Phoenix’s Best Records of 2008

The desert is dancing. At least that's the impression you'd get from this list of the 10 best records of the year, which reflects the synth-y sound of Phoenix. Lately, it seems electro-pop/rock of acts might grow to define the Valley's music scene in the way the jangly country/pop/rock of Mill Avenue and Mesa pop-punkers like Jimmy Eat World and Authority Zero once did. Then there are the rockers playing vintage R&B (Black Carl, The Love Me Nots) and the hip-hoppers (Cousins of the Wize) who've also got some danceability. Oh, and that's without two local bands on the cusp nationally, What Laura Says and the recently split The Medic Droid, which make asses move, but weren't quite good enough to make this selective list.

1. Kinch
(self-released album)
Best track: "All I Done"
Sounds like: Vintage Blur covering Coldplay

Though the local scene is, on the whole, dominated by electro-indie, Arizona's best album of the year is nothing like that. Kinch sounds more like a Britpop band than anything else, but they're inarguably brilliant playing either cocky rock ("A Tantrum") or sensitive piano ballads ("Memphis"). I've listened to Advances at least 30 times, and it might just find a spot on my Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. It's that good.

2. Back Ted N-Ted
(Modern Art Records EP)
Best track: "999 Buttons"
Sounds like: MGMT with better vocals

Writing this column, I just changed the "Best Track" choice for Back Ted N-Ted's Hookie three times. Such are the charms of this splendid little four-song EP, which both defines and surpasses the local synth-pop scene, where bands like Peachcake (who released another decent album that didn't quite make the cut) rule the roost. I've played "Your Love" so many times I'm sick of it now, but it's the kind of catchy single that could break nationally, while anyone who can avoid bopping their head to "The War Is Over" is quite possibly not human.

3. The Loveblisters
The Nowhere West
(self-released album)
Best track: "Blue Jean Movement"
Sounds like: Queen covering The Band
Normally I'd like to give a record more than a few listens before putting it so high on a list like this but, unfortunately, The Nowhere West came out, like, yesterday. Still, I'm very impressed. The best thing about The Nowhere West — aside from the brilliant songs — is that it feels like an album, with ebbs, flows, and a sincere progression from beginning to end. The first song, "America's Back Pew," is a throwaway, but it sets the mood, while "Blue Jean Movement" is a manifesto of sorts, and "Hell Is a Rainbow" shows that the band isn't totally joking when they cite ELO as an influence.

4. Miniature Tigers
Tell It to the Volcano
(Modern Art Records album)
Best track: "The Wolf"
Sounds like: Weezer covering Joy Division

Bittersweetness is a quality I look for in songs, and Miniature Tigers capture it well in "The Wolf," "Cannibal Queen," and "Dino Damage." They're also adept at pulling in a few electronic elements from time to time, while maintaining an organic sound. Another thing I think is interesting about this record: The longest song comes in at a whopping 3:33, with most at two and change.

5. The Stiletto Formal
¡Fiesta Fiesta Fiesta Fiesta!
(Eyeball Records album)
Best track: "We Are All Muckrakers"
Sounds like: At The Drive In covering At The Drive In

I have a long-documented love/hate relationship with bands that sound like At The Drive In but are not, in fact, At The Drive In, a seminal post-hardcore act from Texas that split into Sparta and The Mars Volta. I am also deeply suspicious that this cello thing is a gimmick to get a hot girl in the band. Still, The Stiletto Formal does the sound well and earned their place on this list.

6. Black Carl
Black Carl
(self-released EP)
Best track: "Family and Kids"
Sounds like: Billie Holiday backed by The JBs

If the local scene had a Metacritic aggregator — and conversations with scenester-types counted as reviews — Black Carl would top all. Everyone (and I mean everyone) loves this band. Probably, your mom loves Black Carl. Seriously, ask her, and she'll be like, "That Emma Pew is adorable, and what a voice!" Anyway, I'm also a fan, but I found their self-titled EP doesn't quite capture the magic of the live show, which is why it's sitting so low on this list.

7. Fracture Point
Inherit the Downfall
(self-released album)
Best track: "Image"
Sounds like: Eyehategod covering Dillinger Escape Plan

Phoenix's metal scene is huge but, by and large, not that innovative. Then there's Fracture Point, which has long been a favorite of area metalheads. I also dig them. I can't describe this record any better than Niki D'Andrea did, so I'll just quote her: "Fracture Point sounds like a mastodon stampede, but instead of directionless destruction, this beast intelligently winds its way through a well-constructed maze of down-tuned guitars, burly bass lines, screaming solos, and tricky timing changes."

8. The Love Me Nots
(Atomic A Go Go album)
Best track: "You're Really Something"
Sounds like: The Detroit Cobras playing original songs
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psyko Steve
psyko Steve

I could not be stoked to see Kinch in the top spot.


How the hell does one become a music journalist writing columns like this?

Your taste in music is suspect, your writing is half-rate, and you know absolutely nothing about this scene which you are writing. God help the Phoenix music scene if this the kind of music journalism its subject to on a weekly basis.


Bootsy Collins
Bootsy Collins

"Everyone (and I mean everyone) loves this band."

Well... I could actually think of a lot of people that don't. Most notably King Khan, who reportedly was infuriated when Black Carl's warmed over, Joss Stoney take on soul was booked to kick off his modified show, because "day dwaw gud!"

"Phoenix HAS to have better music than this!" - King Khan

Which is pretty much my response to your list. I meanif this soporific mush the best that Phoenix can do, I think we're in trouble.

That being said, I like miniature tigers. And that 999 Buttons song isn't bad.

But the newtimes's coverage of phoenix local music has always been laughably inadequate.

Giulio Sciorio
Giulio Sciorio

Great read. This is why I love New Times. Thanks for putting me in touch with more great local talent.

Local artists need to come together to build the scene.


I don't know about your #1 rating, Mr. Cizmar. I'm generally very open-minded when it come to new albums, particularly of this genre, but I think this Kinch album is terrible. It's not that I don't think the guys have talent - because I do - it's just that their songs are horrible. Most of the tracks are quality for about the first 15 or 20 seconds and the groove is solid, but then they unravel because the singing is less-than-decent.

Anyhow, I'm not encouraging readers not to listen to them. I just don't care for them. I will note, however, that I think its very cool that they're currently distributing their entire album for download at their website. Check it out here:


black carl didnt even release that record yet, your taste in music sucks almost as much as you do

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