By Tom Reardon, November 2019 Issue.

There is always a

bit of trepidation when reviewing Phoenix bands, at least for me. As a Phoenix

musician, as well, I empathize a bit too much with my fellow musicians but I

also feel the writer’s responsibility to share my truth so I straddle a fence

that is sometimes made of cotton candy, and sometimes it is made of rusty, yet

sharp, barbwire. Each of these artists and bands have a great career ahead of

them and for all three I have reviewed, I truly believe, they have what it

takes to be future hall of famers.

Emby Alexander – Cactus Candy

On Cactus Candy,

which is the latest release by Emby Alexander, I feel like the proverbial fence

to straddle here is made of wool. It’s warm and a great thing to have when you

need it, but there are times when it just doesn’t quite fit. On one hand, I

really like the myriad of influences I hear on Cactus Candy. I hear

obvious nods to Morrissey, who might not be the best person to align yourself

right now, but I still love 95% of his music, especially his work with the Smiths.

I also hear Imperial Teen, too, which is really special to me in so many ways,

but … I also hear an effort that does not live up to the high heights I think

it was meant to live up to when Emby Alexander went into the studio and

recorded this lush, but flawed album. It reaches for things it can’t quite

grab, yet the talent is there and when it hits, it really hits hard. I enjoy

“No Makeup” and “Bright Wound” completely and utterly.  They are like cashmere, which is a wonderful

fabric, but it also comes with a price for both the consumer and the goat and

can get easily snagged when sitting on the fence.

Paper Foxes – Popular Confessions

I’m old, at least

when it comes to my ability to sniff out a killer early ‘80s post-punk riff and

by post-punk I mean the music that came out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s

that pre-dates “alternative” music and snuggles up nicely with “new wave.”

Paper Foxes haven’t been around since the ‘80s and I’m guessing some of the

members may not have even been alive when their musical forefathers and mothers

were cranking out the type of jams that permeate Popular Confessions,

but the spirit of the era is alive and well on this new release from the

Phoenix band. “Dance of the Dead” beautifully marries the old, think Oingo

Boingo, and the relatively new, think Bloc Party. It’s the second track on the

record and it really shines from start to finish, straddling a fence made of

danceable bass madness and hook-laden vocals that make you want to sing along

before you even know the words. Like the musical middle child it is, “Pop

Confessions” is probably well-suited for just being allowed to go through life

unnoticed and if any of the songs on Popular Confessions are “filler” this is

the one. By the time you get to the adventurous “Get Off the Wall,” though, all

sins are forgiven and the record finishes strong.

Rising Sun Daughter –I See Jane

If you don’t fall in love with Grace Rolland a little bit after the first forty seconds of her first Rising Sun Daughter EP, I See Jane, then you’re straddling the wrong fence entirely. The Mesa-born-and-bred singer who is known for her work in Run Boy Run, hits all the right notes, pun intended, on this five-song puller of heart strings. Rolland plays the majority of the instruments on this record and, at least for a bass player like me who tries to play guitar every once in a while, it is just unfair that someone can be so proficient on multiple instruments and sing like a goddamn angel. While her previous work fit nicely in the Americana genre, I See Jane shows a breadth of influence that portends great things to come for this talented young lady. Since this month I’m comparing our local talent to famous folks, I’d have to say that Rolland’s work here echoes, on occasion, Sarah McLaughlin, Brandi Carlile, and even a smidge of Laurie Anderson’s amazing instrumentation. Fans of Rolland’s earlier work may naturally gravitate to “Blackberry Bramble” but for my money, “I See Jane” and “Dark Highways” are the real revelations here.

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

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