AMY MENDOZA – Suicide On the AM Dial

Album: Suicide On the AM Dial

Artist: Amy Mendoza

Label: self-released

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Amy Mendoza 1-13

www.amymendoza.com

BY FRED MILLS

Although the term “desert rock” may have gradually faded from the general public’s consciousness, it’s still very much a part of the Southwestern musical mystique: a rootsy vibe, with hints of Americana lining the edges, but not overtly twangy except as demands a particular tune; grittily energetic and at times richly dramatic, informed equally by the punks of the late ‘70s and the alter-natives of the recent past; literate in its storytelling and poetic in its ability to channel a wealth of moods; and just elusive enough to avoid strict categorization, its purveyors typically stoic sorts for whom the sand, sun, stars and moon represent inspiration, not isolation.

Amy Mendoza, originally from Bakersfield but based nowadays in Tucson, fits this description to a “T,” additionally serving up a measure of swagger and sensuality to the table that is nigh-on irresistible. On Suicide On the AM Dial she marshals her musicians—she on guitar/bass/vocals, Damon Barnaby on lead guitar and E.E. Mendoza on drums, plus a number of talented Old Pueblo guests, among them keyboardist Duncan Stitt, violinist Heather Hardy, guitarist Rich Hopkins and Hopkins’ wife Lisa Novak—for 11 songs’ worth of sun-kissed reverie. One moment they’re easing into a loping, bluesy groove reminiscent of late ‘60s Bay Area outfits (“On The Walls”); the next, an anthemic swathe of soaring instrumental psychedelia (“Chasm”); and the next, a classic bit of jangledom steeped in sleek girl-group pop (“Suffer On Me,” with Novak joining Mendoza at the mic).

Amy Mendoza

Throughout, Mendoza brings a signature blend of kittenish defiance and vulnerable allure. “Let’s not overthink this/ Once you question, it’s too late/ For you escape,” she coos in the hard-boiled garage raveup “All Your Secrets.” Meanwhile, in the gorgeous acoustic guitar/organ ballad “Killing Me Alive,” she muses, “And I wonder if you would like to keep/ The thoughts within my head/ The ones you stole from me/ And I wonder if you would like to lie/ Next to me in my dreams/ We both pretend we are asleep,” troubled by heartache but determined to find a way to move forward.

It’s these contradictory impulses, paired with the yin/yang tug of her literal and metaphorical geography, that powers Mendoza’s songs, and in turn gives Mendoza her power. Embrace her.

DOWNLOAD: “All Your Secrets,” “Killing Me Alive,” “On the Walls”

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