Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Scattered Melodies - "Trying to Find Me"
It's been over a year in the waiting since their successful crowdsourced fundraiser fueled Scattered Melodies with enough money to record and release their second full-length album, Modern Repair. At long last, the wait is over, and you won't believe the local talent the band gathered for this 14-track album. I've listened to it a dozen or more times and it struck me that every time "Trying to Find Me" came on, I got goosebumps. Scattered Melodies is more a concept than a band. The band is, in fact, bassist Jake Johnston and drummer Josh Montag (The Wiley Ones), and what they do is invite local lead singers, horn players, guitarists, and other musicians to join them in creating their songs. It's a brilliant concept, and I find that "Trying to Find Me" is one of the best tracks to show off what they are capable of, with Laura Hamlin on vocals, Sam Wiley (The Wiley Ones) delivering a fantastic rap, Montag on piano and members of the Phoenix Symphony. It's the closest thing to a pop song on an album of rock, alternative, reggae, and indie sounds, and it happens to be devastatingly catchy. Hamlin's amazing vocals accompanying the flawless piano, and the strings on the chorus are simply magical. Be sure to catch Scattered Melodies at Last Exit Live on Friday, September 18, as they perform Modern Repair at their CD release show. It will be a spectacular event celebrating a spectacular album.
Day Before Plastics - "Papaver"
It appears that Day Before Plastics may tease us to death as it releases singles in anticipation of its first full-length album, Explosive Sadness, later this year. On Wednesday, the group released "Papaver" online, and it's every bit as good as first single "Space Beach," if not better. It's also unlike nearly anything I've heard by them before. It's got a psychobilly guitar line that drives me crazy and a great groove. One thing is sure: The band's songwriting and recording skills are getting honed. And of course, I love the hell out of lead singer Dominick Provenzano's voice. He's becoming a great singer, because his voice is rough and soulful, and he has a signature sound that simply stands out from others. It is ultimately a song of sadness and loss, but in recognition of the upcoming album's title, it is one of the most upbeat songs about such a subject as possible. The dueling guitar work of Provenzano and maestro Travis Snowberger work perfectly with the head-bopping drums of Chris Zagami. The lyrics are as fascinating as the music, and I adore their method of vignette storytelling, with touches of psychedelic prose and allusions to events that are clouded in metaphor. They don't reveal everything, but they say enough to convey the feeling in spades. It's a brilliant trick. This song has upped the ante even further on how much I am looking forward to this album before the end of 2015.
Don't Panic - "Crush"
Earlier this week, I was checking out cool shows happening this weekend when I caught wind of Don't Panic, which is releasing The SleepyEP. I had never heard of them, but they had invited The Woodworks and Bear State for support, and I adore both of those bands. Luckily, they have a couple of tunes serving as a preview for the five-track follow-up to last year's Dos Robot Circus. Of the two, "Crush" has kept me rapt in attention, with its fine blend of hard rock guitars and electronica flourishes. But the real surprise was that it features the sultry vocals of none other than Dylan Rowe, formerly of The Heathers. Her delivery alone makes the song a stunner, but it is also the diverse musical elements that are unusually combined to make the whole thing truly engaging. Combining Rowe's vocal talent with the talent of Jeffrey Robens (vocals, guitars, and programming) and Johannes Lar (bass), Don't Panic creates a unique sound unlike anything else in the Valley. After hearing the two preview tracks, I simply cannot wait to hear the rest of the sophomore EP from a band that I will definitely keep tabs on from here on out. For extra effect, Robens' near-metal screaming at the end of the track only serves to make the crescendo that much better, and for some reason, it doesn't seem the least bit out of place. You may want to drop by Chopper John's on Friday night for their release show, as I can only imagine their live show will exceed all expectations.
No Volcano - "The Long Game"
Though "The Long Game" did appear on No Volcano's debut album earlier this year, I'm celebrating this song for two reasons this week. First, the group dropped an amazing video for it and second, Onus Records chose this track to open its 20-track Sound Explosion compilation, set to be released this weekend. Who Saved the Party is one of my favorite albums of the year, and though "The Long Game" wouldn't be an obvious pick for a single, it totally works for the video and the compilation upon which it is featured. No Volcano has two kinds of songs: garage rock and experimental tunes in the realm of Television, Pere Ubu, and likeminded early punks. This song belongs in the latter category, and though it's not as bombastic and accessible as its garage-y material, it must be said that it is infinitely more fascinating. Months on from the album's release, it is easily one of my favorite tracks of the nine, and it's all because of Jim Andreas' vocals. The video — written and directed by New Times contributor Troy Farah — is even more fascinating, based on the story "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" by Hans Christian Andersen. It is accurately self-described as "a dream-like tumble through the beetle-filled world of two dolls in love." I would highly recommend checking out No Volcano at Last Exit Live this Saturday for the release of the Sound Explosion compilation from Onus Records.
Phantom Party - "Derby Daze"
Phantom Party has done it again, and its follow-up single to the Stellar EP is a swooning, summery number that rivals the songs on the band's debut. It has to be one of my favorite debut bands of the year, but I do have a predilection to surf music via indie rock delivery. There is something downright cozy about Phantom Party's entire sound. The overt Morrissey sound of Joshua Capati's vocals are a little more subtle on this release, but they are still there. I like their self-description of "pop/post-surf/lo-fi" because it's damned accurate. "Derby Daze" has a stoned vibe about as it tells of the woe and loss, the trials and travails of a lad missing his love who has left him for a life in New York. As he is dying in the summer heat, he imagines his lost love waking up with someone else three thousand miles away. The gold, though is in the pre-chorus with "I'm way too stoned to say your name. I'm fucked up, but everything's okay. I'm okay." Everything is clearly not okay according to every other lyric of the song. The entire band, Nathaniel Levine (guitar), Matthew Slusser (bass), Austin Cooper (drums), back Capati is perfect surf fashion, and the contrast between the upbeat swaying tune and the downer lyrics creates a curious sense of discord that just ends up making me smile. There's something to be said for that clever contrast. I can't wait to hear even more from these cats.