Blues

The 40 Best Albums by Phoenix Bands in 2016, Part Two

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10. Nanami Ozone — Desire

You ever have a band that you adore so damn much you just want to put them in your pocket and take them everywhere you go? That's how I feel about Nanami Ozone. Nanami Ozone is Colson Miller (The Thin Bloods), Sophie Opich (Numb Bats), Mo Neuharth (Numb Bats), and Chris Gerber (Sun Ghost), and they put out some of the best indie rock of the entire year with their debut album, Desire. Part of it is the musical foundation that varies from surf vibes to twee pop to early alternative recollections of The Blake Babies and The Breeders. The vocals are passed for the most part between Miller, Neuharth, and Opich. It's another stunning debut album for 2016 and an essential album for your summer soundtrack. To be honest, this should be the kind of music I hear when I turn on the alternative radio station — not corporate bullshit, but the indie-as-fuck aesthetic of Nanami Ozone.


9. Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra - PAO!

There was great debate on whether this record was an EP or an album, I went so far as to confer with David Marquez on this and we agreed, with the bonus track intact, PAO! crosses the threshold into full-length album. Still, with Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra's debut record, many years in the making, you just want it to be twice as long. At the end of the record you yearn for it to be as long as their longest show. Nevertheless, PAO! plays out like something of a greatest hits from their live show, which has been refined across six years. On one hand you could take this as an amazing party record. With the opener of "Oppression Scatter" they make an anthem of devastation danceable. Wearing the Afrobeat influences on their sleeve, from Fela Kuti to Tony Allen, every bit of it moves. Camille Sledge's vocals are stunning amidst the vast tapestry of horn-laden, polyrhythmic sounds surrounding her. She makes every show a ritual, and her voice somehow conveys that on the record.


8. Saddles - YOKE

The first echoes of YOKE began over a year ago when Saddles released their sole release of the year with the single "Comfort." I had, at the time assumed it was a Shell Art leftover, because it was Saddles as the duo of Charles Barth and George White once more. Saddles has expanded to a five-piece for live performances, so I assumed they would be a part of the new album. YOKE, however, is made entirely by the core duo once more, and frankly, I love the dichotomy between the recorded Saddles and the Saddles you see on stage. Both singles also showed a bit of progression in their songwriting. YOKE is a slightly schizophrenic affair, pulling Saddles classics like "Comfort" and "Lottery" while also showing off affections for trip hop and studio chops. "Red Carpet," though, is probably the outstanding, second side gem that may be the best thing they have ever committed to record — just wait for the explosion a minute in. The entire record is as stunning as its predecessor.


7. i.am.hologram — Rejecting The Program

I'm going to say right up front that I have no love for one-man-bands. The exception is Richard Nihil, aka i.am.hologram. Not only does he pull off the one-man-band concept with a drum machine, synthesizers, pedals, and other gear, he does this while slinging his guitar and singing his heart out. His voice is a weapon of creation, destruction, and distraction. Favorite weird record of the year? Easily. So it must be said that while he's doing all that crazy shit with his hands and feet, he's also using his voice in a way that no other local singer can or will. His voice is one of the most fascinating elements of his music, and the greatest asset he has in his arsenal of musical madness. His neurotic uncertainty controls you as he guides you through the album, which culminates in the finale of the near nine-minute "Osiris (Remind Us)." Rejecting The Program is one of the most challenging albums of the year, but once you get inside it, it's also one of the most rewarding. While i.am.hologram has put out no less than four records this year, this is still my favorite of the bunch.



6. Dadadoh - RADICAL

I knew this was going to be good before I ever heard it. What I didn't count on is that I would listen to it non-stop for a month. This was one of my favorite summer albums and it went everywhere I did from August to September, in fact it still does. Every song here could be a single of some merit, barring the opening skit which makes us know for sure that Dadadoh is seriously unserious. The amount of collaborations on here are stunning as well with songs featuring MC/DC, Mr. UU, Dirty Dalla$, Kali Kal, WOLFZiE and Curt Flow. The album is also constructed perfectly, paced like a complete production. Whether it's the singles like "Do It" or "What I Got" that grabbed your attention, you're going to love album tracks like "Kowasahki Trappin'" or "Never (Invite Whack People To My Shows)," two of my personal favorites. On the other hand, it's on songs like "Just What You Like" and "Get You Away" where Dadadoh delivers his best songwriting and shows off some super smooth R&B performances. Brilliant from beginning to end.


5. No Volcano - Dead Horse Power

I had high hopes for No Volcano's follow-up to last year's Who Saved the Party, and I was in no way disappointed. I remember being amazed at the release party for their first album that they were unveiling new songs for their next and they repeated that same move this year. Still, No Volcano continues to be one of my favorite bands in town whether it's live or on record. They simply have a great post-punk art rock vibe that I dig and honestly, if I was to put together a band, this is the kind of sound I'd go for. It's a post-punk package that takes the sum of their influences and produces music that is 100 percent No Volcano's own unique identity. Dead Horse Power proves that No Volcano weren't just a one album pony, and they seem to be readying their set with their next release already.


4. Genre — Legendary Rock Act

Zac Markey and Corey Gomez of Genre have released their first full-length album, and while the title Legendary Rock Act may be delivered with a grin, they're not far off the mark. Every time I've listened to it I cannot believe how good it is, how fully realized it is, and how consistently exciting it is, as it makes wry commentary on society, metaphysics, crass commercialism, soulless capitalism, and many more hot topics that are of subversive concerns. It's also apparent on this album that Markey is captain of the Genre ship at this stage in the game, and the addition of Trevor Denton to their lineup was essential to the biggest bang this band has ever made.


3. Snake! Snake! Snakes! - "Tranquilo"

Depending on how long you've been into Snake! Snake! Snakes! you've been waiting anywhere from four to nearly six years for their full-length album debut, which is a hell of a long time to stick with any band. Nevertheless, in this case the wait was well worth it. There was a feeling of both anticipation and secret dread that occurs when you've been waiting six years for a band to release its sophomore record. Will it live up to the hype that you've created in your mind for more than a half-decade? Even though I've been mindful of Snake! Snake! Snakes! from the start and watched their transformation as they traded their synths in for more guitars and their indie pop sheen for garage rock madness, cheering them on every step of the way, rarely missing a show, there was still the question of how it would translate to the album. The proof is in the pudding with Tranquilo. Snake! Snake! Snakes! have finally found their sound, and it's a tremendous blend of proto-punk and indie rock with plenty of garage rock snarl and lyrical vitriol. Luckily, we don't have to worry about how many years it will take to follow this up; they just dropped a new EP called Wait Up last week and it's a killer. If you happen to be looking for a soundtrack to the apocalypse, this would be my pick.



2. Wyves — Spoils Of War

Last year, right from the start, Wyves quickly became one of my favorite live bands in town. Its members are frontman Corey Gloden, joined by Nick Sterling, Brenden McBride, and Evan Knisely, and together they form a kick-ass, straight-up rock 'n' roll band. Every show of theirs got better and better with growing, visceral intensity until at last, in February, they released their debut album, Spoils Of War. It was far greater than I had anticipated, and it has honestly been in my heavy rotation of albums ever since. Loaded with singles like the title track, "Bitch Has Got Problems," "Jump Into The Water," "Puppycat," and "Bad Reputation," it's a rock 'n' roll juggernaut that never lets up once. It's also one of those rare rock albums that actually captures the energy and drive of a band's live shows. That's difficult to come by these days. Wyves have no issues kicking just as much ass on a record as they do on stage.


1. Bear Ghost — Blasterpiece

Mo matter how many times I reviewed local albums this year, regardless of what my favorite of the moment was, it always seemed clear that Bear Ghost's Blasterpiece was the best album of the year. First of all, Bear Ghost is probably the most fun band in town to see live or listen to on record. "Fun" is an element that seems to be lost on a lot of indie bands, and it's damned refreshing to be excited about going to see a band for the sheer sense of joy they will impart in their performance. Luckily, for Bear Ghost, they were able to translate the fun factor into every moment of Blasterpiece, and it's a lot like their stage show come to life. I feel like I should always keep a spare copy of this album around for those occasions when someone tells me they've never heard of them. Their blend of pop, rock, prog rock, punk and even hip-hop defies the senses. This isn't solely about how catchy, hook-heavy and how inventive their sound is either; the pacing and construction of the album is inspired, making it a veritable enchanting experience when taken as a whole work. If you have not yet heard Blasterpiece, I would catch up on this year's best album pick right now.

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Mitchell Hillman