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The Rifle: stellar songwriting and an indelible voice

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Tucson has been in a kind of psychedelic wave in the last few years. After the garage rock revival of the 2000s—with bands like The Resonars and The Okmoniks, with the former signing to (and influencing) the mighty California label Burger Records toward the end of the decade—the next natural stop in that evolution was psych (but thankfully we've so far been spared psych's expected outgrowth—prog).

The heavyweights of Tucson psychedelic rock, like Lenguas Largas and Burning Palms, veer much closer to the "rock" than the "psych" and that's part of what makes them so good. But in the last few years, while there's been plenty of '60s-flavored rock 'n' roll bands, the real action, at least in indie-rock circles, has been mixing some of that dreamy spaciness (or spacey dreaminess) with a '90s underground rock sound derived from bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices.

The Rifle, although hampered by their somewhat generic, Americana-sounding name, actually rise above what is pretty much a boring turn of events in local music. They list Pavement, along with Built to Spill and Of Montreal as influences, and the band certainly nails the expansive widescreen sound of these bands, particularly in the guitar playing of vocalist Nelene DeGuzman.

The Rifle's 2015 EP, Spill, bobs along and swings more than it pounds. On songs like "Skeletons" and "Mothra,"the group weaves evocations of high and lonesome country music, '60s baroque pop in the tradition of David Axelrod or Dusty Springfield. This is a particularly wise move, and ups the Rifle's appeal threefold.

But what makes this band rise above the din of Tucson psych and indie is the combination of stellar songwriting and DeGuzman's indelible voice, which provides an emotional handrail to someplace bigger. And while Spill is just fine, I don't think it's out of the question to expect great things from this band, especially after they outgrow their '60s-meet-'90s roots. Go see The Rifle with the debut of Silver Cloud Express (ex-Modeens) and Peppermint Hippo on Friday Nov. 11 at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress. 9 p.m.


More by Joshua Levine

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