13 Phoenix Bands You Need to Know in 2013: The Complete List
There's a rustic sense of familiarity listening to Lula, the three-song debut EP by Phoenix indie-folk combo Of the Painted Choir.
Composed of elements we're well acquainted with -- M. Ward mumble/slapback vocal here, fuzzy British Invasion guitar lick there -- the collection doesn't sacrifice quality employing such recognizable signifiers.
Instead, Of the Painted Choir -- comprising songwriter Frederick Huang, Darren Simoes (The Bled/Dead Western Plains), Phillip Hanna (Tugboat/Kinch), and John Blades (Dorsey) -- wrings out every bit of emotion and joy from the indie-pop format.
"Lula, My Baby" bounces on a strident, anthemic beat, bolstered by Huang's lilting voice, while "A Spanish Mountain" is more restrained -- that is, until its ramshackle, ecstatic solo breakdown.
Bonus track "Mr. Bumblebee," with its whimsical Donovan/novelty jam vibe, feels unnecessary -- but mostly because the two tracks before it are so much better-composed and executed. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Me Vale Madre
If you need to brush up on your español, "me vale madre" is slang for "I don't give a fuck." When guitarist Tony Patiño was 6 years old, he was gifted a t-shirt featuring four pissing dudes wearing sombreros with the Spanish phrase written on it. It was, of course, the perfect name for a band.
"Spanish, being the romantic and beautiful language that it is, takes this aggressive, lackadaisical, and indifferent attitude, and makes it beautiful," PJ Waxman, Madre's guitarist and lead singer explains via e-mail.
Waxman, who is in Yellow Minute, also used to play in Valley buzz band Dear and the Headlights, says he doesn't "want to ride on the coat tails of past successes."
That's fine, because I sort of sense Me Vale Madre is going to be something big this year, making something truly unique that grabs the genre by its teeth, shakes it like a chew toy, and tears it apart.
When Me Vale Madre opened for Gospel Claws at their album release a few weeks ago, they started in some traditional indie guitar, post-punk style, stretched it out into a shoegaze pastiche, and ended songs with noise rock thrashes that shook the stage.
Part of Madre's DGAF edge comes from their endless list of influences; the other half comes from their time in other bands. Patiño once fronted the post-rock progressive rock band Attack of the Giant Squid, Matthew Gilbert does a solo project called POEM and was once in Goodbye Tomorrow (now Alive in Wild Paint), and Mike Bell is the drummer in Lymbyc Systym, Knesset, and Spirit Cave.
Waxman says you can expect a full Me Vale Madre album by summer 2013, as they've been recording all over the place.
"Our recording process has such a wide musical source. Tony did some tracking at Flying Blanket recently, we have done a lot of recording at home and at friend's studio," Waxman says. "I did vocals at my house using some equipment that my old roommate, John from Black Carl has. He has a little studio of his own and produces really awesome vinyl/analog driven music."
Waxman promises to release a song in the near future, but their recording process is obviously complicated.
"It takes quite some time to really get these songs composed," Waxman says. "There are plenty of hours put into each song. It is really quite the process." -- Troy Farah
Sara Robinson and Midnight Special
There's a long tradition of women dominating the blues scene, from classics like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to a new generation of genre-defying acts such as Grace Potter and The Nocturnals and Black Carl.
These ladies have helped paved the way for soulful, heavy-hitting acts like Sara Robinson and Midnight Special, which is a local supergroup of sorts. Special comprises members of Haffo and Allen Barton Project, and they met Robinson at a blues jam night at Rhythm Room three years ago.
Roughly six months ago, the band started jamming and tried their hand at an open mic night. "We started writing songs like crazy and decided to test them out one night in the battlefield, à la Long Wong's open mic. We had such a good response that we have been booked solid ever since," says drummer Evan Knisely, "We knew there would be people out here who share our love for hard blues."
The Specials have yet to release a physical album, though the band currently is in the studio working on an album that is due in February, just in time for the band's stop at South by Southwest. -- Melissa Fossum
In case you haven't noticed, the "Americana revival" thing is big right now. Rootsy, mostly acoustic acts like Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers didn't just break out of the "No Depression" ghetto; they actually topped the charts.
And though a shift from synthetic gloss toward "authentic" folk music certainly sounds appealing from one point of view, it's starting to feel a little like "dress-up music," like a Halloween party where everyone has come disguised as ol' time-y prospectors.
"Everyone is wearing vests and suspenders now," laughs Jesse Teer of modern Americana band The Senators. "Even if there isn't an acoustic guitar on stage -- they'll be playing hard rock. That look is just vogue right now."
The Senators certainly aren't afraid to look the part, but on their Cross of Gold EP, they don't sound like they're singing you a Cracker Barrel sales pitch, either.
"When you listen to old recordings, and then you put on a new pop album, you're like, 'Whoa, this is really polished, this is really produced,'" Teer says. "We listen to a lot of old Sun Records stuff, and in its inception, it wasn't the highest quality studio, but they really got a lot of feel and grit out of what they were doing. That's kind of what we draw on."
But Teer isn't interested in retro-minded re-creation, and with The Senators, he seeks to craft something rooted in today's world as much as in some mythic American golden age that never really existed.
"Thematically, we wanted to push it," Teer says. "We don't want to always sing about a 'railroad down in Dixie,' but we take some of those elements. I can't wait for electronica/alt-country to hit. It probably already has." -- Jason P. Woodbury