10. Prophet & The Cowboys of the Apocalypse -- "The Edge"
This was one of the few songs that I encountered with lyrics that had some actual substance. Prophet was going through a rough patch in his life, so he did what any normal person does -- immortalize it song.
My original thoughts: "The Edge" was written while Prophet was going through an insanely rough patch in his life. He describes his mindset as being "like I was standing on a cliff between Heaven and Hell. I wasn't sure anymore whether to try to elevate myself upwards towards the angels or to just jump in the flames below." Prophet is able to articulate his feelings and produce a demure, sombre piece of music -- one that has actual substance to it.
9. The Father Figures -- "She Does Gymnastics"
This was the long instrumental song on a tight, spastic punk rock album from a bunch of dudes in their 40s. Of course it had to be my favorite -- of course.
My original thoughts: "Caviar" is a brilliant album opener, yet I find "She Does Gymnastics" to be the most unique sounding song on the album. The opening guitar riff is more grunge/shoegaze than punk, and the song is entirely instrumental. That can go a long way on an uptempo, punk-driven album where the songs start to, unfrotunately, sound the same after about 7 or 8 songs.
8. Underground Cities -- "It's Raining in the Attic"
The title makes very little sense for a band from Arizona -- attics and rain ain't exactly commonplace in the Grand Canyon state -- yet "It's Raining in the Attic" works the best on this pretty solid album.
My original thoughts: Second track "It's Raining in the Attic" describes an all-too-common occurrence in Phoenix -- rain in one's attic. Seriously, though, I don't know where a bunch of guys from Phoenix get off naming a song after two things that aren't exactly widespread in Arizona -- rain and attics. Maybe they knew they had a fantastic song on their hands and figured giving it a totally bizarre -- especially by Arizona standards -- name would act as a testament to the song. Its name aside, "It's Raining in the Attic" takes the top honor on Dalliance. It is the perfect mix of mellow, instrumental rock with oft-frenetic interludes to help keep things from teetering over the edge of so-called artsy fartsy "soundscapes."
7. Snow Songs -- "Everything Ends"
Snow Songs' singer Yolanda Bejarano has perhaps the best vocals of any YAFI band I have heard. No song showcases them better than the grunge-twinged "Everything Ends."
My original thoughts: "Everything Ends," as the album's third track, creates a stunning momentum for the band. It finds Bejarano's vocals at their best while the band manages to find a very grunge-centric sound. The song is a scatterbrained, brilliant piece of work that pulls no punches and is unabashedly raucous. It's easy to hear the band having fun on the song, and that fun is effortless. "Everything Ends" is in a dead heat with "Magical Radical" for best song on the album, yet it manages to pull ahead by just a nose.
6. The Orphanz -- "1Hunnid"
Veteran hip hop producers Dre Lesean and D.K. Simmons have a damn good thing going with their Orphanz project. "1Hunnid" features vocals from El DeBarge, Jr., which helps propel the song absolutely over the top.
My original thoughts: There are a lot of songs choose from for this distinction -- and I'm not just saying that because there are over 20 tracks on the album. Lesean and Simmons have been in the game for a while now and they know how to do their damn thing. The fourth track on the album, "1Hunnid" features vocals from Damani Blaq with a little help from Lesean himself. However, it is beautifully tied together by perhaps its strongest aspect -- El DeBarge, Jr. singing the hook. The son of former Motown mainstay/DeBarge lead singer El DeBarge, Jr. proves that the apple definitely hasn't fallen far from the tree. Having silky smooth vocals like that at your disposal -- as Lesean and Simmons have throughout Progression -- certainly helps add a nice polish to their tracks.
5. J.D. Stooks -- "Move To Portland"
In which J.D. Stooks takes a crap on my beloved hometown, Portland. His poignant calling out of art-minded youths in their early 20s who think moving to Portland will solve all of their bullshit problems is fantastic. As I've said, there are enough native Portlanders with their heads plenty far up their own asses -- they don't need some dorky guitar player from Chandler who has worked as a barista their entire life moving in next door.
My original thoughts: "Move To Portland" instantly caught my eye -- the Rose City is my hometown, so I often like to hear what people have to say about it. "Move To Portland" is definitely the first YAFI I have come across that deals with Portland, and I love it. When Stooks sings "'Cause everyone moved there / And so did their problems" he's not fucking around. Native Portlanders aren't all that keen about people moving to their fair city -- former Governor Tom McCall once famously warned people against moving to Oregon. Portland seems like a shining beacon for a certain demographic -- it's cheaper than Seattle or San Francisco -- and people constantly dream of moving there.
With that, however, comes the fact that Oregon has the second highest unemployment rate in the country (thanks, Michigan!) and it rains a whole lot. Yet Portland is that exotic escape for, say, the struggling musician who grew up in Chandler and worked his whole life at different coffee shops -- the exact person Stooks calls out in his song, and better him than I. I love the place to death, but Portland doesn't need your cluelessness and emotional baggage -- there are plenty of locals with their heads up their asses and problems of their own.
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4. Joey Arroyo Band -- "Devil's Stare"
This album was the third ever album I reviewed for YAFI, yet it still remains one of my favorites. It helped give me faith in the local Phoenix music scene after a rather rocky start to this whole You Asked For It business.
My original thoughts: Granted, rock is a genre that can be stagnant and often uninspired, but JaB manage to create -- in Aggressive's 31 minutes (perfect album length) -- a varied sound that employs pianos, a flamenco-sounding guitar and some damn fine drumming. That flamenco guitar, paired with some Darkness-esque guitar riffs, creates an inspired pairing on "Devil's Stare." Throw in a crescendo-building, frenetic chorus -- lead by Arroyo's vocals -- and out comes one fascinating, entertaining song.
3. Mr. Miranda & Jimmy Nelson -- "Shine"
This album was the best hip-hop album I heard while doing my YAFI thing, and it includes my favorite quote from the 1992 classic White Men Can't Jump. What's not to love?
My original thoughts: It won my heart with a favorite movie quote, but "Shine" is also an all around solid song. It's got a mellow, Spanish (or Portuguese, I can't quite tell) samba sample as an opening, and it only builds from there. Ariano sings a pretty decent hook with Miranda and Nelson holding their own with their respective verses. The song isn't in your face, loud declarative hip hop -- it's a smooth, well laid out piece of music that shows how multifaceted hip hop can be. Oh, the movie quote -- it's one of my favorite lines from the 1992 classic White Men Can't Jump: "What am I supposed to do, eat it?"
2. Tugboat -- "Patches of Land"
Tugboat's Phil "In every Phoenix indie rock band right now" Hanna is quite the talented young man, yet it's the one project that he is the most involved in, Tugboat, that could be his best. This EP was a breath of fresh air at the time, and revisiting it only makes me yearn for Tugboat to release some new material.
My original thoughts: The title track sounds like mid-to-late-'90s alternative rock in all the right ways. Lead singer Wayne Jones' vocals remind me of Todd Lewis (lead singer of The Toadies) with, perhaps, a lighter feel to them. While I take issue with often wiener-y sounding alternative/indie rock lead singers, Jones gets a pass because his band's music is enjoyable. There are elements in Tugboat's music of what made that '90s alternative sound so affable, complete with some keys to help add that extra edge to their sound -- and the keys in "Patches of Land," mixed with an occasional grungy power chord, help make the band sound like '90s shoegazers/space rockers Failure, even if for a few precious seconds.
1. The Whisperlights -- "Death"
Thank god The Whisperlights sent their Wake Up Dead EP into YAFI. It was, by far, my favorite submission throughout my entire time doing YAFI. The future of the band is up in the air, as some members have moved to different, greener pastures, but at least I can still savor the memory of my favorite song of theirs, "Death."
My original thoughts: "Death" -- appropriately titled if you're taking the just-mentioned blurb into account -- best displays the Broken Social Scene influence that the band states with its wide, overarching sound. There's also a hint of Ra Ra Riot -- good, circa 2007 self-titled debut EP -- in there, if not for the violin then for the vocals as well. The track has that back-and-forth drum beat, kept going with the aforementioned violin. It's a grandiose offering, stuffed with ambition, that pays off nicely for all of the band's slick efforts.