All posts by Adrian Spinelli

Music. Food. Sports. Chill.

First Spin: MPHD’s Repetition EP Induces Intrigue And Movement

MPHD is the tech house project of San Francisco producer Bradley Exum.  MPHD is the tech house project of San Francisco producer Bradley Exum. MPHD is the tech house project of San Francisco producer Bradley Exum.

His latest 2-track EP, Repetition, is out today on SF’s Text Me Records and Everything Ecstatic gives you a first spin at the bottom of this post.

Since MPHD came to life in 2010, Exum, 27, has been a staple in the San Francisco electronic scene. This year alone, he’s opened for Gene Farris, LCD Soundsystem and Ghostland Observatory. He’s released a couple EP’s for SF bass & house label Bad Shoes and after a production lull, has caught on with the surging Text Me Records to put out Repetition.

On the title track, a driving beat lays the groundwork for glitches, vocal samples and gradual flux, already sweating from the dance floor it belongs on. “Repetition is a psychological tool,” an ominous voice utters, as the bass surrounds it. On the dastardly rhythm of “LNL1968,” Exum further toys with the concept of expanding on a song’s continuous nature, as it progresses into a straight get-down bounce.

“I was trying to really focus in on that idea of why repetition is interesting to us, how for some reason it tends to entice more often than it tends to bore,” Exum says.  “Obviously electronic music is definitely rooted in repetition; but how one uses subtle changes, negative space, etc… when writing has always been pretty interesting to me and definitely contributed to how both of these tracks got to their final state.”

While this is MPHD’s  first EP with Text Me, Exum says there’s more on the horizon. For now, this shit is ready to rock a club stat. Peep Repetition below. Peep Repetition below. Peep Repetition below. Peep Repetition below. Peep Repetition below.

Follow MPHD on Twitter or Facebook.

All Photos by Lukas Peterson.

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French Cassettes Don’t Mind Waiting On “Sunday Soda”

French Cassettes are one of those SF bands you just pine for more material from. They released their debut album, Gold Youth, in 2013, alongside the Summer Friends EP — both collections of shimmering and brisk, coastal pop songs — before sinking  in to studio sessions and side projects. They’ve still been a been a steady presence at Bay Area concert halls, but aside from “Right Talk” off of Oakland’s OIM Records 2015 Vol. 1 comp, there’s been a dearth of new French Cassettes tunes…..until now.

On the heels of the recently released “City Kitty”, we’re premiering the latest cut from French Cassettes’ long-awaited batch of new songs, “Sunday Soda.”  Predicated on a sleeping giant G note riff, the track unfurls into a feel good jam brimming with the spirit of SF’s  oceanic edges, just as much as that of the breeze within the almond orchards of the San Joaquin Valley, where the song was written and the band is originally from.

Mixed by long-time LCD Soundsystem producer/engineer Eric Broucek, the musical moods of “Sunday Soda” transition seemingly by design, in congruence with singer Scott Huerta’s lyrics.

“I don’t remember intentionally doing this, but the lyrics definitely go from fun…to lonely…to desperate.,” Huerta says. “That’s probably because I start working on songs around midnight and finish the lyrics around 5am. Not really myself by then.”

Never without his wit, Huerta says the song was inspired by two of his favorite Davids: Bazan and Blaine. And as the G note morphs into the pre-chorus building like a magic trick, a silky guitar solo drops and beneath a highly relatable hook, painting that moment when all we’re left with is waiting for someone to meet you on the same page and blissfully accepting the anxiety that comes with it: “I don’t mind..waiting such a long-time…for patience…for three red lights…” We’ve all been there.

Listen to “Sunday Soda” below and go see French Cassettes Friday, Nov 16 at The Chapel on Valencia St with Spooky Mansion and Lapel, who both released notable SF records this year. Tickets here. 

Lead Image courtesy of French Cassettes.

Classic Simpsons Trivia at Cafe Du Nord: Space Coyote Edition

Everything Ecstatic is bringing a very special evening of Classic Simpsons Trivia to Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco on Sunday November 18th! And this time around, it’s the Space Coyote Edition, celebrating the finer points of El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer), you know…the Carlos Castaneda-inspired episode where Homer eats a Guatemalan Insanity pepper and goes on a quasi-peyote trip? Yup, this is happening. Themed menus, killer prizes and more…here’s the scoop:

Trivia: Four rounds of Classic Simpsons Trivia (seasons 1-10 only!) Your hosts are local media oafs Adrian Spinelli and Zack Ruskin.

Image result for bart and milhouse

We’ll be showing episodes in between rounds!

Prizes: The grand prize is a special one… We teamed up with cannabis brand HiDesert, who make the delightful “Space Coyote Hash Joint” to give away a really snazzy Space Coyote embroidered denim jacket. I mean…take a look at these beauties! ❤

We’ve also got a ton of vintage Simpsons swag to give away, concert tickets to shows at Du Nord, bar tabs and maybe an extra something something from HiDesert/Space Coyote (which you can btw, order online here or get at Sparc dispensary in SF.)

The Food: Not gonna lie, this is the best part. Chef August Schuchmann of West of Pecos restaurant on Valencia has put together an awesomely outrageous Simpsons-themed menu. Check it:

– Carnitas Tacos w/ Merciless Pepper Sauce from Quetzalacatenango (or without…but the inmates who grew the peppers deep in the jungleprimeval of a Guatemalan insane asylum worked really hard to make it, so give it a shot!)

– Chief Wiggum’s Hearty Chili – Chili Colorado style with thick beef chunks and “rich creamery butter” (not really on the butter, but at least you won’t need to coat your mouth with candle wax for this one)

Image result for chief wiggum chili

– Little Lisa Simpson’s Vegetarian Enchiladas – (Butternut Squash Enchiladas topped w/ queso fresco & fried sage) Paul and Linda McCartney approved!

– Psychedelic Green Chile Mac & Cheese – (It’s very cheese-diddl-diddly-iddly-doodl-y) [begins tripping out]

– You Don’t Win Friends w/ Harvest Salad – Actually, it comes with butter lettuce, jicama, corn, queso fresco, avocado, crispy garbanzo beans and and green goddess dressing….so maybe you DO win friends with this particular salad?

– Follow The Tortoise to Chunky Guacamole & Chips. (Please don’t kick the tortoise, you’ll still get the guac & chips)

Image result for flaming moe

Drinks: Cafe Du Nord bar manager Jean-Luc Cardenas is creating a Flaming Moe shot this time around! The ingredients are of course a secret. He’s also crafted a “Space Coyote Cocktail” (we’re really hammering the theme home here…I know) with Mezcal, Serrano Chile, Lime, Honey-Chile Syrup and a Black Salt rim)

That’s it y’all….Sunday, November 18th from 6pm-9pm at Cafe Du Nord (2174 Market St. in San Francisco) Doors open at around 5:30 and GET YOUR TICKETS HERE!

Come “find your soulmate Homer” with us on Sunday. Cheers!

AS

“Saw You” by Laff Trax Was Tucked Away On Soulection Radio

So Laff Trax (Toro Y Moi x Nosaj Thing) is set to perform at Treasure Island Music Festival in Oakland this weekend. But strangely, the super production duo hasn’t officially released  a single track?? That’s laughable…ok I’ll stop.  But seriously, it leaves a lot of people wondering what to expect from an hourlong set from the collaboration project of two highly respected producers in Toro’s Chaz Bundick and Nosaj’s Jason Chung. Well my friends, I’ve been internet sleuthing… And I found something awesome.

Looks as if when Chaz hopped on to Soulection Radio #323 (back in August of 2017!) he dropped a track called “Saw You,” in its entirety (which Soulection cutely listed as being by ‘Laff Trak’) and it hasn’t really lived anywhere else, besides perhaps live Chaz DJ sets (Boiler Room), or the very limited Laff Trax performances that have gone down before TIMF this weekend. In the past, Toro & Nosaj collabed on the track “Try” off of Nosaj Thing’s 2013 album, Home, but this is on another spectrum entirely.

“Saw You” has those signature Nosaj cosmic effects and settles into a gamelan-soaked house beat in the mold of Chaz’s Les Sins project. As the track unfolds, vocals (presumably from Chaz) send us into an affirming musical comfort zone. I strive to find this kind of harmony in a production and I haven’t stopped blasting “Saw You” multiple times a day since I discovered it.

I’m gonna drop the track below and you can peep the whole Soulection #323 episode here. It’s a stellar mix and Joe Kay’s interview with Chaz in between tracks is insightful and endearing to say the least. More importantly though, some internet hero ripped the perfectly placed “Saw You” track into its own standalone soundcloud file (4 months ago!), which gives us our moment of zen below. This is an unofficial release obviously, but let this kindly be a call to Laff Trax: Get this shit out to the world son! (and I’ll happily swap in an official link when they do.) See y’all on the Island…err….in Oakland this weekend!

AS

Laff Trax plays TIMF Saturday 10/13/18 at 4:20 – 5:05 on The City Stage. 

(Image courtesy of TIMF)

EE Showcase Coming to Amnesia on 11/8!

Excited to announce a badass EE show as the year winds down! We’ve also got a couple more eclectic EE events to announce in the coming weeks so get hyped!

For now, mark your calendars for Thursday, November 8th at Amnesia Bar in San Francisco (Valencia & 19th.) Shows starts at 8:30 where DJ Bad Girl Bailey kicks things off the night. Stoked on a bill with an SF staples and a couple bands stopping in the city for one night only!  RSVP on Facebook and here’s more lineup details:

NRVS LVRS

SF-based dark and ominous electro pop project of Andrew Gomez and Bevin Fernandez.

NRVS LVRS on Facebook

MRCH

Comin’ straight outta Phoenix, MRCH has been an energetic soundtrack for the mid-afternoon blues as of late.

MRCH on Facebook

Fringe Class

Bringin’ the Portland steez to round out the bill…vibes of Cindy Lauper glammed up for the late 00’s.

Fringe Class on Facebook

Come fuck with us on Thursday night! $8 at the door and the best craft beer list of any music venue in SF. Holler!

Amnesia_Ecstatic_MRCH_LVRS

Food For Thought…

I had a moment yesterday in Budapest…a food moment. And I’ll never forget the feeling.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve ever been quite as floored by something I ate, where the flavors of a region and the world’s passion for food all just made so much sense.

It was our last night in Budapest and Teagan and I went to a spot called Cafe Kör on the recommendation of The Cipher Podcast Producer Josh Kross. “If you don’t eat at Cafe Kör in Budapest you’re doing it wrong,” he commented on a FB post. “Ok buddy,” I thought…”Let’s see what you got.” We walked by Kör in the afternoon to peek in and it seemed traditional, if not touristy – just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Basilica – but too nice for the quick lunch we were shooting for in the moment and planned to come by at night.

We came back at around 9:30pm, after a rejuvenating end of the day at the Rudas Baths. We ordered a bottle of Cuvee from Eger. It was dry and tart, typical of the area just outside of Budpest and the way I like it. We ordered salmon carpaccio as an appetizer, that covered the plate to the edges. It was excellent and substantial. The waiter, sensing that I wanted something traditional, was pushing me towards the beef tenderloin goulash as my main.

Here’s the thing though: I know it’s Hungary’s most famous dish, but whenever folks talk about goulash, I’ve never felt very excited about it. Stew with vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices? It’s always sounded so…pedestrian.

I’d had an outdoor market’s goulash the day before, but it was served in a fresh bread wrap and it was chicken-based. I dug it, but it was as memorable for the heavy metal music blasting from the stand I bought it from as it was for bold flavors that lingered on my breath for the next couple hours. In short, pedestrian.

Grudgingly, I ordered the Goulash at Kör and questioned that it was served with potato croquettes rather than noodles. But when the food arrived and I started eating, something amazing happened…

As I got into my second and third bites, I started to notice the temperature of the beef. It was hot when it first touched my tongue and my instinct was to back the fork away and blow on my food to cool it off. But then I realized that the heat quickly quelled and that this was in fact perfectly hot. (Hot food?! What a concept! It’s crazy to consider what a lost art this is at many restaurants.) I found confidence in knowing that even though the first touch was hot, it would never be too hot. Again, it was perfect.

And I got to dwelling on the optimal temperature that lasted nearly through the whole meal. I marvelled at how difficult this must be to maintain in a dish that while essentially braised for hours, was spread on the plate, in optimal fashion for cooling. And how did the beef attain such a pleasant chew within this process??

Then I thought about the spices, the sauce and the over-arching confluence of flavors that was before me. Cubes of beef simmered in a brown sauce of onions and peppers, seasoned with paprika and other spices, with the soft and crispy croquettes on the side. My amazement for how perfectly cooked this dish was, then was overcome by how distinctly it tasted and I began to realize that perhaps this is why goulash is so globally ubiquitious whenever the topic of Hungarian food comes up.

So I just kept eating, and sipping my wine and the intensity of the experience kept building. My brain was slowly unfolding into a complete understanding of everything contained within this dish…how the croquettes soaked up the thick stewy sauce, how tender the beef was, the balance that the paprika and the braised vegetables operated within and how it was STILL hot!

It was fairly powerful and I got emotional. My eyes got watery at the thought of this incredible experience as it was happening. I thought about the formative moment Anthony Bourdain describes in Kitchen Confidential, when an old fisherman in the South of France fed him an oyster right out of the water when he was a boy and how a light bulb went off in his nascent culinary mind (these days, I take Bourdain’s work with a grain of salt, but there’s no denying the impact of Kitchen Confidential.) This felt like my culinary moment of the same kind.

My loving partner smiled and laughed as she watched me go through the motions I just described above and it was just a spectacular affair. It felt good to be this affected by food and it re-ignited a passion inside of me. I want to replicate that moment again – badly – and it’s only been 14 hours since it happened.

But this is why I travel. To experience how people live around the globe…And from the standpoint of food, to step outside of my delightfully rote Whole Foods, Mexican food and sushi intake. And now on a train to Prague, I’m inspired. Three days into this trip and I’m in love with the world again. Oh how I’ve missed it.

AS

Playlist

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

Charlotte Day Wilson – Stone Woman

The 60 Best Albums of 2017

Welcome to the 10th annual Everything Ecstatic Best Albums of the Year list!  What you’ll see below are a reflection of the 60 releases that resonated the most with me this year….all the way ’til the end of December, when this list published.

You’ll notice that the 10 album block of “Stellar Spins” is back this year to kick-off the countdown. These selections are included as they should positively be heard, despite being just outside of the Top 50. Furthermore, they add depth to the Spotify playlist that you’ll find at the bottom of this post (which you can also subscribe to on here. )

If you haven’t yet, make sure to peep our list of the 10 Best EP’s of 2017 and feel free to re-visit the Best of 2016 here. Previous years can also be perused by clicking the ‘Albums of the Year’ tab on the top of the page.

Each entry features a short blurb, some are longer than others and every 3-5  entries include an embedded audio track or music videos  so you can listen to something while you read through. Def click on some of the hyperlinks I’ve included to relevant stories written about these artists and albums, by either myself or colleagues. There’s a lot to enjoy in here!

Lastly, if you dig what you read/hear, hit me on Twitter. I also host the bi-monthly Noise Pop Podcast and share a lot of new music throughout the year (Subscribe on iTunes!) Much of that music is included in the list below. Cheers!

AS

60-51: Stellar Spins

60. Hundred Waters – Communicating
59. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps
58. Jonti – Tokorats
57. Caleborate – Real Person
56. Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness 
55. Moonchild – Voyager
54. Milo – Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
53. Jaime Wyatt – Felony Blues
52. Aldous Harding – Party
51. Ty Segall – Ty Segall

The Top 50: The Year’s Best Albums

50. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

This is exactly what it sounds like. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile on a record together. If you love either, this is up your alley. If you’re a fan of both, have a ball!

49. The JuJu Exchange – Exchange

JuJu Exchange is Nico Segal’s new band (fka Donnie Trumpet of The Social Experiment and Chance the Rapper fame). This is a cool spin on modern jazz and essentially a record of  jazz instrumentals that could easily end up on a Chance album.

48. Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

Laetitia Tamko garnered universal praise for her debut and it’s as pleasant of a listen as you’ll find this year. Shouts to SF-based Father/Daughter Records for putting this one out.

47. Jlin – Black Origami

I don’t understand Jlin’s music, yet that’s what keeps me coming back for more…this seemingly never-ending quest to make sense of these sounds, in all of their futuristic-yet-primordial glory.

46. The XX – I See You 

Jamie XX took a more heavy-handed role in producing the group’s sound on this one and it made for a welcome comeback following a dreary sophomore slump.

45. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet

Michelle Zauner is one of the most interesting artists in indie as she begins to try her hand at directing music videos too. The auto-tuned first single, “Machinist,” didn’t do the full scope of this album justice. This is essential.

44. Gold Class – Drum

The best album from an excellent slate of releases by industrial music-based Felte Records. Singer Adam Curley will have you pining for Morrissey. Read more on this Paste premiere I did in August. 

43. TOPS – Sugar At The Gate

Montreal-based indie band brought it once again on their third LP on the stellar Arbutus Records label. This is no doubt their most complete effort.

42. Kelela – Take Me Apart 

Kelea cements her role as one of the prime forces in electro R&B. Opening track, “Frontline” is perfectly produced, mixed and performed. A standout if there ever was one.

41. Kamasi Washington – Harmony Of Difference

Harmony of Difference could easily be taken as an appendix to Washington’s seminal The Epic (Our #23 Album of 2015). It’s just six tracks, but the saxophonic bandleader leaves a lasting mark, again.

40. Ghosting – Reimagining Miyazaki

Producer Andrei Eremin sampled a slew of Hayao Miyazaki films in this gorgeous re-interpretation of the music within famed Japanese filmmakers works. The Melbourne-based Eremin made a name for himself as an engineer on records by Hiatus Kaiyote and Chet Faker and his Ghosting debut is a must-listen for Miyazaki fans (Listen to the album in full on Bandcamp.)

39. Weaves – Wide Open

Polaris-prize nominated Canadian indie band took the next step in their promising careers. Singer Jasmyn Burke is one of the best front-women in the business. She’s sinister and powerful, yet doesn’t take her self too seriously. Go see this band live. Do it.

38. Bedouine – Bedouine

The latest Spacebomb Records product is the project of Aleppo-born Azniv Korkejian. This is a beautiful record that adds to Spacebomb’s glowing roster of singers like Natalie Prass and Julien Baker. I edited this fine piece by Eric Danton on Bedouine, please dig in.

37. Ibeyi – Ash

I really thought Ibeyi would slump on their second XL Recordings release, but in a lot of ways, this shows more accessibility and direction than their debut. “Me Voy” opened up the world of featured vocalist Mala Rodriguez to me, a rapper from Spain who like Ibyei, can’t be missed.

36. Yellow Days – Is Everything Okay In Your World?

If you’re looking for the next King Krule, here he is.

35. Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

The next great hip-hop renaissance man.

34. Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors

While the lineup of Dirty Projectors has had some tough departures over the years  (first Angel Deradoorian and now Amber Coffman),  this has always been Dave Longstreth’s project. He pushes strong on what’s incredibly the band’s 8th LP and it’s time we give Longstreth and DP their praise due as one of the best long-running indie rock bands.

33. Daniel Caesar – Freudian

Canadian R&B singer/songwriter shows shades of Frank Ocean in this dashing debut. Remember his name.

32. Washed Out – Mister Mellow

The first Washed Out album on Stones Throw Records is producer Ernest Greene’s finest work to date. He successfully resurrected Washed Out out of the chillwave shell and this slots in nicely on the Stones Throw catalog. Peep the trippy and strangely hilarious visual album companion with SNL’s Kyle Mooney below.

31. BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION II

The freshest breath of air in the music industry this year was a diverse group of 14 kids from Texas.  Saturation II stands as the finest of the self-proclaimed “boy band’s” three album’s released this year. They tackle topics from squashing haters to grappling with sexual orientation in the millennial generation. This is an important group.

30. Kllo – Backwater

Debut LP for the Aussie duo on the Ghostly International label. Shades of old school drum and bass are woven within nuanced beats and dancefloor ready electronica.

29. Sango – De Mim, Pra Você

Where Diplo has moved past the Brazilian funk sounds he popularized on a global scale, Sango has made them his hallmark. This is a respectful and aware spin on baile-funk infused beats and the best part is that there’s more coming on the imminent horizon from Sango.

28. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

English electronic band totally crushed it on this Warp Records release. Guests appearances from James Blake, Micachu and King Krule are just the icing on the cake of one of the year’s best electronic releases.

27. Jordan Rakei – Wallflower

Now signed to Ninja Tune, Rakei’s Wallflower is blue-eyed soul for a new generation.

26. Jay Som – Everybody Works

Bay Area singer-songwriter Melina Duterte’s Everybody Works was one of the most critically-acclaimed new indie acts of the year. This was one of the best album’s to come out of the Bay this year.

24. Rexx Life Raj – Father Figure 2: Flourish

My favorite Bay Area rap album of 2017 saw Raj’s smooth flow and refined perspective over beats from local producers like Mikos Da Gawd, Drew Banga and the Julia Lewis, all profiled in my Behind The Beats series for KQEDArts. 

24. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

DC punk band led by Katie Alice Greer are out here to shatter the status quo. Pointed lyrics, a dynamic album and one of the best live performances I saw this year ( at Swedish American Hall)

23. King Krule – The OOZ

The highly anticipated follow-up to 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath The Moon is a complete package at 19 tracks. English singer/guitarist Archy Marshall is as impressive for his gravelly vocals as he is for his dexterous guitar playing.

22. Bonobo – Migration

Bonobo’s Simon Green could have easily gone the route of many other highly accessible electronic musicians and just loaded his next album with features. But Migration is modest in it’s collabs and sees Green further developing one of the richest electronic discographies of the last decade+.

21. Wiki – No Mountains In Manhattan

Wiki lives and breathes New York and No Mountains in Manhattan is bursting at the seams with the fabric of the city. He’s my favorite NYC rapper and this record is fun as fuck.

20. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah- Diaspora

The best jazz album of the year comes from a New Orleans-based trumpet player leading the charge in a new urban jazz movement. I discovered Scott when I was sitting on the couch of the Paste Studio in New York hearing him play for the first time. I was floored. Please watch this:

19. Shigeto – The New Monday

Likely the professional highlight of my year, was heading to Detroit to document how some of the city’s artists were thriving among the city’s urban renaissance. Zach Saginaw (Shigeto) was the main driver for my narrative and The New Monday is a testament to how the city has infused his typical jazz/electronic drum-based fusion with hip-hop and Detroit house. Shigeto has been one of the most intriguing artists on the Ghostly label for a while and this release does the lineage justice.

18. Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite

Feel Infinite hit me out of nowhere in the same was Maribou State’s Portraits (our #15 Album of 2015) did two years ago. Both quickly became go-to electronic refuges throughout the year. “I’m proud of this album because I think it’s the best version of what I can do,” he told Chris Trenchard in a Paste feature earlier this year. And it’s damn fine work.

17. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

One of the best rapper’s on the planet. Bar none. Few go harder and are as prolific as Rapsody and the album’s ridiculous features list includes Rapsody. Kendrick Lamar, Anderson. Paak, Busta Rhymes, Black Thought, Moonchild [inhales; exhales] BJ The Chicago Kid, Terrace Martin and more. There’s a reason why people want to be on the same track as Rapsody and I was totally floored when I heard her flow on the album’s opening title track:

16. Thundercat – Drunk

A 23-track revue of new-school funky bass tracks with Michael McDonald, Pharell AND Kendrick features? Hell yes.

15. Cornelius – Mellow Waves

Nobody makes music like Cornelius’s Keigo Oyamada and Mellow Waves is a flat-out beautiful collision of live instrumentation and electronic composition mixed with mild J-Pop undertones. This is an inspiring release.

14. Kacey Johansing – The Hiding

My favorite album to come out of the Bay Area in 2017. Johansing created the bones of The Hiding at her long-time home of Bolinas, along with Panoramic House in Stinson Beach and sessions in Portland. She made the move to LA where the record was finished and released on the Night Bloom Records label she co-founded with Real Estate’s Alex Bleeker, but it still sounds like a lovely and somber walk along the Marin County shore. “Hold Steady” is in the running for my favorite song of the year.

13. Gabriel Garzón-Montano – Jardín

Another excellent find for Stones Throw Records. Born to Colombian and French parents, the New York native Garzón-Montano made an album replete with call-backs to native South American music and groovy hip-hop rhythms.

12. Chastity Belt – I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone

The best release from the Seattle quartet harkens back to the PNW’s grunge roots. This is slacker music at it’s finest, with awesome melodies throughout.

11. Jonwayne – Rap Album Two

Jonwayne woke up one night in a pool of his own vomit. Alcoholism had consumed his life and it was at that moment where he realized he needed to take control of his life. He excommunicated himself from his social circle and stole away to a family cabin in Canada. Bridges were severed through his silent approach to rehabilitation and his justification letter for his actions, came in the form of this album. Bandcamp’s Marcus J. Moore lays it out in detail masterfully in this piece. 

10. Faye Webster – Faye Webster

A quasi-country, folk album released on eclectic Southern hip-hop label Awful Records, Faye Webster’s self-titled album is one of the stickiest records of the year. Dare you to not fall in love with her songs.

9. Moses Sumney – Aromanticism

One of indie’s most heralded hired-guns finally put out his own release and it saw Sumney at his most carnal, impassioned and vulnerable self. This is an album for lost souls trying to find their way in the outside world. It will fill you with purpose and touch your spirit.

8. Angel Olsen – Phases

Ok…Now THIS is what I’ve been wanting from Olsen following 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Last year’s MY WOMAN was spectacular in the fire that Olsen found, but I like my Angel nice and sad. On this collection of B-sides and loose ends, Olsen’s damn near impossible staccato hits you right in the feels.

7. Lusine – Sensorimotor

Spotify says I listened to Sensorimotor more than any other album this year and that feels appropriate. I come to Lusine  for digital inspiration and to make my brain work. The long-time Ghostly International artist brings a refined electronic sound…it’s the maturation of musical movements, culminating on this incredible release.

6. Sampha – Process

Sampha was the strongest voice behind what I deem to be the most important album of the decade in SBTRKT’s self-titled debut. We knew he was destined for greatness; if not then, it was when Drake pegged him for a feature on “Too Much.” Then last year, Solange came calling for “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Now, Sampha Sissay finally delivered his debut LP and Process is a Mercury Prize-winning masterpiece.

5. Nick Hakim – Green Twins

From my Best New Artists of 2017 entry for Paste Magazine:

Nick Hakim is a dreamer. On his ATO Records-released debut LP, Green Twins, the Queens-based singer takes us along for the ride as he waxes philosophical on the muses who reside within his psyche. (“It’s been years since you came around these parts of my mind,” he sings on “Cuffed.”) Throughout the album, Hakim attempts to processes the memories that are beginning to come back to him and the new ones he’s attempting to create, all with an endearing meekness. Laden with tape machine-filtered psychedelic jazz, mellowed hip-hop drum beats and soul-driven vocals, Hakim’s music is meant to make you lose yourself and embark on the same blissfully existential train of thought as its auteur.

4. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – The Kid

When I needed it the most, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith lifted me up. The Kid gave me life in a difficult time and reached the inner-workings of my soul from the moment I first heard it. Smith uses the Buchla 100 synthesizer to create her music and it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Her music falls somewhere between Aphex Twin and Jessy Lanza and The Kid is perhaps the most intricate electronic release of the year.

3. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.  

Say what you will about the monotony everyone placing DAMN. at or near the top of their Top Albums of the Year lists, but at least we can all agree on one thing: Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper in the game. Period.

2. SZA – CTRL

I love everything about this album. I love that the original sessions were at a lake house in Michigan; the antithesis of a studio in LA, where most hip-hop-focused pop music gets made. I love SZA’s vocal melodies…how every “ooh ohh, ahh, ahh” or “doo doo doo” is a treat for my ears. I love little details like the background vocal stacking on the “Broken Clocks” hook (seriously, an audio engineering class oughta be taught around this record) or how she says the word ‘finally’ on “Go Gina” (It sounds like she says ‘final-le-le’ and it’s endearing as fuck.) I love how at a time when the prevailing trend for women in hip-hop is to prove that you’re tough or a ‘bad bitch’ in a male-dominated genre (the Cardi B, Nicki Minaj effect, if you will), but SZA delivers the other side of a male/female narrative with raw emotion, wit and vulnerability. She’s unapologetically secure in her insecurities and it comes across with a distinct authenticity. No line on the album illustrates this better than this one on ‘Drew Barrymore’:

I’m sorry I’m not more attractive
I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike
I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night
I’m sorry I’m not your baby mama
I’m sorry you got karma comin’ to you
Collect your soul, get it right

It’s a #rare display of empowerment without pandering to what’s already been accepted as a way of conveying it. And when we look back on 2017, we’ll remember how SZA established herself as a bonafide fucking star in a field filled with basic ass men.

1.  Kevin Morby – City Music

I’m such a sucker for a well-executed concept album and Kevin Morby executed the hell out it on City Music. These days, everyone seems to be in flux from one city to another (especially in the music industry) and City Music is about embracing where you are, wherever that may be. From “Come To Me Now”—the album’s opening track—Morby transports you into the periphery of America’s cities and towns. Characters gaze out the window of their somber living spaces into the hazy horizons before them. We move from town-to-town in a manner reminiscent of Modest Mouse’s A Lonesome Crowded West, observing their people with a humble desire to understand the backstories that shape our ideologies.

Recorded at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, CA and at Richard Swift’s studio in Cottage Grove, OR, Swift oversaw City Music’s arrangements and production giving each track a distinct feel…almost like a thematic mixtape, as Morby explained to me on an episode of the Noise Pop Podcast. Morby’s guitar never sounds the same, but it’s always memorable: From the quaint reflection of “Dry Your Eyes” to the triumphant solo on “Aboard My Train” and on filling the guitar hook with life again-and-again on “City Music,” the album’s unforgettable title track. Backing vocals are meticulously littered throughout—often from Heron Oblivion’s Meg Baird—with varying effects, yielding a collection of tracks that feel like they each come from different regional styles. Simply stated, the production and delivery are symbiotically spectacular.

Much like A Lonesome Crowded West, this is a road trip album of the highest order, exuberantly painting the pictures that get taken at every mile. And while City Music is ultimately devoid of any political slant, you can’t help but feel that it’s thesis subscribes to the notion that seeing the country and experiencing new surroundings is the only way we’ll learn to accept the differences that make America unique.

Happy New Year y’all and here’s to 2018!