By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
Underground Sounds, by the way, narrowly missed the cut for this list — Rodriguez is a very talented young woman, and if her solo career continues in the same direction, she might put out something fantastic.
Listen if you loved: Dillinger Escape Plan's Option Paralysis
6. French Quarter — It's Not Just Kissing: Given his punk credo and impressive stature in the local DIY scene, you might expect singer-songwriter Stephen Steinbrink's French Quarter project to be at least a little rough-and-tumble. Nope. In fact, the Arizona artist he channels on soft rockers like "I Really Want (To Be Your Friend)" is probably Linda Ronstadt — though his voice isn't nearly as husky as hers.
Kissing is a largely minimalist affair, built around songs that intrigue with both their beauty and their brittleness. "I want to hold you like a dying animal / I want to kiss you 'til you see your breath," he sings on one of the album's standout tracks, "A Set of Hours," a sentiment that's as sincere and depressing as much of the record.
Listen if you loved: Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz
7. Tierra del Fuego — Queen of the Rendezvous: I'm a sucker for old-fashioned Americana built around a steel guitar, and Tierra del Fuego does it about as well as anyone you'll hear these days. Oh, and it swings, too — there's an awful lot of Bob Wills on Queen of the Rendezvous, which is a good thing.
Listen if you loved: Jamey Johnson's The Guitar Song
8. Mr. Miranda — The J&D Experience: Dave Miranda is an old-school kind of guy, as you can hear on The J&D Experience. The record — billed as an EP, though it's nine songs of the normal length — was recorded with producer Jimmy Nelson, who came up with appropriately blunted beats to match Miranda's extraordinarily natural style. The best thing about Miranda? He's smart and ambitious enough to make real waves at some point.
Listen if you loved: The Roots' How I Got Over
9. Gospel Claws — C-L-A-W-S: Gospel Claws got a hard push from local scenesters this year, and the Tempe band deserved the attention. They're sort of the unofficial standard-bearers for Phoenix indie rock, with Miniature Tigers now in New York and Dear and the Headlights, another band founded by Claws singer Joel Marquard, cooling their heels for the moment. C-L-A-W-S certainly has some great moments, too, most notably "Summer Nights Lakeside," which is, for my money, the best song of the year by any Phoenix musician of any genre.
Listen if you loved: Arcade Fire's The Suburbs
10. Scorpion vs. Tarantula — She Goes Hard: Scorpion vs. Tarantula features New Times copy editor Jay Bennett and his wife, who is also a New Times contributor. Because The Love Me Nots did not release a record in 2010, this was the best garage rock album produced by a Phoenix band. That is pretty much as much fawning praise as Jay will allow us to print on his behalf.
Listen if you loved: Grinderman's Grinderman II