Influential Philadelphia-via-L.A. record label and blog Mad Descent, which is run by electro wizard Diplo, is something of a tastemaker in the music world that regularly sniffs out next-level shizzle to pimp to its fans. So when it started extolling the virtues of the moombahton mixes created by local DJ/producer team Jorge Melo and Dusty Hickman in 2011, not to mention booking them at a few club nights across the country, it was sort of a big deal. It was just one of many coups the pair have pulled off since they started dabbling with moombahton, the dembow-filled EDM subgenre (a popular hybrid of Dutch house and reggaeton created by Washington, D.C., selecta Dave Nada) three years ago. Melo and Hickman (a.k.a. Pickster One) were some of the earliest adopters of moombah both in Arizona and around the nation and earned plenty of attention with their first collaboration "Mas Poderoso," which scored spots on a few choice moombahton mixtapes. Last year, the two organized the epic Arizonaton compilation featuring seventeen tracks crafted by various local beat-jugglers. Moombah-heads worldwide dug it, and even Nada himself gave the project a thumbs up. Thankfully, Melo and Hickman aren't letting all this mad love go to their heads.

One of the most memorable moments from the most recent season of IFC sketch comedy satire Portlandia was a hilarious vignette in which it seemed literally everyone and his mother (including Carrie Brownstein's onscreen mother) was becoming a DJ. What's even funnier is the fact that it's totally true-to-life, as embryonic mixer monkeys and knob-twisters are springing up everywhere, including here the Valley. Unfortunately, a brand new MacBook and a pirated copy of Serato Scratch Live does not a DJ make. Actual talent is necessary, son, not to mention voluminous knowledge of a chosen genre, many years honing your craft, and learning the true fundamentals of turntablism, like maybe how to mix and scratch some actual records. In other words, you'll wanna follow the same path as Logan Howard. For more than a decade, the 30-something mixmaster known as Element has been considered one of the best hip-hop selectas in the PHX, if not the entire Southwest. A hardcore crate-digger at heart, Howard grew up devouring his family's diverse vinyl collection and started working a pair of record decks at house parties during high school. In the years since, he's become a walking encyclopedia of hip-hop culture and turntable wizardry, not to mention a longtime favorite the Valley's DJ scene. When's he not unleashing a sick scratch-fest or spinning old-school jams at joints around the Valley, Howard can be found hunting in local record stores for his latest finds or gigging in cities around the world (including Europe and Asia). Hell, he's even big in Japan.

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Ben Andersen and Eric Hoss have been full-on BFFs for the past four years, ever since meeting at a local club night in 2008 and bonding over a shared love of Photek and other deep-house artists. And the partnership that's developed between these bromantic DJs has resulted in some epic indie, electro, and dance-music mixes that have gotten a major reaction at hipster club nights throughout Phoenix and in the bedrooms of EDM bloggers around the globe. Collectively known as TABS, the pair create their tracks via cyberspace (since Anderson lives in Tucson and Hoss resides in Tempe), taking awesome tracks from such chart-topping EDM producers as Porter Robinson or Marco Carpentieri and making 'em even swankier. Both partners add in bold grooves, amp up the energy into the stratosphere, and drop in serious dollops of bass. TABS are equally adept at reinventing and reformatting indie pop hits from local acts like Peachcake and nationally known bands like Gossip, infusing each song with main room house and stylish remixing tricks. "They have an earnest capability to take a song from one place and bring it to another," says Peachcake frontman Stefan Pruett. "And ultimately, whichever direction they choose to take it, you'll end up liking it."

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.

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