Best of 2015

***Listed chronologically, not in order of preference.****

1: Paul Giallorenzo’s Git Go: Force Majeure (Delmark, 2014) When people say they don’t understand jazz I really don’t understand what the fuck they’re on about.  I don’t really understand the point of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, and this is some melodic and swinging music made for humans. Listen.

2: Faianatur: Rastafari Straight (Faianatur, 2014) The band is tight with plenty of floor sweeping bass, but it’s the vocalist who ties the tunes together and takes the music above other reggae records. Listen.

3: Living Hell: Oblivion (Eulogy, 2009) Mid tempo stompers and occasional forays into thrash with excellent guitar sounds and a nice rhythmic lock betwixt the guitar player and the drummer. Listen

4: Dengue Fever: The Deepest Lake (MRI, 2015) This record of an L.A. band with a female Cambodian singer who sings in both Cambodian and English could work for a pretty wide audience.  The Deepest Lake is as much a rock record as it is a world music record. Listen.

5: Sons of Huns: Banishment Ritual (Ridingeasy Records, 2015) More than a bit of classic hard rock, riffy hard rock, a plain workingman’s punk aesthetic sprinkled in there with a bit of grunge, and even a bit of the ol’ stoner rock. Listen.

6:  BKO Quintet: Bamako Today (Buda Musique, 2014) These guys feature three drummers, an electrified ngoni that sounds like Bassekou Kouyate rocked last year, and a kora.  They are great singers and the album is strong all the way through due to the incredibly high level of musicianship. Listen.

7: Coffinworm: IV.I.VIII (Profound Lore, 2014) Big sludgy power chords, caveman drummer, fully unintelligible singer.  The drummer is extremely musical and the guitar tone is absolutely huge — big oozing waves of distortion with a pleasing sharpness that keeps it from the stoner rock realm. Listen.

8: Khaira Arby: Timbuktu Tarab (Popcornlab, 2011) This woman Khaira Arby and her West African band tear shit up on this 2010 release.  She will sing you into submission.

9:  Tal National: Zoy Zoy (Fat Cat, 2015)  A tour de force of African polyrhythmic guitar playing and drumming. Listen.

10:  Ultramantis Black: Ultramantis Black (Relapse, 2014) Total fucking metal mayhem, lurching around, violently unpredictable and pissed to no end.

11: Hope Drone: Cloak of Ash (Relapse, 2015).  The guitar player really steals the show. A lot of really engaging and interesting chord progressions — not your standard power chord ka-chunk up side the head but almost melodic post hardcore waves of noise. Heavy to be sure, but infused with melancholy. Listen.

12: Quarter Street: Quarter Street (Hope Street Recordings, 2015) A burning salsa record that fires on all cylinders.  Great rhythm section, super bumpin’ horn section and great vocal arrangements.  Listen

13:  Qwanqa: Volume 2 (FPE, 2015)  I really like this Ethiopian four piece consisting of drums, electric bass, electric guitar, and violin. Big ups for the drummer.  Listen.

14: Ellen Jewell: Sundown over Ghost Town (Signature Sounds, 2015) In an age of sonic excess and wanker-ness this understated and tasteful alt-country record is a breath of fresh air. Listen.

15:  Tinariwen: Live in Paris (Anti-, 2015) It’s virtuoso playing and the live setting really highlights that.  It’s also funky and rocking as fuck. Listen.

16:  Fuck the Facts: Desire Will Rot (Noise Salvation, 2015) This is molten monster shot of metal, thrash, hardcore punk, grind, post-rock a tad of doom. Listen.

17: Kowloon Walled City: Grievances (Neurot, 2015) Another one of my favorite heavy music records of the year.  This record tilts more to the sad, shoe gaze, post-hardcore side of town than the methed-out, pissed beyond pissed metal part of town. Listen.

18: Daniel Bachman: River (Three Lobed Recordings, 2015) Acoustic guitar instrumental folk/roots record. All the tunes are lovely, he plays at a very high level and the record sounds great. Listen.

19: Omar Souleyman: Bahdeni Nami (Monkeytown, 2015) — Smoking and funky music out of Syria.  Seven pieces, six of which are over 5 minutes long and Souleyman will spin you around the dance floor until you drop. Listen

Honorable Mention

1. Simo Lagnawi: The Gnawa Berber (Riverboat, 2014) Some sick ensemble world music drumming out of Morocco. Listen.

2. Kendl Winter and the Summer Gold: It Can Be Done (K Records, 2013) This is much more of an indie record with a banjo player than it is an alt-country record with some indie/punk leanings. Listen.

3. Hush Points: Blues & Reds (Sunnyside, 2015) Straight jazz with a poppin’ drummer. Listen.

4.

8. The Skints: FM (Easy Star, 2015) A very sweet reggae dancehall record out of London sporting multiple MCs/toasters/singers, a thick rhythm section and a strong combination of toughness and tenderness. Listen.

9. Cheryl Pyle: Inside Dialogue (11th Street Music, 2011)  A bass and flute duo jazz record. Pyle has a super sweet tone.  Listen.

11. Lightning Bolt: Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey, 2015) The heirs apparent to the full tilt sonic assault of The Jesus Lizard with manic drumming, blasted post-apocalyptic bass, and fucked in the head vocals. Listen.

12. Chui Wan: Self-titled (Maybe Mars, 2015) If you took the the rhythm section of the Minutemen and blenderized it with a half cup of the Talking Heads art school rock and a few pubic hairs of prog rock you’d be pretty close to the sound of this record. Listen.

13. Napalm Death: Easy Meat (Century Media, 2015) If you amputated the first first tune you would be left with a hot nugget of thrash metal, hardcore punk and generally a foul and beautiful depiction of negative feelings. Listen.

14. Harmonicrat: Restart (Relapse, 2015) I don’t like this record as much as I loved the 2012 record Harmonicraft.  I found that record to be a perfect blend of hook and wallop to the dome.  This record is more noisy and less hooky but it’s a solid ass effort. Listen.

15. Richard Thompson: Still (Fantasty, 2015).  Check out the unrivalled guitar playing and the above average tunes and then go check out I Wanna See the Bright Lights Tonight. Listen.

16. Evan Caminiti: Meridian (Thrill Jockey, 2015) An ambient electronic record from a guitar player that sports a solid blend of murky low end and oscillating high end sounds.  Listen.

17. Chico Trujillo: Reina De Todas Las Fiestas (Barbes, 2015) A hot and sweet mash of various Latin musical influences by the new cumbia band out of Chile.  A little salsa, a little Brazilian music, even ska and reggae. Listen.

18. Knautic: Debut (East Van Digital, 2015) Mr. Knautic does a really good job of preserving the spirit of dub while working a palette of mostly electronic sounds on this EP. Tasty deployment of delayed sounds over drum machine beats and keyboard bass. Listen.

19. Owiny Sigoma Band: Nyanza (Brownswood, 2015). If you hate techno check out the second tune on this record, Luo Land, to see how funky a drum machine can be.  Take a classic kick-hat boom-titch, throw a conga like hand drum underneath, some stick percussion up top and then put a funky African dude in front of the mic. This record is about equally split between African sounds and electronic elements. Listen.

20. Bill Horist: Guitar Weirdo (Tangenisis Artifactory, 2013) A recording of solo prepared guitar.  Tastefully textured with a variety of sounds folks should check this record out. Listen.

21.Ruby Amanfu: Standing Still (Rival & Co, 2015)  Extremely well crafted sounds and lush old school production highlight this record of covers from Nashville based singer Ruby Amanfu.  Listen.

22. Israel Nash: Silver Season (Loose Music, 2015).  Mr. Nash does a pretty spot on Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young country hippie thing on this record.  That includes the fragile voice, the slow but firm tempo and the slide guitar. Listen.

23. Dief-Dieul De Thies: Aw Sa Yone Vol. 1 (Teranga Beat, 2015). 8 tunes, 80 minutes.  You know you’re in for some extended African jams with this record.  Listen.

24. Shannon and The Clams: Gone By the Dawn (Hardly Art, 2015) They play an early to mid ’60s style of r&b and they swing all right for white folks.  They’re really into singing and by putting some love and energy into the vocals they bring the listener more deeply into the record. Listen.

25. Jeremy Pinnell: Oh/KY (Sofaburn, 2015)  10 shots of old school country misery — getting high, loving the wrong women, just generally fucking up one’s life.  All told by an ex-addict with some lovely slide guitar playing and minimalist drum work.  Listen.

26. Madd Again!: MaddTing, Vol. 1 (Swing Ting, 2015)  All you indie electronic hipsters should check out the production on the modern dancehall record out of the UK.  These guys will show you how to rock a synth bass line and make it sound funky as fuck.  Listen.

27. Lionel Loueke: Gaia (Blue Note, 2015)  Opening up with two pretty monster shreds that combine African music with straight jazz, it sounds like the A&R guy stepped in and made sure there’s a ballad and then a rock tune to follow those up.  Listen.

 

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2016 Honorable Mention Pick 11

Xenia Rubinos: Black Terry Cat (Anti-, 2016)

This is what I thought indie rock was supposed to be.  Quirky music that draws from various genres and melts it all together to make something a bit like rock but not obsessively so.  For example, the fifth song Just Like I is pretty rocking but it bears little resemblance to classic FM rock.

Rubinos has a unique voice.  I read her bio and she went to Berklee College of Music but she doesn’t sound plain vanilla like loads of Berklee musicians (ahem John Mayer).  She has a trained voice but she’s got some quirk going on.

Lastly part of my liking this record is it sounds great.  Somebody did some really high quality work most notably the drums and the bass lending a strong vibe to Rubinos’ music.  Maybe you folks out there don’t listen like that but I do and it’s my blog yo.

Check this music out.

7/29/16: The Descendents, Zhu, Mothers

@@@ The Descendents: Hypercaffium/Spazzinate (Epitaph, 2016).  I’ve dug the Descendents but I never went all in and thought the best of the best applied to them.  They sport some classic punk energy in these first two songs.  These are all short shots of classic pop punk energy and they start to pump it on the third tune On Paper.  I peeped a little over half the record and I liked their ode to heart disease, No Fat Burger, the best of what I heard.

@@@ Zhu: Generationwhy (Columbia, 2016).  The Apple Music blurb talks about high end electronic producers and while I think there are going to be some fat sounds here I fear a New Age smooth cheese fest.  A fondue as you may.  These first few tunes are a mash of nu r&b, some smooth jazz/fusion-y sounds, club sounds and a wee bit of dub delay spicing.  I like it better when it stay in clubland though the vocals are a bit too top shelf for me.  Slick and more than a bit detached.

@@@ Mothers: When You Walk a Long Distance You are Tired (Grand Jury, 2016).  Some lonesome old school folk music (at least this first track) off the Apple Music new music section.  This first tune (clipped below) has blossomed orchestrally and the back to just the uke and the female voice.  Let’s peep more.  This second tune opens up shoegaze indie guitar-ish so we may be looking at pu pu platter of sounds.  I’ve done the requisite listening research and have determined it’s gonna be a downer indie record with some super slow burners that lean towards stripped folk.

YTD recordings listened to: 608
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 335
Not good music: 221

Honorable Mentions: 10
Buys: 9

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Dawn Richard, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves, Divanhana, Unrestrained, Moken, Systema Solar, Brian Eno, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, The Lickshots, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, Xenia Rubinos, Miramar, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Margo Price, Changui Majadero, Seratones, Joe Sticky

7/28/16: Sticky Joe, Floating Points, Trust Punks

@@@ Sticky Joe: Good Day EP (Joe Simpson, 2016).  Some old school dancehall with strong roots reggae influences.  This first tune, Giddy Up, bounces out of the gate like it’s Kentucky Derby day in Kingston.  The second tune, Ragamuffin Business, continues with a sweet horn line and some dub delay and sweet vocals.  Oh, this is some bass hand sculpted for your headphones!  The third tune, Champion, marks the first drum machine track (at least to my ears).  Imma swing back to this one, this is perfect summer music.

@@@ Floating Points: Kuiper EP ILuaka Bop, 2016).  I checked out the 2015 full length Elaenia and almost really dug it so I thought I would throw a peep to this 1 track 18 minute EP.  Thus far I’m into it and it’s sparseness.  This guy has major bleep/R2D2 skills and while he keeps a solid techno beat it’s not a low IQ four on the floor Cro-magnon beat.  I’m good for about 6-7 minutes and then I will give my opinion of it.  I remember this from the last record.  He starts out minimalist and then builds the mix adding arpeggiated synths and even some guitar plink and I would prefer it stay minimal and just sort of rotate through time and space.

@@@ Trust Punks: Double Bind (Wharf Cat, 2015) Some post punk that I got to from the featured new releases at All Music.  After a guitar haze intro we get into some pretty standard No Wave punk British style.  I don’t think I’m gonna love this singer.  This is more of an angular Strokes kind of sing-a-long hooky pop punk, not your old school SST freak punk.  Neither is it Jello Biafra-like and that’s a shame as well.

YTD recordings listened to: 605
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 332
Not good music: 221

Honorable Mentions: 10
Buys: 9

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Dawn Richard, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves, Divanhana, Unrestrained, Moken, Systema Solar, Brian Eno, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, The Lickshots, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, Xenia Rubinos, Miramar, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Margo Price, Changui Majadero, Seratones, Joe Sticky

7/27/16: Magic Giant, Seratones, Animalia, Andy Shauf

@@@ Magic Giant: Magic Giant EP (Magic Giant, 2015).  I saw from a publicist email that these guys have signed on to the Washington Square label so I thought I would peep.  They do a more modern folk roots thing with an uplifting vocalist and lots of yeah yeah vocal harmonies.  It’s like a Death Cab for Cutie/folk lovechild.  This second tune brings the Bon Jovi whoa hos and other sounds I can’t abide by, so adios Magic Giant!

@@@ Seratones: Get Gone (Fat Possum, 2016).  A Southern r&b outfit that owns a whole bunch of Nirvana records.  I got to this band after seeing them on the CFUV weekly playlist email.  I like the singer, she yips and keeps it fresh on the microphone.  Oh mama, this is the kind of shit I can slurp on all day long.  A little hooky, some good muscle, and energy.  I love energy.  Nice sounds thus far — some buzzy bass, solid drum sound but it’s the singer and the guitarist that really hit it out of the park.  Imma swing back on this one but I suggest folks break off a piece of these guys.

@@@ Animalia: (Dissonance) (Culvert, 2016).  Dark art school music off this week’s CFUV weekly email.  It’s hard to tell from the opener thus far if it’s gonna wrong, oh it’s not it’s gonna bounce with some kraut sauce and ping pong synth.  I don’t think this singer is a native English speaker and that’s fine but she’s not going to do well when Trump gets this wall thing going.  Joke, don’t piss yer pants.  I’ve taken bites of five of the songs and it’s pretty standard synth rock with dramatical vocals.  If you roll that way….

@@@ Andy Shauf: The Party (Anti-, 2016).  Also off this week’s CFUV weekly email.  Pleasant and laidback singer-songwriter soft rock off.  This first tune is driven by the piano and a sparse rock beat.  Shauf is dour but not suicidal, he’s got enough in the tank for some oodie, doodie doo typa background vocals.  Let’s peep more.  I’m on the fourth tune and I like a bunch of the sounds here and I like the orchestral aspect to some of the arrangements.  I like Shauf’s voice but it’s a tad soggy for my taste — he’s mad mellow in his singing and the band is super mellow and it’s making me a tad sleepy.

YTD recordings listened to: 602
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 330
Not good music: 221

Honorable Mentions: 10
Buys: 9

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Dawn Richard, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves, Divanhana, Unrestrained, Moken, Systema Solar, Brian Eno, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, The Lickshots, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, Xenia Rubinos, Miramar, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Margo Price, Changui Majadero, Seratones

7/26/16: Jake Owen, Bear’s Den, Jarren Benton, Mary Lattimore and Jeff Ziegler

@@@ Jake Owen: American Country Love Song (Sony, 2016).  A professional golfer turned new country singer.  Blue eyes, pickup trucks, radio stations, dancing, power chords and white cheddar cheese!  And a big Bon Jovi guitar solo, I think I just shit my pants.  Lyric video, it’s your lucky day bitches!

@@@ Bear’s Den: Red Earth & Pouring Rain (Bear’s Den, 2016).  Off Apple Music’s alternative playlist.  You are greeted with some guitar washes and a bittersweet male singer.  He’s a bit fragile and a little sad and he’s commemorating what he had with her in the ‘red earth and the pouring rain’.  I don’t think this record is for me but I will peep a bit more.  There are a lot of ’80s sounds on these songs — gated snares, sheets of clean guitar sounds, old school synths.  Here comes the earnestly strummed acoustic guitar with some big power chord sauce over it and that about punches my ticket out.

@@@ Jarren Benton: Slow Motion, Vol. 2 (Benton Enterprises, 2016) Some gangsta hip hop off the new hip hop section.  I like the bass, I don’t notice the beats that much, and I don’t like the synths here.  I don’t think of big cheesy synths as being very gangstery but that’s just me.  This second tune is pretty hot — fat fat bass contrasting nicely with some skitter action.  I really like the arrangement and the rhyming in this third tune, What a Difference.  They synth is much trippier and they hit the mic hard.  It’s pretty lyrically raw so there you go.

@@@ Mary Lattimore & Jeff Ziegler: Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Revelateur (Thrill Jockey, 2016).  Ambient soundtrack music off this week’s All Music weekly email.  Opens up plinky and spacious with some harmonices and a little delayed threedling.  I’m hoping this doesn’t collapse into New Age uplifting-ness.  I’m four tunes in and while there are abstract moments in this record it’s a tad pretty for my taste.  I would prefer more abstract sounds, less harp, more sounds.  Again, that’s just me.

YTD recordings listened to: 598
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 328
Not good music: 220

Honorable Mentions: 10
Buys: 9

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Dawn Richard, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves, Divanhana, Unrestrained, Moken, Systema Solar, Brian Eno, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, The Lickshots, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, Xenia Rubinos, Miramar, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Margo Price, Changui Majadero

7/25/16: Changui Majadero, Mixed Culture, Fraudband, IJI

@@@ Changui Majadero: El Changuie Majadero (Self-released, 2016).  Some self-released Cuban changui and rumba music off the WRIR playlist email.  I love Cuban music!  These guys have it going on in this first tune — very sweet string playing, great conga playing and celebratory singing between a couple of gents and a woman. Oh this is happening for summertime people.  I’m on this third tune Vamos pa’l Guaso and it is bumping — brisk and super on rhythmically with some tight singing.  Imma gonna swing back on this record but folks should check this record out.  I can’t find much on the GoogleTube but the whole record is up on the streaming stores.

@@@ Mixed Culture: Movement in Dub (Jah Youth, 2015)  A new school take on dub music out of Peru.  This first tune is epic in vibe with full reggae band including synth (thumbs down) horn section and floor sweeping bass.  The second tune opens up with a big rock shred and modern production.  I like the dub delays they have going on here.  I think I prefer the old school stripped down dub but check this out for yourself.  If it were a bit tougher sounding I would be more drawn to it.

@@@ Fraudband: Losing It (Kasumuen, 2016)  A stoner/psych boulder I got to via an email from their Australian record.  I guess these guys have recorded 25 records and released them while I was listening to Miley Cyrus.  Dual guitar attack, bit rock tom attack, some shredding rising out of the stoney magma.  Things get more urgent and mathier as the tune unfolds, I think there’s plenty of coffee along side the big bag of weed.

You can stream it up over here.

@@@ IJI: Free Screening (Team Love, 2016).  Bubblegum hipster indie strongly influenced by ’80s sounds and softness.  I don’t like the guitar tones and I don’t like the singer and I like the rhythm section.  I got to this via a music publicist email.

YTD recordings listened to: 594
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 326
Not good music: 218

Honorable Mentions: 10
Buys: 9

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, MAKU Soundsystem, Zomby, Retox, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Bone Dance, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Alexander Hawkins, Toxic Holocaust, Equal Stones, Comeback Kid, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Dawn Richard, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Akitsa, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Destruction Unit, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Mystic Braves, Divanhana, Unrestrained, Moken, Systema Solar, Brian Eno, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, The Lickshots, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, Xenia Rubinos, Miramar, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Margo Price, Changui Majadero