5 Feisty Albums We Totally Missed

by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s just no way no cover every album that comes our way.

Oh sure, we can and do try, but with an expanded area of coverage and a seemingly exponential growth in the number of bands each year, our valiant and determined staff manages as best we can.

So some albums slip through the cracks. Even these five records are just the tippy-top of the gigantic iceberg of albums that birthed forth in 2015… I just thought I should mention some of them.

feisty 01Destruction Unit

Negative Feedback Resistor

OK, so we have a bit of habit of accidentally not covering some of the biggest albums/bands that emerge from our state. What can I say other than that I think it’s part of our charm? With that said, if you still haven’t yet heard Destruction Unit’s Negative Feedback Resistor, the time is now. Although it was originally released back in September, the band did just have their release show at the Rebel Lounge earlier this month so you’re not too late to the D-Unit bandwagon. Maybe it was the drugs I took, but this album just makes me feel like I’m on drugs every time I hear it. The relentless, slashing, warbling, madness starts with the opening track “Disinfect” and doesn’t end until closer “The Upper Hand,” it’s noise and feedback fading unto the oblivion. Psychedelic post-punk only begins to describe what’s heard on Negative Feedback Resistor: There’s surf in there, and plenty of thrash. Indeed, I was not surprised to learn it had made AdHoc’s list of favorite albums in 2015, that’s well deserved. What’s even more incredible is that thanks to Adult Swim you can download Negative Feedback Resistor for free, now that’s punk rock. You definitely don’t have a reason not to hear it now.

feisty 03Red Tank!

I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral

I’ll admit it: I didn’t much like Red Tank! at first. I remember listening to their 2011 self-titled EP and simply thinking, “this just isn’t for me.” It wasn’t until their 2014 Nerf War split with Leonardo DiCapricorn and I heard their three tracks, “Junkies”, “13 Demons”, and “Sovereignty” that I thought, “OK now these guys are onto something.” Well now those three tracks are even better and can be found on their new album I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral along with 9 others as equally fantastic. The guys just grew up and got better while seemingly becoming less refined. Maybe some of it is the fact that they went to audioconfusion for this record and I know how influential Jalipaz can be on young bands, or any aged band for that matter, in getting them to reach their full sound-potential. But with that said, the songs on I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral are just better written and better executed than their past efforts. Tracks like “Post-Apocalyptic Nostalgia”, “The Void”, and “The Death of Genkai” are personal favorites, not to mention the three aforementioned cuts as well. The closer “Bones” contains my favorite lyrics of the entire album: “I walked into the forest and it was there that I buried my bones/I returned years later to discover that they were emanating the color of amber, the color of butter/They had become something so much better.” Cool. Check out I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral on Bandcamp and pay whatever you want to download and heart it forever.

feisty 03Strange Lot

Another Mind

YabYum HQ has been bumping Strange Lot since their early singles days. When their Walk on the Sun EP came out, we clamored all over it. The guys even debuted their first single from Another Mind, “Call My Name” with us. Indeed it was strange then that we never ended up covering their first full length album. Another Mind is a psychedlized-garage-punk masterwork that any fan of the genre should enjoy. And while it may be true that many bands go for a sound like this, Strange Lot have a certain panache that just can’t be faked. From album art and music videos, to even their promotional shots and flyers, Strange Lot is defining their aesthetic, and keeping it grooovy. “Into the Night” sets the tone of the album: that classic “garage” sound that can be loved at any age. While songs like “Wasted Fields” and “Right With Your Pain” continue the up-tempo feel of “Into the Night”, many and more of the tracks on Another Mind are down-tempo, even melancholic. “The Horror” and “Supremium” are great examples of this, not to mention the closing, title track. At the time of this writing however my favorite song has to be “Erthqke”, another upbeat, surf-influenced number: “I’ve seen enough, waking eyesores/I need it all and miss it too/When I see that look, speaking in crazy accents/there is no fall, I only float down.” I certainly look forward to what may lay ahead for Strange Lot, I can only expect good things.

feisty 04Krovak

KroVaK EP

Krovak is described as “oldchool punk” and I couldn’t agree more. While they may list bands like the Casualties and Descendants as influence, I definitely hear some Minor Threat and Suicidal Tendencies in there as well. Mike Germs (guitar) and and Leigh Dekay (bass) both share vocal duties while Jairo bangs the f-out his drums, creating that sweet, glorious, punk rock. Although Krovak has only been around for about two years, the members themselves are not that new to the scene. They’ve also opened for some pretty incredible bands in their short time including D.R.I., Green Jelly, Unwritten Law, Toxic Holocaust, and the Adicts to name a few. The EP opens “Wounded Savior”, an oldchool punk rock tune through-n-through. Krovak classics “Invisible Walls” and “New American Way” follow suit, featuring vocals that are much more understood than their demo predecessors. That itself can be a double-edged sword however: vocals that are buried in the mix and only half understood are part of what gives punk rock its allure. The undeniable Krovak anthem has to be “PBR Song”, a delightful “working man’s” tune in which the only words are sung from the front of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can. I expect this to be in a Pabst ad campaign posthaste so we can all look forward to that, at least, I am. “Kids Will Revolt” and “Bottled Violence” are excellent closers and were new to me although now I’ve heard them enough to scream them right along with the band the next time I see them. And while I’m bummed certain tracks did not make the final EP cut (I’m specifically thinking of “GG’s Not Your Friend”), there other tracks can still be enjoyed on their Soundcloud page and of course live. At just over 12 minutes you have no reason not to check the Krovak EP out on Spotify.

feisty 05SNEAKYVILLE

Fuck the Desert EP

Zane Champion and Jack Zubia are SNEAKYVILLE, a band not quite a year old, who recently released their first EP, Fuck the Desert. As the title implies, there is plenty of teenage angst on this album (although I couldn’t exactly tell you how old these guys are). “Sneakysweat” intros the album, an “As Seen on TV” style of commercial selling the band’s own sweat, “made in our own home factory where we practice.” “Daddy” sets the music in motion and soon enough the head will be bobbin’ and the foot will be tappin’ and you’ll just be a-dancin’, hips swayin’ to the rhythm. “Call U” is a fun, samba-fueled number featuring the climactic line, “Dang girl give me a moment so I can, so I can compose myself.” My favorite song on the EP has to be “Illuminate”, all 4-chord garage-rock and crash symbol. The seven minute final track, “Heaven’s Gate” is in ode to the late 90’s cult of the same name, and, while it’s not the first song to do so, it does a great job exasperating the thoughts and ideals of this UFO religion. I look forward to what will come from SNEAKYVILLE in the coming year – listen to the Fuck the Desert here.

The Lily LP Pays Tribute to Rainer Ptacek

lily epby Brent Miles
Staff Writer

Most of the music emanating from Tucson bears some sort of influence from prolific (German-born Tucsonan) guitarist Rainer Ptacek, who passed away from a brain tumor in 1997. It isn’t necessarily a strictly overt musical influence but something more enigmatic.

This is apparent on the recently released The Lily LP, compiled by Tucson musician and blues purist Tom Walbank. The album – featuring covers of Rainer’s tunes along with original cuts by several artists – serves as a benefit to raise money for Ptacek’s daughter Lily’s college fund.

Rainer’s songs and guitar playing is wide open for interpretation, as the various artists deftly accomplish on The Lily LP. But Rainer was an innovator and imitation of his idiosyncratic style would be futile. Ptacek utilized all manner of experimental techniques and effects pedals; his guitar style evokes the sound of someone playing deep blues on the porch of a ramshackle shack in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta while simultaneously floating un-tethered in the farthest reaches of outer space.

Being that this isn’t a straightforward album of Rainer covers, The Lily LP also features spoken word passages and original songs by those who may not have known Rainer in his lifetime, but are nonetheless connected to him by way of their musical collaborations with those who were close to Rainer while he was alive. Gabriel Sullivan, who has played with venerable Tucson institution Giant Sand (of which Rainer was a founding member), kicks off the album with his original song, “The Spark of You and Me.”

Other original compositions include contributions by Calexico with “Untitled,” Brian Lopez’s “When I Was a Mountain,” “Lady Day” by Tom Walbank and “Home” by Naim Amor.

Billy Sedlmayr (also one of the founders of Giant Sand, along with Rainer) offers up a version of Rainer’s “Here I Am,” with a sagely sincere weariness that perfectly suits the song. Roman Barten Sherman perfectly captures the distant melancholy of Rainer’s “Don’t Know Why,” singing as if he’s lived a thousand lifetimes and belying the fact that he’s only 12-years-old.

The Lily LP closes with an emotional conversation between Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb and KXCI DJ Kidd Squidd that was recorded at the Rainer Fest; a celebration of his life and music that was recently held in Tucson. Squidd related a moving account that one has to hear for themselves to experience Kidd’s heart-wrenching story that leaves no doubt that, while Rainer was staggeringly talented, he was also a selfless and compassionate friend.

The Lily LP reflects the communal, multi-generational and familial connections that have always been a hallmark of Tucson’s music scene. The Lily LP weaves these threads and no matter where they lead, they are all imbued with Rainer’s soul.

The Lily LP is available for preview and purchase here

5 Eclectic Singles

singles3Phantom Party

Derby Daze

Phoenix trio known as Phantom Party is relatively new on the local circuit but they started making waves with their debut EP, Phantom Party, which was released back in May. The band already has a new single, “Derby Daze”,  complete with the carefree indie sound I associate with summer days (the not too hot ones) and, now, Phantom Party.  Listen to “Derby Daze” here. Hopefully this means we’ll be hearing more from Phantom Party in the coming year.

singles1Ruca

The Leavin‘”

Ruca’s smokey voice and breezy musicality comes through in high shine on her latest single, “The Leavin'”. Rumor has it the local songstress has an album in the works due out early next year. If the new single is any indication of what’s in store for fans, expect good things, lots more of that reggae-infused folk-rock. Check out “The Leavin'” here. Also, Ruca will be down at Radio Phoenix to talk to us about her new album on Jan. 20th from 7-8PM so mark your calendars!

singles4Brutha White

My Ole Lady

The bluesy-western musical styling of Brutha White has me hooked with this new single. “My Ole Lady” is a time-old tale of romantic betrayal told in dusty desert rhythms infused with an electric blues guitar. This is just the first single from his forthcoming album due out next month (currently available for pre-sale). I, for one, am looking forward to that release. Check out “My Ole Lady” here.

 

singles2Why Ask Why?

Hole to Hell

Newcomers on the local scene known as Why Ask Why? (a.k.a. Yasky) are gearing up to release their debut, The Blue Lady, early next year. Before 2015 ends, however, they have offered up an early sampling of what’s to come. “Hole to Hell” has a psychedelic punk sound with some hard-hitting vocals to create something new. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming release, recorded by Jalipaz over at Audioconfusion, and not just because I’ve had a sneak peek. Listen to “Hole to Hell” here.

singles5Ben Anderson

Perfect

Phoenix singer-songwriter, Ben Anderson, creates jazz-tinged indie pop.  Anderson (or Banderson) shares some sweet sentiments on “Perfect”, the first single from Where Did the Lights Go?, his forthcoming release. The track was written by Anderson along with Olivier Zahm. The EP release show happens on January 13th at Crescent Ballroom. Before that happens, check out “Perfect” from Ben Anderson here.

YabYum Seven: Thuong Nguyen

Thuong Nguyen1

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am a media artist and still working with Intel Corporation after thirty years.

2. How did you get your start?

Thanks to my high school art’s teacher that continue pushing and encouraging my passion in Art through the years. I received a BFA in sculpture from ASU.

3. What inspires you?

Nature – I hike with my dog twice a week.

4. What do you like about AZ?

The desert landscapes.

5. Where can we see you(r) work?

Art One gallery, FB page or my garage (studio).

6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?

Be happy by volunteer with Animal shelter, Soup Kitchen, hiking and make more arts.

7. What is your mantra?

Love, Laugh, Live and Give.

Thuong Nguyen7
Thuong Nguyen

Thuong Nguyen2 Thuong Nguyen3 Thuong Nguyen4 Thuong Nguyen5 Thuong Nguyen6

Radio Phoenix Podcast: Editors Edition

Mark
Last minute cancellation? We got this.

In this installment of Rise, show hosts and YabYum editors Mark Anderson & Lenore LaNova got to pick the tracks. The complete playlist can be found below…

Complete Playlist:

Diners “Must Be Nice”

Sam Means “Other Side of You”

Good Friends Great Enemies “Freshman Year (Song for Jack)”

Sweetbleeders “Sleeping Beauty”

Tobie Milford “Queen Isabella”

decker. “Spades”

Katterwaul “Sacred Thing”

Through & Through Gospel Review “Don’t Let it Die”

Sonoran Chorus “Mt. Fuji”

JJCnV “This Place is a Lifestyle”

The Wretched Desert “Dead Reckoning”

Pro Teens “One of these Days”

Dogbreth “Hoarder House”

French Girls “Summertime”

Recorded on November 18, 2015.

Local Xmas Songs to Make Your Holiday Louder

xmas1The Love Me Nots

Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me

The Love Me Nots revamped the originally released by Elvis Presley in 1957 on Elvis’ Christmas Album, “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me”. If you want your holiday to be extra rocking, just listen to this track a few times and see if you don’t up the energy a few notches. Listen here.

 

xmas5The Hill in Mind

Christmas, The Hill in Mind

The Hill in Mind really went for it this year. Instead of recording just a track, they put out an EP full of holiday fun. Four songs, and not just jangly renditions of overplayed classics, appear on Christmas, The Hill in Mind. The Hill in Mind introduced me to “Huron Carol”, a Canadian Christmas hymn that I’ll probably listen to a hundred times this week. Closing out the EP is “Auld Lang Syne” to help you bring in the New Year. Listen to Christmas, The Hill in Mind here.

xmas2Fairy Bones

A Fairy Christmas

Fairy Bones is known for combining powerful rocknroll with extra fierce vocal prowess and they bring both to this soon-to-be holiday classic. “A Fairy Christmas” is a warning to the naughty and the nice with an extra helping of chutzpah. Listen to “A Fairy Christmas” by Fairy Bones here!

 

xmas4Field Tripp

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Get ready for the Trippiest version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you’ve ever heard. Field Tripp offers up a holiday classic with their own stylized spin on it. A little more anguished than cheery, you really feel Rudolph’s interior struggle with this one. Listen to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” here.

 

xmas3Snailmate 

Christmas Intent: $h***y

Snailmate tosses a darker track into the holiday mix with “Christmas Intent: $h***y”. Expect some scotch and uncomfortable familiy moments from this song which starts with the line, “You froze my heart on Christmas Eve.” If you plan to spend the holiday curled up in a ball under the misteltoe, this song is for you. Listen here.

The Hardways
“White Trash Christmas”

 

Bogan Via
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Bar Flies: A Monthly Reading Series

barflies1by Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

Since June, locals have been swarming to Valley Bar in downtown Phoenix for Bar Flies: A Monthly Reading Series. Last week, I made my way to the alleyway entrance of Valley Bar, the hippest addition to the downtown bar circuit to incorporate skeeball, for the event.

This month’s installment, curated by Amy Silverman, was titled “Eating Christmas”.  Stories centered around the dishes that define our holidays. From the cookie politics of Phoenix’s historical neighborhoods to a drug-fueled Christmas caper, the participants shared a lot of laughter and even a couple of tears.

Amy Young kicked off the night with the tale of a hilarious heist involving holiday side dishes and crystal meth. Joy Young followed with “I’m Dreaming of a Meat Free Christmas”, a humorous examination of familial alienation and the love that keeps us coming back.

Robrt Pela’s “Cookie House” confronts tradition with panache when the author takes charge of a neighborhood bake sale and gets some surprising results. When Pela said, “Dolly Madison would have drank rat poison and flung herself off a bridge,” I wondered why we aren’t already best friends. Bossy perfectionists unite!

In “This Is All I Can Say with These Rules”, Tricia Parker creates a sense of continuity both in life and between Swedish meatballs and mathematics before Amy Silverman closed the evening with “Sincerely, Sophie”, a tribute to her daughter’s ongoing belief in Santa.

The stories were funny and moving; they held the audience entranced from the first performance to the very last. The next installment of Bar Flies takes place on January 7th. The topic for the evening is “9 to 5” so expected to be regaled with work-related antics until your sides threaten to split from laughter. More information on that event can be found here. For more information on Bar Flies head here.

Spotlight on the Valley: The Upper Strata

upper strata0Local group The Upper Strata releases new album, new sound for their new chapter

By Matt Marn
Staff Writer

For years, Jonathan Sanchez and Regula Sanchez-Schmid of The Upper Strata have been devoted to not only the music they play, but the stories the music tells. And their newest release, Cabaret Wartaire, is still another prime example of an album devoted to the message behind the music. In recording the album, the group has created something all their own – purely for love of creating art for art’s sake.

Jonathan Sanchez, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Upper Strata, called Cabaret Wartaire a genre-smashing journey: “accordion meets hip-hop, blues meets crunk, electronica and alternative sounds blended with old-world Kurt Weill theatrics.” And while those mixtures may sound in conflict with each other, they blend well, in altogether new ways.

And that was kind of the idea to the message, too.

“Every song on this album is about conflict,” Sanchez said. “War and peace, corporations versus the individual… The song “Entropy” is the biggest in scope, addressing humankind versus the expanding and collapsing universe. Past releases have been mere collections of songs. But on the album Cabaret Wartaire, there is a thread – a continued theme, and movements to various songs.”

The multi-genre theme is not a first for The Upper Strata. In fact, a prior album of the group – Phantastic Pigeon-Holes, showcased a variety of tones and genres, and they cherished the fact that it could not be put into one peg or another, that it was truly unique. That was part of where the album title came from.

The group’s album – in theme and tone, as well as title – is a nod to the Swiss performance venue, Cabaret Voltaire, also famous upper strata3for the birth of Dadaism, a European art movement which used various mediums and forms of expression to protest war.

“They used absurdity to point out the absurdity of so-called civilization,” Sanchez said. “On the 100-year anniversary, the band’s piece is named Cabaret Wartaire as homage to this peaceful protest movement.”

One huge factor which helped inspire the album was the duo living in Switzerland for some time – the home of Cabaret Voltaire.

“I was exposed to what they were up to up there, and it sort of stuck in the back of my mind,” Sanchez said. “I saw a performance of some of Kurt Weill’s works, and started to seek his music out – his most famous being The Threepenny Opera. I often found the approaches to the lyrics, and delivery of them, inspirational. There is something very theatrical to the work, a kind of show-tune cabaret sound to it, and that was something I sought out in the new material.”

For some time, The Upper Strata has celebrated Jonathan’s American roots through blues-inspired music. But with this new album and new direction, the group emphasizes the cultural origins of bass player Regula Sanchez-Schmid.

“The folk music of eastern Switzerland is full of accordion,” Jonathan Sanchez said. “Regula brought the instrument back from her region of Switzerland. There is something so old and quaint about accordion… mixing it with modern beats and elements creates a unique sound.”

Another factor which helped inspire the new album was when Sanchez took part in a veterans’ art program, in conjunction with work he was doing with Guitars for Vets.

“The human toll of war was on my mind, and I was seeing its repercussions in recently returning vets,” he said. “In short, there was no one inspiration, but a kind of series of things that led me to write different songs that in the end, fit together as a work.”

As Jonathan and Regula wrapped up their time in Arizona, the duo held one last concert for local fans, friends, and supporters before they began their move to Portland, Oregon. That farewell set, complete with Dada film clips and abstract projections to match each song, was very well-received by the crowd.

Sanchez said there have been times in the past where the group played for empty barstools and a few friends who came out to support them. It was nice to play for a packed house at their last Phoenix show.

The pair is starting a new chapter in Portland, as Regula has a chance to work as a graphic artist for the first time – something she has been studying for years, including work on the designs for every Upper Strata album.

“It seemed like a chance to start over,” Jonathan said. “As far as the music, we began writing songs together in a little apartment in Switzerland, and we find we like that best. Playing shows is usually all about begging people to come out, and playing to the bartender and a few drunks. Recording, writing, and putting together albums… that is something else. That is like creating art for art’s sake. We enjoy the processes – the steps involved, and holding the final product. We will continue to create and put things out even if no one seems to care, wherever we live.”