Top 15 Local Releases of 2011: Jason P. Woodbury
Welcome to another installment of Up on the Sun's 2011 Review. Over the next week, we'll be counting down our favorite songs, shows, national and local releases of 2011. Enjoy!
Andrew Jackson Jihad
Okay. I'm done. Spent. No more lists.
But this one? This one was the toughest. Phoenix often gets bashed for not being "a music town." We're not Austin or Chicago or New York. Who cares? Anyone who's actually looking for good music in Phoenix can find it.
They'll find more than they can condense into a Top 15 list, even. Here are the 15 Arizona releases -- singles, EPs, LPs -- that moved me most in 2011. I can't wait to hear more in 2012.
Though technically a single, "RoQ'upy Music" is essentially an extension of RoQy's The Podium mixtape, released earlier this year. Political music is tough to pull off without sounding didactic and preachy, but RoQy does it right, defining the 99 percent movement in ways that make sense ("I do this for my children), and rapping dense, humanistic lyrics over killer drum breaks.
A teaser for the band's forthcoming debut LP, the "Cinema Kiss/Old Young" single is a showcase of nice things to come. "Cinema Kiss" is a straight-forward guitar rocker, with a kiss-and-kick melody, while "Old Young" sounds like a Faces-outtake, with strumming acoustic guitars and aching harmonies. The two songs show two sides of the band, and both feel real good.
Last year's Eclipse found Destruction Unit (which featured the dearly departed Jay Reatard in its earlier, synth-trash days) turning toward a more contemplative, blissful sound. Sonoran takes things a couple of warp-jumps further, opening with the droning, gigantic "Desert Snow," which connects desert rock mythology to German art-rock via some dusty autobahn.
12. Good Amount, In a Quiet Way (Holy Page)
Inspired by Miles Davis' classic jazz-fusion album In a Silent Way, Good Amount's In a Quiet Way borrows as much from pilfered therapy sessions on cassette, Steve Reich minimalism, and lo-fi noise pop as it does from the legendary trumpeter. The results can be oddly pastoral ("I Mean It"), demanding ("Orange Pack"), and almost pop ("Affection Fact"), but are always stretched and pulled in unexpected directions.
11. Through and Through Gospel Review (Common Wall)
The "gospel" part of Gospel Claws always felt a little cheeky, but with Through and Through Gospel Review, songwriter Joel Marquard aims for something entirely reverent. Gorgeous, distorted anthems of belief for even nonbelievers, the album feels like mixtape of holy styles, at once pretty and unsettling. Perhaps the next Gospel Claws record will be as raw.