Believe it or not, I’ve seen my share of hardcore punk shows. From JFA to The Crucifucks, and in later years, even the Meat Puppets. So, when I saw Pent Up on the super duper oh so secret music list posted by the mighty mighty YabYum, I immediately snatched it up to see what the kids are listening and playing these days.
And you know what? I’m very pleasantly angered. In a good way.
In Jail takes me back, and then, pushes me forward. Back, in that, the boys of Pent Up – Seth, Micah, Tim, and Alex – have this Circle Jerks quality without aping the sound to sound like them.
And forward because it is stupid easy to roll out of bed, throw three chords together, shout at the top of your lungs (Seth does that very well by the way), and throw together meaningless lyrics, and call it a recording session. This 7-track record goes from opener “Throw Me In” to closer “Free” in a little over 9 minutes – well played gentlemen, well played.
Why you should listen: Because I believe every word and note the band plays. Maybe you will, too.
What you should listen for: Listen for the track, “Feed”. They may fucking hate this, but the lead guitar line is a punk homage to the lead from Nirvana’s “Heart Shape Box” and I loved it. It’s a compliment, guys, trust me.
What they sound like: A jackhammer relentlessly pounding against a steel wall, inside an echo chamber. Magic.
Perfect listening for: When really want to beat the shit out of a politician, not naming names. Or boxing. (I’ll be using it for the latter.)
My favorite part: That hardcore punk is alive and well and hopefully there’s more from Pent up, as well as the other bands on Tempe’s Blacksmith’s Blood Inc. label.
You know that scene in Lord of the Rings when Frodo wakes up in Lothlórien and Gan-dalph is there, and then Frodo asks, “Why weren’t you at the Prancing Pony?” ‘Member? And Gandalf retorts, “I was delayed.”
Well, “I was delayed.” So, let’s get back into music shall we?
Released in February of 2017, Assimilation by ghost island is pretty much everything you’d want in ambient music, and more. John Romero, Roddy Nikpour, and Michael Arzac have produced an album that is quite original.
Instead of getting super high and laying down tracks, the album takes the listener through 7 psychological stages of being – all leading up to assimilation. Now whether this is a “Borg-like” assimilation, or more walking toward the light assimilation, is up to you to figure out.
Either way, it’s a very well-conceived record, by all accounts: musically, spiritually, cosmically, and chordal-ly (totally just made that up…[holy smokes it’s real]).
Why you should listen: Because far too often ambient records are a snooze. This one, however, takes you on a journey and rewards you for your attention. Bravo.
What you should listen for: Make sure to listen to what your soul is telling you when you are listening.
What they sound like: They sound like when you’re lying on your back in the forest, looking up at the trees, and your head is spinning, in a good way.
Perfect listening for: When you really, really, really want to figure out what your heart is trying to tell you.
My favorite part: After putting off listening for over month (I was delayed), it was exactly what I needed to listen to.
Nick and Niki Kizer are The Nix, a terrific band from Phoenix known for their synth-y, dance-worthy pop.
But this is where the piece about music ends.
In 2014, their son, Theodore, aka The Lion, was born with a terminal illness. He fought hard. The family fought hard. But, in the end, there was little anyone could do.
After taking some time from music, understandably so, Nick and Niki decided to use their love for Theo and do something positive, not only for him, not only for them, but for all the children of Phoenix and beyond.
Hence, the “Roarrr for Ryan House” benefit show was created.
I caught up with Nick a week ago, asked him some questions, and he gave me the details about the show, Ryan House, and life beyond music.
Frank for YabYum:Tell me about the germination of the idea behind this benefit for Ryan House.
Nick Kizer: I can’t even put into words the gratitude that I feel for the beautiful people and facilities at Ryan House. They helped my wife, Niki, and I in the hardest time of our lives. In 2014, our son Theodore was born with a terminal diagnosis. Due to a condition called Pena-Shokeir, our baby boy had underdeveloped lungs and airway. Ultimately we decided to take Theo to Ryan House, which provided him with 24/7 medical care as well as in-stay lodging for our family, reminiscent of something from Make-a-Wish Foundation. We paid nothing.
As I understand, Ryan House operates completely off of donation. We felt this was our unique way to give back. That’s how “Roarrr for Ryan House” came about.
Have you ever done something as lofty before?
Well, in the scope of importance to my family and I, nothing can be as fulfilling as “Roarrr for Ryan House.” We are proud to have raised about $9,000 through a Go-Fund-Me campaign and the concert held last year at Valley Bar. All the money that was graciously given in Theo’s honor has allowed Ryan House to provide therapeutic live music to the children for a FULL YEAR. We were also able to purchase some very specific instruments for the facility that aid in soothing and healing some very physically fragile children.
Shout out to Danielle Franklin, the music therapist over at Ryan House. She is doing God’s work.
What was the response from the community?
The generosity from family, friends and musicians was absolutely more than we had anticipated. We were even getting donations from individuals that we had never met before but appreciated our story. We also received support from folks like Charlie Levy who owns Valley Bar as well as our bandmate, Bryan Marscovetra, who owns a local restaurant and cold press juice company called, Radish. We could not have made the event happen without my friend Taylor More over at Ryan House. She’s the one that really encouraged us to do it again this year.
So your band, The Nix, performed. What other bands were involved?
The Nix was a group that my wife and I put together. We had some of our long time musician friends play in the band that night, as well as perform some stuff from their individual projects. Our friend Tony Sziklay performed a beautiful song he wrote for Theo called “The Nest”. That project is called Ego Tripping. Ashley Creighton, also will be performing some of her new album from her project, Girl From The Moon, with us on November 5th.
Tell me a little about how this affected you, Niki, the band, and your music.
Our second son, Mateo was born since last year’s “Roarrr for Ryan House.” In fact my wife was 7 months pregnant with him at the time we performed. It was pretty amazing. Now it’s a little harder for us to be as active with the band as we are getting the hang of parenthood. That is why the annual event is so important to us. It gives us that drive to get our shit together and play some music.
What’s being planned for the night of the benefit show?
NICK: This year’s event on November 5th will be held at Salvador Calvano’s Studio in the Coronado neighborhood. We purposely decided to take the event to a place where it would be more accessible to the neighbors and their families. We are going to have a lot of guest appearances on stage from our musician family. In fact, we asked some younger performers to participate so that they are exposed to the Ryan House mission. Big thanks too all involved again such as Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen & Bakery and Radish. It’s going to be a relaxed, fun night, where we can give some love back.
For those who are not familiar with Ryan House, can you give us some insight on the work it does?
If you are looking for a place for you our your kids to volunteer time, please check out Ryan House. At minimum, take a tour of the facility. It is in the heart of midtown Phoenix. Ryan House helps families and children with life limiting and life-ending needs. The kids are so cute and the staff are just looking for people to come by and say hello.
What’s next for The Nix?
Maybe another Nix album? I will be rebooting a project from the past called When In Arizona Music Compilation. The last one had about 50 local bands and musicians that covered other local artists. And guess what? All proceeds go to a good cause.
You know, we all look at what’s happening on stage. But, sometimes, it’s what’s happening backstage that is really something special.
Find all the details on the event here. Connect with the Ryan House through their website.
Author’s Sidenote: I met Nick and Niki years ago. In fact, they played on my band’s album. Nick is a wonderful drummer. Niki is a very fine lead guitar player, and drummer in her right. So when I saw “Roarrr” was coming around again, I thought that the Valley should know a little bit more about these two amazing and brave individuals.
Gork’s new four-track disc, Lonely Crowd, isn’t perfect. What record is? However, it’s surprisingly filled with terrific melodies and thoughtful, stirring lyrics. The music gets downright soulful. A very, very good first effort.
But first, the backstory…
You know, there have been a lot of musicians who have reinvented themselves before becoming the person and recording the music they are known best for.
Alanis Morissette was the Canadian Tiffany before becoming the famous Grrl rocker.
Katy Perry was a Christian singer.
Even Billy Joel was a proto-heavy metal rocker (can’t/don’t want to imagine that…).
And that brings us to Gork, aka, Andrew Gork. In the past few years, Gork had been primarily known for comedic/parody songs. And although he had plenty of originals in his set, the crowd would beckon for songs about ex-wives, sex trafficking, even a song about Big Foot’s dick.
And, while he entertained the crowds, the venues didn’t really appreciate the off-color humor (spoilsports).
So he ditched all of the comedic songs and focused on his originals and found that he couldn’t get as many gigs. But that didn’t deter him.
Reinvention is a tough thing to handle. There will always be the naysayers, the haters, and the people who will be clambering for Big Foot dick songs, but Gork shines on Lonely Crowd.
And after he gets a couple of spins by those reading here today, and after a couple of spins around Valley’s venues, I believe that in the end, Gork will have the last laugh.
Why you should listen: Because you’ll hear someone who has put his heart into the music. And, basically, that’s all anyone can ask for.
What you should listen for: His lyrics. They are wonderful. Gork has a nice touch with a turn of a phrase.
What he sounds like: Like someone who is climbing out of the hole of redemption.
Perfect listening for: That first coffee on a Sunday morning.
My favorite part: Just the mere fact that here’s a guy who has written well over 100 songs and has finally hit the record button and played them. I dig that. A lot.
You know, if you know me, I’m the type of person that tries, I mean, really tries hard to find the good in every situation. Like, for instance, last summer the A/C in my car was out – in the summer and it was 1,000,000,000 degrees outside – and I’m like, “Hey, people are paying top dollar in Sedona to sit in a sweat lodge and I’m doing it for free.” Or, when I’ve been laid-off a gig, I’d be all like, “I can freelance AND watch House marathons! Sign me up!”
Which brings me to Pen15 Club by Mooseknuckle Sandwich.
Let me begin with the positive. Look, I get it. You are Punk Rock. You want to rebel. Be different. Rage against the corporate overlords. Oh wait, that isn’t positive…
(Fast-forward three hours of conjuring up every positive thought in my being.)
Every one of these tracks are brilliant. For about 5 or 10 seconds. There’s an idea. A riff. There’s some really, really good bass lines, (I guess when you have two bass players in a group, BooBoo LeFume and Stankgirl, there is a 50/50 chance).
And…let’s see…wait…it’s coming to me…yeah, this is a great album for those who suffer from ADHD. Not just the severe, must-take-medication severe ADHD, but the I’m-a-squirrel-and-I-have-ADHD-and-I’m-on-medication severe. That’s because the longest track is a mere 1:01 aptly titled, “Tourette’s.” (That was a super positive fail.)
And one more thing… I just wish Mooseknuckle Sandwich would have taken maybe a couple more minutes, meaning a lot more time, maybe months coming up with a solid melody and maybe vocals that didn’t sound like someone strangling a Theramin. The vocals sound exactly like Joey Santiago’s lead riff on “Vamos,” which, by the way, is an amazing guitar riff except Mooseknuckle speeds it up. Way up.
With all that stated, I could really, really, I mean, really like this album, but I don’t. And I think it’s a shame because I really do think Mooseknuckle Sandwich has talent. I can hear it – it’s just sandwiched in between trying to hard and not giving a shit. By the way, the strangled cat on the cover…apropos…
Swirling vocals? Check. Fuzzy, sweeping guitars? Check. Smash bang drums accompanied with interesting bass lines? Check.
If you dig Indie Dream Pop, you’re going to love, and I mean, love, Joyriot.
Max Encinas, vocals and guitars, has written a terrific dreamy album. And although this is Joyriot’s first effort, it sounds like Encinas, bassist Kyle Gutierrez, and drummer Seji Butler have been together for quite some time.
When I saw the name of the first song on the album, “Zen Jam,” I was like, uh-oh, but that notion changed when I hit play. It starts with a simple guitar riff. Then the bass and drums come in from behind it with another simple but powerful back beat. But the thing that makes the song so wonderful is the lyrical melody – Encinas nails it on this and on the rest of the album.
Like most Dream Pop, the lyrics aren’t necessarily the main focus, and while there are some nice moments, the music is the star here. Especially when Encinas steps on the overdrive/fuzz pedal. He uses it sparingly, but when he does, it fits perfectly. Oh, and btw, his lead guitar work is nothing to gloss over. Again, he uses it to extenuate – not show off – perfect for the vibe of the album.
Why you should listen: Because the tracks will make you feel good. And isn’t that what music should do – make you feel something?
What you should listen for: The surprise time signature change that comes out of nowhere and makes you go, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”
What they sound like: Let’s say the band Phoenix met-up with No Joy, had a few drinks, and decided to jam. Trust me.
Perfect listening for: Long drives out of the heat, sharing a bottle of wine, doodling a minimalist cartoon.
My favorite part: The fact that Joyriot lives up to their name and the fact that Indie Dream Pop is alive and well and living in Tucson.
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.
“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:
One day in July Mark Matos was hanging out in a thrift store in Tucson. Amidst the crappy, smelly old clothes and novelty items of a bygone era, he spotted an old boom box that he then purchased (good taste to be certain).
So, dude goes home, presses the eject button and a generic white cassette is revealed. Written in black marker on one side was: Imagine, Star Nation. Turning the tape over the name, Sonny Santos, was written in red marker.
As the legend goes, Sonny Santos had drifted in and out of the Old Pueblo in the late 90s. And the last time he was seen it was in the early ‘oughts (sitting in front of a plate of cheese tots in the now defunct restaurant, Grill, in the spring of 2003).
In the summer of 1999, a longtime music editor in Tucson had stumbled on one of Santos’ performances in a local joint, but it seemed like Santos slipped out the backstage door before he could be interviewed.
So Matos played the tape, tried to salvage as much of it as possible despite the erosion that had occurred over the span of years, and released it as an album.
The only other story that even comes close to this one is the remarkable story of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, also known as Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who couldn’t make it as a rock star in Detroit and all but gave up music, until a bootleg cassette made it into the hands of a DJ in South Africa. That cassette made him a rock star.
Back to Sonny. One rumor floating around had him joining the Native American Church and becoming a Peyote caretaker.
OK, let’s talk about the music. It’s an absolute freaking folk gem. There are 7 tracks, one track is as short as 49 seconds which is a bit of an interview where Santos speaks about his writing process. It’s pretty damn awesome and musicians everywhere should hear it and take it to heart.
Why you should listen:
Because not only are the songs terrific – if you listen with the mystery, the legend, and the lore of Santos in your head – it makes it even more stellar.
What you should listen for:
The lesson I mentioned up there.
What he sounds like:
As if Santos was partaking in Peyote and was possessed by Nick Drake.
Perfect listening for:
Morning coffee whilst sifting through a thrift store.
The song, “The Wheel.” Only 2:00 but the lyrics are mesmerizing. And, once again, if you listen while thinking about the mystery surrounding this found piece of art, you can imagine this was one of the last songs before he disappeared.
Listen for yourself below. You will not be disappointed.
You know, I can count on one hand how many of you have listened to avant-garde, folk, harp music. I for one, have not, until I gave Mariah McCammond’s Vaulted Heart Box a virtual spin.
And, I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty beautiful stuff. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to head bang, jive or even bob your head, even a little, but on the whole, the record is delightful.
Lyrically, it’s a tapestry of feelings and emotions. And McCammond’s vocals are haunting. But not in The Shining kind of haunting, but more like looking-up-at-the-moon-from-underwater haunting. As far as the music goes, the harp is the main instrument and she plays it wonderfully. I can’t handle 6 strings on a guitar so I can’t even imagine navigating 47…
Here we go…
Why you should listen: Because when was the last time you heard Avant-garde Folk Harp music? Hmmmm? I thought so.
What you should listen for: The lyrics. Definitely the lyrics. They are sublime. “I can plant these dreams but we both know it don’t mean a damn thing.” Love it.
What she sounds like: One day Björk and Joni Mitchell decided to have a baby and their baby daddy was a harpist.
Favorite song: “Pleione’s Waltz”
Perfect listening for: When the power is out and you’re reading Tarot cards by candlelight. Or having tea on a rainy day would be good, too.
Listen to Mariah McCammond’sVaulted Heart Box below.
A Life of Color is the debut recording from Bear and Airplanes and wow, what a debut it is – they had me at a mix of jazz, rap, funk and pop.
First, the music. It’s stellar. Garrett Bowers is featured on guitars and tuba. Tuba? Wha? Pablo Bastidas serves up a great groove on drums. And Ian Graham fills in this quartet on bass and piano. The one thing you’ll instantly love is the time signatures. Changing time and keys keep the music interesting, and thankfully, because, well, sometimes this genre gets pretty stale after three or four bars.
Justin Tullis gives an outstanding vocal performance. Smooth and silky is what to expect. And the lyrics are uplifting, forward-facing and very positive (okay, they threw in a “booty” reference, but hey, who’s counting…).
Why you should listen: These cats touch on a lot of musical genres and do it very, very well.
What you should listen for: Take a listen to the words. These guys, (in the liner notes the band is credited for the lyrics), are terrific. While they stay clear from controversy, “Welcome to the Middle Class” touches on the strife inner city kids struggle with…nice job guys.
What they sound like: Like Arrested Development meets The Roots.
One more note: The last track “So Good to be Bad” is a live recording, and I’m very happy to report they sound as good as they do on the record.
Make sure to give a listen to A Life of Color by Bears and Airplanes below.