Singles Going Steady-Three Sizzling Summer Tunes!

The season pool parties, late night madness until dawn and more noticeable warmth is well on its way and there is nothing better to celebrate the six month Summer season than some sweet singles that make the living a little easier. These three songs scream “Anthems of Summer” and they have all been released in the last week. This is all Summer time music from the surf pop rock of Party Gardens to the easy Stax soul of Samuel L Cool J to the Funky Ska of The Hourglass cats, if nothing gets you in the mood for the life by poolside, I’m not sure anything will, but folks, without further ado, here comes the Summer of 2014.

Party Gardens – “Highwaves”

You might ask yourself, “Who the hell are Party Gardens?” If you listen to the song first, you may notice they sound a touch familiar if you’ve been listening to Arizona music for any length of time, because they used to be called Yellow Minute. They moved to LA a few months ago, shortly thereafter changed their name and though they are technically not local anymore I will always hold a place in my heart and my ears for their music–especially after hearing the first single that has come out from their upcoming debut EP, DANCE FLORA! I was already psyched to hear what they’ve been working on since Sean Brennan went from being a one man act to a full five piece band, but now I am out of mind in anticipation to hear what the rest of the release will sound like. On this song they come across as something of a West Coast version of Vampire Weekend, which is awesome in my opinion, because I love VW, but I love Party Gardens more. Also, I’m not sure I have ever heard a more upbeat song about apocalyptic visions in my life and honestly, the band has simply never sounded better. This is three minutes and twenty-five seconds of pure power pop bliss, pure an simple, sunshine in your face, while there are earthquakes and landslides with at least a nice ocean breeze going on. I highly recommend listening to this well crafted tune on headphones, because they seriously indulge in the joy of stereo separation with great effect. It all ends with an echoing laugh and a psychedelic fade, much the way I imagine a summer apocalypse should. Surf pop rock at its finest. Stayed tuned for more from Party Gardens this Summer, I have a feeling it will be one of the best EPs of the year.

Samuel L Cool J – “Slip And Slide”

This little all star group started by Joel Marquard and Haendel Balzora is quickly becoming one of my favorite acts in town. Last weekend they released a split 7″ record with Black Carl at Crescent Ballroom and “Slip And Slide” is their side of that record. First of all, I love the Tamla-Motown/Stax era of music and all that it created, so it’s not much of a stretch for me to openly adore this funky soul revival squad that happens to have some of my favorite locals at the helm. I have to admit, though that I never thought a local group would even approach the idea of  heading straight to the heart of R&B/Doo-Wop/Soul in quite this way–hell, most of the groups in this town that are deep into soul and a Motown sound are fronted by women, so this is refreshing. In addition to the retro heart of this project, this song is just a great summertime hit designed for cocktail laden pool parties right from the start. For a second thing, this record sounds like it was recorded in 1963, from the expert Spector like drum intro to the echo chamber vocals and it evokes a long gone era in American music, where pop culture phenomena like a Slip ‘n’ Slide would actually become fodder for songs, with a fair amount of innuendo. Samuel L. Cool J achieves this with perfection and it also happens to be catchy as all hell–I guarantee that I will catch myself singing “I wanna’ get you on my slip and slide, take a ride, down to the pool at the end…” while walking down the street in the next few weeks, if not tomorrow. This is as much pop genius as it is an homage to songs manufactured in the Brill Building and the addition of the female backing vocals and the sax solo are simply icing on the cake. This is so refreshing I can’t stand it.

The Hourglass Cats – “Too Damn Rude”

I was super surprised and more than pleased when The Hourglass Cats released a new single out of the blue last week and on this foray they go all out Ska. I mean like they should open for Fishbone and The Specials kind of Ska. This is, perhaps, their finest song to date and the sound brings me back to the Ska I enjoyed as a young punk, long before the Ska revival when Ska and punk became confused with other genres and when everything, including bands like No Doubt, were labelled Ska. No, this is Ska in the vein of Madness, The Toasters, classic Ska to a tee that makes me smile so wide it makes my face hurt.  While this is there best recording to date, that needs to be qualified, it’s not just that the song is catchy and the sound is great, but the composition and the use of the sax, keys and trombone are startlingly brilliant. It’s less than three an a half a minutes long and its simply perfect, the first time I heard it Jeff Moses had selected it as a song to play on Radio Phoenix when we co-hosted the monthly YabYum Music and Arts Hour last Friday and it blew my mind. Lyrically, it’s simple enough, concerning a femme fatale that gets everything she wants, but comes across with a bit too much attitude with this particular cat. Cori Rios’ vocal delivery is fantastic and the chorus is catchier than anything they’ve done since “Yoga Butt”, but the music is so fantastic that it almost overshadows the story that is being told–this is not a complaint. If this is the direction The Hourglass Cats are heading in I would like to demand that they put out a full album this time around, because I’m afraid that a five or six song EP simple won’t feed my hunger for what they are offering this time around.