Set It Off Shows Telling “Stories” Can Be A Good Thing

December is nearly halfway through. That means that 2015 is inching ever closer to its final days. As those days become fewer and fewer, it means more certainty for the critics’ year-enders. This critic has held off as long as possible. But now the lists are final. And there are a lot of them, too. Beginning today, Phil’s Picks will feature one new “Best Of” list each day right up to New Year’s Eve. Each list presents not only the ten best new releases in each given category but five extras that get special recognition for a total of fifteen titles. So let’s get things going. Without any further ado, here is the first of those lists, 2015’s Best New EPs. So few people give EPs the credit that they so rightly deserve. But the reality is that for many acts EPs are just as important as LPS. For many acts, the EP is the very first taste of what may or may not be to come for a band. For others it’s more or less a contractually obligated space filler. Regardless of the situation, the fact of the matter is that the EP is just as important as the LP. That being the case, this critic has compiled once again a list of the year’s best new EPs. And this year, that list is topped by Set It off and its new EP Duality: Stories Unplugged. Independent rock act Lawless Hearts make the list, too with its new EP Creatures of Habit as well as Amaranthe with its acoustic EP Breaking Point: B-Sides 2011 2015. These are just a handful of the names to make the list this year. The complete list of this year’s best new EPs as presented by Phil’s Picks is noted below.



  1. Set It Off — Duality: Stories Unplugged
  2. Adrenaline Mob — Dearly Departed
  3. Zebrahead/Man on a Mission – Out of Control
  4. Patent Pending – Armageddon
  5. NoMara — …And So It Begins
  6. Lawless Hearts – Creatures of Habit
  7. Amaranthe – Breaking Point: B-Sides 2011 2015
  8. Nation Beat – Carnival Caravan
  9. De’Anza – Despertar
  10. The Devil Wears Prada – Space
  11. Galley Beggar – Silence and Tears
  12. Broadcasters – Spin
  13. Infidel – Infidel
  14. Collie Buddz – Blue Dreamz
  15. Straight Line Stitch – Transparency


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De’Anza’s New Record Is One Of 2015’s Top New EPs

Courtesy:  Fusion Beats Records

Courtesy: Fusion Beats Records

The music industry recently switched over to what it now calls the “Global release day” moving all new music-related releases to a Friday release date around the world versus the staggered release dates that once controlled new recordings. However, tomorrow, Latin-American singer De’Anza will break that new schedule and release her new EP Desperatar (roughly translated means Awakening in English). The six-track recording is an impressive new release for the New Mexico native. It mixes her traditional Latin roots with the slightest R&B infuence for a record that proves in the end to be just as good as anything released by the likes of Shakira and other Latin performers if not better than their works. That is thanks not just to the musical makeup of the EP but for the record’s lyrical content, too. That is obvious right from the disc’s outset and runs throughout the course of the disc. By the end of the disc’s twenty-two minute run time, listeners that give the EP a chance will agree that that combination of musical and lyrical content proves Despertar to be one of this year’s best new EPs.

Despartar is a fitting title for De’Anza’s new EP. That is because those that might not be so familiar with her music (this critic included) will be awakened to quite the talented artist in hearing this record. That is obvious right from the disc’s outset in the form of the song ‘De Aqui, De Alla.’ Roughly translated this means ‘From Here, They All.’ The seemingly socially conscious song puts on full display De’Anza’s talents as she comments on her heritage and its connection to her past and present. That is made most clear in the song’s closing verse as she sings, “I’m not from here/Nor there/Like Cabral says/I’m not from here/Nor there/My identity is a mix/I’m part of the process/My heart/My heart continues.” This statement is made even more powerful as she sings in the song’s lead verses, noting the labels put both on her and her people and their derogatory connotation of said labels. She sings in the lead verse of how she and her people are called chicana/chicano by those not of Hispanic descent and yet how she herself is called gringa by the people of Mexico when she visits despite she herself having Latin blood and descent. Being called such names all the way around has got to be a hard thing to deal with. And that is what she seems to be trying to get across here. What’s really interesting is that considering the depth of the song’s lyrical content, one might expect the song to have a deeper, more emotional tone. De’Anza doesn’t take that route here, though. Instead she gives her lyrics something of a musical punch in regards to the song’s musical content. It’s an infectious, almost Shakira-esque sound that will definitely catch listeners’ ears and in turn lead them to pay just as much attention to her thought-provoking lyrical content. In paying attention to both, listeners will agree that this song serves as an excellent example of why Despertar is an impressive new effort from De’Anza and that it is just one example of why the record will “awaken” audiences that give the EP a chance. Audiences can hear the song now and even check out it s companion video via De’Anza’s official website at

‘De Aqui, De Alla’ is an excellent example of how De’Anza’s new EP is certain to ‘awaken” listeners that are new to her music. That is thanks to both the song’s infectious musical content and its equally powerful, socially conscious lyrical content. The EP’s second song ‘Veultas’ (Turns in English) is just as strong of an example of why this record will “awaken” audiences that are new to De’Anza’s music. What audiences will like about this song is that just as with the disc’s opener, this song also boasts a clear Latin influence. Yet at the same time, it also boasts a little bit of a R&B influence. The hybrid sound again boasts a little bit of a familiar sound, needless to say. But that is not a bad thing. It just means that listeners will remain just as engaged here as with the EP’s opener. In remaining engaged, audiences will hear the song’s lyrical content and understand even more what makes this song another solid addition to the record. De’Anza sings here, “Not everything that glitters is gold/I have to trust and I’ll have the strength to sing/The future will never come/Live your present with love and dignity.” She comes across as saying to her audiences, live life for today, not for the future. What is really interesting here is that the tone of the song seems to change in the song’s second verse, “I’ll die in the intent/Let the words flow as I look within/cause it was never outside/He never told you the truth/You don’t have an identity/Society doesn’t understand me/I’ll shoot my fear and destroy your city/I’ll penetrate underneath your system/And you won’t even realize it/There’s never an end/You reap what you sow/It’s only natural.” One must assume in considering these two verses and the song’s chorus in which De’Anza sings of the world being an illusion metaphorically speaking, that there is something of a clash of emotions in this song. That musical content, which can be heard online now at , does seem to highlight those apparent torn emotions. This critic could of course be wholly wrong here. Hopefully this critic is somewhere in the ballpark. Regardless, it definitely proves to be a talker both in regards to its musical and lyrical content. And if for no other reason than the discussions that it will raise, it proves to be another example of exactly why Despertar is one of this year’s top new EPs.

‘De Aqui, De Alla’ and ‘Vueltas’ both show in their own way why Despertar is a record that will definitely “awaken” those that are not familiar with De’Anza’s work. The disc’s opener combines deep, thought-provoking lyrical content with infectious grooves that collectively are sure to keep listeners engaged and have them thinking, too. ‘Vueltas’ is just as sure to have listeners’ ears with its equally deep lyrical content and moving musical content. For all of the depth presented by both songs, they are only part of what makes Desperatar such an interesting work. ‘Si Senor’, the disc’s third offering shows in its own fashion what makes it such an “eye (and ear)-opener.” This song comes across in a far more simplistic fashion both musically and lyrically. Both the song’s opening and closing verse set against its chorus paint a picture of a song steeped in romance despite sounding also sounding like it boasts religious themes, too. That is driven home even more thanks to the song’s R&B-tinged sound. The inference of romantic content lying at the heart of the song comes as De’Anza sings “With my vihuela/I make music and confess/His harmony and melody make me sing/He gives me life/In his eyes lies the truth/Divine I’ll travel with you until the end.” That last line hints at a religious theme. But the song’s chorus sends a different message, with her singing seemingly of her happiness being with a certain male love interest. She sings in the chorus, “Yes sir/Why not/Let’s have fun/We’ll dance and enjoy this beautiful city.” The picture painted here is clearly of a woman enjoying spending time with said male love interest. Again, the song’s R&B-tinged sound tends to hint more towards that direction. Regardless, it can be said that the combination of that wonderful musical content and the song’s lyrical content once again proves just why it is yet another example of why Despertar is an impressive new release from De’Anza. It, along with the previously noted songs, (and those not directly noted) come together to show Despertar to be not just a solid new release from De’Anza but also one of the year’s best new EPs.

Despertar only runs for a total of twenty-two minutes and boasts a total of six songs. Over the course of those songs, it proves time and again to be a record that will in fact “awaken” those that are new to De’Anza’s music and will lead any critic to agree that it is one of this year’s best new EPs. It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 18th (apart from the new global release date of every Friday). More information on Despertar is available online now along with all of the latest news from De’Anza at:




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