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
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.

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Mitchell Hillman

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