Alex Votichenko doesn't just collect records — he stockpiles them. When local filmmaker and blogger Gregory Harshfield interviewed the turntablist (who's better known by his nom de guerre Djentrification) for the online documentary Vinyl: A Phoenix Story, viewers got a glimpse inside Votichenko's Central Phoenix home, where an entire room is lined from floor to ceiling with haphazardly stacked milk crates and mismatched bookshelves overflowing with thousands of records. Thing is, that was only a small part of his entire collection. By his estimate, Votichenko (who also works as an artist and sells vegan burritos) has amassed an arsenal of thousands more, all of which serve as potential ammunition for his unforgettable and ultra-eccentric sets at nights like 602'sdays at Bikini Lounge.

During said affairs, he'll constantly cut and blend such disparate sounds as Latin beats, gospel sounds, children's music, and drops from vintage spoken-word albums into a bizarre bazaar of audio. To fuel such schizophrenic sessions with fresh grist for his turntables, Votichenko haunts Valley vinyl emporiums like Stinkweeds, Revolver Records, and Tracks in Wax. Crate-digging is an art form as much as it is an exercise in persistence, which he has in spades. He'll exhaustively thumb through bin after bin during twice-weekly excavations in search of obscura, rarities, and gems. Cash, on the other hand, is a different matter. During one funny moment in Harshfield's doc, Votichenko jokes, "I'm giving them all my burrito money."

Phoenix-based St Ranger crams more ideas into Life Coach, its five-song debut, than most bands manage to fit on full LPs. And what's more, the five-piece does it with style and ease, never feeling unnecessary or forced. The easy bounce of "Take Time" rolls with a soul-pop groove and pop-and-lock bass, and the Beach Boys-gone-math-rock of "It's 'Appening" pulses with a sly grin. Backed by The Color Group, St Ranger doesn't seem content to let local accolades be reward enough, keeping its nose to the grindstone and pushing harder. Color Group pressed Life Coach on vinyl, and the tight pop compositions have gained national attention from the blogosphere in Phoenix and beyond.

It hasn't taken long for 22-year-old Youceff Kabal — who makes beats that straddle the thin line separating chillwave, ambient hip-hop, and electronic pop — to establish himself as a presence on Phoenix stages alongside touring indie stars like Toro y Moi, Phantogram, and Youth Lagoon. Kabal's quick rise is due mostly to his way around a sample board, and he's made waves across the blogosphere with his own tunes and his remixes for groups like the Swedish collective Newtimers and Brooklyn's How to Dress Well. What Kabal does next — whether it's turning his attention to remixing and producing for local artists or taking the stage solo — only looks to further illustrate how far ahead of the curve he is.

This year has been a pretty damn good one for Guided by Voices fans. Not only did main man Robert Pollard reunite the "classic '93-'96 lineup" for three albums — Let's Go Eat the Factory, Class Clown Spots UFO, and the forthcoming Bears for Lunch (in addition to Mouseman Cloud, another in his torrential downpour of solo records), but the year saw the return of the nation's best GBV tribute band, Secret Fox. Featuring Jim Adkins (of Jimmy Eat World) and members of The Secret Lives of Painters, the band celebrated the return of Guided by Voices with a reunion gig of its own at Crescent Ballroom after 10 years of inactivity. The band didn't stick to the classic lineup repertoire alone, dipping into "Guided by Verde"-era power pop, too, but there were Pollard-style high kicks. Oh, yes, high kicks galore.

While the birthers and xenophobes who patrol the border might too easily forget it, Arizona is a land of transplants and exiles. Dig around and you're likely to find little pockets of culture from all around the globe in our neighborhoods and boroughs. Still, no one is going to blame you for being surprised by The Bad Cactus Brass Band, an honestly authentic New Orleans second-line-style brass combo. But the band does, indeed, call Phoenix home, musically transporting the sounds of Big Easy burgs like Treme and Central City to CenPho and Tempe gatherings. If only we could get someone to bring proper yaka mein to Phoenix, we'd be all set.

Bears of Manitou has drawn plenty of fans around Phoenix for its indie-folk tunes, but its members have managed to attract attention beyond that, staging the kind of interesting marketing stunts that get fans involved and laughing. A few days after the debut of Call-In Oates, a phone service that allowed fans to dial an 800-number and play some lo-fi selections from the oeuvre of blue-eyed soulsters Hall and Oates, the Tempe-based band quickly seized the fever, launching their own toll-free call-in line and even offering fans a chance to order customized songs through their Facebook pages. Any band can Tweet into the World Wide Black Hole — but bands like Bears of Manitou make the social marketing feel, well, social.

While everyone in the electronic game has tripped over themselves to call what they do something else — chillwave, dancecore, bit-pop — Mercurius FM has stuck stridently to his roots, calling his May 2012 mix This Is Techno. Mercurius routinely updates his blog with gloriously old-school remixes of artists like Usher, The Beastie Boys, Prince, and his own analog compositions. He's also quick to call out the status quo — in a recent blog post, he criticized the current rodent king of EDM, deadmau5, saying "producers like him have taken the skill and art of performance and cheapened it down to button-pressing." Mercurius doesn't position himself as better than anyone else, and that's the glory of it all: He simply doesn't have to.

Valley rock 'n' roll icon Keith Jackson has been ambling around Phoenix's music scene for more than two decades now. The genial 6-foot-6 guitarist, who skillfully wielded a six-string in such landmark bands as Beat Angels and Glass Heroes, has experienced plenty of wild misadventures during that time. Jackson's got the stories to prove it and is more than eager to spin some interesting yarn about the old days. In addition to having a gift for gab, he also has a certain penchant for slipping in mentions of the many rock stars that have crossed his path. Catch him at a preferred haunt, like the Eastside Tap & Grill, and Jackson will gladly dish over beers about Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols giving him a vintage Gibson Les Paul, all the times he's partied and recorded with former GN'R guitarist Gilby Clarke, or the gig where one of his old bands opened for the MC5. The most frequent topic of conversation, however, is his friendship with the late Joe Strummer. The local ax man often gets a goofy grin when he talks about how he idolized the legendary frontman for The Clash, who passed away in 2002, and their many hangout sessions. Jackson's tales are always told with a certain charm, so you don't seem to mind all his name-dropping. Shit, if our lives had been as exciting as his, we'd probably do the same.

Bar Smith

When Steve Aoki and his cohorts from Dim Mak Records kicked off their DeadMeat tour at Comerica Theatre this past January, this all-star ensemble of EDM talent was backed by a massive stage setup rivaling that of major rock concerts. Millions of LED bulbs illuminated a towering backdrop and six-foot-tall DJ riser, as well as glow panels spelling out Aoki's name in bright lights during his headlining set. As flashy as this eye-catching orgy was, it wasn't as fun as when Dim Mak brought its previous tour to the open-air setting of Bar Smith's rooftop a few months earlier. Same goes for any other electronica artist who passes through the Valley. Flashy multimillion-dollar stage displays can't hold a candle to the more lo-fi thrills of watching EDM stars like electro fiends Blatta and Inesha perform against a backdrop of downtown Phoenix skyscrapers while stars twinkle overhead, warm breezes blow through, and abstract movie clips are projected on the wall over the rooftop bar. With all due respect to Bar Smith's next-door neighbor, this is the true sky lounge.

Dollhouse Cocktail Lounge

It seems everyone wants to spend a night at the Dollhouse, but there's never enough room. Hence the lengthy line of would-be clubgoers that seems to be a permanent fixture outside the front entrance. One of the reasons why people are desperate for a golden ticket into the glitzy Indian Plaza drink parlor is the desire to be seen by the many pairs of eyes that are about. Glamorous-looking gals debut their newest ensembles, accessorizing with a high-end cocktail or two created by the Dollhouse's resident mixologists. Pulsing light panels on the walls provide flattering illumination, permitting one to look their best should any celebs or pro athletes drop by the Dollhouse, which has been known to happen. Good thing the VIP section has a clear view of the dance floor, allowing the chance for you to strut your stuff whenever a member of the glitterati is in the house.

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