Tucson sounds: Tracks of my tears - New records from Stripes, Anchorbaby & a special message from Little Cloud
Your friendly neighborhood music scribe tends not to do album reviews, preferring to report the news rather than evaluate it. But then, these albums came out and she threw those promises to the four winds. Because, damn, they're good.
'520' by Stripes
I've been waiting for this album since I first heard word that my favorite local not-old-enough-to-drink-yet Tucson rockers had headed into to the studio earlier this year. You maybe didn't know it, but you were waiting for them too. This may be the best album released in Tucson this year. Tough call, though. Stay tuned, for instance, in a few paragraphs when Anchorbaby gives them a run for their money. Track by track, here are the Cliff's Notes, but you're gonna want to hear it for yourself.
“Crash and Burn” - The first track on Stripes' debut is surprisingly unpunk. A gorgeous, torchy pop gem with lush, deep vocals by frontwoman Izzy, this track could just as easily be a '40s film noir torch ballad or Peggy Lee-esque '60s pop lament as the opening gambit by a trio of badass teen garage punks. This song also merits the distinction of being the only song on the album with zero profanities.
“Redlite” - Now we see how many fucks Stripes really gives. Literally dozens on this album, beginning with this melodic punk rave up about modern love and kissing at the stop light. For those of us old enough to remember, the song’s staggered, slightly anguished harmonies evoke thoughts of John Doe and Exene Cervenka on the earliest releases by L.A. legends X.
“Poison” - If "Redlite: sounds a little bit like X, this song is more in the vein of another mature beyond his years teen punk prodigy, Violent Femme’s Gordon Gano. Combining classic '60s bubblegum love song lyrics, garage punk spirit and a well placed “motherfucker” or 6, this track is a messy, sappy, honest ode to young love — with guitars.
“Sick” - Enough with the comparisons, already. This track just sounds like... Stripes. Simple but sophisticated melody, heartrending vocal catharsis, and the kind of dynamics you can only get from a band that plays like eight times in the average week. “I love you” rhymes perfectly with “fuck you” and we all know it, but somehow it never sounded quite so lovely.
“Pillow Fright” - A bit more modern and garagey in the ilk of Burger Records darlings like La Luz, Cherry Glazzer and the like. But still 100 percent Stripes. This is a fast, fuzzy, rhythmic anthem with a well placed riot grrl scream or two. Drummer Bella is the star of the show on this one, letting loose with Bonham/Moon abandon as the song races to the cliff edge like a sonic Rebel Without a Cause.
“Bade Boy” - A perfect, angsty ode to poor choices after the fact and the allure of all those “smoking drinking bad boys” that are so hard to resist at ages 15 to 99 or so. Tight and well-honed guitar/bass interplay speeding up and rising in intensity as the vocals become more and more exasperated and anguished. Damn these kids are good.
“Fuckin Normie” - This is the catchiest song you will hear all year. You will find yourself in the grocery store singing under your breath “...lay down on my couch with your spit still in my mouth…” and you won’t realize it until everyone around you notices. This might be the best track on this album. But you still oughta see it live if you can. Because these kids jump in the air with glee and some kinda punk rock faery magic when they’re playing live.
“S.M.I.T.H.” - As close as you’re gonna get to a real ballad on this album. Dark and a little scary and kinda lyrically perfect, veering from grunge like loud quiet loud dynamics to pure Shangri Las pop gorgeousness.
“NVR Met Me” - “I’ve got condoms in my pocket, I’ll talk to you just like I don’t.” Could you have written that and sung it in front of your parents at age 30? Could you do it now? These kids aren’t even 20 yet and they’ve got more balls than most of us. Oh, yeah and they write damn catchy songs and play them well. It seriously might be time for the rest of us to give and go home and let these kids take over, but somehow instead they make me want to pick up a bass guitar and write some sweary songs instead.
'Groovysmo' by Anchorbaby
Oh, Ricky, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind... hey Shimo.
A few days back a new DJ pitched a show at the community radio station where this music columnist volunteers and admitted that most of their local music knowledge was limited to old school desert rock of the Giant Sand and more recent Calexico variety, but they'd discovered some new stuff they could play to give some locals more air time. Turns out the "small local, psych influenced band" they'd been turned on to was Xixa.
All due respect to the folks in those groups, but I think they're all doing OK in the local airplay department.
That being said, whether you love those bands, hate those bands or somehow have been living under a rock and have never heard of those bands, the real "border rock" is something you've likely never heard yet, being as it was just released yesterday. And it's going to blow your ever-loving mind.
"Groovysmo" is the debut release of Tucson by way of Nogales native Ricky Shimo, best known for his presence in Tucson's Lenguas Largas. An epic solo undertaking with echoes of vintage Brazilian psych rock and a heavy dose of hard hitting late '60s garage weirdness, this isn't a track by track kind of venture. Devote a chunk of your well earned leisure time and consume it all in one chunk from opener "Niño de la Tierra" to finale "Groovysmo II" with its spoken-word groove funk news outtakes musing on the term "anchor baby." Binge listen like this is every season of Game of Thrones, folks. You'll thank me later.
Shimo is the prime architect of this fabulously fuzz-kissed tour de force, but he gets a little help from his friends, with appearances by Lenguas co-conspirator Isaac Reyes, vocalists Cherish Rendon and Sathya Honey, a little bit of multi-instrumental love from Matt Rendon and a cameo appearance by Midtown Island Studios mascot Sir Paul McBarkney Rendon (who contributes a little well-timed barking on the track Nada.) Matt Rendon also recorded and mixed the tracks with mastering by one of Tucson's other primo recording engineers, the one and only Jim Waters.
This album is not only a fantastic, groovy, trippy listen - it's the first release of new venture Midtown Island Records. Look for more grooves to follow.
Some more love for Little Cloud - and help for Joe Fanning
Last week's TucsonSentinel.com cover band, bohemian folk-jazz-soul rock ensemble Little Cloud, has a new album out too. The band's first full-length effort "Four of Cups" is available at the band's live gigs and via Bandcamp. Meanwhile, band manager Andrea Buttrick has a special message for Tucson performers and music lovers.
Little Cloud guitarist Joe Fanning, a longtime fixture of the local music scene, is currently battling testicular cancer and rather than hold a traditional fundraiser show or go the crowdfunding route, Buttrick and "Cloudpeople" are reaching out in true Little Cloud style to invite Tucson's music community to step up for one of their own.
Musicians and bands around town (and beyond) are invited to be part of "Gigs for Joe Fanning" - an effort to raise funds for Fanning's medical bills by donating the revenue from a performance or two to the cause. A traditional GoFundMe page has been set up as well for those who want to make a one time donation. More info can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/joe-fanning039s-medical-bills-from-testicular-cancer
In the meantime, you can stream Little Cloud's latest release, along with the new albums by Stripes and Anchorbaby from the sidebar of this very column. Happy listening, my dears!
Check your local listings...
Friday, May 24
- Juliana Warkentin /Michael Weiss /Mathew Wineingar - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Distortionists, The Endless Pursuit, Whiskey Drunk - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
- Insane Clown Posse, RITTZ, MushroomHead, Mac Lethal - 6:30 p.m. Rialto Theatre
- Natty and the Sunset - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
- Dub Society - 7 p.m. Royal Sun
- Dark Maps - 8 p.m. Westbound
- The Unday, Shooda Shook It - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
- The B Sides w/ BreakingGlass - 8 p.m. Irene’s Holy Donuts
- Sgt Papers, SunnTrio and Los Esplifs - 9 p.m. Che’s Lounge
- Cybearg, BYOM, Muddle of Pud, The FIST - 7:30 p.m. Blacklidge Collective (DIY show)
Saturday, May 25
- Leila Lopez w/ John Keeney - 8 p.m. Exo Roast
- Miss Olivia & the Interlopers - 7 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Hipster Daddy-O and the Handgrenades, The Endless Pursuit - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Shekinah, Chakara Blu and Just Najima - 9 p.m. Sky Bar
- Black Mountain - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- DJ Ruff Idyll, Lommol, C10 - 9 p.m. Owls Club
- Copper Magma Metal Band - 6 p.m. Irene’s Holy Donuts
- Steve Dunn’s Birthday Party w/ Kate’s Randy Cat and live DJs - 8 p.m. Che’s Lounge
- Vinny Mendez album release w/ Jae Tilt, Jamal Ari, and Ez Goin - 9 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Black Renaissance Night 4 w/ Seanlou, Street Blues Family, and Black Caesar - 8 p.m. Hotel McCoy
Sunday, May 26
- Sad Reptilian CD Release - 8 p.m. Exo Roast
- Loveland w/ Jonica Butcher - 6 p.m. Che’s Lounge
- Howe Gelb with Birds & Arrows and David Huckfeld - 7 p.m. Hotel Congress
- Downtown Boys,Feverfew, Shitknife, Mudpuppy - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Long Sought Rest, Mud of Pud, Sally Roundhouse, Sauced Up - 8 p.m. Blacklidge Collective (DIY show)
- One Big Rock Show w/ Katie's Randy Cat, Sugar Stains, Miss Olivia, Little House of Funk, Quarter Royale, Texas Trash - 2 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
Monday, May 27
- High School Band Showcase: Somniac, Tonight’s Sunshine, Mudpuppy, Stripes, The Trees - 5:30 p.m. Club Congress
- DJ Mijito - 10 p.m. Passe
Tuesday, May 28
- Winter, Holy Wave, Suis-je Riche - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, The Mission Creeps- 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Wednesday, May 29
- Taco Sauce, Crooked Saints, More Freaks at Club Congress - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Ghostemane - 8 p.m. Rialto Theatre
Thursday, May 30
- Royal Thunder, Dead Now, Lasiodora - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Sniper 66, THUGxRIOT, Mad World - 7:30 p.m. Ward 6 Collective (DIY show)
- If We Were Turtles, In Lessons, Noise Field- 9 p.m. Sky Bar
Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources. If you've got a gig coming up and you'd like your event listed in this space (or if your local band has a major announcement or a new release) drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.