Note 1: These records are listed in the order they hit the list through the course of the year, not in any sort best to worst order.
Note 2: I will be adding more records between now and the end of 2016 but I got my best of 2015 list up in July 2016 and did not want a repeat of that.
1: Noisem: Blossoming Decay (A389 Recordings, 2015) There’s a moment on the seventh song, Another Night Sleeping in the Cold, where the rhythm of the drums and the power chord sauce from the guitarist rhythmically lock and it sounds like you’re taking a pleasurable and savage beating. Listen
2: Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta: Dos Santos (Self-released, 2015) A rocking cumbia explosión out of Chicago. Strong rhythm section, great guitar tones at work and you get the space organ for free. Listen.
3: Living Hell: Oblivion (Eulogy, 2009) This 2009 metal record is being reissued and I understand why. This band is a very tasty blend of metal with touches of classic metal and hardcore punk. Listen.
4: Los Hacheros: Bambulaye (Jacob Plasse, 2016). I have their 2012 effort on my best of list for its beautiful ambient salsa sound and this record makes the list for it’s powerful combination of melody and rhythm. Listen
5: Ghostlimb: Confluence (Vitriol, 2012). An emo punk brain scraper that lurches and confesses from the opening measures. The singer is fully at the end of his rope, the drummer is on it and loose and alive, and the songs are spin and jerk around, just like in real life. Every member of the band is on full tilt. Listen.
6: Alvin Youngblood Hart: Down in the Alley (Memphis Int’l, 2002) Hart is a superlative guitar player specializing in finger picking. He also sports a soulful, classic blues voice with a combination of gruffness and black church gospel melodies. Listen.
7: Eliades Ochoa: Leyendas (Plus One Music, 2016). Smoking old school Cuban music from a Buena Vista Social club alumnus. The singing is beautiful, the stringed instrument playing is righteous with plenty of space for solos, and the percussionist/conga player is hot. Listen.
8. Konono No. 1 Meets Batida (Crammed Disc, 2016) Are you a four on the floor drum machine kinda person/cubicle dweller or do you get the strange and driving power of an electrified thumb piano? Distorted and driving with a guitar player, some electronics, awesome singing and chanting. Listen.
9: Al Scorch: Circle Round the Signs (Bloodshot, 2016). An Americana roots record with very good lyrics, great energy, a really good singer and a variety of tunes. Listen.
10: Jim the Boss: Hudson Soul (Boom One, 2016) Super true roots reggae. TIght rhythms, classic sounds, great sax in this second track. Of course booming bass as what would one expect from a label called Boom One? Listen.
11. Jessie Mae Hemphill: Get Right Blues (High Water Recording, 2003) This is straight ahead, no bullshit/no marketing music. And in terms of emotional impact great blues can really pack a wallop and such is the case with Jessie Mae Hemphill. Listen.
12: Vieux Kante: Young Man’s Harp (Sterns, 2016). Virtuosic koura playing out of Mali accompanied by a deft bass player and great tunes. Listen.
14. Changui Majadero: El Changui Majadero (Changui Majadero, 2016) Full on blasting Cuban music out of Cali. Great female singer, great playing. Listen.
15. The Lickshots: The Lickshots (Rockers Int’l, 2016) This is about as sweet a dub record as you’re gonna find. Classic delays, thick bass and well done drumming but with some really tasty flute and horn work (see clip below). Listen.
16. Vaudou Game: Kidayu (Hot Casa, 2016) African James Brown+ and no fucking around! Unbelievably funky drummer with great players and singers all around. Listen.
17. Neurosis: Fires Within Fires (Neurot, 2016) They’re 30 years tight, the arrangements are tight, and the playing is lean, seasoned with heavy doses of old school punk, noise, and of course, metal. The mood is dark but three dimensional. Listen.
18. Mystic Braves: Days of Yesteryear (Mystic Braves, 2015) An indie record reminiscent of The Byrds, The Coral and even a pube or two of R.E.M. Great guitar playing and rhythm section action. Listen.
19. Solange: A Seat at the Table (Columbia, 2016). Everything her sister Beyonce is not and thank God for that. Listen.
HONORABLE MENTIONS 2016!!!!
1. Mohammed Abozekry: Chaos (Neonovo, 2013) Abozekry is a French-Egyptian oud player and he shreds. He’s accompanied by an upright bass player, a hand drummer, and another string player Listen.
2. Xibalba: Tierra Y Libertad (Southern Lord, 2015) Straight up, no bullshit metal beat down. Big drummer/guitar rhythmic lockdown. Listen.
3. Debruit and Alsarah: Aljawal (Soundways, 2013) Some of my favorite electronic music involves African people. This collaboration between a French producer and a Sudanese singer does a really great job combining electronic music elements with African music. Listen.
4. The Reverend Peyton and his Damned Big Band: So Delicious (Shanachie, 2015) This roots rock record is both dirty and nerdy. The band is high energy and pretty rocking (for the style) and the singer sports a unique lower register voice. Listen.
5. Michael Daves: Orchids and Violence (Nonesuch, 2016). A concept record in that he plays 12 songs in a bluegrass style and then plays the same 12 songs electric. And man the bluegrass record is pretty kicking. Listen.
6. Carrie Rodriguez: Lola (Luz Records, 2016) A fantastically produced record of mostly torch songs with Tex Mex twang, Mexican music, and some rock and roll. Listen.
7. Matt Parker: Twos and Fours (Concierge, 2015) A raucous and swinging jazz record I found a few months ago. I love the energy of the playing as well as the sound of the record. Listen.
8. James McMurtry: Complicated Game (Complicated Game, 2016) This roots record has a lot going for. It sounds great, the band plays very tastefully, and McMurtry rocks some pretty high end lyrics. Listen.
9. Cha Wa: Funk ‘n Feathers (Cha Wa, 2016) Righteous uplifting vocals, a lot of catchy and standard New Orleans party tunes but done with some rock/funk muscle, especially the guitar player, the organ player and the drummer. Listen.
10. Eli Paperboy Reed: My Way Home (Yep Roc, 2016) Mr. Paperboy brings it on this record. The band is hot with special shout outs to the bass player and the background vocalists. Listen.
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. Listen.
12. Bone Dance: Bone Dance (Self-released, 2013) These guys work the neighborhood where post-rock, emo, hardcore punk, and metal meet. Listen.
13. Gorguts: Pleiades’ Dust (Gorguts, 2016) If you want to hear a band stretch out and aspire and you dig the sonic palette of really rough heavy metal bands this record will work for you. Listen.
14. Brent Cobb: Shine on Rainy Day (Elektra, 2016) A John Prine tinged country rock record. The lyrics are above average but not quite great and this record has a lot of things going for it including an excellent bass player with a great tone, tasteful arrangements, and a singer with a voice that sits solidly in the country tradition. Listen.
15. Kadhja Bonet: The Visitor (Fat Possum, 2016). An avant soul record. I like the drummer, the sounds and the arrangements but the singer Bonet is the star here. She has a commanding and beautiful voice — she smokes anything I’ve heard out of Beyonce. Listen.
16. Michael Wollny & Vincent Peirani: Tandem (ACT, 2016) The contrast between the highbrow piano and the folk-y sound of the accordion is delicious — it works for me big time. The mood of these pieces is slower rather than faster, not sad but certainly not bouncy. Listen.
17. Xylouris White: Black Peak (Bella Union, 2016). Xylouris White is going for what I would call an ecstatic energy. He pushes both his playing and his singing and he whips the drummer into quite a shitty as well. Listen.
18. Destruction Unit: Negative Feedback Resistor (Sacred Bones, 2015). Definitely one of the most blasted out heavy psych records you will ever encounter. Beyond distorted guitars, distorted vocals, a filthy sewer bass, it’s really about a full blast of energy here. Listen.
19. 6Lack: Free 6Lack (Interscope, 2016) 6Lack (pronounced black) has some of the best hip hop/r&b sounds going this year. Really abstract and beautiful shit that floats and pulsates and hovers over the skittery beats you get from musicians down South. Listen.
20. Dori Freeman: Dori Freeman (Dori Freeman/Free Dirt, 2016). A country/roots/folk record by a female artist with a voice that fits right into the country tradition — the sad song part of it any way. The first three songs are the best on the record. Listen.
21. Noura Mint Seymali: Arbina (Glitterbeat, 2016) Seymali is a singing giant with a huge voice and her husband is totally boss on the guitar. Funky West African business. Listen.