2018 Honorable Mention Pick 1

Annah Hogberg Attack: Self-titled (Omlott, 2016)

Instrumentation on this medium out jazz record is sax, piano, drums and bass. There are more composed moments as well as some bursting skronk. Hogberg has a solid horn tone and the energy is fresh. The piano player and the drummer get a shout out with some particularly ear catching work.

The second track, Familjen, is clipped below. It is my favorite track on the record so check it out and see if it works for you.

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Best of 2018 Pick 1

Courtney John: Ecosystem (Soul Fire, 2017)

A perfectly crafted combination of old school roots reggae flavors with a great band and a singer I like a whole bunch. The band is tight and relaxed simultaneously with space for organ solos, guitar figures.

A lot of bands go for that old school reggae record but they don’t make it for a variety of reasons — the singer can’t carry the load, the production is too modern, the band has no funk to it, etc.

This is pretty and tough and heartfelt all at the same time.

Best of 2017 Pick 10

American Lips: Kiss the Void (Ancient Fashion, 2017)

It’s not easy to make a mainstream rock record and have it sound fresh.  These guys do a good job of recreating an early ’80s half punk/No Wave kind of thing but with a pop sensibility and plenty of hooks.  Ya know, the Knack, early Elvis Costello, Urge Overkill, and the somewhat nutless yet praised out the ass The Strokes.  There are many places where it can go wrong — the singer can be a douche, the hooks can be more than familiar as in they bit it (as in somebody else’s music) too hard, the production can water down whatever muscle the band brings to the music.

But that doesn’t happen here.  The guitar player is pretty driving here for the style of music and the singer is straight ahead.  No Bon Jovi, no posing with his meat stick hanging out, all that shit.

This is 22 minutes of pop punk deliciousness so check it out!

This is for cubicle dwellers and bologna sandwich eaters out there.

 

Honorable Mention 2017 Pick 7

Kelly Moran: Bloodroot (Wommusic, 2017)

31 minutes of solo prepared classical piano.  Where I just recommended a bouncy house free jazz piano ensemble recording this is more on the ethereal and pretty tip while retaining nutritious value.  There’s a lot of indie music that strives to be pretty and ethereal but it’s manipulative and mostly empty minded.

The main alteration from a straight solo classical piano is her dampening and sticking things under some strings and how that changes the sound of her playing.  More on the buzzy/plinky and less on the resonant piano side of things.  But she doesn’t stick shit in all the strings so it’s a combination of ringing out and retarded harpsichord type sounds. It sounds like she might be doing other things to the piano but I can’t grok it out.

She plays well across the record but I thought the title track was the best tune.

Check her out!

Best of 2017 Pick 9!!!

Chris McGregor: Up to Earth (Wing and a Prayer, 2008)

Not so long ago recorded music wasn’t so manicured and staid.  Chris McGregor was a Scottish pianist who grew up on African music and this record is a raucous/joyful jazz record in the tradition of Thelonious Monk.  Multiple horns swinging, a great rhythm section and McGregor’s angular and energetic playing combine to take you back to a time  where wildness was welcome.

This is not the most recommended McGregor record on All Music but I really like the energy of this.  One of the many problems with getting people to getting people involved with jazz is that the artists make records in different styles with different musicians and it becomes a pissing match regarding which record is the best.  Whereas indie bands often end up feeding their fans slightly altered versions of their last record because it’s adult baby food by non-artists.

Check this video out below and if you can’t get with it you’re pretty fucking square assed.

Best of 2017 Pick 8

Prepared: Trust Me (BART Records, 2017)

22 minutes of heartfelt, emo punk with great energy.  The guitar player is surprisingly engaging as you don’t usually get super interesting guitar playing on straight punk records.

The strength of this record lies in its ability to express/release a lot of negative emotions (frustration, desperation, sadness, anger, etc) with somewhat simple musical elements and allow listeners to have a similar release.  And it accomplishes this with a nakedness and/or lack of pretension — it just goes right to it and lets it out.  This to me is the essence of great punk rock.