Don't get us wrong: Phoenix's Jon Rauhouse is a killer bandleader in his own right — as evidenced by his Jon Rauhouse Orchestra — but when he teams up with songwriter Neko Case, he proves himself to be a killer ace in the hole. Case's latest, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, features killer guitar and steel work by Rauhouse, and he's a powerful presence on stage. He's not exclusive to Case — his work enhanced recent records by Tucson's Howe Gelb, alt-country stalwarts Old 97s, and KT Tunstall. Rauhouse has an impeccable touch, adding to Americana albums his graceful touches of banjo, dobro, and guitar that feel perfectly Western.

One More Time does a spot-on imitation of Daft Punk in concert and does it well. Phenomenally well, even, from the identical version of the iconic helmets and jumpsuits of the Grammy-winning and quasi-robotic French electronica duo (including neon versions inspired by Tron: Legacy) to the pyramid-like staging that's straight outta the act's landmark Alive 1997 tour. One More Time has Daft Punk down so well that it even mimics its flair for anonymity, asking that New Times keep the duo's real names on the down-low.

In recent years, the Phoenix-based tribute act went from performing at local hip club nights in 2010 to wowing crowds in L.A. and San Diego with its hour-long set of mixing, editing, and playing Daft Punk tracks. "That's when we realized we were onto something that could potentially be big, bigger than a bunch of guys in helmets playing hipster parties," they told us. They ain't lying, as they've been going harder, faster, stronger while touring venues across the United States in the wake of Daft Punk's success with Random Access Memories and multiple Grammy wins. So there's at least one way One More Time differs from its source material, since Daft Punk still hasn't announced when it's gonna tour again.

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.

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