The Lone Wolfs is a Mr. Drew Dunlap side project whilst he isn’t playing guitar and singing in Northern Hustle. And, while the project moniker might work for other artists, The Bummer Summer EP is anything but a throw away record.
I listened to the record while I wasn’t feeling too good but the very first lead line from the first track, “Mistep”, elevated my mood and didn’t let me down. It’s rich, bright and just plain freakin’ happy. Which is ironic since the idea behind the album was a “bummer summer”.
If there were a top ten list in songwriting here locally, heck, nationally, universally, Dunlap would be on that list, if not at the top of it. And that’s not hyperbole. His guitar work on this record is clear, crisp, and inventive.
Along with the guitars, the lyrical content is fantastic. I believe that superb lyrics can raise a song that has a simple progression. Put great lyrics together with terrific guitar playing and you have magic. There’s also some really interesting harmonies as well as keyboards on the tracks. It’s that instrumentation that gives the songs a texture that is thick and ethereal.
I must say that “OK” is one of if not my favorite track. And, it didn’t hurt that Dunlap placed an “Easter egg” in that song that referenced, well, listen for yourself and see if you can find/hear it. Well played, Drew, well played.
Another note: there are two demos on the Bandcamp, and they are better than most produced tracks I’ve heard.
Hasty Escape is definitely high on my list of bands I want to hear more from. That being said, I’ve had “American Cheese” on repeat for several days now and I won’t be stopped! There’s a subtlety to this band’s true force. Hasty Escape has crafted an original sound from the same parts implemented by many other, far more mundane bands: folk, indie, and rocknroll. Hasty Escape arranges heartache from kitsch in “American Cheese”, making this a must-hear track. Listen to “American Cheese” here. Word has it, the band will be releasing a new, full-length album called The Filthier Things here shortly. I can’t wait.
Bad Neighbors has been an under-the-radar favorite of many a local music afficiando for sometime but the band certainly has been pushing album sales on their true blue fanbase. No, in fact, seems like we’ve been waiting for an official release from Bad Neighbors for some time. The fusion of spoken word and rocknroll honestly works for Bad Neighbors. Honest. The lyrics fit, in no way detracting from the musicality of the Bad Neighbors’ listening experience. Give the two live tracks from Icehouse Demos a listen here and you’ll get what we’re talking about.
The single “Small Ships” first appeared on Dirt Moon’s first EP, The Cover Story. The band re-recorded the track to give their fans a listen to the updated Dirt Moon sound and you can hear the difference. The band has come a long way toward creating a more fluid sound, grinding down all the right rough edges. These days there is such a rush to record that most new bands don’t get the time to stew over their sound before entering the studio. Just listen to the dramatic difference between “Small Ships (2014)” and “Small Ships (2013)” – you can really hear what I’m talking about.
The Tucson doom-rock group known as Horse Black dropped two live tracks recorded at The Flycatcher. The two-track single opens with “Lost’n Found” before moving into “17th” establishing Horse Black as a band I definitely want to check out live. Dark and melodic, rock with an edge but not overly aggressive in any way (for all you not-metal fans like myself, sorry readers). I might even make the drive down to Tucson to catch Horse Black at Club Congress on October 10th, but until then, I’ll definitely spend some time with Live at The Flycatcher beforehand. You can too, here.
The lo-fi, experimental track, “Milk”, from Phoenix’s Local Wizards sounds like an erratic approached to music-making was implemented in its construction, but if you listen carefully, you’ll notice that the song maintains its structure throughout. “Milk” is thoughtfully constructed and represents Local Wizards continuing explorations of the limits of songcraft. If you go back a little further in the Local Wizards’ collection on Bandcamp, you’ll find a veritable garden of eclectic offerings. Start with “Milk” here.
My name is Mark Allred and I am a local musician and luthier (a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars). In my case guitars or any fretted instrument. I am also the slide guitar player in The Haymarket Squares, and I play guitar in the band decker. I operate a guitar repair and custom guitar building shop on Grand Avenue called Allred Guitars & Guitar Repair.
2. How did you get your start?
I started playing guitar in 1987 and played on and off until about 2009. Mostly off not on. But in ‘09 I started playing with friends, formed a band and began playing gigs. That led to joining the Haymarket Squares. The first drummer of the Squares was the rhythm guitar player in my band. He thought I would fit in well with the Squares, so I sat in with them and it worked out. I added another bit of instrumentation to the group with the slide guitar, plus I sing bass vocals.
Playing more meant having to fix all my own gear. I have always been able to fix and make stuff so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to work on my own instruments. Years before, when I was a delivery driver for Dairy Maid Ice Cream I had driven past the old Roberto-Venn campus on 16th St. and, as a guitar player, it stuck in my head. So, fast forward to just over a year ago when I met my girlfriend Kate. I had been thinking about applying to the program at Roberto-Venn but I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Kate encouraged me to do what I was passionate about and so five months and 800+ hours later I am a certified luthier and am running my own repair and custom guitar building shop!
3. What inspires you?
Music inspires me a lot—all different kinds, from jazz to baroque to punk. When I’m designing guitars, shapes inspire me, from the bulging fenders of a 1960s Ferrari 250 GTO to the precise lines of a well designed and executed typeface. People also inspire me, how they are creative in their solutions to so many things.
4. What do you like about AZ?
I love and hate the weather. It’s so beautiful in the winter. I hate being cold so the summer isn’t even that bad. Also the music scene out here is great— we have so many different bands and they all support each other. And, first and foremost, most of the people I love live here.
5. Where can we see you(r) work?
You can see some of my guitars in my shop at 1301 W Grand Avenue, Suite 7 inside Bragg’s Pie Factory, or catch a Haymarket Squares show or a Decker show, I tend to play my guitars on stage.
6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?
Have somebody love one of the guitars I’ve made as much as I loved creating it.
For those of us in Arizona that experience only two seasons each year (the hot and the less hot), the start of Autumn might not have the traditional signifiers that other folks associate with the season: chilly weather and changing leaves. Instead, we’ll have to settle for other signs that cooler weather approaches like the arrival of holiday decor at Target, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, my favorite, the return of weekend brunch at the Welcome Diner.
For me, personally, brunch at Welcome Diner is all about the “Sunrise” – a breakfast sandwich with your choice of chorizo, sausage, or bacon topped with a fried egg, arugula, and aioli all on a fresh biscuit. Now, if you have yet to experience the Welcome Diner Biscuit, you are truly missing out on one of Phoenix’s new culinary emblems. Other breakfast biscuit offerings include the Garfield Sunrise (sauteed kale, fried egg, Crystal Hot Sauce) or, of course, Biscuits and Gravy (with choice of sausage or mushroom gravy).
Welcome Diner provides Southern cooking for Southwesterners and if you’re looking for a real down-home breakfast to start your day, you might opt for the Holy Puerco (cheddar gritcake, pulled pork, fried egg, & Carolina BBQ sauce).
Brunch at the Welcome Diner provides not only hearty meals for hungry patrons, they offer delectable dishes for the discerning palate. When you order a scramble here, it’s not going to resemble your average roadside diner dish. It might contain fresh, locally-sourced kale with chicken and smoked Gouda. Or maybe some Andouille sausage. Bring a designated driver (or walk down, all you hip Phoenicians) and start you weekend off with an artfully crafted cocktail. A Mimosa, Tomato Creole Bloody Mary, or maybe a Clockwork Orange Cream Cocktail?
And, I have to admit that every time I drop in at Welcome Diner for weekend brunch, I’m always tempted to skip straight to the Beignets dusted in local honey and powered sugar. It’s like a doughnut, right? That counts as breakfast. Make sure you head out to Welcome Diner for weekend brunch. For all you late-night revelers, some of their breakfast options are available throughout the day now so you can have your “Sunrise” at sunset (I really couldn’t stop myself).
This might also be a good time to mention that the people who brought us the Welcome Diner are going to be launching a new eatery in October: Welcome CHICKEN + DONUTS!
For a complete menu, check out Welcome Diner’s website.
As I was letting that “sink into my noggin for a second,” it became obvious there was an unwritten implication to his claim: bad albums are not worth writing about.
Let me restate: let’s ignore bad music and hope it goes away.
To understand why I disagree, (besides the ridiculous subjectivity and dismissiveness of what’s “worth writing about”) we have to first come to an understanding on the role of the critic. Why do we write about music or art or culture? Why do we read about it? There’s a misconception that music blogs like YabYum or Pitchfork or Rolling Stone are something like a Yelp for music. You can log on, read a review and then make a choice on how to spend your time and money. That’s certainly a facet of media criticism, but it’s not the raison d’etre. Clearly, if album reviews correlated to album sales the Billboard charts would look a lot different.
What about the artists? Musicians make up a large portion of YabYum’s audience. Bands are demanding reviews. The back catalog of pending submissions is long enough to merit an postscript of affirmation from the Editor. They’re clamoring for…what? Validation? Repudiation? Exposure? Yes! All of the above; I definitely was when my band released our records – anything to salve my crippling insecurity.
Is that what the critic is? A baby bottle for colic artists? Or conversely is a proper evisceration of an album just a mercy killing, like Travis putting Old Yeller out of his misery? That’s still not the crux of it.
There’s a school of thought in critical and cultural theory called The New Criticism. It has its critics (oh, the irony!), but there’s a lot of value in its ideas; one of which is an emphasis on close-reading. Another is an eschewal of the cultural, historical and personal context of the work and examining it self-referentially. In other words, analyze the art, not the artist. I’m not an absolutist about it, but you may have noticed that my reviews contain very few comparisons.
Anyway, another important aspect of the New Criticism was summed up by the cultural theorist Terence Hawkes in his book Structuralism and Semiotics. In it he writes:
The critic creates the finished work by his reading of it, and does not remain simply the inert consumer of a ‘ready-made’ product. Thus the critic need not humbly efface himself before the work and submit to its demands: on the contrary, he actively constructs its meaning. He makes the work exist.
In a sense, this means that an uncriticised album is an unfinished album. It’s a songwriter singing in an empty room. It’s a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear: it does not make a sound.
Now, this isn’t to say that until your song has a write-up in a music publication it has no meaning. Criticism happens whenever a listener actively engages with the song. There’s a dialogue of emotions and ideas. There’s conflict. That’s why there’s a difference between hearing a song and listening to it. Our culture is slowly forgetting how to do this.
When was the last time you listened to music while you weren’t doing something else? You weren’t driving, or doing homework, or working out. I’ll rephrase: when was the last time you actively listened to music instead of passively, “inertly” consuming it? The ubiquity of music has made it background noise. I’m an advocate of close-listening. As a music-creator, that’s all I want: somebody to listen, not just hear; somebody to sing back to me – even if it’s just an unspoken thought, even if it is a public drawing and quartering in front of the entire scene. I’ll take that over the silence any day.
Criticism in print is a crucial part of the canto and respondu of cultural production. In proper practice, it provides a literate surrogate voice for the culture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been unable to articulate my thoughts about an album until I’ve read a review. “That’s it!” I thought. “That’s exactly what I was trying to say I just didn’t know how to say it.” Even when I vehemently disagree with a review, if it’s well-reasoned it forces me to be equally well-reasoned in my disagreement. That’s all part of the circular process of criticism through which we create our culture. YabYum gives me a megaphone to shout my ideas at many more interested ears than if I were to stand on my front porch and scream. But with that platform comes a responsibility to provide an authoritative perspective. My credibility is the only currency I have with which to buy your attention for as long as it takes to read really fucking long articles like this one. I probably do not have that much credibility. “Time is money: get to the point, asshole!”
So if ignored art is dead art, that still doesn’t explain why bad music merits close-listening. Why should Matt Klassen, Frank Ippolito and YabYum deign to waste digital ink on your shitty album? Again: besides the inherent subjectivity of shittiness, there are two main reasons why it’s worth reviewing bad albums.
The first has everything to do with credibility, which I touched on earlier. How does a reviewer as an individual or a publication as a whole build the kind of credibility that makes you trust our opinion and more importantly, keep coming back to read more and click more?
If it’s purely based on whether our taste aligns with yours, we’re doomed to be read by an increasingly niche and insular audience. One bad review of your favorite band or one good review of U2 and we’re suddenly haters or Bono-blowers and we’re instantly irrelevant or reviled. But if we’ve established a reputation for being fair and well-reasoned, we can be either broad or controversial without sacrificing your trust. Part of that comes with giving more-or-less equal ink to great music and awful music. I’m not advocating some sort of arbitrary quota. But when I only ever read “positive” reviews from a writer or magazine – or (importantly) vice versa – I lose faith in the objectivity of the writer. I start to wonder if he or she is buddies with the bass player. Artists: we are not your friend. We are the enemy. We will not mercifully ignore your half-assed EP. We will not reward mediocrity, we will burn it at the stake in the town square.
In fact, that’s basically the second reason. The amount of music we have to choose from is overwhelming. We don’t have to talk about your children or your children’s children; we’ve already crossed the threshold. We now have more music than we have time to listen to it. We’re at the point where be it actively or passively, each of us must choose whether we have time to listen to the Beatles or the Beach Boys or Elvis et al. If you only listened to music from the 20th century, you’d still have too much to hear even with voracious ears. And yet we have more bands now than ever before. Anyone with a computer can create and distribute an album to a global audience the size of which would make John Lennon jealous.
That’s the problem we find ourselves in at YabYum, with the submission pile growing and never shrinking. But it’s also our job to hold artists to a higher standard. It’s not harmless to record a bad album with cliche lyrics or trite melodies or poor production quality. We’ve got enough noise as it is! Artists: your parents and your friends and your grand-pop will encourage you even if you’re not very good. We are not them. We must discourage you for greater good. If you get a chip on your shoulder then we’ve done our job. Hopefully you will get better. It’s all subjective anyway.
That’s why I say that both hating and liking is easy. It’s as easy as double-tapping an Instagram photo and scrolling on, never to see it again. It’s as easy as summarily deleting “Songs of Innocence” from your iTunes library because fuck Bono. You don’t need his self-righteous charity. Real criticism is very, very hard. It demands your time and, more importantly, your attention. Real criticism will never be purely Positive or Negative, as if a review was a blood type. It will be reasoned and nuanced. It will not be “constructive.” It will be deconstructive: it will tear apart every lyric and every note, like taking apart a clock to see how it works.
It’s true: giving an album a fair review requires listening to it closely over and over again. Ideally, a critic won’t have made up his or her mind on whether it’s shitty or not until after listening to it several times. At that point, you might as well just write the damn review, right? If it’s that hard to write 500 words on an album you don’t like, you might be in the wrong line of work.
Okay, so this band’s been around for nearly four years and I am only now discovering Bear Ghost outta Mesa, AZ? How could this have happened? I mean, this album came out in April and I’m only now hearing it. If I knew who to hit in the face for this oversight, I would. I guess I just have to revel in Your Parents Are Only Marginally Disappointed In Your Musical Taste! and the knowledge that I am committed to Bear Ghost for all future-tense scenarios. Something about the upbeat, video-game-reminiscent rocknroll hits me in my happy place. Hyper and not too hard, Bear Ghost strikes the right balance to make invigorating music that will have you dancing around your house (or the office while your co-workers looking on in confused amusement like I’m dealing with right now). My only complaint is that the album is just too gosh darn short. Five tracks is a hefty EP, sure, but I need more. This is a band I definitely want to check out live and, thankfully, they have a few opportunities coming up to add to the ol’scheduroo including Joe’s Grotto on Sept. 26th and Club Red (East Theatre) on Halloween. Until then, you can get your hands on Your Parents Are Only Marginally Disappointed in Your Musical Taste! (literally or digitally) here!
It all started with a name, but some authentic Leonardo DiCapricorn love has taken up residence in my black critic’s heart. The three-track EP opens with “Burritos”. For those of you new to Camp DiCapricorn, the band combines a jazzy nerd rock sound with generational impetus toward observational irony. The effect is something I can definitely get down to. The second track is the fan favorite “J-NO” that we first heard on Vice-Versace. I dare you to try listening to this song live without screaming out lyrics. The kids make serious music no matter how many layers of jokes are piled on top. “Dexter” closes out Suite 4 with the expected style and sass that defines Leonardo DiCapricorn. The Tempe rockers were a regular feature at the now-defunct Parliament, but I expect they’ll find so new local venues to shake up as soon as they get back to town after playing a couple out-of-state gigs with Playboy Manbaby. I suggest giving Suite 4 a listen here. Considering delving further into Leonardo DiCapricorn and exploring earlier releases from the band. Good times will be had by all.
I know Autumn just kicked in, but we always enjoy a few extra weeks of weather warm enough to be deemed summery. Why the sudden interest in prolonging the horror that is the Arizona summertime? Because Honk for Hot Buns! sets up the perfect summer soundtrack with its fun-loving throwback rock sound with the kitsch turned way up. The EP kicks off (after a lengthy intro skit) with “Never Runnin’ Alone”, a personal favorite from the self-titled release that I definitely would have dialed into Y95 radio as a kid (for all you kids that grew up in our dry desert). I’ll be sure to add the track to any and all impending BBQ playlists. “Cold Beer and a Radio” demands that listeners sing-a-long so maybe I’ll save that one for the car. If you’re looking for boundary-pushing musical innovations, I might look somewhere other than Honk for Hot Buns!, but if you enjoy nostalgic-heavy rock that will lighten the mood and maybe elicit a chuckle or two, this is an EP you want to hear. You can check out Honk for Hot Buns! here.
While we might be your favorite, we’re definitely not the only music blog doing their part to spread the gospel of local arts. No, no, no. In fact, I’d say there are some pretty heavy hitters in nearby states that warrant the attention of musicians and music-lovers alike.
The first song I ever heard from Perry Allen immediately sealed my fate as a fan for life (see “take my bones to the valley” here) so you can begin to imagine my excitement when I heard he had joined ranks with an assembly of Valley musicians, including Megyn Neff and Jeff Naylor and several others to bring the total to eight (with an occasional 9th taking part too). Together as The Foster Family Band, they have released their first single “Heavy Now You Know”, a lively number with a nod to the West that I just can’t seem to stop listening to. The band describes their sound as “desert folk”, but you can definitely hear an Americana of the South over the Southwest. “Heavy Now You Know” is a must-hear so head here to check it out. The band is going to hole up for a couple months to focus on songwriting and rehearsing before they head into the studio in the winter months. We’ll keep you posted!
Tempe’s Instructions released their first single “Tony” from their new EP last month. Since that time we’ve been patiently counting down the days until we could get our hands on the rest of the tracks. Alas, the release show was slated for the 12th of this month at the recently lost Parliament. Now, it seems as if we might have to wait a smidge longer because the show’s been bumped to later this month (9/26) at the Trunk Space. The three piece attaches a “post-punk” tag to their sound but I’d say it’d lies closer to the pop-punk side of alternative. “Tony” is a single definitely worth the listen. And don’t forget to head out to the cassette release show (info here)!
This sweet pop number was best describe by a staffer as “seduction in space.” Not bad considering the artist describes her own sound as “cosmic hip-hop electronica, sent from outer space to Phoenix, AZ.” Her single “Radio” was made just for that: the radio. Studio production meets savvy hooks for a ditty you’ll want to jam in rush hour. If you enjoy the sound Luna Aura has crafted for herself I suggest delving further into her tracks and checking out “Too Young To Die”, her single from May of this year. And her full EP is available through Spotify and Soundcloud. Don’t forget to listen to “Radio” here!
The Zoo Incident has been around for quite a few years now and we at YabYum enjoyed both their 2011 self-titled debut and their 2013 album Lovely. With the recent appearance of a new single from The Zoo Incident, we finally caught word that the group has a new EP in the works. “Certain Silences” offers us the first sample of the effervescent, electro-infused pop that defines the Tucson band, and the best part is, they are sounding better than ever. Listen to “Certain Silences” here and consider popping over to Bandcamp to purchase one of the band’s earlier releases that you might have overlooked in the past. They’re trying to drum up the funds for their next release!
The mellow, instrumental surf sound of the appropriately-named act Surf, offers dynamic musicianship in place of lyrics in their first single “Tacos” from the Something in Between EP. Don’t enter into Surf expecting some sort of Dick Dale impression. These kids grunge up their sound, creating something that lies closer to proggy indie rock than the instrumental surf music of Dale or Man Or Astroman? for everyone that’s already drawn those associations in their minds. The EP is set for release on October 17th at Tempe Tavern so mark your calendars! Until then, you can enjoy “Tacos” from the forthcoming Something in Betweenhere.
Lara Plecas: I grew up in the Midwest and moved to Phoenix after high school to go to ASU. I studied dance and exercise science. I have been a practicing Massage Therapist since 1997. I also studied yoga at At One back in 2000. I started painting around 2000 and pursued it seriously ever since. I was drawn to the encaustic medium around 2007 and learned to work with the medium from Miles Conrad in Tucson. I’m a mother to a beautiful daughter named Olivia. I enjoy traveling, hiking, practicing yoga and working in the studio.
2. How did you get your start?
I am a self taught painter. I took several art history and drawing classes in college, but at the time I was in love with dance and photography. I almost studied photography in college but thought I was going to end up being a Physical Therapist. I worked in that field during college and grew very bored. I started painting around that time after I went to a party at the house studios in Phoenix. I knew that when I walked into this worn down old house which each room served as a different artist’s studio, that I was home. I started painting there, learning the craft and exploring with paint. I have always held a working studio since then and painting is a big part of my life. I am not sure where my work will take me, but I have a feeling that it will continue to be something that gives me great pleasure throughout life.
3. What inspires you?
Rural landscape, over cast days, music, traveling, the sea, being in nature, seeing art.
4. What do you like about AZ?
I love the geography of Arizona. We live in a very unique place, it is extraordinary! I will never grow tired of exploring the desert.
5. Where can we see you(r) work?
My solo exhibition runs through September in the Shade Gallery at MonOrchid. I will also have a large scale piece in this years Chaos Theory 15 annual group show at Legend City Studios. Please check out my blog.
6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?
I would like to create a large scale permanent public art project.