1. “Amends” – Radiofix. “Amends” is the latest video from Phoenix-based band Radiofix off Meet Me At The End. Its soaring, stylish piano-driven alt-rock is a reminder that the desert (birthplace of bands like Less than Jake and Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers) breeds talent. This track reveals a new compositional depth to frontman Daniel Martin (guitar and lead vocals). He is joined on a surrealist vision quest by bandmates Benjamin Thurston on bass and Tim Schultz on drums. In this Mark Maryanovich and Carolyne Stossel production, aerialist Michelle Milan (@meeshmishka) remains an ethereal presence, lightness in the shadows thanks to Jake Billingsley at Copper State Production.
Music video narratives like this must have makeup like Micheal Hall’s (@michealhallbeauty), helping audiences to immerse in the story. The work brings to mind Matt C. White’s “Oath” party scenes. With Carolyne Stossel as director and editor, sustained mystery is key to this music video’s artistic success. Dropping classic cars into the mix fits perfectly here thanks to Arizona Classic CarSales. In the end, the sound of Nancy Livingston’s violin echoes Radiofix’s idea that in life we all make mistakes. “Amends, from Meet Me At The End, claims ownership of one of Arizona’s top power ballads of 2021. –Lisa Whealy
2. “Vibe Check” – Scattered Melodies. Wanna party? Undoubtedly, “Vibe Check” from Scattered Melodies could be 2021’s funk hip-hop song of the year. Producers Anthony Brant, Killa Maus, and Josh Montag took the band’s story into Highland Recording Studio and let it rip. Here, Esteban Obregon, Jake Johnston, and Josh Montag filmed, while Tony Brant and Killa Maus recorded and mixed. Johnston and Montag both directed and edited this collaborative masterpiece knowing that this is their funky family, so check-in and vibe!
The joy here is being brought into the studio experience with creatives whose energy feels contagious, the perfect way to step on the For the Funk Of It Festival stage. Scattered Melodies’ backline of founding members Jake Johnston (bass) and Josh Montag (drums) sets the groove. Killa Maus plays guitar and keyboard along with his distinct vocals. However, the standout vocal performances from Haley Green and Laura Hamlin bring to mind the women of Brooklyn funk geniuses Turkuaz.
Saxman Phelan Parker joins forces with guitarist Kazton Boone and Taylor Bracamonte on the keyboard. Human is Scattered Melodies’ superpower; his rapid-fire rap twists through the jazz-infused melody. In the end, “Vibe Check” from Scattered Melodies proves, in case you missed the memo, funk is NOT dead. It is in fact alive and well in the Arizona sunshine. –Lisa Whealy
3. “Everything Goes On” – Robert Jürjendal. Jürjendal’s guitar-and-synth composition unfolds like a light-dappled scene viewed by a weary traveler coming over the last hill into the valley. It’s gentle, immersive, and beautiful, like Sigur Ros at its most airy.
4. “Oscillate” – Mathieu Karsenti and Josh Doughty. A mysterious, elegant arrangement of kora and strings that puts the West African instrument in an interesting new light, almost like a European harp.
5. “Fin du Monde” – Rum Velvet. I have recently gotten very excited about gypsy brass, and Rum Velvet offers up a lovely slice here. The tuba is doin’ work, the trumpets have great melodies, and the whole piece has the swagger and flair that gypsy brass does so well. Highly recommended.
6. “The Only Living Boy in New York” – Racoon Racoon and The Duke of Norfolk. An IC fave (Racoon Racoon) and a longtime personal friend (The Duke, aka Adam Howard) link up for a moving cover of one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs. This delicate, immaculately engineered indie-folk cut is an absolutely lovely piece. (Full disclosure: I managed The Duke of Norfolk from 2010-2014.)
7. “Seasonal Depression” – Pink Laundry. This track from Judah and the Lion frontman Judah Akers fuses .fun-style drama, cleverly arranged indie-pop, and the lyrical ambitions of maximalist pop-punk in a bracing track. The juxtaposition of the repeated refrain of “fucking with my mind” with a through-line of hopeful, perseverant spirituality is a surprising and moving choice.
8. “Agatha” – Autumn Owls. Autumn Owls is a long exercise in tension and juxtaposition. “Agatha” is no different: ominous, brooding arrangements contrast against bold vocals. There are traces of Radiohead, The National, and more “serious” music in this surprisingly punchy dark indie track.
9. “Venice 1” – Doug Thomas, Luca Longabordi. Thomas and Longabordi have found a midpoint between highly ornamented baroque fugues and mid-century minimalist that skips all the romantic stuff in the middle. This precise, speedy piece is formal and yet fun: an exercise that becomes fun along the way.
10. “Coronach” – Daniel Bachman. 9 minutes of engaging solo acoustic guitar that moves from spacious picking to dense, swirling, torrential layers and back. Commands the room in a way that is difficult for solo acoustic guitar to do.
11. “Gloomy Lights” – Orange and Mountains. Sometimes a title is really just spot on. This combination of acoustic guitar, strings, synths, and gentle percussion is a neat balance of light and dark, shine and gloom, upbeat and downbeat. There’s a lot going on, in the best of ways.