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Tucson music: JJP's Best of 2017

In the beginning, I set out to write a traditional "Best of 2017" column. I wrestled with ranking dozens of local and worldwide album releases. I questioned my own musical biases and was baffled in trying to quantify the tastes and preferences of everyone in my reader base. I wrote and rewrote and made and discarded at least a half dozen lists.

And then I chucked it all. Because "Best of" lists are ridiculously subjective. What really, truly counts are the pieces of work you keep coming back to, over and over again. The albums and songs that become the soundtrack to a certain place and time.

So I made a new "Best of" list and it consists of exactly two albums. They represent no scientific polling process whatsoever and cast no shadow or defamation on any other work released by anyone this year. And I am incredibly biased here because I have met and interacted with members of each of these bands and found them to be stellar human beings.

But still, of all the works by all the stellar musicians I encountered in 2017, these are the two that moved me, comforted me, spokn to me, kept me company and played in my head most consistently over the past 365 or so days. One is local and one is from an Oakland, Calif., band I fell in love with about a year ago.

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, I hope you run into them soon and it won't make me jealous if I find that they've sweetened your night.

Record #1: The Rifle - "Anabasis"

Of all the albums recorded at Tucson's Midtown Island Studios this year, this record may be the most mature, multilayered and genre defying. 

Nelene DeGuzman's lyrics are vague impressionistic sketches of story - richly poetic, sharply intelligent and infused with subtle but potent emotional punch. The music itself is a rich melodic tapestry of dreamy jangle pop guitar,  subliminal melodic humpback whale bellow basslines and bright, sunny xylophone chimes of drums/percussion. A few listens in and this album hits you over the head like a brick inside a pile of feather pillows. You won't quite get why it rips your heart out a little but you'll love it anyway. It is simply a perfect record. 

Record #2: Everyone Is Dirty - "My Neon's Dead"

A few weeks ago, someone in my household was binge watching the '90s sitcom "Friends" and I happened upon an episode where characters put a Stephen King novel in the freezer to keep the scary bits from happening and "Little Women" in the freezer to ward off the sad bits. 

If you've ever been through a bout of near fatal illness, you might want to put "My Neon's Dead" in the freezer before you get to the title track, because it has moments that will devastate you more than a little bit. I highly recommend it all the same.

Everyone Is Dirty's lead vocalist and violinist Sivan Lioncub wrote the bulk of the songs on this album in the process of recovering from acute illness when her liver shut down after a rare and all but deadly reaction to an antibiotic. The resulting record is a deeply personal, incredibly bold, gorgeous, trippy concept album full of glam rock sci-fi swagger and hallucinatory catharsis. Haunting rock and roll mantras repeat through these tracks like a Greek chorus. Electric violin cries interweave and parry with wildly orchestrated feedback. Meanwhile a heavy, garage and power pop rhythm anchors the whole thing and lays it on you like a psychedelic sermon. If Eno-era Roxy Music and Syd's Pink Floyd formed a super group with a badass violinist as its frontwoman, and she'd been through some shit, it might sound something like this.

Meet the new year. Not the same as the old year.

This will be my second year gracing the virtual pages of TucsonSentinel.com and I plan on making it a year of music writing worth your precious time.

In 2017, I introduced you to a broad cast of characters representing an even broader landscape of local bands and solo artists. We met world class rock bands who choose to make Tucson their home, guitar toting troubodors who sing for their suppers, rock and punk band families who play for the love and the fun and the joy of it all and young, fledgling bands just breaking out of their eggshells to take on the challenge of making name in an already incredibly talent-filled town.

In the coming weeks and months I hope to take you further and deeper into the heart of this musical community, exploring not just the musicians that play local stages but the venues and studios that host them week after week and the process of forming bands, booking gigs and taking ones place in a town where it seems like everyone with a day job has a secret identity playing in a band or making art or at very least writing a music column.

Happy 2018, Tucson! May your year have an outstanding soundtrack!

Check your local listings...

Friday, January 5

  • The Cloud Walls - 8:30 p.m. at Tap & Bottle, 403 N 6th Ave (Downtown)
  • Jae Tilt, Mike Check$, Cash Lansky, Ez, Jivin Scientist, Jaca, VMendez - 9 p.m. at Flycatcher, 340 E 6th St (Downtown)
  • Cosmic Fridays with DJ Plastic Disease - 8 p.m. at Sky Bar, 536 N 4th Ave (Downtown)
  • Ry Warner - 8 p.m. at Exo Roast, 403 N 6th Ave (Downtown)
  • Natalie Pohanic - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern, 1632 S 4th Ave (S of Downtown)

Saturday, January 6

  • June West - 8 p.m. at Exo Roast (Downtown)
  • Miss Olivia & the Interlopers - 7 p.m. at Crooked Tooth, 228 E 6th St (Downtown)
  • The Jits - 8 p.m. at Finis Landing, 5689 N Swan Rd, (North)
  • Texas Justice and The JoZaya Project - 10 p.m. at Che's Lounge, 350 N 4th Ave (Downtown)
  • In Lessons w Special Guests & DJ Roach - 9 p.m. at Sky Bar (Downtown)
  • Mutiny at the Surly Wench w DJ Noir - 9 p.m. at Surly Wench Pub, 424 N 4th Ave (Downtown)
  • 80's Holiday Hangover Party - 8 p.m. at The Rialto Theater, 318 E Congress (Downtown)
  • Crystal Radio w Katie Haverly & The Aviary - 7 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E Congress (Downtown)
  • Diztort, Sore, Pig City & Freedom of Choise - 7 p.m. at House Of Bards, 4915 E Speedway Blvd (Central)
  • Eb Eberlein - 8 p.m. at Saint Charles Tavern (S of Downtown)

Sunday, January 7

  • The Myrrors - 8 p.m. at Club Congress (Downtown)
  • Country Night Club - 9 p.m. at Sky Bar (Downtown) 
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