Wyves made our list.
Wyves made our list.
Jim Fury Hesterman

The 50 Best Songs by Phoenix Bands in 2016, Part Two

Here is part two of our list of the best songs released by Phoenix artists in 2016. In this part, we will reveal the top 25 songs, including what we're crowning the best single of the year. You can read about songs 50 through 26 on the list if you missed yesterday's installment.

25. Sundressed "Autopilot"
When I first heard "Autopilot," I was blown away. Whether you watch the video or you listen to the lyrics, the meaning behind the title becomes pretty clear. Let's face it, at some point we've all been on autopilot, when you are clearly alive and living and doing things, but you are just not there — you are not engaged in life as the world spins around you. Musically, the song shows even more growth in the songwriting of Sundressed.

24. Emby Alexander  "In Your Doorstep Bleeding"
It appears that Michael Alexander is just competing with himself at this point for writing and performing some of the most adventurous indie pop in Arizona, if not the States. The song is another instant classic in his canon of subterranean hits, akin to the likes of "I Don't Mind If You Call Us Friends" and "Sleeping In The Library." Alexander seems to be playing with interesting instrument combinations here, a combination of electric guitar, lap steel, and a choir of backing vocals that create a bit of an angelic vibe to the entire affair.

23. MRCH  "Glitter McQueen"
I feel pretty confident in saying that "Glitter McQueen" is the best song MRCH has put out all year. As with most of MRCH's singles, the song also comes with a fantastic video that's as much nostalgic kitsch as it is glamorous wonderland. It's every bit as visually stunning as their previous efforts. The song is also their hardest-hitting dance track so far, with perfect dream pop flourishes and of course, Mickey Pangburn's angelic vocals. MRCH is caught somewhere between the worlds of all-out dance music and dream pop, which is simply a lovely combination.

22. Haymarket Squares "Let's Start A Riot"
"Let's Start A Riot" is the anthem for anyone that is dissatisfied with the 9-to-5 grind that is their day job. For the subject matter alone, not to mention how well it's executed, this may well be my favorite Haymarket song ever. Who hasn't been at this point at a job? Musically, the band remains the ever-familiar punkgrass heroes, complete with a searing guitar solo, accordion for miles, and a brilliant building crescendo that make you, well, start a riot. Next time you're mixing cocktails, you may want to consider a Molotov to switch things up.

21. Injury Reserve "Oh, Shit!!!"
"Oh, Shit!!!" was one hell of a way to kick off the promotion of the forthcoming album from Injury Reserve. The slightly creepy piano begins the song and provides an eerie backdrop that keeps you on edge, if only in the back of your mind. Still, the raps here are some of the finest coming out of Phoenix, and this song is catchy as all hell. It's funny, insightful, actually fun, and just a party monster waiting to happen. Even the woozy autotune ending seems more like an intoxicating creative stroke rather than anything to the song's detriment.

20. Nanami Ozone "Desire"
The song is a great introduction to Nanami Ozone's sound now that they've found themselves. In this case, the "Desire" in question seems to be for youth and wanting to feel like you did when you got turned on as a teenager — turned on by anything and obviously filled with burning desire. It's a reflection you face in your 20s at some point: that things don't feel like they used to feel, and somehow you have to reignite. Mo Neuharth handles the vocals on this one; she perfectly lays them across this absolutely dizzying guitar.

19. Young's Modulus "Laces Untied"
Young's Modulus plays some damn good post-grunge alternative rock in the vein of the earliest Kings of Leon records. Lead singer Mike Johnson has that husky, wood-treated voice to meet that sound perfectly with thunderous drums, ringing guitars, and a thumping bass, making it heartfelt and passionate all the while. At least that's how their song "Laces Untied" feels to me. It's not a moody piece in any way — this is upbeat, danceable rock, but it's got enough grit to it that it sticks to your ribs. It's simply a great rock song.

18. The Lonesome Wilderness  "Alright"
For a few years now the Lonesome Wilderness have been dazzling their audience with a fine blend of indie rock sounds akin to the Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but on their new single "Alright," they expand their sonic horizons to include intensely Beatles-esque psychedelia. The Lonesome Wilderness is a band I seek out when I want to feel deliberately happy; they have a knack, with their surf-tinged garage rock vibe, for making me feel just that.

17. Paper Foxes  "Strawberry Lashes"
Paper Foxes are a far different beast than when they started, featuring a completely new rhythm section since their last record. "Strawberry Lashes" is one dizzying track that shows of all of their assets. The blazing synths that start the song along with the mechanized pulse and angular guitars immediately draw you in, while Jacobson delivers one of his most charming vocals hand in hand with some of his most acerbic lyrics. It's probably their best song to date and certainly their longest, which makes it all the more fascinating and hypnotic, with just the right touch of retro sheen.

16. No Volcano "Blackout"
No Volcano rocks out on this one, bringing back the power of proto-punk influences. Somehow, the band is able to evoke that energy, that building zeitgeist, that led to punk with the likes of the Stooges' tribal rhythms and Television's art-rock restraint. Chris Kennedy's furious drums that open "Blackout" immediately grab you by the throat, driving you right into the brilliant guitars and finally the poetic artistry of Jim Andreas' vocals. Edgy, neurotic, driven, the song pulses with a life all of its own. It's smart art rock for anyone that loves bands born from suburban garages.

15. Diners  "Fifteen On A Skateboard"
"Fifteen On A Skateboard" begins with the unmistakable sound of a skateboard before it drifts off into a dreamy, swooning pop number that is as about as easygoing on your ears as possible. This is music drawn straight out of an appreciation for 1970s radio pop, Burt Bacharach records, and a hint of Friends-era Beach Boys. It's a perfect tune for a hot summer day by the pool. The instrumentation and production are beyond anything Diners has done before.

14. Dadadoh and WOLFZiE  "What I Got"
WOLFZiE (Brandyn Jenkins) and Dadadoh (Bryan Preston) produced this song together, written by J. Alexander and mastered by Scott Mitting, with a super low-key feel to the music and a confessional flow to the lyrics. The song itself seems to be more in line with WOLFZiE's sonic experimentation more so than Dadadoh's straight-up hip-hop sound. The key here is the grooving, ambient music providing the backdrop, while the powerful lyrics are delivered like a spoken word poem. The entire song is great, but I would recommend focusing on the lyrics and especially the chorus, which is infectious and clever.

13. Cait Brennan  "Madame Pompadour"
Of all of the tracks on Cait Brennan's masterful debut album Debutante, I have to say that “Madame Pompadour” is the one that just stays in my head for days. Every song on the album has something to it that will stick with you, but this one is just seems to shine a little brighter than the rest, it is something of the gem on the crown of the whole thing. First of all there is a feeling of joy and all out celebration in this one and the chorus is just catchy as hell. Plus, with a crazy image evoking name like “Madame Pompadour” it has to be brilliant, doesn’t it now?

12. Weird Radicals  "Sleepwalker"
"Sleepwalker" is the final single of the year from newcomers Weird Radicals. Once more it's a stunning track of pure power-pop enjoyment. This is the kind of song Boyce and Hart would have been proud to write, and it's definitely Weird Radicals' most Beatlesque effort so far. Clearly, their adoration for the pop sound of the '60s and '70s is guiding them and beautifully so; their quirky indie spark keeps them from sounding too much like a revivalist act, though. At the same time the guitar work going on here is mesmerizing and reminiscent of when the shoegaze bands listened to Beatles albums and became Britpop.

11. Citrus Clouds  "Imagination"
"Imagination" begins with drums that recall the Jesus & Mary Chain and a bass line reminiscent of Joy Division, before Erick Pineda's brilliant guitar builds up to the point where he delivers his best vocals to date and a maelstrom of guitars explode. It's a dizzying, hypnotic number, as nearly everything Citrus Clouds makes has been, but this has a catchy pop element that has been more subtle in their past efforts. Still, the breaks where there aren't a hurricane of guitars and feedback are some of the most enjoyable, because they can rage with the fury of the apocalypse but bring it down to show off their songwriting skills.

Robbie Pfeffer of Playboy Manbaby does more than just sing.
Robbie Pfeffer of Playboy Manbaby does more than just sing.
Melissa Fossum

10. Playboy Manbaby "You Can Be A Fascist Too"
"You Can Be A Fascist Too" is the opening track for the highly anticipated, absurdly delayed Don't Let It Be album set to be released early next year. It's a song told from the perspective of a fascist and delivered with no lack of sardonic wit. Musically, it's one of Playboy Manbaby's most solidly aggressive tunes, and it's good to know that punk and vitriol are still very much alive in the capable hands of the band that has been declared the Best of Phoenix. This is music for slam dancing and moshing.

9. Foresteater "Very Friendly People"
"Very Friendly People" is the lead track on debut record from Foresteater. While the music is great, the star of the sonic landscape found here is Mikey Pro's vocal gymnastics. His flawless falsetto liberally adorns seemingly every peak of this tune. There is a sweet, psychedelic edge to the entire thing, especially the bridge and everything that follows, giving a heady, dreamy quality to the tune. The transformation of the song as it goes on is the other highlight here, as it starts off pretty straightforward and grows more layered, more fascinating, and more engaging as it evolves.

8. Bear Ghost "Funkle Phil"
"Funkle Phil" has been one of my favorite songs in Bear Ghost's live set for awhile, and the single was one of my first favorite things in 2016. The song really shows off their style of prog-meets-indie-meets-nerd rock. It also shows off their affection for Queen in less-than-subtle ways throughout the track. This makes sense if you've ever seen their live show, which usually contains a spot on cover of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." Like many of their songs, "Funkle Phil" slams so many movements into one three-minute song it will make your head spin.

7. Harper and The Moths "Nothing From Me"
This is possibly my favorite track from the band since "Chemicals" or even "Nighttime Tremors." It fits right in place with those singles and the sounds they began to explore on their Rock.Pop.Soul record, mixing rock elements with late-'70s disco leanings. It's got more swagger to it than some of their recent singles, and that's what makes it stand out. Harper Lines' hypnotic vocal delivery turns rapid-fire on the verses, and it's one of his best vocals to date. Here, he is channeling his inner Michael Hutchence.

6. Fairy Bones "Pink Plastic Cups"
Before Fairy Bones went on hiatus for the summer, "Pink Plastic Cups" was quickly becoming the new highlight in their live set. It was clearly an immediate single and I was glad to see that it was one of two tunes (along with "8 Ball") that made the cut for their twin single release this year. Somewhere last spring I had declared it my new favorite Fairy Bones tune. and that still stands. Beginning with Matthew Foos' bass drum, a guitar line from Robert Ciucia and the pulsing bass of Ben Foos, it has a similar sinister quality to the band's song "Waiting" single, and that's just the music. This track is so stylistically different that it would have stood out like a sore thumb on last year's Dramabot. They have reinvented their sound to allow for more genius to seep through it seems and to showcase the stunning vocal talents of Chelsey Louise. Her voice is nearly operatic at times here and shows either massive development or that they are actually writing songs to show off just how talented they are in new and inventive ways. Either way it makes for one of the best singles of the year.

5. El West "Thin Air"
I don't usually get goosebumps when I listen to a song on headphones for the first time, I usually save that for live shows, but in the case of "Thin Air" by El West I had goosebumps for the entire four-and-a-half minutes. El West sounds like nothing going on in Phoenix these days. When I try to decide what element I like the best I can't decide between Powell's voice, Thomas Brenneman's frenetic guitar, Rickey Powell's powerful bass groove, or Marty Welker's rapid-fire drumming. The damn thing impresses me at every level.

4. Blank Waves "All In You"
I don't often offer up live tracks or ever consider them in lists like this, but this is an exception. When all is said and done, I think "All In You" is one of the finest songs of the year. I'm not even sure if the magic captured on this live recording will ever translate to a studio version, but whether it's the minimalist drum kit, the retro keyboard/organ work, or the damnably infectious vocals on this track, every moment of this tune will keep you grooving. It still has that tripped-out Robyn Hitchcock-meets-Animal Collective sound to it, but there is a catchy, pop aesthetic that makes this a standout track. Since Blank Waves posted this song back in March, I'm pretty sure I've listened to it nearly a thousand times. I never tire of it, and I want everyone that loves local music to get an aural taste of this amazing earworm.

3. decker. "The Phantom"
Even at the improbable length exceeding six minutes, "The Phantom" is the catchiest tune on decker.'s 2016 album, Snake River Blues. Decker himself blames this on the influence of a minor obsession with Tom Petty while working on his new record, and while you can see that as a starting point decker. takes that influence and crafts into something completely and uniquely his own. "The Phantom" is the longest track on the record and it may well be the band's finest moment, whether that was intentional or not. It does not sound like it's going to be a hook-heavy, ear-loving brain invader, but by the time Decker sings "Do you remember baby," it sure as hell does. By then, it's too late. Your brain is just going to play that chorus over and over until you do it's bidding and listen again.

2. The Sink or Swim "Blame It On Me"
Last September the Sink Or Swim released their second EP of the year with High Tides, and it's really more three singles. In the early '90s, this would be called a Maxi-Single, featuring two or three A-Sides. "Glass Eye" was the first one to really catch my ear, but after a few dozen listens to the collection, "Blame It On Me" seems to have made a nest in my head.This song is always a stunner in their live set. Part of the reason is that this is a vocal masterpiece for lead singer Nate Zeune. He's got one of the most distinctive voices emerging in the scene right now, and it's captivating.

1. Wyves "Spoils of War"
Wyves consists of frontman Corey Gloden (vocals), with Nick Sterling (guitar), Brenden McBride (bass), and Evan Knisely (drums). These four lads are all local music scene veterans who have been in plenty of other bands. Together they produce some purest rock 'n' roll in the city— straight-up, fully charged electric rock on a blues backbone with an intense live show and a debut album that is one of the best of the year. "Spoils of War" kicks off with Knisely's bombastic drums, then a swooning guitar line comes on, the understated bass holds it all together and it's all followed by Gloden who catches a place in his voice that somehow crosses Faces era Rod Stewart with early Bruce Springsteen. At the golden length of three and a half minutes, it is the perfect rock song, with a hook that hits your hips directly, then makes its way to the rest of you. I don't usually like guitar solos, but Sterling's got a brilliant one here that kills me every time. From beginning to end it never lets up, and the crowning crescendo is left humming in your soul long after the song ends. This song has been on my mind every day of 2016. I'm not sure a single day has passed without it. With that kind of tenacity, catchiness and rough and tumble rock spirit, there was no clearer choice for the top slot here.

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