Lists

The Best Things We Heard in Phoenix in 2017

Cuzn' It delivered F.L.Y. in 2017 — and it's one of the best things we heard.
Cuzn' It delivered F.L.Y. in 2017 — and it's one of the best things we heard. Jaron Ikner
We kept our ears to the ground this year, Phoenix. And small wonder, there was no shortage of great stuff — from repeat-worthy albums to once-in-a-lifetime concerts and massive festivals. Valley bands and artists got their due, celebrated major anniversaries, and honestly, impressed the hell out of us. These are the best things we heard in 2017.

F.L.Y. by Cuzn’ It
Acting as an acronym for Forever Love You, F.L.Y. by Cuzn’ It plays out like an extended deep, dark love ballad crafted in the soundscape of ethereal synths and confessional lyrics. Tracks like “Highs and Lows,” produced by Arza, and the title track “F.L.Y,” produced by Charlie Mumbles, are like pages from Cuzn’ It’s secret journal, as he exposes his heartbreak, vices, and weaknesses over ’80s-style synthesizers and soul-infused chords. F.L.Y. plays out almost like a modern version of a Motown album, with Cuzn’ It’s storytelling shining throughout the vivacious project. Jaron Ikner

click to enlarge Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra performs at The Van Buren during its preview party on Tuesday, August 22. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra performs at The Van Buren during its preview party on Tuesday, August 22.
Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra at The Van Buren
Weird isn’t an eloquent descriptor for the scene in downtown Phoenix in August. That's when the president came to town, thousands showed up to protest him and his policies (and he infuriatingly teased his forthcoming pardon of ex-sheriff slash convicted felon Joe Arpaio — all due disrespect), and then some of the crowd walked a matter of blocks to get a first look at The Van Buren. There’s probably a German word for it. Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra christened the stage at the new venue from Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents and Live Nation, elevating the mood downtown with grooves and good vibes that only Arizona’s foremost Fela Kuti-obsessed rockers could’ve delivered. Becky Bartkowski

Sunn Trio's self-titled album is effectively post-genre. - LAUREN BAILEY
Sunn Trio's self-titled album is effectively post-genre.
Lauren Bailey
Sunn Trio’s Sunn Trio
The lineup of “Smokey” Joel Robinson’s Sunn Trio collective is in a consistent state of flux, but the unit’s music remains cohesively chaotic. Like the group’s Sonoran forebears Sun City Girls, the sounds that appear on the band’s self-titled 2017 LP for Sky Lantern Records is effectively post-genre, skirting blurrily between psychedelia, Tuareg-inflected funk punk, and free jazz. But from the skittering Beefheart-isms of “Metallic Meth Bop” to the rangy surf freak-out of “Hashshashins of Alamut,” Robinson and his combo of reed players, percussionists, horns, and guitarists seem to adhere to an obscured logic, a guiding principle that positions harmonic freedom at the forefront of their wall of sound. Jason P. Woodbury

click to enlarge "Opus Claviblasticum" was composed to be performed at ASU's Organ Hall. - ASHLEY NAFTULE
"Opus Claviblasticum" was composed to be performed at ASU's Organ Hall.
Ashley Naftule
“Opus Claviblasticum” at PRISMS
Arizona State University’s School of Music closed out its eighth annual PRISMS Contemporary Music Festival with a room-shaking performance of Jacob Adler’s “Opus Claviblasticum.” Adler is the brains behind the Otoacoustic Emissions performance series at St. Augustine’s Church in Tempe, and he composed “Opus” to be performed at ASU’s Organ Hall. Along with the avant-garde ensemble Crossing 32nd St, Adler spent almost an hour conjuring overwhelming sounds that expanded and contracted like the lungs of an interstellar deity. The audience sat rapt in long wood pews while the hall’s massive red organ blasted notes that soared and reverberated. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Fucked Up at Viva PHX's punk rock alley. - JIM LOUVAU
Fucked Up at Viva PHX's punk rock alley.
Jim Louvau
Viva PHX's Punk Rock Alley
Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up lived up to their name at Viva PHX 2017, fucking things up with blistering hard-rock-infused hardcore punk in the best way possible. After bands like Health and Playboy Manbaby got the frenzy in motion at this outdoor “venue” — really just the alley space behind Valley Bar’s entrance — headliners Fucked Up started a tear-it-up set. It didn’t take long for lead singer Damian Abraham to make his way off the stage, into the crowd, and up ledges and fire escapes, no one in the band missing a beat, Abraham included. We rode that wave of energy and chaos for days; still crossing fingers that they’ll make it back this way soon. Amy Young

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Phoenix New Times Music Writers