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

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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