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.
The Maya Spectra - "Music Box"
The Maya Spectra is in the process of relocating to Phoenix, and that's good news for their fans, like Danny Torgersen (Captain Squeegee), who turned me on to them a few months ago. Last week, they released their debut music video, "Music Box," for the world to enjoy. While the video is indeed a dazzling display of living, breathing visual art, it shouldn't overshadow the synth pop, trip-hopped bliss of the sensual song itself. The video and the song work beautifully together, but Janel Blanco's soulful vocals alone help to create a sound that isn't found elsewhere in this town. While the song's meaning is largely up for interpretation, the subtle implications of the imagery are poignant, if not political. The entire project is fascinating, from the video to the jazzy vibe of the song itself and the haunting music box themes sprinkled throughout the song.
Sad Kid - "Confido"
Lately, it seems that some of the newer punk and indie bands in Phoenix seem to have been influenced by Playboy Manbaby. The band's spoken-word vocal delivery over a ska-tinged punk-rock backdrop, usually with a horn in the mix, seems to have made an impression. Sad Kid recently released its debut EP, and it's a blast from beginning to end. "Confido" has to be my favorite of the lot, because it takes that Playboy Manbaby template and tosses it into their own chaotic blender. This is something that Rubber Brother Records — the label operated by Playboy Manbaby singer Robbie Pfeffer — would have released on cassette without a second thought, were it still active. This song is just super fun, in which the lead singer almost has a Jello Biafra-like hysteria going to his vocals as the band rages around him, instruments blurring together in the madness. It's a great lead-off track to a debut EP that is pretty impressive for its energy, vitriol, and spirit alone. Oddly, however lo-fi this track may be, it's catchy as hell, and you're going to have that loping beat in the verses and that trumpet playing in your head for days after just a couple of spins.
Young's Modulus - "Laces Untied"
Young's Modulus is a new alt-rock outfit out of Phoenix. The group released a two-song EP last week called Sleepwalker, which serves as a preview for its forthcoming debut full-length album Somnabulist. (Sense a theme?) Young's Modulus is Mike Johnson (lead vocals/guitar), Todd Becker (guitar), Sean Paulson (bass), and Tom Combs (drums). The band name refers to a mechanical property of elastic solids that defines the relationship between stress (force per unit area) and strain (proportional deformation) in a material. Math aside, what they do is play some damn good post-grunge alternative rock in the vein of the earliest Kings of Leon records. Johnson has that husky, wood-treated voice to meet that sound perfectly with thunderous drums, ringing guitars, and a thumping bass, making it heartfelt and passionate. At least that's how their song "Laces Untied" feels to me. It's not a moody piece in any way. This is upbeat, danceable rock, but it's got enough grit to it that it sticks to your ribs. Based on how many times I've listened to it since its release last Friday, I'd say when the dust settles it's simply a great rock song, and in that category, it feels like one of the best actual rock songs put out this year so far in Phoenix. This kind of teasing makes me look forward to their debut album all the more. You can catch Young's Modulus at The Rebel Lounge this Sunday, where they will be joined by Moxie, Dirt Moon, and Devil Grass.
Summaries - "Big Shot"
Summaries are a brand new pop-punk band hitting the Phoenix scene, and they are kicking off by laying down their debut EP, Prologue. It's a pretty impressive debut. I keep coming back to the song "Big Shot." Sure, "Nothing Personal" has the music video and is probably the intended single, but "Big Shot" just blows it out of the water for being more intense and more succinct. It comes off as simply perfect three-minute pop punk and doesn't overstay its welcome. One of the things I dig about their overall sound is that the guitars get this metal edge to them sometimes, which breaks enough from the punk formula without straying into emo territory. Still, for the most part, this is a good old-fashioned summer sunshine, pop-tinged punk tune that will feature in my summer soundtrack for the coming months, whether it's poolside or on a board. You can catch Summaries at the release party for Prologue, this Friday at The Nile Club in Mesa featuring support from Never Let This Go, Sweet Ascent, Westbrook, and Alex Mullins and The Royal.
KONGOS - "Take It From Me" KONGOS returned last Friday when the Scottsdale-raised foursome released the first single from their highly anticipated third album, Egomaniac, which will come out on June 10. After releasing and touring behind the multi-platinum, international success of Lunatic, the brothers Kongos returned home to take what they've learned on the road and lay it down on record. The first evidence of this is the new single, and if this is any indication, the boys are staying right on track and picking up quite invigorated from where they left off. It's quite clear, though, that they aren't interested in necessarily standing still, as there appears to be a bit of influence from their tourmates AWOLNation. "Take It From Me" has a darker, slightly more electronic feel to it than their previous singles, and it's a welcome addition to their oeuvre. Never fear, Johnny is still slaying on the accordion and Danny is still killing it on their guitar, but it's clear they've matured on this release. You will actually be able to catch KONGOS live this Saturday as they take the stage at this year's FestivALT-AZ in downtown Phoenix.