It’s just as well that the trio Shining Soul didn’t win the three Native American Music Awards they were nominated for this year. It would have put a label on the rhymes and rhythms of DJ Reflekshin and MCs Liaizon and Bronze Candidate. And, frankly, that’s not something they’re interested in. The Chicano/O’odham hip-hop group relish making music that’s both universal and socially conscious. Want proof? Watch Shining Soul’s powerful video for “All Day.” It was filmed along the U.S.-Mexico border, and shows they have the courage and passion to make personal and political statements. Jason Keil
It’s easy to root for a band like Fairy Bones. Led by Chelsey Louise, whose howling alto has notes of Karen O. and Marisa Paternoster, this rock outfit is a force live — and on social media. Armed with garage-rock guitars and a decidedly punk outlook, they know exactly what they want, and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. Fairy Bones mobilized fans in a push to get the catchy AF single “No One Can Suffer Like I Can” on the Billboard charts. They didn’t quite make it, but damn, what chutzpah. Rumor has it Fairy Bones’ new record is due in 2018. Cheers to that. Becky Bartkowski
“Are we demons or are we dust?” SunPunchers leader Betsy Ganz asks on “Brown Metal Box,” the opener of the Americana trio’s latest LP, Levity. There’s a devilish humor coursing through the album indicating the former. But Levity’s sepia-toned soundscapes — with swelling pedal steel, chiming 12-strings, mariachi horns, and twangy, reverb-drenched guitars — evidence a sandiness evocative of the band’s Sonoran desert home. Joined by drummer Dominic Armstrong, bassist Lindsey Cates, and “honorary SunPuncher” Jon Rauhouse (of Neko Case’s band), Ganz pens songs about regret, dark impulses, and desire, cloaking deep empathy in sly wit reminiscent of John Prine, Freakwater, and Howe Gelb. Jason P. Woodbury
Even when it’s a Tuesday night at The Rebel Lounge after a long day of work, Father Figures can shake you loose. The energy from this self-dubbed “post-skate-punk” trio is infectious. Just try to watch them play without tapping a foot or bobbing along — it’s tough. Father Figures’ members have deep roots in the Phoenix music scene, with careers stretching back to the ’70s and ’80s, and their message continues to feel fresh. With angst-fueled songs about the dangers of fascism and email scams, Father Figures remind us to stay alert, keep moving, and fight on. Meagan Mastriani
Cowboy boots and honky-tonks may come to mind when people think of Arizona, but you’re just as likely to find work boots and Depeche Mode tribute bands out here in the desert. When it comes to the darker side of our state, there’s no topping Tempe’s Body of Light. Part of the sprawling family of Ascetic House artists and bands, Body of Light is the work of brothers Alex and Andrew Jarson. The duo’s blend of pulsing 808 beats and bewitching ’80s synth sounds is intense and danceable, the perfect soundtrack for goth nights and warehouse parties. Ashley Naftule
You know that feeling when you sink to the bottom of the swimming pool and sit on the floor for a few moments, while the rest of the world is muted and distant? That solitude? Putting on a pair of headphones and pressing play on Kolezanka’s record, Vessel, has the same effect. When life gets harsh, the band’s music offers an escape hatch to a softer place where tenderness and vulnerability are strengths. Frontwoman and writer Kristina Moore captures the unique struggle of how femininity can feel both powerful and stifling, and her words are a comfort to anyone wrestling with that dichotomy. M.M.