite as diverse as 2010's Stuck on Nothing, which featured deft production by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, but Love Sign makes up for the lack of variety with heaps and heaps of bubblegum melody. Debating its sincerity might cause one to miss out on the charm; even if it's all a snooty ruse, there's plenty here to pair with a domestic beer if you're willing to indulge your silly side and cut loose. --Jason P. Woodbury
We don't necessarily want what's good for us -- from chili cheese fries to that one last Jäger shot to a late-night booty call. And sometimes we must give thanks for the circumstances that thwarted us and led to a later sense of relief.
So it is with dramatic indie rockers The Epilogues, who had a major label deal in hand, only to watch it dematerialize when Sony changed presidents and the incoming chief shuttered all the label's small imprints. Of course, it didn't feel like good news at the time, but now that the Denver quartet's finally released its debut LP, Cinematics, getting dropped doesn't seem like such a bad thing.
"They just kind of pulled the rug right out from under us because we thought we'd done it. It is such a familiar story, but we fell victim to that, 'Oh, this is it. Everything is going to be great,'" says singer/guitarist Chris Heckman. "We made some poor choices, where we kind of jumped the gun on some things and started spending money we didn't have -- like on radio campaigns. But at the end of the day, that album changed so much that we can look back and I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Heckman and keyboardist Nate Hammond met in a high school guitar class as freshmen and have been friends ever since. They started the band in the early Aughts while being drawn into the electroclash/New Wave revival. They bought synthesizers as if they were trading cards and absorbed the music of Muse and the Killers, beginning with three synths in the lineup.
That eventually gave way to the chunky, guitar-driven epics they now fashion, with sweeping arrangements soaked in atmosphere and power chord riffage that draw comparisons to Silversun Pickups and Manchester Orchestra. Indeed, at times Heckman's voice sounds remarkably like that of Manchester frontman Andy Hull. (Though Heckman's quick to note that the synths remain and many of Cinematics' fuzz-laden "guitar solos" are actually grimy, grunged-up Moogs.)-- Chris Parker
It's not often one hears a musician proclaim he wants to start a "vocal-driven pop band," but such was the case with Mother Mother guitarist/frontman Ryan Guldemond. But why aim for such commonplace pop fare? Because this is the kind of music the generally unaware music populace loves -- it doesn't require any thought to subconsciously tap one's foot or nod one's head -- and they buy a lot of it.
The Canadian band, which also includes vocalists/keyboardists Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin, drummer Ali Siadat, and bassist Jeremy Page, received a jump start to success when New Pornographers producer Howard Redekopp signed on to work his pop magic. So for Mother Mother, the concept has worked well enough, signified by the release of four albums, nominations for assorted awards (mostly Canadian), and a song, "Bright Ideas," being featured in a series of Kraft food commercials. Might not be the path to legendary status, but it's good work if you can get it. -- Glenn BurnSilver
"I think Tristan's [Jemsek, guitars/vocals] Craigslist addiction is the biggest influence on the band," says Dogbreth bassist Erin Caldwell.
Dogbreth -- the long-running downtown pop punk combo -- has been around for a while, but 2012 was a year of growth for the band, seeing it make a big transformation from a modest lo-fi pop punk act into a loud four-piece band with a presence in the greater Phoenix scene.
Nowhere is the band's growth more quantifiable than the expansion of Jemsek's ever-growing pedalboard, a process that often finds him probing the depths of Craigslist for deals on equipment that will modify his guitar tone.
His most recent acquisition, a Turbo Rat distortion pedal, brought him to the apartment of the owner of a Gilbert coffee shop where he had played years before. The coffee shop owner remembered Jemsek as a young boy playing acoustic diddlies about his unrequited love for Kate Winslet. That boy has returned a grizzled and rat-tailed young man who may still love Kate Winslet, but loves feedback and fuzz even more.
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"There's only so many sounds you can get from the genre of pop punk before you start getting bored with it," Jemsek says. "You have the sound at your fingertips with your guitar, but with the pedalboard, the sound is at your toes. It's like you have more control over it. It's kind of like taking the 'insane' button that's on your [Line 6 practice] amplifier and putting it at your feet."
Jemsek has emerged as one of the most poignant lyricists in the Valley, able to craft small vignettes with each song that point to more universal meaning: "Guest House," from Get Out, flips the classic slacker format on its head, winding up a powerful self-motivation jam (minus the cheese, plus a killer guitar solo and synths).-- Mike Bogumill