Earlier this year Phoenix New Times celebrated the cream of the crop with our 36th annual Best of Phoenix edition. Here are our top picks for best radio stations in metro Phoenix.
Best Alternative/Rock Radio Station: KWSS 93.9 FM
KWSS stepped up in a big way this year, sponsoring the local stage at the star-studded Summer Ends Music Festival festival at Tempe Town Lake and then (after heavy rains) Marquee Theatre, where rising locals Black Carl, The Senators, Playboy Manbaby, and Mouse Powell were scheduled to headline 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.
Best Classic Rock Radio Station: KCDX 103.1 FM 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.
Best R&B Radio Station: Mega 104.3 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.
Best Hip-Hop Radio Station: 101.1 The Beat More than just a legacy hip-hop station playing classics, the Beat includes select new songs, afternoons with Ramses Ja, and edgy programming featuring Pokafase, Mattlocks, Roknowledge, DJ Element, and Madd Rich. On-air mixing and a solid catalog of hip-hop classics from Jay Z, Notorious BIG, and even left field acts like Digable Planets, and new cuts by Schoolboy Q and Rick Ross. The Beat manages the difficult task of incorporating new songs into a playlist of legends, showing off a commitment to furthering hip-hop's cultural legacy while staying relevant to a new crop of fans.
Best Country Radio Station: KSWG 96.3 FM The two Valley radio stations for popular country music have some pretty short-term memories. That is, you're not likely to hear music that's more than a few years old. That's certainly not the case on KSWG, "Arizona's Real Country," where Johnny Cash and even Brooks & Dunn make the station's list of most-played songs. The station still mixes in modern country hits from the likes of Luke Bryan or the Zac Brown Band, but it probably is the only local radio station that will give you the opportunity to belt out Alan Jackson's "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow" in the middle of the afternoon -- and don't pretend you still don't remember the words.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.