Local Wire

Tristeza

Good band names can be hard to come by. Budding groups have to conjure up something catchy and unique that nails their sound exactly. For instance, there's San Diego-based indie Tristeza, whose moniker sticks in your brainpan but also describes the emotional makeup behind a bulk of its songs (the word is Spanish for "sadness"). This all-star quintet has gained quite a following with a number of CDs and seven-inch singles filled with melancholy instrumental melodies that are a sans-lyrics fusion of ethereal electronica, groovy guitar and subtle backbeats. In songs like the mysteriously eerie and airy "RMS 2000," Stephen Swesey's keyboards come to the forefront, punctuated by the haunting, echoing guitar work of Jimmy LaValle (who's also behind The Album Leaf), Christopher Sprague, and bassist Luis Hermosillo. The resulting mixture provides moody music fit for a pity party or lovelorn letter-writing. But before you start reaching for some Percocet and a pen and paper, upbeat guitar work on songs like "Golden Hill" and "Are We People" radiates a more energetic and hopeful sound, which should help turn some frowns upside down.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.