The Five Best Songs From Phoenix Musicians in May 2021

Bryant Redd
Paper Foxes have returned with an excellent new single in "Crystal Ball."
Things are looking up for music fans. As cities ease COVID restrictions, more and more shows are being booked for the summer and fall. In the meantime, though, you can enjoy the one constant over the last 15-plus months: Valley artists churning out great new music. Here are our picks for the best songs of the month.

Paper Foxes, 'Crystal Ball'

As frontman CJ Jacobson told New Times late last year, Paper Foxes spent COVID collaborating as a whole, finding ways to "move forward together." Now, in one of the first pieces of music the band's released in sometime, they share the results via a new single, "Crystal Ball." The crystal ball in question seems to be a greater analogy for hoping that you'd seen heartache coming, and knowing you never truly can. Pair that with some sweet synth sounds, like a more raucous sounding version of The National, and you won't know whether to weep openly or dance your feelings out (the answer's actually both.) If this is what a newly aligned Paper Foxes can deliver, our crystal ball says the future is looking extra bright.

Noveliss and Mega Ran, 'Bubblegum Crisis'

Mega Ran is no stranger to collaborative projects, especially those with a loosely based theme or concept (often involving video games and/or wrestling). Maverick Hunters sees the local MC checking every box as he links up with "otaku" rapper Noveliss for an album celebrating the entire Mega Man video game series. The eight-track LP has plenty of great tracks, including "Dear Summer," which involves "stories of our changing world," or the rasslin' homage "Clash Of The Titans." But the clear standout is "Bubblegum Crisis," which manages to blend nerdy references, wordplay galore, and earnest lyricism over a hypnotic beat courtesy of producer DJ DNĀ³. Whichever way your nerd flag flies, consider this a true summer anthem.

The Posters, 'This Is It'

When it comes to punk, The Posters take a direct approach. Since forming in 2019, they've perfected a style they describe as "loud and fast," drawing from skate punk and hardcore of the '80s and '90s. That basic blend has proven rather effective, and they've opened for such punk legends as Agent Orange as well as local acts The Dead Beat Hymns and Corky's Leather Jacket. With the band's latest, Ambush!, they continue to distill the essence of punk, resulting in nine rollicking and riotous tracks tailored for your next (as appropriate) slam dance session. Case in point: "This Is It," a lo-fi gem of snarling angst that is both timeless punk rock and a mighty fist raised to the future. The Posters are proof that keeping it simple doesn't mean keeping it safe or boring.

Ryan Flynn, 'Automatic Love'

Rochester, New York native Ryan Flynn is an odd duck for sure. He describes his musical efforts as a "perpetual orb-praising space pop venture," and since relocating to Arizona in 2021, he's spent his time "exploring the deserts of space and time and continuously finding new inspiration for music and visual releases." But with songs like "Automatic Love," you'd be quick to dismiss any, um, eccentricities. Just look past the slightly creepy video that involves a dirty basement and property damage; the song itself is an off-kilter synth-pop jam that turns breathy vocals and uneven instrumentation into something genuinely endearing. If it takes being a little silly and nonsensical to happen, then Flynn's dynamic pop stylings are worth the weirdness.

The Rebel Set, 'Going Out In Style'

Phoenix garage-punk outfit The Rebel Set would have you believe their latest album, Modern Living, is the perfect summer soundtrack. But forget connotations of a day at the lake, or even a summer get-together around the grill; it's best suited for a summer in our current reality. Case in point: "Going Out In Style," the first single of the 12-track LP. This hodgepodge of peppy surf rock, frills-free new wave, and shimmery '60s pop belies the sense of abandon or outright nihilism sitting at the song's core. But even if this song is all about blasting out of this world on your own terms, it makes a deeply catchy case for such decision-making. Really, that air of "when the going gets weird, the weird get going" feels like the best-case scenario for Planet Earth in 2021.