Arizona’s 2007 self-titled debut has a playful, organic…wait, what? It’s been out for almost a year? You’ve got to be kidding me! You mean I’m reviewing an album that, by our standards, should have been checked off the list a long time ago? Huh, well it appears that way, but there’s a good reason for that. Arizona, much like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, has built up a tidy bit of buzz over the past year or so, though more prominently in the past six months, thanks to the strength of a self-released album. The Hype Machine only reveals about a dozen different blogs posting about the New York band before the end of 2006, so it appears we’re not alone, but 8,000 MySpace friends, some airplay on WOXY.com, and it seems that the group has effectively built up some momentum.
Well, given that this label-less labor of love earned its audience the organic way, there weren’t Arcade Fire-like levels of publicity upon its August release, yet this late-published review indicates we’re a little late to the party. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean this album rocks any less due to our obsession with, say, Grizzly Bear or Junior Boys at the time this album was beginning to circulate. In fact, considering how saturated the market currently is with fuzzy indie pop dudes sporting beards, Arizona’s songwriting creativity comes as a blessing for those bored with the ubiquitous Pavement worship that seems to be going around.
I can only imagine that someone somewhere is banging on a kitchen sink, as that’s the one thing seemingly missing from this freshman effort. Apologies if that joke was a bit obvious, but it’s certainly fitting, given the range of instrumentation and arrangements on this splendid album. Beginning with sweetly fingerpicked riffs, “Te Amo Tanto” heightens into an epic rock triumph, voices soaring in unison, distortion exploding underneath. “Some Kind of Chill” has a playful, quirky progression, gently swaying with its simple acoustic strums, as more vocal harmonization turns it into a dandy of a pop song. “Diventa Blu” is a dreamy, incredible standout, heavenly organ providing an ethereal hook, backed by galloping percussion. Then comes the amazing “Splintering,” a song that compelled me to claim this disc as my own in the first place. A cello churns out an incredibly catchy riff, backed with cascading glockenspiel and handclaps-a-plenty. Sure enough, this song, as well, erupts into a big ol’ rock song, with the group once again singing in unison “I believe what you reap you sow/ so what goes around comes around/ it will come back around, so long as I’m around.”
There are more laid back pleasantries in instrumental track “Old Man With Bad Back Climbing Up Staircase,” as the group juxtaposes piano and harpsichord harmonies. The straightforward indie pop of “David” is a warm song that elicits a few smiles with its lyrics of a childhood bird, named David, of course. The slide melodies on “Waking Up” recall George Harrison, which is always a good thing, as is the upbeat, rip-roaring rock `n’ roll of “Somersby.”
Arizona covers a lot of ground on their debut, yet stick to a tuneful and earthy approach, which makes for an all around invigorating listen. Something tells me I should have discovered this a while ago, but there’s nothing I can do about this now, except for recommend to anyone reading to seek out this wonderful record.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.