Listening party! Music from Hatpin Duo, Just Najima, the Rifle, Weekend Lovers, Bryan Thomas Parker & Exbats
It's January in the desert, which means it's time for snowbirds, Gem Show visitors and lingering 38-degree nights at the tail end of otherwise sunny days. It also happens, however, to be the time of the season when all of last year's summer recording projects see the light of day. So, lately your humble scribe has been spending the evenings bundled in a sweater sipping hot cocoa and meditating her way through a pile of long-awaited and highly recommended new local music releases, the better to help you shape your playlists for the coming year.
Behold, a selection of three new singles, an EP and a pair of full-length albums, all by Tucson and Southern Arizona musicians. Plus, some links where you can hear them for yourself.
Weekend Lovers - 'Baby'
Weekend Lovers frontwoman Marta DeLeon writes catchy, hook-laden pop songs that would be equally at home coming from a '60s Motown girl group or early '80s new wave-kissed rock and roll. Mostly, it's the former that gives the songs their sweetly hummable, ear-wormish quality and the latter that defines the band's style, swagger and attitude. On the band's newest track, Baby, DeLeon and her merry band of confederates channel the melded spirits of bands ranging from the Ronettes and the Shangri Las to Abba to late '70s Fleetwood Mac and Jefferson Starship to Blondie to even a touch of early-era Madonna, back when she was fresh from her New York go-go dancing Danceteria days. Yeah, you can dance (to this track) for inspiration.
The Exbats - 'I've Got The Hots For Charlie Watts'
With an intro evocative of Marty Robbin's El Paso, and lyrics that assert the relatability of the Monkees vs. the Beatles and the superiority of "most dapper man in rock" Charlie Watts in the pantheon of Rolling Stonesdom, "I've Got the Hots for Charlie Watts" is a modern rock and roll anthem with serious nods to the band's retro pedigree.
The first track to be released by the 'bats for their forthcoming album "Hits, Kicks and Fits" the song is a worthy calling card for the rest of the record, a collection of smart, Hollies-esque, '50s and '60s-inspired roots pop with an independent, feminist edge. The new release comes accompanied by a joyous, balloon and cardboard cutout fueled video featuring the fine citizens of Bisbee, Arizona and Exbats guitarist Ken McClain's second-grade classroom.
Bryan Thomas Parker - 'Boy In A Dress'
Self-described "lizard flavored folk and roller" Bryan Thomas Parker releases one of his most lyrically honest yet musically traditional tracks to date with his newest single, an ode to growing up gender-queer in the Bible Belt. With a gospel choir of a chorus, New Orleans style horns and Americana bona fides, think Lou Reed on a river boat instead of the dirty boulevard.
Hatpin Duo - 'Orange'
Lofi indie "bedroom" pop meets avant garde chamber music in Orange, this is the debut EP by Tucson's harp and strings project Hatpin Duo. Featuring original compositions by vocalist and harpist Mariah MacCammond and violin by Deanna Cross, the three-track collection is a richly textured and musically inventive work, with echoes of dark cabaret, Celtic and folk music.
MacCammond traffics in heartfelt, metaphor rich lyricism and uncomfortably alluring vocal stylings in the vein of Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Sugarcubes-era Bjork, but with harp as the primary instrument of composition, the chords and melodies are unusual in the least. Spare and haunting, strange and elegant, almost bell-like in clarity and to be. Meanwhile, Cross provides a steady and steadfast foundation with gorgeous violin motifs and and subtle, airy vocal harmonies.
The EP, which is set for official released via Soundcloud this coming week, can be purchased in person at Harp on Duo's EP release celebration next Saturday, February 8
Just Najima - 'Queenie'
The long-awaited debut from Just Najima doesn't disappoint for fans of old school soul and rhythm and blues, but perhaps the most surprising thing about an album mapped in the footprints of the foremothers of blues and spoul is just how timely, personal and relevant this album is. Like a well-timed manifesto delivered over shots of whiskey by your worldwise older sister or out-of-fucks-to-give best friend, singer and composer Najima has a secret to share with you that can't wait until tomorrow. And that secret is that soul and the blues aren't relics of the past. They're a living, breathing diary of the state of the world right now, and that world is kind of a mess, honestly.
On opening tracks "Rolling" and "Ain't Got No Time (for this shit)," Rainey declares independence from the expectation, angst and drama of modern relationships. If you want her to come on over, she says to potential lovers, you better be prepared for her to keep on rolling and if you want her to stick around, you better not waste her precious time. The implicit message to listeners is an invitation to go and do likewise.
On "America Blues," Rainey transforms old school blues tropes into a state by state tour of racial injustice in a modern America while "Somebody's Talking Bout Jesus" updates a turn of the century classic into a commentary on religious and moral hypocrisy. "Wicked World" is a frenzied gospel call to revolution and reclamation.
"Rainbow to Follow" is a soul-infused and optimistic piano ballad that sounds equal parts Aretha and Carole King. The song is a fitting coda to the record, a restorative tincture for the emotional roller coaster and moral call to action that is Queenie.
The Rifle - 'Honeyden'
Some albums are about the heart and soul a single artist brings to a project, while some are a many-headed hydra featuring a band and its collaborators. And then there are those where the sound engineer/producer becomes a mind of honorary band member, bringing together the musicians as hive mind to weave a collective spell. Think "Pet Sounds" and "Sergeant Pepper," "Rumours" or "Marquee Moon." "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" or "Forever Changes." Or "Lodger," "Heroes," and "Low" collectively, for my fellow Bowie acolytes.
"Honeyden" is the singular vision of songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Nelene De Guzman. And it's is a fully collaborative labor of love by Tucson indie pop band the Rifle. And, just as truthfully as the above statements, "Honeyden" is the culmination of a years long musical partnership between the Rifle and Midtown Island producer/engineer Matt Rendon.
DeGuzman's compositions are dream-kissed and sun-bleached and ever so hazy, beautifully languid, slightly surf and psych-tinged guitar melodies underscored with Entwhistle by way of Phil Lesh melodic low end courtesy of bassist and musical collaborator Kevin Conklin. Lyrically, the songs are impressionistic and evocative, like cryptic journal entries or half-forgotten sense memory, with some moments of outright Lennonesque psychedelic whimsy such as on the fanciful and strange "Seventeen Strings."
The devil is, as always, in the details, as they say, however, and while DeGuzman's tunes unadorned are brilliant enough on their own, Rendon's hand is felt throughout the album whether as a guest musician(ever wondered what it would sound like if Keith Moon played drums for the Beach Boys?) or as engineer and defacto producer, lending an expert ear and near encyclopedic knowledge of the late '60s golden age of rock and pop studio recording to the project.
The result is a modern indie pop masterpiece lovingly crafted with vintage ingredients including elements of psych, garage and baroque pop and the signature never-too-many-harmonies vocal aesthetic that Midtown Island Studios is known and loved for.
Check your local listings...
Friday, January 31
- KXCI presents: Pieta Brown and David Huckfelt - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- Art by Chris Moreno with Music by Moontrax - 7 p.m. The Screening Room
- Febbo Fuentes - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Big Grin - 6 p.m. Harbottle Brewing Company
- Paul Opocensky Project - 7 p.m. Caps & Corks
- Demons of South Tucson Album Release Party - 8 p.m. Saint Charles
- Dia De Las Luchas - 8 p.m. Rialto
- The Rifle Album Release Party w/ Weekend Lovers and Casanova - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Just Najima presents the Apocalypse Cabaret w/ Moontrax - 9 p.m. Club Congress
- Shit Knife, Lone Control, Sherbet & Champagne - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
Saturday, February 1
- Do The Wurm - 6 p.m. Subspace
- Lindholm - 6 p.m. House Of Bards
- Al Foul Trio - 6 p.m. Mercado San Agustin
- Pinegrove with LAKE - 6 p.m. Club Congress
- Paper Airplanes Project - 6 p.m. Tucson Hop Shop
- Moontrax, Clementine Was Right, Tonight's Sunshine - 7 p.m. Boxyard Tucson
- Kevin Pakulis - 7 p.m. Monterey Court
- Inner Freq Presents: Freq Out! - 7 p.m. Desert Island Records
- James Woodruss: Songs and Sonnets of Shakespeare - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- Wolf Parade - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- John Mayall - 8 p.m. Rialto
- The Rifle and The Exbats - 8 p.m. Bisbee Grand Hotel & Bar (Bisbee, AZ)
- The Rebel Set, the Sound Station, Gutter Town - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
- Keep Tucson Sketchy (Comedy) - 10:30 p.m. The Screening Room
- Shine On Floyd - 9:30 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Birds and Arrows - 10 p.m. Che’s Lounge
- Mutiny (DJ) - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
Sunday, February 2
- Sunday Music: Evening of Violin Duets - 6 p.m. The Coronet
- Phalanx w/ Skullcrush, Napalm Strike, Murder Rate - 6 p.m. Club Congress
Monday, February 3
- TCB Open Mic - 6 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Geeks Who Drink - 7 p.m. Public Brewhouse
- Hans Gruber and the Die Hards, Muddle of Pud, BYOM and Perish - 7 p.m. Blacklidge Community Collective (DIY Show)
Tuesday, February 4
- Dogleg w/ Annie Jump Cannon, Zenny Cake, Born Without Bones - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Andrea Gibson - Right Now, I Love You Forever - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Wednesday, February 5
- Jasper Bones - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Thursday, February 6
- Grayscale - 6 p.m. 191 Toole
- Tags w/ Celebration Guns and Noise Field - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- VIVA - 7 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- BTSM Futuristic Thriller Tour - 8 p.m. Rialto
Friday, February 7
- 88 Fingers Louie - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - 8 p.m. Rialto
- Super Gay Party Machine - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Leila Lopez w/ Juan Holladay - 8 p.m. El Crisol (Exo)
- The British Are Coming Burlesque Show - 9 p.m. Surly Wench Pub