Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. Right now he's counting down his favorite local albums in 2015. Check back tomorrow for part two.
25. Red Tank! - I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral
Red Tank! probably could have made this list for the album title alone, but also they put out what was arguably the best punk album of the year, I Want You to Crowdsurf My Body at My Funeral. It steps worlds ahead of their 2013 full-length debut, Squalor in the Year of Black Magic, in both musicality and lyrical concerns. Half a year after its release, it is still one of my favorite albums to spin when I simply want to let loose and rage.
24. The Brave Optimistic - Oh, Odanata!
The Brave Optimistic is Kody Harrison Holmes, who on this full-length release named for the family of insects that include Dragonflies has gathered some of the most talented musicians in town to present his unique vision to life. This cast of characters include such local luminaries as Timothy O'Brien, Alex Dorr, Devyn Running, Dan Parker, Danny Torgersen, Megyn Neff, Joseph Wells, Jon Renner, Steve Borick, Naomi Newman, Emmett LaFave, Jason Richard, and Ben Nandin. With this album Holmes has definitely put the freak back in freak folk.
23. Darkness Dear Boy - Cagey Avoidance of a Definite Answer
Darkness Dear Boy finally delivered on their follow-up to 2010's Brand New Carrot on a String this year and while overdue, it was well worth the wait. I wasn't sure if anything could overshadow their debut album, but I had no need to worry in that regard. First it's got one of the best album titles of the year and secondly, the album perfectly captures the sheer essence of Darkness Dear Boy and brings their rambunctious stage show to record perfectly. There is enough groove, funk, rock and reggae hints to keep you entertained with their sound all year round and well into the next one. 22. Motobunny - Motobunny
Motobunny is half of The Love Me Nots and half of The Woolly Bandits. It stands to reason that this cross-pollination of experienced garage rockers would lead to even more brilliant garage rock and that's exactly what it does. There is a sense of magic, especially with two chanteuses cascading duets all over the damn place. All the pieces are in place here for a good time and there's not one duff track in the bunch. The album moves at a furious pace and keeps your attention on a short leash throughout. Love garage rock? Love Motobunny.
21. Tobie Milford - Listen to the Trees Grow
Tobie Milford's first album in five years is a stunner and he has drafted some top notch classically trained cohorts for the record which includes Mark Michaud (percussion and recording), Chris Kasych (studio trickery), and Downtown Chamber Series musicians Leslie Frey Anderegg and Megyn Neff on violin, Mark Dix on viola, and Peter Lorenzo Anderegg on cello. It's an amazing journey of a man returning to the art he loves best. Milford has a ton more up his sleeve, let's hope that it's not another five years before he releases another record. One of the most fascinatingly beautiful albums of the year.
20. Huckleberry - Problems
Huckleberry technically released Problems last year, but the release party won't happen until January 9 at Valley Bar. Nevertheless, for those who got a hold of it this year, you know that it is an album that is exactly about the title: problems. Each song addresses different ordinary problems we all experience in life and features poetic vignettes that are part indie rock and part Americana. It is an easy listen on the surface and a thought-provoking, soul-searching piece when you dig into it.
19. Prehab - Light Up the Sky
Prehab have been putting out back to back great albums since 2009 and Light Up Tte Sky is their best yet. If I had this on vinyl I would have worn the damn thing out last Spring. Their alt rock sound was simply the perfect soundtrack for last Spring and Summer and even still I can't get enough of it — so much so that I go through their back catalog for more. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to finally see Prehab live. Just listen to "Wrong Door" and you'll be hooked straight to the end of the record.
18. The Hill in Mind - Thimble, Needle, and Thread
The Hill in Mind gets the award for the most eclectic album of the year with their debut full length which is three EPs made into an album. The chief architect of this fantastic work, Joshua Hill, said, "It could be a Thimble preshow, Needle main event, and then the mellow Thread after party." That's completely how it plays out and it's brilliant every step of the way. This is high minded music and weighs heavily on the soul, but after repeated listens it becomes a part of you. One of the most thought-provoking albums of the year.
17. Day Before Plastics - Explosive Sadness
It appears that Day Before Plastics only showed a shadow of what they were capable of on their debut EP as the breadth and depth of musical styles and lyrical concerns are astounding on their first full-length, Explosive Sadness. Dominick Provenzano is quickly becoming one of my favorite vocalists in town and it's for no reason other than a transcendent quality I can't pin down. Day Before Plastics has always been great, but this album seems more like a brilliant starting point for their unique vision than a continuation of anything they released previously. Check out "Space Beach" and just lose yourself from there. 16. LeZets - Deadweight LeZets debut album is just a damned exciting start for child prodigy Margo Swann and guitarist Richard Romero, joined by Bob Hoag on drums. It's great garage rock to be sure, but it's definitely told through the eyes and voice of a teenager, which is actually damned refreshing. Sure the singles of "Favor for a Favor" and "Red Death Mobile" are great, but so too is the hilarious aside in "Lovely Eyes" and the brilliant call-and-response semi-ballad between Romero and Swann on "LOBS," my favorite track. The entire album is compelling, revved-up rock from start to finish.
15. The Through & Through Gospel Review - On The Lords Wrecking Crew
I never thought in a million years that a gospel album would finish as one of my favorites of any year. Leave it to Joel Marquard (Gospel Claws, Spiritual Warfare) to make an indie rock gospel album so engaging that I still can't stop playing it over eight months after its release. It's the lo-fi take on these gospel originals that really create the soul of the album, well that and the indie rock flourishes and surf guitar on occasion. There's a little bit of seriousness and a little bit of irony in every step of the way here and I'm never sure which is more authentic. 14. Scattered Melodies - Modern Repair
Scattered Melodies really topped themselves on their second full-length album this year and assembled one of the most impressive supporting casts possible drafted from the local music scene. It's also a socially conscious album that never gets heavy handed or stands on a soap box. Yes it delivers a message about the current condition of the world and the hope to change it, but it doesn't take a dour approach. Instead they take that spirit and carve out one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. 13. RPM Orchestra - Hit On All Sixes
RPM Orchestra has to be one of the weirdest local music outfits on the scene and certainly one of the most fascinating. To attempt to define them would be a disservice and every song on their five song full length album is vastly different from each other. Hit On All Sixes is probably the weirdest album of the year and for that reason it is also endlessly fascinating. From the backwoods American of the opener "Bury Mine" to the classical cum Sonic Youth take on Debussy's "Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp" called "Decomposing Claude Debussy" which is more than 18 minutes long, the entire album is a wild ride.
12. The Woodworks - Unhealthy Decisions Across three full-length albums, The Woodworks have simply gotten more impressive over the last four years and Unhealthy Decisions is a giant leap forward in their sound and dimensions. Solo Lounsbury's voice has never sounded better and their songwriting skill has progressed to a professional level. This may be due to the fact that they've put out three albums since 2012 and they play gigs constantly around town, honing their skills continuously. There are too many good moments on this record to even count. 11. CooBee Coo - Liven Up
There are albums that are great because they make you think or make you contemplate deep meaning, and then there are albums like Liven Up that just make you happy and glad to be alive. This is the band's fourth full-length album in three years' time, and they've topped themselves once again. This time around, they have a serious Black Keys/Arctic Monkeys dynamic going on, but they are doing it better than either of those bands. This is another go-to album in my collection that fits my mood on every occasion and impresses me every time I do.
Come back tomorrow for the 10 best albums made by Phoenix artists in 2015.
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