Best of 2017 Pick 4

Orquestra Baobob: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit, 2017)

This band has been around for decades but this record introduces a kora player and brings a sweeter African salsa sound than some of their classic burning jams (and I do mean straight up, dome cracking burning).  Feel free to check out Pirate’s Choice and other classics, those are incredible records as well.

Midtempo jams with super flavorful horn lines and beautiful singing.

 

Honorable Mention 2017 Pick 2

Divanhana: Zukva: Sevdah from Bosnia’s Finest (ARC, 2016)

This is the kind of band that can play in the dark with one hand and it will sound great.  They have crazy playing skills.  The female singer has a strong and beautiful voice — she does none of the annoying things a bad singer can do.

The only reason this record is not in the best of year section is that after the first three songs it slows down.  I wanted it to be smoking all the way through.  I’ve clipped two of the first three tunes below so you get a sense of what these guys can do when they put the pedal to the metal.

The instrumentation is vocal, piano, accordion, bass guitar, drums, and percussion.  I hear some tuba, nylon string guitar and clarinet in some of the tunes so it’s not fixed.  I dig the accordion player and the singer the most.

 

Best of 2017 Pick 3

Neurosis: Fires Within Fires (Neurot, 2016)

This band is on a 30+ year arc and the playing on this record reflects that.  It’s not a bunch of dudes standing and blasting full on raged out metal, although there are some epic head blows to be found here.  They’re 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 dimensionally so — some nice ambient sections, a few contemplative less dynamic and even a bit of mainstream rocking.  The singer is neither standard metal pissed or shredding his throat.  Let’s just call him disgruntled.  Just a taste below.

Best of 2017 Pick 2

Tinariwen: Elwan (Anti-, 2017)

Is this the best Tinariwen record in their discography?  I don’t have the time to make that judgment.  Is it going to be one of the best African records of the year?  Definitely.  Nobody gets the hypnotic guitar/hand drumming groove going like these guys.  There are other indisputably great African bands working now but these guys have a slot and they work it hard.

Check out this slow jam below and tell me who does it better:

I like the slower jams the best.

If you’ve heard these guys before you’ll enjoy this record.  The guitar playing is top notch AND world class.  If you haven’t heard these guys before, shame on you.

Music for 2/27/17!!! Steve Lacy, Power Trip, Rev. Sam Dixon

@@@ Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy’s Demo EP (Three Quarter, 2017)  An alt r&b record I got to via the Apple Music new music section.   And no, not Steve Lacy the sax player from the ’60s-’70s.  These first two tunes are centered around Lacy’s guitar playing and he’s got some sophisticated vocal arrangements in this second tune, Ryd.  The cover of the record has Mr. lacy sandwiched between a guitar and a bass so I’m thinking he programmed these beats and let fly with the rest of it.  It’s pretty good.  I would have dug some more variety of guitar tones as in maybe some Prince like guitar shredding.

@@@ Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord, 2017)  I checked the advance single and felt it so I’m back for more now that the full length banger is out.  Plus I’m a Southern Lord.  These guys have a militant vibe to their metal stomp with plenty of thrash drumming and some extreme Red Bull shredding in this first tune (clipped below).  I remember the Motorhead vibes these guys pump out like stale body odor.  The second tune, Executioner’s Song, brings on big stomp.  I’ve checked out four of the tunes here and I’m going to have to swing back on this record before I go burn somebody’s house down.

@@@ Rev. Sam Dixon: My Soul Says Yes (Manufactured, 2017)  Some old school gospel with r&b sprinklings that I got to via a music publicist email.  Some really beautiful gospel choir action and an interesting guitar player on this first tune.  The vibe here is super old school and I dig that.  If you, fabulous listener on this blog are not hip to the flavors of gospel and how much it has informed today’s soul/r&b music check out the reverend and get an earful for yourself.

YTD recordings listened to: 136
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 75
Not good music: 41

Buys: 0
Honorable Mentions: 1

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, Zomby, Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Divanhana, Moken, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Aethenor, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Tinariwen, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Power Trip

2017 Honorable Mention Pick 1

Acid Arab: Musique de France (Crammed Discs, 2016)

A timely shot of Middle Eastern electronica that goes out to that racist fucker Marine Le Pen in France and our very own homegrown piece of shit, Donald Trump.

Heavy club beats with modern bass sounds and Arabic melodies over the top.  A little like Omar Suleiman but less manic.  Guest singers but just shots of vocals not verse-chorus, etc.

I’ve clipped one of my favorite tracks below.

 

Best of 2016!!!

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.

Note 3:  I will be starting a podcast in early 2017 so stay tuned for 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.