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Java.April.2017

DEVIL GRASS Dog + Cross

DEVIL GRASS Dog + Cross EP LANE CHANGE Rise EP DINERS A Soft Day EP I’ve been waiting for Devil Grass’ debut EP since they released their first original single at the start of 2016. It almost felt like I’d only dreamed about “In the Cut.” But lo and behold, Devil Grass has released the fourtrack Dog + Cross EP, and it’s a great introduction to a big, twangy rock ’n’ roll band. You wouldn’t suspect anything twangy from the feedback-laden intro of “Hundred-Year Woods,” which becomes a shimmering wall of guitars inside of a minute. By the time the vocals are being delivered, there is a bit of high desert roaming through the soundscape, but this is epic rock ’n’ roll that’s just drifting toward the scent of sagebrush. At nearly seven minutes, you’d think it would be the longest track here, but they save that for the finale. I was glad to see “In the Cut” made the cut, since it’s what sold me on their sound in the first place. While it features blazing guitar and a definite rock vibe, it’s soaked in whiskey-fueled Americana warmth. “Pioneers,” the most upbeat track here, starts off as near power pop with its catchy-as-hell delivery, manic piano and brilliant guitar hook, then becomes nearly a prog-rock extravaganza in the end. If this EP’s idea is to show off every side of Devil Grass, then they’ve achieved their mission, and they sealed the deal with “St. Joe’s Spitting Image,” an eightand-a-half-minute opus about the changes a man goes through upon becoming a father. This may be an EP, but it’s weighted like an album and just shy of being one, considering its length alone. Sonically speaking, it defies genre, while feeling authentic and original. Lane Change has been kicking around since 2013, but I’m just now catching up with them. They recently released the four-track Rise EP, a follow-up to their 2015 self-titled debut. Lane Change are Myles Vann (vocals), Jake Galambos (guitars), Lizzie Shafer (bass and vocals) and Cameron Holladay (drums). The opener, “The Rich Get Richer” is a cathartic indictment of the 1% and the wealthy lording over the working class. It’s delivered like a rock ’n’ roll anthem and feels like one, crossing the border between grunge and, say, Guns ‘N’ Roses. It’s a good sound and a refreshing revival that coalesces two rock directions effortlessly. “Club 27” rages naturally, and its groove catches you up quickly. This is rock to get rowdy with, even with its rather gruesome topic, which I suppose adds to the allure, so this is an apropos tribute to Cobain, Morrison and other luminaries of Club 27. You wouldn’t expect a near-gospel start to “Floodwater,” but soon the killer guitars kick in and all is right in the world. Still, the dual vocals between Vann and Shafer are the star attraction here, and no amount of guitar could say otherwise. This song is filled with a refreshing dynamism that gets you moving no matter the mood. Rise finishes with “We Won’t Back Down,” which shines a keen spotlight on Shafer’s wicked bass line, wrapping around like a serpent and seducing you to submit to its groove. With a strange reggae-meetsgoth vibe, this is possibly the most curious number, yet utterly compelling. This and “Floodwater” are thoroughly designed to amaze intellectually, while the first two songs grab you instinctually. Not a bad way to go about it. Diners, being unpredictable as ever, just released a surprise EP on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed “three.” That album had fans waiting over two years, so following up with an EP in just five months is pretty great news. The idea was to record an entire record in a day, and Tyler Broderick Blue did just that with Jalipaz from Audioconfusion. A Soft Day feels like a perfect title to describe the record. Released just over a week after recording, it’s the perfect indie pop soundtrack to an Arizona spring. You can even hear the sounds of the birds at the end of “Waiting for Music, Pt. 2.” “Dear Diane” is simple dream pop fueled by teenage dreams, sounding like a forlorn cross between odes from the early ’60s and lo-fi pop of the early ’90s. Meanwhile, “Nothing Ain’t Nothing” is immediate single material steeped deeply in Arizona imagery, as the protagonist finds the reason we love to live here. “Syncronicity” [sic] has a ’60s pop-song construction somewhere between Brill Building and The Lovin’ Spoonful, clever and cute at once. For pop genius in under a minute, “Bummer Deal” ends up being just that, because you want about three to four more minutes of it. “Don’t Be a Fool” is one of Broderick’s adorable advice tunes, giving childlike insights over an intoxicating minimalist backdrop. The mini album finishes with “When the Phone Rings,” with more wistful thought wanderings with a charming innocence. Diners are a good-vibes kind of band with their sunshine-laden sounds, and for a record performed and recorded on the fly, A Soft Day is surprisingly consistent in its simplistic warmth. 32 JAVA MAGAZINE Sounds Around Town By Mitchell L. Hillman

THE DESERT BEATS Desert Beats PHANTOM PARTY Hundred Skeletons STRANGE LOT God & Clods The Desert Beats are the musical vision of Tucson’s Randall Dempsey. The Sonoran desert lends itself to psychedelia and beach vibes—maybe because the desert is all beach but with no ocean until you get to the edge of it—while native mescaline could account for the other element. “Rumble” kicks off as though a madman on peyote is exploding out of his garage on a surfboard, carried by tumbleweeds. It’s an instant classic. The entire album is a labor of love that Dempsey has been assembling for years, and he nailed it. It becomes enchanted by new-wave and post-punk flourishes for “You Will Be My Last Thought,” which shows a tremendous pop aesthetic, while being subtly aggressive. “Nothing Without You” was an early single that sounds only slightly reworked. It’s always been a brilliant track of desert rock, with a Kings of Leon vocal delivery.“We Can’t Forget” gets back to the previous vibe of pub rock meets power pop, and “Receive the Dark” closes out the first half on a somber, sober, swirling note. The neurotic rock vibe of “Forgive Myself” is part guitar, part synths and in total contrast to anything on the first side—as much Eno as ELO, but mildly terrifying. “Wolfman Is Here” feels like the ride will continue to be harrowing, in a desert goth way, but with angular guitars and attitude. Nothing could prepare you for the gospel harmony intro of “Lost My Way” or its tone of redemption as the band re-emerges into a sunshine-laden surf tune. “Humble Gun” is a danceable little rave-out rocker with a Cramps vibe. “People Hurt” finishes the album with more than a few pages taken out of Black Sabbath’s book. Last year, I had been eagerly anticipating a follow-up to Phantom Party’s debut EP, Stellar, from 2015. They released the ultra-limited Beach Cult cassette, which was a reworking of songs from Stellar. At long last, Phantom Party has delivered with the full-length Hundred Skeletons. Phantom Party is vocalist/guitarist Joshua Capati, bassist Matthew Slusser and drummer Austin Cooper, and they take beach-blanket music to a whole new level. The album kicks off with “Sedna,” which, barring the much bigger percussion at the start, seems to be Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” only slightly shorter. “Catholic School” was one of the strongest singles from Stellar, and its inclusion is welcome here, kicking the record into gear. By the time “Elvis” comes around, you’re joining Phantom Party at their fantasy desert beach. “Gypsy” gives a similar vibe, though here it’s a little closer to their original concept of Morrissey singing for a surf band, with plenty of reverb on the vox. “Derby Daze” was a Beach Boys–esque single in late 2015, and it makes a reprise appearance here. It’s also a testament to their consistent vision that these songs still fit into the new record. “Mermaid” begs for actual wave sounds for this forlorn tale of love and woe, because how else can a song about a mermaid go? “Runaway Bride” is a roaring little locomotive number that keeps the pace going, only to be stopped by the tropical surprise of the ukulele-driven “Post Grad,” in a brilliant juxtaposition. The intoxicating “Tunnel of Love” is an obvious single, but the album finishes with a flurry of them, including the title track, “Vice Kid,” “Charlie” and “Twenty,” which suggests that the first side of the record is noodling about their past, while saving the best for last. Sounds Around Town By Mitchell L. Hillman Strange Lot have been one of the most consistently strong local bands since their debut in 2014. Just under two years after their last album, Dominic Mena, Tim Lormor and Dave Dennis present Gods & Clods, their newest psychedelic, garage rock opus. Strange Lot sound as though they were either a great lost psychedelic treasure from 1967 or a great lost psych treasure from 1990. They groove either way and waste no time getting to it with the one-two punch of “Born” followed by “Gods & Clods” as equal-measured singles. “Numbers” is a little more frantic and darker, getting into a bit of Amboy Dukes and The Seeds territory. With “Pushin’ Too Hard” there is a sense of urgency at the start, before the song melts into Revolver-era Beatlesque meanderings. Going for irony, “The Quiet” feels more akin to Britpop musings of Blur in the mid- ’90s, making for a dizzying but exciting shift. On the corner of noise rock and freak beat, “This Is the Light” is haltingly fascinating and confusing by turns. “Describe Your Mess” opens the second half with a more modern take on lysergic daydream music, and you can almost hear Syd Barrett lurking in the corner. As “Oxygn” reaches your brain, you already feel intoxicated. Messing with your head in every measure, this is a modern psychedelic classic. “Have It Your Way” feels like peculiar shimmering pop, in contrast, while the lyrics lie still deeply in thought—think Flaming Lips meets Chamber Pop. “Crimes All Day” has a peculiar Tijuana tinge to its inebriating flow. The album closes with the peculiar and charming “DFunkt,” with its summery groove. For more on these events and other highlights of the Phoenix music scene, check out Mitchell’s blog at http://soundsaroundtown.net. For submissions or suggestions contact him at mitchell@ soundsaroundtown.net JAVA 33 MAGAZINE

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