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.

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.