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 Pick 19

Solange: A Seat at the Table (Columbia, 2016).

Probably the most mainstream record I have on my best of 2016 list, but Solange Knowles kills it on this record. She is everything her sister Beyonce is not. She’s tasteful, coherent and trying to write music that is meaningful. None of that applies to Queen Bey, she hints at being tasteful and meaningful but it’s all about the paper.

I would describe the sound of this record as a slightly minimalist and expertly arranged updated classic soul sound. She does get into some sophisticated vocal arrangements but they’re not cluttered and they’re in service of the song and what she’s trying to say. I really like the sounds on the record which span from old school to occasional electronic flourishes (arpeggiated dance synths, etc). There are a bunch of sections which sound very Prince influenced, a couple of plays which refer back to ’70s soul and some more recent vibes.

I read somewhere that it took her five years to make this record and it sounds it. It’s well performed, heartfelt, serious but not preachy, emotional but not overwrought, she did a great job of balancing and finishing the record.

Check it out as this is my most mainstream pick of 2016.

 

 

2016 Honorable Mention Pick 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.

I shouldn’t say that, there are tunes here and melodies just awash in fuzz and dirt. Some nice kicking out the freak boogie moments as well. Lots of disorienting swirling waves of sound as well, it’s not an easy job to describe this fuzz ball.

Truly trippy teeth grinding psych punk.

2016 Honorable Mention Pick 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. There are moments where I can’t tell if it’s a synth or an ambient guitar sound, but it doesn’t matter too much as it all fits together superbly well.

Mr. 6Lack works about half in hip and half in new r&b, it’s a very musical and unique combination of sounds. He has a bit of a sharp/tad nasal voice that works well within his songs and I found a lot of the lyrics to be interesting.

The first few tunes are the best but it holds up all the way through.

2016 Honorable Mention Pick 21

Noura Mint Seymali: Arbina (Glitterbeat, 2016).

I love this West African outfit. Seymali is a singing giant and her husband is totally boss on the guitar. He is a rock god regardless of genre. Her husband has musical training where he can hear her singing and then play a melody very close to her vocal back in response. He also sports this circular style that is hypnotic. The drummer is a white guy who does a solid job of laying back and letting these two do their thing. I saw them live last year and they had a 7 foot tall funky bass player. I don’t know if he’s on the record but the rhythm section is very solid but not what you come for.

Either they misordered the record or I’m not very bright, but I enjoy the record as it moves through the songs and I find some of the playing in the last third record to be pretty mindblowing. My favorite track on the record is Ghlana — I’ve attached a live version in the second clip below to give a you a taste of what these guys can do. The studio version is an African knockoff of Jimmy Page’s guitar playing style from peak Led Zeppelin.

Check these guys out.

2016 Honorable Mention Pick 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 tunes are the best on the record, in my opinion, and then she gets a little poppier and then a little torchy/Peggy Lee and then back to the lonesome country sounds for the last third of the record.

The record sounds great, the playing is solid, the arrangements are very good without really standing out but it’s Freeman’s voice that pulls you in.

Check her out — I’ve clipped the first and third tunes below for your listening pleasure.

2016 Honorable Mention Pick 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 tunes are the best on the record, in my opinion, and then she gets a little poppier and then a little torchy/Peggy Lee and then back to the lonesome country sounds for the last third of the record.

The record sounds great, the playing is solid, the arrangements are very good without really standing out but it’s Freeman’s voice that pulls you in.

Check her out — I’ve clipped the first and third tunes below for your listening pleasure.