Few people in the Valley listen to as much local music as Mitchell Hillman. He presents his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Sweetbleeders - "Someway"
For the past 16 years, Sweetbleeders have been making some of the most engaging music in Phoenix, and they've just released one of the finest albums of the year with We Were Never Here
. It is an amazing album from start to finish, and I must recommend that it's best listened to as an album (well, you can take a break after the seventh track, pretend to flip the side and move on, but that's it). Several of the songs are single-worthy, but "Someway" stands out above all else. It's also the quintessence of all the talents involved here. Robin Vining contributes one of his best vocals and guitar lines, Steve Dueck's drums and percussion are downright fascinating, David Marquez's bass is the backbone of the entire thing, while the vocals of the late Amy Ross (Nowhere Man and a Whiskery Girl
) are beautiful and heartbreakingly haunting. It easily is one of my favorite songs of the year because of how it all works together, with little accents like the soft, muted intro, the background organ, or the tambourine and sleigh bells. It's an amazing composition and just one of 14 treasures to be found on We Were Never Here
. Part Americana, part indie pop, part Beach Boys — I haven't been able to stop listening to it since it came out. After a few listens to this song, you'll be able to understand why.
MRCH - "Spin"
MRCH has been trucking right through 2015 with a string of dreamy, synth-soaked singles providing stark contrast to MRCH's "parent band," The Prowling Kind
. The trio of Mickey Pangburn, Jesse Pangburn, and Erin Beal just released "Spin," the third song from this side project. It may not be as catchy as "Validation" or as rocking as "Highway Drivin'," but it has an atmospheric depth to it, mainly found in a hypnotic electronica haze and, of course, Mickey Pangburn's immaculate, breathy vocals. I like that MRCH's three singles are completely different from each other — different enough that you might not even think they come from the same band. "Spin" is its own wonderful beast, a song to lose yourself in, to lay around in the grass and stare at the sky, to lose your mind to while staring at the stars. It's MRCH's most beautiful song to date. Whether it's the sweeping synth effects, the mesmerizing drums or, yes, Jesse Pangburn's angelic voice. At this point, I can only hope that 2016 brings us a full EP or album with all these singles collected and just as many other songs or more to add to it. I've seen the band in concert, and they have a lot more up their sleeve just waiting for you to hear.
Captain Samurai - "Tear Me Down/Wear Me Out"
There's nothing quite like watching a band grow up, and the leaps and bounds Captain Samurai has taken between its debut, Nothing Part Zero
EP, and its first full-length album, Hey Thanks Goodbye,
are astounding. I've always wanted the band's recorded sound to match its live performance, and Captain Samurai has come much closer to that ideal in the past year. The album is all about love and loss and carries the "soft punk" moniker well. I mean, how many hard punk bands write about growing old with the love of their life? "Soft punk" it is, or "lo-fi loser pop," depending on which self-ascribed descriptor you want to choose from Captain Samurai. The opening track of "Tear Me Down/Wear Me Out" is one of many favorites I've found across this journey of heartbreak — and what a great way to set up the hurt and ache of young love's confusion that is the lifeblood of the entire album. Amador Diaz's wobbly, vulnerable vocals are just perfect for this kind of thing — it feels like he's choking on his heart as he croons "You can tear me down if that helps you / You won't wear me out / I will stay for you." I think every guy destroyed by teenage love can completely relate to not only this song, but the entire album. I hope the album title doesn't indicate they're going away anytime soon, because I want to keep watching this show grow.
The Blood Feud Family Singers - "Let's Go"
You might know Daryl Scherrer
as "The Voice Who Lost Its Man," but when he's joined by Marc Oxborrow (The Haymarket Squares
) on bass and Douglas Berry (Sicmonic
) on drums, suddenly his acoustic folk of heartbreak is transformed into the "American noir" of The Blood Feud Family Singers. Whether it's dark country tunes or murder ballads, it's an altogether different set from what you may have seen him do before on his own. The Blood Family Feud Singers just released their new album, No Moon
and it's a fascinating ride through songs of heartbreak, loss, and treachery. "Let's Go" is the song I keep coming back to. Maybe it's the locomotive guitar line that sounds like it was composed on the rails; maybe it's that the song is catchy as hell; maybe it's that you can smell the desert wind on this nouveau cowboy classic; or maybe it's because a dark tale of murder and living life on the lam; maybe it's that it features a gunshot. Whatever it is, this song is simply fantastic, painting the story of a man on the run after presumably murdering his lover in Phoenix and subsequently shooting the driver of the car he's telling the story to. It's vicious fun, with a melody and tune of such mirth that you might not expect it to carry the baggage of a dark and heavy confessional.
Chems - "Dust Cloud"
Here is another mystery band I ran across recently, and its song "Dust Cloud" has been stuck in my head for the past couple of weeks. Though it has a certain "surf rock" element, it's more in tune with the psycho surf sounds of early The Jesus & Mary Chain or even Spacemen 3. Chems, whoever they are, accurately describe themselves as "surf post-punk." Chems fit in well with the strange "desert surf" sound that seems to be brewing up lately (Phantom Party, Wavelengths), but they'd work just as well in the company of garage rockers and psychedelic revivalists like Strange Lot. In addition to the surfy vibe of the whole affair, the driving rhythms of early Primal Scream and the angular guitars of Gang of Four, they create a unique pastiche that I hope is the promise of much more to come. Also, if this group doesn't wear sunglasses on stage with weird flashing lights and disco ball effects, I would be very surprised and maybe disappointed. This is definitely a great "driving in the desert" song as well, in the same vein of BRMC and The Black Angels. I don't know who they are or even if they'll perform in public or do another song, but I like it and I'd love for there to be more.