PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Arizona: Welcome Back Dear Children

This debut from last year is worth digging up.


Welcome Back Dear Children

Label: self-released
US Release Date: 2006-08-18
UK Release Date: Available as import

Why are we only reviewing this album now, when it was released almost a year ago? Put it down to oversight and the fact that the band now has hired publicists. Nobody took much notice of New York-based Arizona when they released their debut. Now that the band has released a more adventurous second EP, Fameseeker and the Mono, and their profile has increased somewhat, there's an understandable curiosity about where they came from.

If you're a regular reader of music blogs, the songs on Welcome Back Dear Children have a certain familiarity. "Thru the Soot", "Splintering", and "Some Kind of Chill" in particular have been floating around for a while. This is compounded by all the songs' soft-focus informality. There's more folk in Arizona's folk-pop than psych's characteristic swirl. The good news is there's more to Welcome Back Dear Children than those well-known songs.

I played "Some Kind of Chill" for some friends the other day, and one asked, "What's this music? It's weird". At first I was a little taken aback. The song is so sweet it should be a model of how to write a pop song, but I suppose there is an element of 'weirdness' in most of Arizona's tunes. But these psych elements, bending notes at end / beginning, layered vocal harmonies, extended song structures that wander off into obscurity without any promise of return, seen in moments like the freakout section in the middle of "Stay With Who You Know", or the complex, pattering rhythm of "Somersby", are seamlessly incorporated into the generally more low-key fabric of the songs. In fact, in the more straight-forward songs, the psych influence doesn't sit as comfortably for the band: on "Waking Up", the layered, Simon & Garfunkel-style harmonies and swung guitar figure recall ‘60s psych bands like Food, but fail to leave a strong impact.

Still, there are plenty of memorable tunes on the album. From the soft beauty of "Some Kind of Chill" (with its classic 8-7-6-5 bassline) to the more aggressive slow-build of "Splintering" (the angular cello line at the beginning's particularly effective), Arizona demonstrates over and again that even at this early stage they know how to construct solid pop songs. "Diventa Blu" is album’s most gentle: over soft-pattering, tapped percussion, and held organ notes the song has a sparkling life. Ben Wigler's voice, as on Fameseeker, has the lilting fragility of a Jeff Buckley or, sometimes, a Chris Martin.

Welcome Back Dear Children, though it's a little past its original release date, is certainly a Slipped Disc, worth going back to, certainly. The soft, lilting songs are not the height of innovation, but by the same token the timelessness gives a certain familiar comfort. And these songs are pulled of with such gentle confidence it's difficult not to be impressed.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.