Another year has ended. While some people are already looking forward to the big events of 2022, music fans are instead considering the most anticipated album releases. But don’t forget that new music comes out every week, and various local bands closed the month of December with the release of several excellent singles and albums. Some were filled with holiday cheer, and others tended to celebrate anything loud and crisp. Either way, here’s our pick of the best songs of the month.
Snailmate, ‘Under my tree’
By the time you read this, Christmas will be over by now, leaving only frayed nerves and packages of cool tubular socks. But in case your holiday celebrations were spent listening to Wham !, Bing Crosby and / or Andy Williams, you can extend the Christmas cheer with an original song by Snailmate from Phoenix. “Under My Tree” really is a nontraditional holiday ballad as this DIY synth-pop jam would be better suited for a nightclub instead of playing in Uncle Dave’s house. But that doesn’t mean it’s not yet appropriate for the season; with lyrics about “frozen hearts” and no gifts under the tree, it’s a song that addresses the inherent loneliness and disconnects some people at this time of year. (Something we can all relate to after a few COVID Christmases.) In that sense, it’s one of the few songs that actually transcends the season – now it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Playboy Manbaby, “The feeling I get while stroking a dog”
The Playboy Manbaby catalog features songs on very specific topics. This robust list includes the boredom of others (“Strangers Making Assumptions”) and the beauty of everyday life (“Smashed Hotdog”). This trend continues with their latest EP, the five tracks Toxic positivity, and more particularly the unusual track, “The Feeling I Get When Petting A Dog”. Is this messy and deliciously ramshackle slice of pop-punk about something as simple and wonderful as the title suggests? Yeah, duh. But like Playboy Manbaby, it’s also about letting go of all that baggage of the past and all future anxieties, and instead of living happily and joyfully in the moment – whether it’s in your relationships, at the moment. work and, yes, even petting cute doggies. Playboy Manbaby are the award winning poets of modern life, and this song is a real gem in their weird and wonderful discography.
Not almost, “Big Gas Pack”
On paper, Not Nearly has what it takes to be a popular band – at least in the hard rock hobbyist hemisphere of Arizona. That’s because the band describes themselves as “post-hardcore / emo with math tracks and progressive whirlwinds”, and they more than hold the promise of sonic complexity and robust emotionality. Example: “Big Gas Pack”, extract from the group’s 11 tracks album Future damage. The song checks each fret for their basic sound: robust instrumentation (I love those big, shimmering guitars); sayings about pheromones and become jaded; and voices alternating between serious sincerity and screaming rage. Yet even though the single does adhere to certain sonic “standards”, Not Nearly has a certain nuance and commitment that makes their songs ultimately excel in terms of overall ambition and trajectory. Maybe they shouldn’t be called Not Nearly and go through Capable and Talented instead.
sugar cowboy, ‘juniper’
There are a lot of gadgets involved with the Sugar Cowboy. For example, all songs are apparently “recorded on iPhone voice memo”. In addition, their latest LP is called Phase Fifteen: Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a side of airplane noise and you’ll be Gary, Indiana. (Yes, there are 14 other “phases” with equally wacky / absurd titles.) Yet, based on songs like “Juniper,” The Sugar Cowboy is more than any weird marketing ploy. The song itself is a bit like Daniel Johnston’s Gen Z version, that bizarre, painfully lo-fi ballad that promises to be engulfed either by the accordion part or by the endless echo and reverberation. But dig a little deeper, and there’s something really charming and engaging about the middle of this deliberate brow of purely weird vibes. Maybe the brand of sugar cowboy rock isn’t exactly for everyone, but if you can get your hands on it, it will likely tunnel into the deepest shells of your heart.
CIVILIA, ‘This is not the devil’
Let’s say you enjoyed Not Nearly’s rugged emo, and now you’re looking for even more hard rock goodness. Well, you’re in luck because the valley’s own CIVILIA have unveiled their latest album, the 12 tracks Past lives. The entire LP is kind of a sample board for anyone who enjoys this hazy conglomerate of shoegaze, progressive rock, and alternative rock made famous by Tool and the Deftones. However, the real track that stands out just happens to be “This Isn’t The Devil”. On the one hand, this seems to be the best representation of the band’s sound, with a particular emphasis on that robust sense of melody and tune of romanticism. At the same time, however, some of those “brighter” tracks make it a bit more palatable to a larger audience than the crispier moments on the album. CIVILIA can make the noise, but it’s their restraint and nuances that make them particularly exciting.