A lot has changed in the 10 years since Andrew Jackson Jihad formed. Downtown Phoenix has a radically different look, and the music scene certainly has matured. As for the group, Andrew Jackson Jihad has grown from an acoustic folk-punk duo to a full-fledged rock band, and this year, the band released its fifth full-length album, Christmas Island. Undoubtedly the slickest-sounding album in AJJ's catalog, the album is worlds apart, sonically, from the low-fi aesthetic of 2007's People Who Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World.

But Christmas Island retains the piercing lyrics and buoyant sound that has defined Andrew Jackson's Jihad musical identity. The group still proudly represents Phoenix, but its appeal extends well beyond the Valley — Andrew Jackson Jihad's IAMA session on Reddit attracted more than 1,200 comments, and on YouTube, their albums have garnered hundreds of thousands of listens. With sharp lyrics like "It's harder to define love / I've gotta drink more if I wanna catch a buzz / The older I get, the more articulate I am at whining," it's easy to understand why.

Rubber Brother Records is one of the Valley's more unique record labels to come along in years. Run by local artists Gage Olesen and Robbie Pfeffer, its roster is overflowing with oddball outsiders (Hug of War), wailing garage rockers (Petty Things), self-effacing indie pop groups (Diners), and other weird music from the desert. It completely eschews CDs and vinyl, issuing all its releases on cassette tapes. Everything's done DIY-style (from hand-printed T-shirts to liner notes) and Olesen and Pfeffer also ran the short-lived underground art space/music venue Parliament.

Since 1951, Phoenix-based Canyon Records has been documenting the music of Native Americans and First Nations peoples. The label's biggest star, R. Carlos Nakai, continues to rack up accolades, earning a Grammy nomination for Best New Age album in 2014 for Awakening the Fire, his album with longtime collaborator Will Clipman. In addition to collections of powwow songs and percussion, the label features releases like Gypsy Bells by folk singer Brianna Lea Pruett. The album was a contemporary indie folk record, and Canyon Records embraced both the past and current musical landscape by pressing it on vinyl, making it the label's first vinyl release in decades.

When we were young, we ditched this cowtown and tried to get as far away from Phoenix as we could. A few years later, we returned home with significant credit card debt, a new appreciation for desert sunsets, and a wish list of things we wanted for our hometown. At the top of that list: a bookstore with a bar, as we'd spent an embarrassing number of late-night hours in a spot called Kramerbooks and Afterwords on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Well, it took more than 20 years, but this year, Changing Hands Bookstore made our dream come true, opening First Draft Book Bar in its new Phoenix location. Now we can sip sparkling wine or a Four Peaks Kiltlifter, then browse the latest fiction titles in the beautiful new store. Cheers!

Every Monday at 8 p.m., Jade Bar bartender Eddie Garcia takes to the airwaves of KFNX 1100 AM, but he isn't alone. The self-described "old guard" bartender is a master of classic cocktails, but he's always ready to learn something new from his guests. From other bartenders, like Crudo's Clint Spotleson, to beverage writers, like Christina Barrueta, and even spirituous beverage producers, such as the teams behind Arizona Distilling Company and AZ Bitters Lab, booze nerds from around the Valley come into the studio to talk shop for an hour. If you're not convinced, you can give an archived episode a spin on the show's website before you commit your precious Monday evenings to the show.

When Bill "Wallace" Thompson, creator and co-star of Arizona's favorite madcap children's program The Wallace and Ladmo Show, passed away in July 2014, Facebook and Twitter feeds across the city were flooded with a familiar tune, "Ho Ho Ha Ha Hee Hee Ha Ha," the show's theme. It was penned by Mike Condello, who was responsible for much of the show's iconic music. Under Condello's watchful eye from 1962 to 1972, the show incorporated Beatles spoofs by fictional acts like Hubb Kapp and the Wheels and Commodore Condello's Salt River Navy Band, alongside Condello originals. Condello was busy with his own songs, too. His 1968 album Phase 1 features Phoenix's finest psychedelic pop moments, melding fuzzy guitars to Condello's sighing schoolboy vocals. The album was re-issued by the folks at hip label Sundazed this year, offering a chance for fans to own a shining nugget of Sonoran pop. Like Thompson and Ladimir "Ladmo" Kwiatkowski (who passed away in 1994), Condello left too soon. The songwriter lost a long battle with severe depression in 1995. Though a treasure unknown by many outside a circle of record collectors and psychedelic enthusiasts, Condello's songs still ring in the heads of Phoenix children of all ages.  

As confusing as KWSS' existence is (yes, it's independent and nonprofit, despite the underwriting announcements that occasionally sound like actual commercials, the entirely mainstream style of station identification, and the fact that the lefty news programs associated with these types of stations air on KWSS at ungodly hours on weekdays), it's the only radio show we'll even consider listening to in the morning. That's because Beef Vegan, host of The Morning Infidelity, which runs from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, clearly cares about his community, and he frequently gives airtime to local musicians, both on recorded tracks and via live on-air performances. He strikes a perfect balance between bemused guide and flashy showman as he discusses the happenings of the world, both locally and elsewhere. Add the great playlists he curates during his show and you get a great idea why The Morning Infidelity is the best option on Phoenix radio in the morning.

KWSS stepped up in a big way this year, sponsoring the star-studded Summer Ends festival at Tempe Town Lake, where rising locals Black Carl, The Senators, Playboy Manbaby, and Mouse Powell headlined the KWSS Stage alongside mainstage acts like the Replacements, Foster the People, and Switchfoot. The station's local-centric program, especially morning crew TMI, helped break Phoenix act Kongos locally, before the family band broke into the Top 40. Programs like TMI, Erratic Radio!, and Danny Zelisko's Presents are some of the most spontaneous and exciting in the Valley, and the station's commitment to new acts as well as established alt icons make it a rarity not just in Phoenix, but nationally.

KCDX recently started boasting that it's "like pirate radio, minus the pirates," and the catchphrase is utterly accurate. It's aural anarchy on the station, which broadcasts across most of the Valley. You're as likely to hear a noisy Velvet Underground tune as you are prog rock from 10cc. There are no DJs to clue you in on what's what, but the station updates its website in real time, a handy trick when it's spinning a song by underground Texas psych bands like Bubble Puppy or British folk rockers Fairport Convention. Sometimes the station airs silence for hours — making it all the more mysterious when the tunes come roaring back to life. No one does freeform AOR like KCDX — and while other classic rock stations do a good job with the standard formula, it's awesome to hear the rulebook thrown out the window while cruising across the desert.

There's no one playing sexier jams than this locally owned station, which features programs like the syndicated Art Laboe Show, the sensual Quiet Storm, and a block of programming by the Manic Hispanic, whose knowledge and selection runs deep, incorporating lowrider oldies from doo-wop acts and smooth electro from Zapp and Roger. The vibe is mellow but hardly boring, and Mega 104.3 takes it to the streets, too, hosting events at clubs like Casablanca Lounge.

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