Head Over Heart has deliberately positioned itself as musical and cultural outsiders in Tucson's downtown music community, which values authenticity, or at least the appearance of it. But the embodiment of authenticity is a loose premise at best—it has far more to do with a polite sense of passive aggressive underachievement, rather than anything musical. Still, Head Over Heart performing with a computer onstage, providing musical sequences and the universal no-no of pre-recorded backing vocals, is defiant, as is their electro-organic blend of drum machine rock. (Note: this show will probably be the last to feature drum loops; the duo has recently acquired a live drummer.)
None of this matters on any kind of meaningful scale because Downtown Tucson is, well, Downtown Tucson and Head Over Heart is pretty great. Jordan Prather and Belinda Peters are unabashedly pop, and their brand of it is innocently sweet, like power-popping cotton candy, but hardly bubblegum. Their songs naively soar and swoop under the veneer of guitars processed to sound like synths imitating guitars and two finger keyboard basslines that bring back fond memories of Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode. But for all of the electronic trappings, Head Over Heart is straight pop/rock, even if the band appears to have been born and raised in a Radio Shack. As if on cue, screeching microphone feedback that punctuated the final song proved that this band is human after all, and their loss of control of the assembly line added an element of personality that they sometimes seem eager to suppress.
Superficially, Phoenix's Bogan Via comes across as Head Over Heart's brooding, goth-kid twin. Madelaine Miller and Bret Bender hovering over keyboards and howling together with the occasional appearance of a guitar, combined with noir-ish synth-rock that envisions a land before EDM does confirm this, but ultimately Bogan Via has little in common with Head Over Heart. Besides being fantastic.
The songs of Bogan Via are far too nuanced and affecting than to be dismissed as mere fodder for the Surly Wench's Industrial DJ dance night. Though they often veer off into thumping black celebrations, Miller and Bender are just as likely to imply warth, whether it's from their harmonizing, lyrics or just a general sense of not being constrained to a pre-existing formula. And that's what leaves Bogan Via as multi-dimensional band undefined by their instrumentation.