This is part two of Mitchell Hillman's 25 Best Albums Made by Phoenix Bands in 2015. Find part one here. Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley, and he selects his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
10. PRO TEENS - PRO TEENS
PRO TEENS unleashed their debut album last September, and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. I had somehow envisioned their entire album would stay true to their surf pop origins, but they have extended themselves way beyond that sound. The overwhelming psychedelic bent of many of their songs, as well as lead singer Andy Phipps' crooning soul numbers, should have been expected from their many live shows, but still the recordings came as a brilliant surprise. The self-titled debut shows every essential side of PRO TEENS in spades. And, yes, there is still some surf pop to be found, but there is also so much more.
9. Strange Lot - Another Mind
There are few musical sounds more appealing to my ears than psychedelia-drenched, ’60s-inspired garage rock. This is why Strange Lot's debut album, Another Mind, was a no-brainer for easily making the top 10 list. It is one of the most hypnotic albums of the year, and it has engaged my mind for nearly half of it. On every listen, I get something more out of it, and this is an album I've easily spun a hundred times or more. It is a completely retrofitted journey in indie rock bliss, and every moment of it perfectly works with the next.
8. Emby Alexander - Behaves Like Beehives
It was quite a surprise that Emby Alexander would be prompted to release a second full-length album nearly a year to the date after their debut full-length, the masterpiece Frontispiece, but that's exactly what they did in June. The band's inspired vision of chamber pop is as artistically high-minded as it is down to earth and as neurotically paced as it is calmly constructed. Their music is manic and dizzying, but ultimately brutally honest and beautiful at once. Their unique art rock has continued to be among my favorites year upon year, and I wonder how they will try to top themselves once again.
7. Good Friends Great Enemies - Cautiously Poptimistic
It took three years and no lack of tragedy for Good Friends Great Enemies to follow up their excellent debut full-length album. That said, they have produced one of the most well-constructed albums of the year. On their own, some of these songs seem like passing notions or musical sketches, but as an entire album, Cautiously Poptimistic is brilliantly composed. Everyone knew this album was going to be good, but I'm not sure we could have anticipated just how good. It is one of a handful of albums hear I encourage to be listened to in its entirety because it is designed to be an aural experience in that way.
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6. Vinyl Station - Still Open Eyes
Vinyl Station began as a duo that was impressive in its own right but has since expanded to become a full band. Still Open Eyes is a stunning, sentimental journey. There is art and craftsmanship in songwriting and delivery, and I have carried it with me nearly everywhere I go since picking it up at its release show. It is the songs of ordinary lives led set to some of the most engaging music possible — this is life's trials and travails made into a movie score, and it's damned difficult not to simply fall in love with this record.
5. No Volcano - Who Saved the Party
No Volcano has quickly become one of my favorite bands in town. They make excellent art rock that would have been the toast of the town in mid-’70s New York City, but it's their own hook-filled modern take on that type of sound. This is another album I carry with me at all times and have never once grown weary of since its release. Every song on this debut excites me like it did the first time I heard it, and now I've grown addicted to catching them live and hearing the new songs that will appear on their follow-up album this year.
4. Fairy Bones - Dramabot
I pestered Fairy Bones for months and months about when their debut full-length album would be released, and when it finally came to pass, it was worth the wait. With little exception, every song I worshipped from their live set showed up on Dramabot, and every song sounds like a single to me. In a world where things were right, half these songs would be getting radio play. It was everything I had hoped for and a whole lot more. This will be an album that I will play lovingly decades from now. Every song makes me smile, and they somehow captured their amazing live essence on record with sacrificing any of the excitement.
3. decker. - Patsy
Every decker. album surpasses the previous one in vision and brilliance, and this stuns my senses every damn time. Each time I think they won't be able to top themselves, they do it. I have to accept this. Brandon Decker is a man on a mission and he's only racing with himself and every release finds him winning this race. Patsy followed Slider almost exactly two years later and I will happily wait that long for the next album, because I thoroughly trust in decker., and I know that no matter what they do, they will put their all into it. This album is the culmination of their career so far and I can't even imagine what will be next for Brandon Decker and his musical pals.
2. Small Leaks Sink Ships - Face Yourself And Remove Your Sandals
I'm not going to lie: This is pretty much a tie for the number one slot. Small Leaks Sink Ships gets the number two slot because they moved to Portland. That said, this album haunts me nearly every day. I have been following Small Leaks since nearly the start of their existence and their music is some of the most engaging, compelling music I have ever found. Virtually nothing compares to it and every moment is an unforgettable aural experience. It is an immaculate, perfect album in every way, from the individual songs to the overall composition and construction. It comes off as an indie rock symphony in its grandeur and brilliance.
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1. Sweetbleeders - We Were Never Here
At the 11th hour, Sweetbleeders delivered my favorite album of the year with We Were Never Here. It is another album that demands to be listened to from beginning to end. It is perfect and complete in its construction. Though, to be fair, it should be, since it took four years for to finish the album. Through the sheer splendor, the sentimental shade drawn across the entire album, the alchemical transmutation that Sweetbleeders achieved by converting pain and loss into truth and beauty, this album touched my soul in a way no other album could this year. It is the culmination of many years work and though I wrestled with what my favorite album of 2015 would be, in my heart of hearts this won out every single time. Something knew it the moment I first listened to it just over a month ago and that feeling has grown only more resolved as I have spent more time with it.