Under The Radar Bands Coming
To Phoenix In September
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Editor’s note on Undiscovered Sounds: Every so often, Modern Times Magazine talks to bands or other musical performers who have yet to hit the jackpot both in the Phoenix metro and beyond. For some of those featured, it may be the first time they have been interviewed. Others may have been working for years for their ship to come in. But all of them have the dream. They may make Undiscovered Sounds, but their sounds are not unworthy.
Michelle Zauner wrote the debut Japanese Breakfast album in the weeks after her mother died of cancer, thinking she would quit music entirely once it was done. That wasn't the case. When Psychopomp was released to acclaim in 2016, she was forced to confront her grief.
Zauner would find herself reliving traumatic memories multiple times a day during interviews, trying to remain composed while discussing the most painful experience of her life. Her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is a transmutation of mourning, a reflection that turns back on the cosmos in search of healing. And yet, it isn't a concept album.
Over the course of 12 tracks, Zauner explores an expansive thematic universe, a cohesive outpouring of unlike parts structured to create a galaxy of her own design. Within its astral production, much of Soft Sounds From Another Planet stays grounded. With help from co-producer Craig Hendrix (who also co-produced Little Big League's debut) and Jorge Elbrecht, (Ariel Pink, Tamaryn) who mixed the album, Zauner re-contextualizes her bedroom pop beginnings, expanding and maturing her sound. The sheer massiveness of the big room production on Soft Sounds From Another Planet introduces listeners to a new Japanese Breakfast. Zauner's familiar, capacious voice will serve as their guide. Where Psychopomp introduced the world to Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds dives deeper. It builds space where there is none, and suggests that in the face of tragedy, we find ways to keep on living. Check out Japanese Breakfast at Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., on Monday, September 18 with Mannequin Pussy and The Spirit of the Beehive.
Full of listless wanderlust, Kevin Morby’s City Music is a collection inspired by and devoted to the metropolitan experience across America and beyond by a songwriter cast from his own mold. His fourth album, City Music works as a counterpart to Morby's acclaimed 2016 release Singing Saw, an autobiographical set that reflected the solitude and landscape in which it was recorded.
It follows City Music, the yang to its yin, the heads to its tails. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator's brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image. Morby rose to prominence as bassist in Woods, with whom he recorded seven albums on Woodsist Records (Kurt Vile, The Oh Sees, Real Estate) while also forming The Babies with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls. Two albums and a clutch of classic singles with the latter followed. Morby's 2013 debut solo work Harlem River was an homage to New York and featured contributions from artists including Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley (White Fence), while 2014's Still Life garnered universal critical praise. Don’t miss Kevin Morby when he performs on Tuesday, September 19 at Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., with Shannon Lay.
Deerhoof recently announced its new album Mountain Moves will be released September 8 on Joyful Noise Recordings. It is 12 original songs and three covers, and was recorded, performed, and produced by Deerhoof's Greg Saunier, Ed Rodriguez, Satomi Matsuzaki, and John Dieterich, with the Children of Hoof Radio & Television Orchestra.
Mountain Moves features Stereolab's Læticia Sadier, Awkwafina, Juana Molina, Xenia Rubinos, Matana Roberts, among others. Though Deerhoof have often made albums from start to finish with virtually no input from the outside world, now is not the time for artists to operate in isolation. The album throws the doors wide open. Working quickly, the band invited myriad guests to participate, some of them dear friends, others practically strangers. They are of different ages, different nationalities, and different disciplines. The only common thread was that each and every artist on Mountain Moves doesn't fit into a single, neatly-defined category and doesn't wish to.
The results, as expected, were unexpected. Guided vocals and simple melodies were dispatched via email, only to be answered with an outpouring of alternate harmonies, suggestions for arrangements, additional instrumentation. Every file received triggered a new rush of jumbled emotions. Some guests crafted their contributions in the small hours of the dawn, toiling in hotel rooms before driving eight hours to the next tour date; others hopped on the subway and recorded with the band in-person. The record epitomizes the band at its very best, exploring new realms between the poles of independence and invention. It also serves as a welcoming point of entry for new listeners outside Deerhoof's traditional orbit, an opportunity to bring even more voices into the communal conversation. Check out Deerhoof at Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. 2nd Ave., on Saturday, September 23 with Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant and Mavya and the Revolutionary Hell Yeah!
On her first proper album as Jay Som, 22-year-old Melina Duterte solidifies her reputation as a self-made force of sonic splendor and emotional might. If last year's aptly named Turn Into compilation showcased a fuzz-loving artist in flux—chronicling her mission to master bedroom recording—then the rising Oakland star's latest, Everybody Works, is the LP equivalent of mission accomplished.
Duterte is as DIY as ever—writing, recording, playing, and producing every sound beyond a few backing vocals—but she takes us places we never could have imagined, wedding lo-fi rock to hi-fi home orchestration, and weaving evocative autobiographical poetry into energetic punk, electrified folk, and dreamy alt-funk. And while Duterte's early stuff found her bucking against life's lows, Everybody Works is about turning that angst into fuel for forging ahead. It was made in three furious, caffeinated weeks in October.
She came home from the road, moved into a new apartment, set up her bedroom studio (with room for a bed this time) and dove in. Duterte even ditched most of her demos, writing half the LP on the spot and making lushly composed pieces all the more impressive. While the guitar-grinding Jay Som we first fell in love with still reigns on shoegazey shredders and in the melodic distortions, we also get sublimely spacious synth-pop beauty and luxe, proggy funk. Duterte's production approach was inspired by the complexity of Tame Impala, the simplicity of Yo La Tengo, and the messiness of Pixies.
There's story in the sounds—even in the fact that Duterte's voice is more present than before. As for the lyrics, our host leaves the meaning to us. So if we can interpret, there's a bit about the aspirational and fleeting nature of love in the opener, and the oddity of turning your art into job on the titular track. While there's no obvious politics here, Duterte says witnessing the challenges facing women, people of color, and the queer community lit a fire. Don’t miss Jay Som at Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., on Friday, September 29 with Stef Chura and Madeline Kenney.
On its new album Expect The Best Widowspeak uses familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs that ask, "How did we get here?" Sonically, it exists somewhere in the overlap between somber indie rock, dream pop, slow-core and its own invented genre, "cowboy grunge."
At the heart of the band, there is a palpable duality, a push and pull between the delicate and the deliberate: the contrast of lead singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton's strikingly beautiful voice and poignant melodies with the terrestrial reality of being a four-piece rock band. Expect the Best sees Widowspeak finding its greatest balance between opposing forces: darkness and light, quiet and loud, tension and calm. The album was written while Hamilton was living in Tacoma, Wash. after previous stints in upstate New York and Brooklyn.
So much moving around, and specifically a move back to the place she grew up, was the catalyst for a record concerned with self-examination and the sense of dread that comes from feeling adrift. Expect the Best is the follow up to 2015's All Yours. While previous albums were conceived as a duo with lead guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, the new LP finds Widowspeak playing to the specific strengths of the current touring incarnation: James Jano on drums and Willy Muse on bass.
The album, recorded by Kevin MacMahon (Swans, Real Estate), exhibits a marked increase in energy that reflects the band's live show and the organic way it was created: by four people in a room together. The band collectively navigates dynamic changes with subtlety and restraint; the nine tracks here reach highs of wide-eyed lushness and plumb the depths of resigned melancholy. Their usual palette of dusty guitars and angular twang are still here front and center, but now with a bit more 1990s homage, even if abstractly. The Pacific Northwest influences creep in throughout, as do varying flavors of New York's legacy, the city the band still partially calls home. Expect the Best is Widowspeak's heaviest record to date, but never loses the sense of quiet intimacy that they are known for. Check out Widowspeak with Clearance on Saturday, September 30th at Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix.
Dietary Restructure A family man decides to get a consultation from a nutritionist. But when he realizes that losing weight will mean cutting out food items like cheddar fries, he obfuscates: all in good taste, of course.