3 Mellow Indie Releases

indie 00by Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

Things That Aren’t Words

Remember the Details

The Tucson five-piece known as Things That Aren’t Words released their 5-track debut in April. Remember the Details achieves that compelling combination of sweet and somber with an enchanting musicality and poetic lyrics. “Your Heart is an Ocean” opens the EP, drawing this listener in with a cheery, melodic indie rock that ends with the sentiment, “You were meant to drift away.” See what I mean about the sweet and somber? This juxtaposition continues throughout Remember the Details: uplifting melodies and contemplative lyrics.  “Those Who Try” combines a dreamy indie sound with lines like “You’re a glutton, you’re a fiend,” sorta like a warm blanket of dark thoughts. I like it. I definitely suggest checking out Things That Aren’t Words for all you indiepop fans. Think Travis or The Decemberists.

Casey Wayne Smith

Suicide Dreams, Cigarette Magazines

Casey Wayne Smith out of Denver falls to the folk side of the indie spectrum. His April release – Suicide Dreams, Cigarette Magazines – is pensive; stripped down to its singer-songwriter core. The title track opens the album with a circus hue that does not persist throughout the album. That was probably a wise decision. Casey Wayne Smith showcases his talents as a songwriter in the tradition of Iron & Wine and Elliott Smith: brooding and meditative. The only near-miss for me was “Truth in Me” which toys with rocknroll without stepping beyond the indie-folk format. While it’s a decent song, it just doesn’t fit cohesively with the rest of the album. Beyond that minor issue, I enjoyed Suicide Dreams, Cigarette Magazines thoroughly. “Jesus Take Me Home” and “Suicide Dreams, Cigarette Magazines” are my two favorite tracks on the album. I recommend checking out Casey Wayne Smith’s Suicide Dreams, Cigarette Magazines, especially on those rare rainy days we get here in the Valley.

girl valley

soften up

Okay, I usually hate intros and interludes that are clipped from movies and television, but I was so excited to hear the Legend of Korra clip that kicked off girl valley’s latest release, that this rule went straight out the window. I’m not 100% sure how the clip ties into the rest of the album although it takes place in the spirit world rather than on this physical plane. Likewise, the delicate music of girl valley swims toward the listener like a tenuous vapor, more dream than reality. All nine tracks wrap up in roughly ten minutes, leaving the listener more with the impression of an album than a complete LP. What you have is the potential for a truly talented songwriter in the initial stages of emergence. soften up is both beautiful and brief. I look forward to hearing more from girl valley.

 

YabYum Seven: David Miller

unnamed (5)Who are you and what do you do?

David Miller – multimedia artist – so photography, short films, animation and sound design.

How did you get your start?

I was taking photos of my friends in high school and making short films for all of our school projects, including a musical of Otto Von Bismark. After high school I went to a graphic design school and didn’t care for making cereal box art, so I dropped out after 5 months. Following that, I saw an exhibition of photographer Sebastio Salgado and it opened my mind to the possibilities of photography interacting across cultures. I took classes on and off for 9 years until I got my BFA in Photography in 2006, and picked up some skill in music making/ sound design and ceramic sculpture along the way.

What inspires you?

Ancient art, indigenous cultures, mythology, surrealists, sampling culture, comics, imaginative movies, animals, comics, mid-20th century culture, Japan.

What do you like about AZ?

Being able to always see the sun helps me stay energized and positive about creating and life in general. I like that you can be your own person and survive in the arts without being too concerned about fitting in a particular scene or chasing some ephemeral fame.

Where can we see you(r) work?

The main place is my site, and corresponding Vimeo and Instagram.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

Be fluent in Spanish and learn to play piano.

What is your mantra?

Show up every day to create, make it in your voice, always try new things, make the next thing better.

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Radio Phoenix Podcast: Celebration Guns

celebration guns 02Celebration Guns joined us down at Radio Phoenix studios for our bi-monthly installment of Rise! They brought along some swell tunes to share. The complete playlist can be found below. Good job on the inclusion of crowd noises, sound editor.

Complete Playlist:

Celebration Guns “The Volunteer”

Twin Ponies “Willoughby”

Saddles “Comfort”

dent “Visit Us”

Underground Cities “Train Tracks Across the Sky”

Pro Teens “Control”

Celebration Guns “The Me that Used to Be”

Flower Festival “Shame on Me”

Luau “Arm’s Length”

Wet Lab “Weekend for Mom”

Diners “Half Moon”

Recorded Live on May 4, 2016.

Snailmate Offer Up Leftovers

snailmate coverby Chris Nunley
Staff Writer

Oh man…if there is one thing that I do love in this world more than music, it’s food. Particularly lasagna.

It’s probably the single most evolutionary dish on the planet because it evolves after preparation. Sure, you could eat it immediately after it’s ready. But one would be depriving themselves the myriad of flavors to come over time. You have to let the dish cool, cover it with tin foil, shove it in the fridge, and forget about it. Let the cheese form a crust on the edges, the red pepper marry with the meat of choice, the garlic to fester. I call it the “Maytag Metamorphosis” and the culminating piquancy is absolutely worth the patience. Cork a bottle of your favorite Chianti and relish the fruits of your labor.

Since the release of their debut EP Escargot, local nerdcore punk duo Snailmate have undergone their own transmutation. For nearly a year now, the Mates have been serving up their secret recipe for musical lasagna, and the most flavorful chunk comes to us from the center of the pan with Leftovers. The brilliance in the final installment of the “Escargot trilogy” is that no drastic changes were made to the formula. Their signature sound of gritty pulsating synths, ultra-tight drumming, and blinding lyricism all carry enough flavor for subtle changes to happen naturally. And boy, those changes taste good!

“Radio DJ” starts us off with an obvious in-your-face narrative about a couple going from “vanilla” to “31 flavors” in the sack or, in this case, “Up against the wall! Up against the wall!” This track is one for the ages, cleverly mixing porno-esque bass sounds with shifting tempos between verse and chorus emulating the various speeds of the dirty deed. Kalen Lander’s rhymes roll off his sinister tongue with devilish delight while Ariel Monet’s beats tantalizingly set the pace to heighten the experience yet prevent early “eruptions”. Despite the attempts to prolong this savory moment, the song is definitely a “quickie”, clocking in a two and a half minutes. Whoops!

One of the most admirable traits that a songwriter or lyricist can possess is the ability to write with ambiguity. The title “Always Loving Mostly Fighting” might carry an obvious connotation, but I can assure you, my fellow Phoenicians, this song was written in a cipher laced with disdain and radar-locked on a certain clique in need of a reality check. In what is arguably the moodiest track ever written by the duo, Lander pulls no punches in his rhapsody about trying to fit in with the “cool” people. Layered bubbly sounds over an aggressive sawtooth bass line, Monet matches the intensity and aggression with a punishing of the skins and a backing vocal seething with rage.

A clunky, cartoonish horseshoe shuffle brings us to “In Tents”, a cut that is a coin toss in the “like” department. It’s great to hear that Lander is expanding his sonic palate more with the tools before him, as well as Monet filling the prescription to cure the cowbell fever. Even the fluctuating volley of “wait a minute” between the two is entertaining. But between the intermittent screams, assertive yelling in the chorus, and a synth line set on “annoy”, this track seems to try and browbeat the listener into submission.

The payoff – the prestige, if you will – concludes this dandy of an album with the chill and funky track “Big Fish Don’t Taste Good”. Respectfully, I must disagree with the Mates on the title because this track IS a big fish! Our musical anglers bait the hook and cast out into our earholes with a juicy piece of Rhodes piano wrapped in a delectable off-meter drum beat. To further entice us to take the bait, Lander and Monet channel The xx on vocals, evolving gradually throughout the song with the clever “Your dust tasted fine / Now try some of mine”. Finally biting down on the hook, the listener is reeled in with layered 8-bit whirring, bass pecks, and danceable drumming. I don’t know about you, but I say filet that fish and serve it up pronto!

There are two key points that I took away from this album. First, there’s more humanity and less perfection on this release, which makes this band even more accessible to audiences they have yet to conquer down the road. And second, their sound has evolved slow and steadily as great music should over time. Leftovers is great served either hot or cold. My compliments to the chefs.

3 Stellar 3-Song Releases

3 song

by Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

Sonoran Chorus

Laird

Sonoran Chorus might have only popped on the local scene less than a year ago, but they’ve already released a two-track single and a six-track EP. Now, they have the three-track Laird to add to their ever expanding discography. We were first introduced to the songwriting prowess of singer/bassist Damon Dominguez from his Leonardo DiCapricorn days. I’m glad to see he’s still flexing his lyrical muscles in this new project. “Cartons of Bottles” opens up Laird with a driving guitars and angsty vocals. “Terracotta Forest”, the second track, has a more murky tone than the usual high-energy assault that we’ve started to expect from Sonoran Chorus, but I dig it. The last song, “Shitkicker”, has that branded SC weird punk vitality certain to shake walls and shake up crowds.

Various Artists

PHX Singles Compilation

A few local acts pulled together to release the PHX Singles Compliation to mark their recent Arizona mini-tour. The trio of tracks features music from The Psychedelephants, Paper Foxes, and Bad Neighbors. The comp kicks off with “Francis Rabbit”, a melodic journey brought to you by The Psychedelephants, an act known for their trippy music. The energy gets cranked up with Paper Foxes’ “Indica Feels”. I am loving the Brian Molko-esque vocals on “Indica Feels” and am currently making time to delve further into the musical offerings of Paper Foxes. Bad Neighbors closes out the comp with “Fork” and their own brand of punk-tinged alt-rock. Hopefully this little gem of a three-track release promises new music on the horizon for all three acts.

T.O.S.O.

 D.E.M.O.2

Tempe’s T.O.S.O. describes their sound as “progressive desert grunge” and I think that’s pretty on-point. Zac White, Marc Ellis, Eric Ellis, Evan Dorney and other occasionally featured artists recently put out a three-track demo that is packed full of rowdy good times… well, as much as you can cram into ten minutes. Opening with “Prestidigitation Nation”, T.O.S.O. introduces the listener to both the band’s garage rock stylings and their propensity clever word play. “Vortexistentialism” kicks up the energy and throws in some punky vocals for a feisty, shout-it-out number. “Before I Die” closes the album, echoing the humor that moves through D.E.M.O.2. It might be the shortest track on the release, but this little ditty wormed its way into my head for days. Be warned.

 

 

Why You Should Listen: Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason

Shawn Skinnerby Frank Ippolito
Associate Editor

One of the best things about writing for the mighty YabYum is that I get to listen music before anyone else. The only thing that makes it better is when I get to listen to music when it’s as wonderful and heartfelt as Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason and their new album, Letting Go and Holding On. The last time I saw Skinner was at Last Exit Live solo, so I was very jazzed to hear him with a full band.

Side story (you knew this was coming): I was heading out the door taking our pup to the vet (yes, I lead an exceptionally exciting life) when who pops onto my porch but none other than Shawn himself.

“Just heading over for a sound check and I thought you’d like a CD,” he said.

“Hey man, thanks!”

“I hope you like it. We recorded it live over at Jali’s [i.e. Jalipaz, owner of Audioconfusion], and, well, I’m very happy to get it completed, because, well, you see my dad is really ill and, well, that’s him on the cover…and when I gave it to him he said that he can’t stop listening.”

You see, here’s the thing, I wrote a piece about “Why musicians do what they do” and never ever was there a whisper about becoming famous or “making it.” And here’s yet another musician who only hopes to finish a record for his pops. Man o’ man, if you ain’t crumbling into the fetal position after hearing that you’re cold, man, really cold.

Dear Shawn, you nailed it and I can hear the emotion dripping from your words and music.

So here we go.

Why you should listen:

Because you ain’t going to Austin any time soon (have seen the airfare?), but never fear, this album will take you there.

What you should listen for:

The raw, dripping emotion of Skinner’s voice. That combined with the lyrics, pure awesomeness.

What he/they sound like:

Like a storm rolling in. Powerful and intent on hitting you as hard as it can.

Favorite song:

“Don’t Play With Fire” but in truth? All of them.

Perfect listening for:

Drinking straight Jack pondering what you’re going to do with the rest of your life as your world burns. You see, even though the material here is pretty heavy, SSATMOR still infuse hope into every song – as all the best Americana does.

PS. Has Jalipaz made a deal with the dark one of recording/mixing/engineering? This is one of the best live studio recordings I’ve heard in a very long time and I was really paying attention.

The album isn’t out but I have it from the man himself the CD release will be sometime in late June. You can preorder Letting Go and Holding On here.

Additional Links for Shawn Skinner & the Men of Reason:

Facebook

Website

YabYum Seven: Heidi Abrahamson


Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Heidi Abrahamson. I’m a Metalsmith. I make jewelry.

How did you get your start?

In the early 70’s, my mother started collecting and selling modernist jewelry, along with antique, as she was an antique dealer. That’s when it all really began.

A little over ten years ago, I was looking over pieces that I had collected, Ed Levin, designers for Georg Jensen, Kalo, all the Scandinavian pieces were the best, I thought to myself “Why can’t I do this?”. It was then, in 2005, that I decided to take a basic jewelry making class for $50.00 at the Mining Museum here in Phoenix. That was the start of it all.

What inspires you?

Architecture, Scandinavian design. The Modernists.

What do you like about AZ?

Winter.

We’ve been here just over 20 years. Living here is very reasonable and it’s afforded us to do what we want and work for ourselves. Phoenix has been very good to us.

Where can we see you(r) work?

Here in Phoenix:

For The People
5102 North Central

In Palm Springs:
Flow Modern Design
768 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Online, 1stdibs:
The Lisa Cliff Collection, here.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

You know, if I die tomorrow, I’d be okay with that. I’ve been beautiful places, seen beautiful things, met wonderful people. I’m happy to keep doing what I’m doing.

What is your mantra?

I was recently asked this, and I still really don’t have one other than, “I can do this.”. I try. Sometimes I win. And, sometimes, I fail. I just keep trying.

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