Top Tucson Albums of 2015 ... So Far

Five records made locally that I can’t stop listening to

Louise Le Hir, Louise Le Hir

A beautiful blend of vintage yé-yé French psychedelia and soulful twangy jams, Louis Le Hir’s first solo album proves her chops. Recorded in locally-owned Midtown Island Studios by Matt Rendon of Resonars fame, Le Hir hasn’t dipped into the scene so much as dove head first with help from her right hand woman Annie Dolan as well as Rendon, Jeff Lownsbury (Katterwaul) and Ryan Chavira (Prom Body). What results is an honest depiction of her influences—she’s admittedly Byrds obsessed, but also feels a strong connection to her French upbringing.

My Favorite Track: “Les Birdies”

It’s a delightful and playful track laced with upbeat organ that shows the strength of both Le Hir’s songwriting and the album’s artful production—plus it’s in French.

Human Behavior, Bethpage

If Tucson had a bayou, Human Behavior’s latest album would certainly have sprung from it. It’s folksy and bluesy and murky, dripping with religious influence and bouncing from a full spiritual chorus to barren and abstract shouting. The mood, as much as the words themselves, express discontent and disillusionment, but somehow can still part the clouds with brighter moments almost akin to Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise-era banjo plucking. The expansive range might be from the band’s collective nature (as many as 13 people perform in the band at any given time), but, either way, the ten-chapter album stays thematically cohesive throughout.

My Favorite Track: “Chapter 8”

Things get a little witchy and a little spooky with siren-like backup vocals. The significantly more up-tempo song feels a little like Danielson with seemingly off-kilter harmonies and more lush instrumentation with accordion, guitar, banjo and more. It’s equal parts Haunted Mansion and O Brother, Where Art Thou.

Trans Van Santos, Moon Mirage

Trans Van Santos’ Mark Matos doesn’t quite fit in. Somewhere between the old school Howe Gelb crowd and the up-and-coming heavily-psych influenced acts like Myrrors and Mute Swan, Matos has become a midway point. He’s a little bit folk and country and a little bit trippy rock and roll with his own Brazillian persuasions by way of Tropicália. It works.

My Favorite Track: “The Flight”

While “Rocket Man” is the most radio friendly and “Turquoise and Silver” pretty much sounds like the ambiance of the desert authenticated by fabricated coyote howling, this song keeps me listening with a strong aural motif. It’s empty and full all at once. It’s moody and dark. If "True Detective" is looking for a theme song for their Arizona season (come on, Nic Pizzolatto), this is it.

BRYDES, Turquoise

Leading lady Kaia Mazza may have made her name as a acoustic guitar carrying folk songbird in this town, but as BRYDES, she’s developed into a full-blown pop darling. With her husband Nick Mazza (Best Dog Award) and drummer Robbie Williamson, BRYDES hits a heavy ’80s influence with modern comparisons to Chairlift or Haim. Even the name Turquoise seems to hint at ’80s Southwestern décor. Overall, it’s an unapologetically fun album embellished with glittering synth, Peter Gabriel-style drum machines and the occasional steel guitar—just so you know it’s from Tucson. Made downtown at St. Cecilia Studios where Williamson works, Turquoise carries the same clean and intentional production that the studio is becoming known for.

My Favorite Track: “Bright Eyed Boy”

I tried hard not to pick this track for fear of being accused of poptimism—a plague of modern music criticism. But look, this song sticks in your head in all the right ways. It fits right in on KXCI’s rotation because it’s a hit. Enough said.

Sun Bones/Best Dog Award, West Foot Forward: Vol 1

True, both bands on this special split 7” release have put out some of their best work to date this year in the way of Sun Bones’ self-titled album and BDA’s Faith-Based Space Place, both of which you should check out. However, what’s most exciting about this Baby Gas Mask release is the start of a Tucson musical legacy forged to promote the killer acts that make this scene so special. The handmade-by-the-artists packaging and one-of-a-kind marbled vinyl make each individual record a work of art. It might only be two tracks, but this is precisely the sort of local love that will show the outside world what the Old Pueblo is made of. Since there are only two songs, I’m just going to suggest you listen to “Never Going Back” and “Regular Hits” with equal fervor.

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