Arizona is not from Arizona. They are from New York. They don’t live in New York, though. They live in Asheville. Clear? OK, let’s proceed.
Glowing Bird, Arizona’s latest album, is Prog-Rock. No doubt about it. Yet it doesn’t sound dated, doesn’t sound like a Genesis or Yes rip-off. Glowing Bird fits inconspicuously among the brightest and the best presently being released.
It’s all the rage these days to throw back to The Beatles, but mostly, such efforts consist of a nod or glance in that direction. Arizona gives the Fab Four a chest bump, a hand shake, and a pint. “Swimming Hole,” specifically, takes all the best elements from a Beatles pop hit without plundering foolishly. It’s still Arizona, still original. In fact, Arizona is the most original band I’ve heard in quite a while.
While other outfits crouch to the ground, or ear to the floor in order not to miss the next big thing, Arizona makes music that suits them – hanging the trends. Maybe that’s what makes them oddly captivating. They don’t sound like the next guy. They play what they like, and sometimes that means several styles thrown together on the same song. It works – I don’t know how – but it works.
On the strangest track of the album, “Otto the Eel,” Arizona ruptures grinding, fuzzed out wah-wah guitar only to move into a lovingly picked acoustic guitar. It’s like hearing Tool and James Taylor on the same song. It’s also one of the top two or three songs on the album.
“Don’t Have the Body” slides on strings and milky vocals. It’s as tender a ballad as any I've heard, and showcases Arizona’s vocals. These guys can sing. Vocal credits on the album go to all four (including the drummer). This means that, of course, there are some great strains of harmony throughout. Pick a song; the vocals are spot on.
“I’m afraid of changing you / Changing you, my love” barely hangs in the air. It’s whispered so quietly that it’s hard to tell if “The Fairly Light” is a song or a poem. I think it’s both. Tenderness and vulnerability mix so fully that the song is almost painful to listen to. Arizona has a tendency to intersperse moments of deep compassion with raw power.
And that’s probably the highest praise that Arizona receives: they mix and match and do so with success as few other bands besides, say, Pink Floyd can – and they do it in 2009. They do it with gusto and guts, and it’s a shame they aren’t a household name.