All posts by Spinelli

Music. Food. Sports. Chill.

The Faces of Phono Del Sol

Phono Del Sol 2017 was a vibrant celebration of the Bay Area music scene. The Bay Bridged and Tiny Telephone put together a lineup of artists that truly reflected the pulse of local Bay Area music and the people in attendance were just as much a part of the festivities. For all of the energy that artists like Rayana Jay, Duckwrth, Bells Atlas, Oh Sees, Jay Som and others put forth, there was an equal amount of passion radiating right back from the crowd.

This was a true display of community positivity and well-being and I couldn’t help but feel compelled to capture the smiles, the vibes, the looks and the feel of a day that was totally enjoyed by all. Check out the portrait collection below of friends, acquaintances, artists, a dog, a burrito and a beautiful day. Cheers.

All photos by Adrian Spinelli (except #10 by Sabrina Mai)

IMG_9185

IMG_9188

IMG_9189

IMG_9190

IMG_9196

IMG_9197

IMG_9200

IMG_9205

IMG_9208

IMG_9211

IMG_9215

IMG_9218

IMG_9221

IMG_9223

IMG_9227

IMG_9229

IMG_9234

IMG_9237

IMG_9239

IMG_9241

IMG_9245

IMG_9246

IMG_9262

IMG_9279

IMG_9282

 

The 50 Best Albums of 2016

This is it. Year 10 of my Best Albums of the Year list is here, moments before we close a messy chapter on 2016. This year was filled with incredible music from new and established artists alike, but will likely best be remembered for the lives that we lost (David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen, and sadly many more…) This year’s post is dedicated to their memory and will celebrate the best music of the year, much of which artists like them inspired in one way or another.

There’re hyperlinks everywhere (hyperlinks are fun…click em!) and there’s a full Spotify playlist (with two exceptions) at the bottom. You can check out the archives of my previous lists from 2006 – 2013 here, 2014 starting here and 2015 here. And now, welcome to Everything Ecstatic’s 50 Best Albums of 2016!

(If you dig what you read/hear, hit me on Twitter. Also, I host the Noise Pop podcast and share a lot of music every month throughout the year. Subscribe on iTunes. Cheers!)

50-41: Stellar Spins

50. Gold Panda – Good Luck And Do Your Best
49. Porches – Pool
48. Charles Bradley – Changes
47. Rapsody – Crown
46. Eleanor Friedberger – New View
45. Big Thief – Real Love
44. Jay Som – Turn Into
43. Allen Tate – Sleepwalker
42. Elujay – Jentrify
41. White Lung – Paradise

The Top 40: The Year’s Best Albums

40. Young Magic – Still Life

young-magic

Like taking a trip to Bali without leaving your seat. Melati Melay churned out easily the best Young Magic album to date (read my full review for Paste here.)

39. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!

nwworries

Not that I really needed another Anderson .Paak album in 2016, (more on him later) but Yes Lawd! built on the canvas that producer Knxwledge made for Paak on the groundbreaking single, “Suede.”

38. Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

hamiltonrostam

After producing a couple of songs from Hamilton Leithauser’s solo album, Black Hours, (including the fantastic “Alexandra”) Rostam Batmanglij —formerly of Vampire Weekend— joined forces with one of my favorite singers in Leithauser, for the exceptional I Had  Dream That You Were Mine. 

37. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony

sunflowerbean

This young trio from New York toured harder than most bands this year. Their debut LP dropped early in the year and never seemed to leave my rotation. Love the dueling vocals from Nick Kivlen and Julia Cumming and Jacob Faber on the drums is a beast on stage.

36. SALES – SALES LP

sales-sales-lp

This Florida duo reminds me of early Best Coast (when it was still good.) I spun the Sales EP ragged waiting for the full length to finally come out and it’s a pleasure.

(Note: I always make a point of highlighting my favorite EP’s of the year and the next three picks reflect that. Cheers.)

35. Forth Wanderers – Slop EP

forth-wanderers-slop-ep

These Father/Daughter Records signees are from Montclair, NJ (same town as Pinegrove, more on them later) and the moment I heard the title track, “Slop,” I fell into the discog rabbit hole. There’s not much material cause they’re young (lead singer Ava Trilling just finished high school!), but all of it is great and I like the potential here a lot.

34. Rayana Jay – Sorry About Last Night EP

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-12-59-49-pm

Really sweet concept EP from a Bay Area artist and it was cool to see Oakland’s Rayana Jay come into focus this year. The best two tracks here are produced by SF’s Mikos Da Gawd, including “Sleepy Brown,” which is easily one of the best Bay Area songs of the year.

33. Kllo – Well Worn EP

kllo-well-worn

Found this Aussie duo via the Ghostly International (my favorite label) newsletter and Well Worn marks their first Ghostly release. I profiled them immediately after I heard their music and from where I’m standing, this release bridges a five-year time gap in electronic music (Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll explain this.)

32. Andy Shauf – The Party

andy-shauff-the-party

One of the later additions to this list, the Canadian Shauf’s third full-length has become a go to for relaxing at home. “Alexander All Alone” is one of my favorite songs of the year and Shauf’s sound has matured immensely.

31. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

whitney-light-upon-the-lake

This is probably my favorite morning album of the year cause it’s so calm and approachable. Soft horns billowing alongside gentle guitars, without being too tame. It’s a good one.

30. Caleborate –1993

caleborate-1993

Nice punctuation mark on a solid two-year run for Berkeley rapper Caleborate. 1993 is his most polished work to-date and he’s drawing a lot of attention from big names in hip-hop. Stoked to see what the future holds for this dude.

(NOTE: I live in San Francisco and also dropped The 16 Best Bay Area Albums of 2016, where Caleborate’s 1993 checked in at #3. Bookmark it if you live in the Bay or are just plain interested in good music.)

29. Skepta – Konnichiwa

skepta-konnichiwa

I first heard Skepta on Blood Orange’s “High Street” from 2012’s iconic Cupid Deluxe. Since then, he’s become England’s definitive grime MC and even won the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize (top album of the year from the UK.) He leads the grime movement with charisma and authority. Peep this amazing performance of “Shutdown” from the Mercury Prize gala.

28. The Range – Potential

the-range-potential

One of my favorite electronic releases of the year, The Range’s James Hinton infuses his productions with trivial samples of people singing on Youtube. It can be odd, but it totally works. Seeing Hinton play the “Swimbyosis” stage on the Woodward Reservoir shore while I was floating in the water at Symbiosis festival, was one of my favorite live moments of the year.

27. Jessy Lanza – Oh No

jessy-lanza-oh-no

This was easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year following Lanza’s breakthrough 2014 LP Pull My Hair Back.  On Oh No, she built on the aesthetic that she and co-producer Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys had previously established, while exploring her eclectic musical influences. Nods to footwork and 80’s pop abound and “VV Violence” was a killer single. Hear my April interview with her on the Noise Pop Podcast here. 

26. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.

kendrick-lamar-untitled-unmastered

Kendrick Lamar needs only the cutting room tracks from last year’s #1 Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly, to churn out one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. Untitled unmastered., with it’s sputtering free jazz beats, is a welcome bridge for whatever comes next for perhaps the best MC in the game.

25. Robert Glasper/Miles Davis – Everything’s Beautiful

robert-glaspermiles-davis-everythings-beautiful

It takes incredible talent to re-interpret Miles Davis tracks in memorable fashion. Bill Laswell, King Britt, et al. did a fine job with 1999’s Panthalassa: The Remixes EP, and now Robert Glasper — “your favorite producer’s favorite producer” — uses Miles samples for this album, the Original Soundtrack to Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead biopic. Glasper has features from Erykah Badu, Phonte, John Scofield, Stevie Wonder(!!) and Hiatus Kaiyote. But it’s Bilal along with Glasper and Davis on “Ghetto Walkin'” that steals the show.

24. Moderat – III

moderat-iii

Berlin-based Moderat is Apparat and Modeselektor and damn it if the the whole isn’t better than the sum of its parts.  This is their third effort together (duh) and they’ve never sounded better. III is an IDM masterpiece and lead single, “Reminder,” is one of the year’s best tracks.

23. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto

kamaiyah-a-good-night-in-the-ghetto

Queen of the Bay. I’m gonna keep referring to Kamaiyah as that, because she stole the fucking show in Bay Area hip-hop this year. “How Does It Feel” is the anthem the Bay Area needed the most and she’s poised to kill the game nationally. A Good Night In The Ghetto checked in at #2 on my Best Bay Area Albums of 2016. 

22. Black Marble – It’s Immaterial

black-marble-its-immaterial

Ghostly International can do no wrong in my book. I was introduced to Black Marble this year and It’s Immaterial is a portrait in passing of life in a New York Loft. This is killer loner music and Chris Stewarts’ output sounds like the love child of New Order and Cold Cave.

21. Field Mouse – Episodic

15036_4PAN_TUBE

Go ahead and file this as the most underrated album of the year. I’m miffed at how this Topshelf Records release didn’t garner the kind of critical praise that other Philadelphia artists featured on this album have. Episodic is engineered by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, features Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Joseph D’Agostino, Swearin’ and Waxahatchee’s Allison Crutchfield, as well as Sadie Dupuis (on the most excellent “Do You Believe Me Now?”) The music is awesome and is in the same vein as those aforementioned critically-acclaimed artists (“Over And Out” among other tracks, takes me back to some of my favorite 90’s alterna rock bands.) And that cover art? It’s done by none other than Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan. I love this record and it’s the definition of an underrated one. Don’t sleep on Field Mouse, they rock.

20. Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven

twin-peaks-down-in-heaven

I had more fun seeing Twin Peaks live this year than just about anybody else. Caught ’em three times and hearing “My Boys” at Bonnaroo’s opening night was everything. These guys are in the zone and this is solid Chicago psych-folk rock.

19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

radiohead-a-moon-shaped-pool

Radiohead might be the best band on the planet and A Moon Shaped Pool is a logical step in their story. Jonny Greenwood’s production is on point and this is yet another quality Radiohead release. Plus, they finally put “True Love Waits” on a record. Hell yes.

18. The Avalanches – Wildflower

the-avalanches-wildflower

16 years after their iconic Since I Left You, (One of my desert island discs) The Avalanches finally dropped a follow-up and it took me a while to get over what took them so long. They have Camp Lo opening the album up magnificently on “Because I’m Me,” Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick on “If I Was A Folkstar” and additional features from Danny Brown, MF Doom, Father John Misty and more…. Like Since I Left You, Wildflower shows how that The Avalanches are especially well-versed in a range of musical styles.

17. ANOHNI- Hopelessness

anohni-hopelessness

Not sure if there’s another artist who can fire shots at the Obama administration and their use of drone warfare in the Middle East, through gripping music that you want to listen to over and over again. ANOHNI (formerly Antony of Antony and the Johnsons) is joined by producers Hudson Mohawke and Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never for one of the most powerful releases of the year.

16. David Bowie – Blackstar

david-bowie-blackstar

David Bowie is one of the most important artists of our lives and our parents lives and likely our children’s lives. He worked on Blackstar until he tragically left this world in January and this album will forever feel like Bowie’s ghost in our speakers, doing what he did best for decades.

15. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

blood-orange-freetown-sound

Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes has a firmer grip on pop music than just about anyone. Freetown Sound sees Hynes delving deeper into themes of love, sexuality, hate, politics and living in tumultuous times. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s the closest thing we have to Prince.

14. Adrian Younge – SomeThing About April II

adrian-younge-something-about-april-ii

There’s just so much fucking silk on this record. Adrian Younge conducting his soul orchestra, Bilal and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier (my favorite vocalist of all-time) all over the record and if that’s not enough, Rapahel Saadiq. Younge is a modern-master, who pushes the boundaries of soul music and delivers his music with a stylistic feel that is unparalleled.

13. Jamila Woods – HEAVN

jamila-woods-heavn

Chicago stay eatin’…What a beautiful record from one of the best young voices in hip-hop. It’s a display of Chicago’s fearlessly emotional and political hip-hop style, featuring a lot of the figured who matter in that scene, with Woods front and center. (This is one of the two entries not on Spotify, but you can listen to HEAVN on soundcloud in full here.)

12. Pinegrove – Cardinal

pinegrove-cardinal

This is why we don’t drop Best of The Year lists in November. I finally spun this album late in the year and I’ve listened to it more than anything since. From Montclair, NJ, Pinegrove’s is indie rock that just kicked emo to the curb and builds small-town nostalgia with a hint of a banjo — the kind that doesn’t hit you over the head. Pinegrove just makes you so fucking happy to listen to them…When “New Friends” came on earlier today,  it brought the biggest smile to my face and it always does.

11. Noname – Telefone

noname-telefone

Chicago hip-hop comin’ atcha again and this album is proof of how dominant the Chi-town scene was this year. It feels like everything came together perfectly on this one. Noname (fka Noname Gypsy) was the vocalist on Chance The Rapper’s “Lost” (off of 2013’s Acid Rap) and now she’s brought in her own cadre of collaborators, like producers Cam Obi, Phoelix, Monte Booker and Saba. Start at “Diddy Bop” featuring Raury and Cam and then get lost in one of the best hip-hop releases of the year.

10. Beyonce – Lemonade

beyonce-lemonade

This is absolute ownage of pop music and pop culture. Beyonce is a fucking boss and the Lemonade visual album accompaniment is one  of the greatest pop culture productions I’ve ever seen. (This is the other album not available on Spotify, hence it’s not on the playlist. You can bootleg it, or get it on Apple Music —or Tidal?  — or e-mail bomb Jay-Z or something? Vinyl? Just do what you gotta do to get it.)

9. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service

a-tribe-called-quest-we-got-it-from-here-thank-you-4-your-service

This was a real treat for old school hip-hop heads. To hear Phife Dawg dropping posthumous bars making sports references like no other, Jarobi’s best flows, Q-Tip not totally stealing the limelight and features from Andre 3000 to Kendrick Lamar to Anderson .Paak…man, I just still can’t believe we got a new Tribe album in 2016. Bless up Tribe.

8. Låpsley – Long Way Home

la%cc%8apsley-long-way-home

This is my zen. I listen to this record religiously when I cook, which seems to be the only way I can absolutely unplug from the outside world. Last year’s Understudy EP made the list and shouts out to XL Recordings for quickly putting out Long Way Home. The 20 year old Brit is a most elegant singer, who pairs her vocals with her own nuanced electronic production featuring a resonating drop-vocal effect on most of her tracks. One of the most original projects I’ve heard in quite some time.

7. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

chance-the-rapper-coloring-book

Give the man his credit, Coloring Book is the truth.  Man… I wish I could vote for Chance for president. I mean…the guy single-handedly started a rampant independent music movement by shunning record labels when others in his position never did. He’s on his way to becoming one of the biggest artists in America and there’s soooo many classics on this album: “Blessings,” “Angels,” “Summer Friends” for starters, but this album has so much damn energy. It has gospel undertones bursting at the seams, but it’s incredibly self-aware and a helluvalot of fun. One love to Chance (Also, I beat him at ping-pong once…facts only.)

6. Frank Ocean – Blonde

frank-ocean-blonde

I had to first get over the many jukes and psych-outs Frank Ocean pulled before finally releasing this record; it was borderline ridiculous. But once I got over myself, Blonde wonderfully picks up where Channel Orange (my #1 album of 2012 ) leaves off and it’s just Frank doing his thing. This is an incredibly ambitious album that’s well-executed from start to finish with a lot of stellar moments….Feel like that last sentence is the ultimate cliche for a great album, but there you go. Also, “Solo” (Reprise) with Andre 3000?!?!?!?! Shiiiiiiit!

5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

car-seat-headrest-teens-of-denial

This kid can write a fucking hook. Reminds me of when Cloud Nothings burst onto the scene and started making an album a year and quickly had this vast discog of rockin’ pop tracks. That’s where Will Toledo and Car Seat Headrest are at now. This album is catharsis for every angst-riddled, depressed, quasi-happy, lost, confused, anxious, stupid and blissfully ignorant kid…and whether that kid is a teenager or a thirty-something, Toledo speaks (screams) right into our souls, to find ways to say what we’ve always wanted to get out, but didn’t have the guts (or talent) to do so.

4. Solange – A Seat at The Table

solange-a-seat-at-the-table

This is absolute ownage of pop music and pop culture, while fully establishing your own identity as an artist, without pandering to, well…anyone. Solange affirmed that she is no longer living in her sister’s shadow with an amazing concept album. Her voice has never sounded this velvety and she got extremely creative in using Master P as the vessel to move the storyline of A Seat At The Table along; of being black and trying to become successful in America. The album’s production slate is also a who’s who in indie rock and soul-based hip-hop: Longstreth, Questlove, Saadiq, Welsh, Sitek, Sampha, Bainbridge, Q-Tip. Respect.

3. Kaytranada – 99.9%

kaytranada-99-9

My favorite electronic album of the year is from Canadian producer Kaytranada. Album opener, “TRACK UNO” was the best pure intro track of the year and from there, Kaytranada shows why he might be the best producer to match any vocalist’s flow. From Phonte  to Vic Mensa to Anderson .Paak to Craig David…wait, wait…hold up? He got Craig David back out?! For real, “Got It Good” is serious shit and it has a totally different feel from Paak’s “Glowed Up.” 99.9% induces movement at every turn, but with the utmost versatility. The instrumental tracks are likewise prime, especially “BUS RIDE” with Karriem Riggins on the drums. And just when you think he’s out of tricks, the album closes with “BULLETS” featuring Little Dragon’s Yuikimi Nagano. Feel me?

(Note: 99.9% won The 2016 Polaris Prize, awarded to the best Canadian album of the year.  I loooove watching the Gala on youtube every year. Watch it here with performances from Kaytranada, Jessy Lanza, Grimes, Andy Shauf, Carly Rae Jepsen, White Lung & more)

2. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive

thao-the-get-down-stay-down-a-man-alive

Taken from my #1 Bay Area Album of 2016 entry:

What could easily be my overall album of the year, A Man Alive saw Thao opening herself up to her past and the intense emotions that came with living a life in the shadow of her estranged father. I had the pleasure of reviewing A Man Alive for Paste Mag earlier this year and it gave me an opportunity to dig into what I feel is the best lyrical album of the year. I remember on my final listen before I started writing, I lost my shit three times: On “Guts,” “Millionaire” and then “Hand To God.” These types of powerful music moments don’t come around too often and when they do, you’re probably staring an Album of The Year candidate in the face.

On Thao’s best record to date, she’s joined by producer Merrill Garbus of tune-yards, who helped Thao explore deep self-reflection and make music that spans far beyond her folk-leaning roots. I love this album, because it poked through the Bay, when hip-hop is really dominating the area for me in terms of quality and showed how good rock and roll can still be made here. It showed what an incredibly talented songwriter Thao is, who is still expanding her musical boundaries. But most of all, it showed how a San Francisco artist (Thao) and an Oakland artist (Garbus) can come together to create the best local album of the year, and it’s a microcosm for what we can all accomplish together if we bridge both sides of the Bay. This was the record that drove the point home of how we’re much stronger artistically if we look for ways to merge the creative hub that Oakland has become, with the inspirational beauty, infrastructure and musical history of San Francisco.

1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

anderson-paak-malibu

The best album of the year, also comes from this year’s most interesting artist. You couldn’t turn around without finding Anderson .Paak on a track somewhere in 2016. The man who finally blew up as the primary vocalist on Dr. Dre’s Compton record last year, is now a bonafide star. But this rise didn’t come without a decade-long struggle and Malibu tells the story of that.

What makes Paak so great, is that while his life — broken home, parents in jail/on drugs, marriage quickly annulled, career going nowhere — could easily be viewed as tragic, he never takes himself too seriously and always feels like he’s living in the moment that you’re listening to. In the end, he never stopped pushing forward and when he got a golden opportunity to make it to the top, he outworked everyone else to get there. And he still hasn’t stopped. I made a playlist of tracks Paak is featured on and I keep adding to it monthly, cause new tracks keep popping up. His NxWorries album is also on this list at #39. He’s been touring furiously, including 11 shows at SXSW en route to the prestigious Grulke Prize as the festival’s best performer.

Malibu is that album without a bad song. It’s the album that when one song ends, you’re sorta bummed, but then are quickly brought back to life when the next one starts. It’s the one where you go “Hey, that sounds like a 9th Wonder beat?” And it is. It’s the album that has songs about shitty exes that makes you laugh because you remember her/him. It’s hearing Paak talking about getting his first pair of Jordan’s and thinking about when you got your first pair of fly kicks. It’s the album with mounting  visual and interactive media and performances that just make you wanna keep paying closer attention (This low-key Marvin Gaye inspired performance takes the cake.)  And for me personally, it’s the album where I co-signed the dude a year ago, thinking he was gonna pick up steam quick, but had no idea just how much steam and how quick and incredibly inspiring his rise would be.

I’ll leave you with a lyric from my favorite song of the year, “The Waters” feat BJ The Chicago Kid and produced by Madlib. Where Paak, wearing a huge grin on the mic and knowing his career is about to explode, calls his shot in top form and lives to tell the tale:

I’m glad that you finally made it to the future but you’re late
And the price is through the muthafuckin’ roof
If you want you could wait outside the building
I ain’t takin’ no more meetings

The future is here and Anderson .Paak is a massive part of it. What an album, what an artist and here’s to the Best Album of 2016!

Cheers y’all and Happy 2017!

The 16 Best Bay Area Albums of 2016

By Adrian Spinelli

Despite what some people might lead you to believe, 2016 was NOT a “shitty year” for Bay Area Music. On the contrary, it was a brilliant one, that showcased a slew of talented artists who are finding ways to make music that pushes boundaries and doesn’t sound like it came from anywhere else in the country, besides the Bay.

The Bay Area music community came together  —again and again —in the wake of the tragic Oakland Ghost Ship fire that claimed 36 lives, to show support for each other regardless of what clique or subregion of the Bay they were from. Benefit shows for victims of the Ghost Ship Fire continue to be held (I recommend this upcoming show) and it’s a sign of this community’s unwavering support and care for each other and our art.  At the start of the APE/Noise Pop/Paradigm Ghost Ship benefit show at the Fox Theater, Geographer’s Mike Deni, who has seemingly been laying low, said it best: “There’s a reason I haven’t moved to Brooklyn or LA….because when something like this happens, this community is here for me and for us.” Preach.  This mixtape honors the artists who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire. Please listen to it. It’s beautiful.

I love living in the Bay and I love our local music scene. I love that there are just as many talented women making music in the Bay as men (my list reflects this big time.) I love that our artist-base is diverse (even if our SF crowds at shows aren’t always.) I couldn’t tell you how many times I felt proud to be a part of everything, even as a person who merely documents, reports and amplifies what local artists are creating.

With that, these are the sixteen Bay Area releases that moved me the most in 2016. One love.

Full Spotify playlist of all albums at the bottom of this post. 

15. E-40 – The D-Boy Diary Book 1& 2

e40

Dude is relentless….not one, but TWO albums?! “I played my position and delivered a bangin’ ass album that slaps,” Earl told me earlier this year. These 42 tracks do exactly that and E-40 keeps giving back to the Bay featuring a slew of local up and comers and well-established artists all over this record.

14. Con Brio – Paradise

conbrio

This is a soul record at it’s core, and the band fronted by vibrant singer Ziek McCarter really hit their stride this year. The SFers have been touring around the world, but still make time to play the Bay on the regular and totally put it down at Outside Lands this year. 

13. Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days of Oakland

fantastic-negrito-last-days-of-oakland

Fantastic Negrito is worth every bit of hype that he’s gotten since winning NPR’s Tiny Desk contest two years ago. Xavier Dphrepaulezz bleeds Oakland and is one of the most unique talents to come out of the Bay in years (and is now Grammy nominated!)

12. Rexx Life Raj – Father Figure

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-12-52-37-pm

Pay attention to this Berkeley MC if you haven’t yet. Dude is a solid rapper and pulled-in a feature from Nef The Pharoah and a crop of local producers for the fully-formed Father Figure. “Handheld GPS” was one of the year’s best tracks and the Mikos da Gawd & Julia Lewis remix is a fucking revelation.

11. Rituals of Mine – Devoted

rituals-of-mine-devoted-2016

Formerly known as Sister Crayon, the duo of Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez laid their roots back in their hometown of Sacramento and delivered an incredible trip-hop album. They opened for Tricky at the Indy earlier this year, which is a helluva co-sign and the Warner signees can be filed under the most slept-on local acts of the year.

10. Tycho – Epoch

tycho-epoch

Shouts out to Scott Hansen and Tycho for their Best Electronic Album Grammy nomination. This is such a coup for the Bay and a testament to a well-established career for Hansen. Epoch doesn’t stray too far off the formula he built on Dive and Awake, but it doesn’t need to. We come to Tycho to chill-out and Epoch is perfect for that.

9. IAMSU – Kilt 3

kilt3

IAMSU has crafted the blueprint for making it as a Bay Area rapper. He dropped countless mixtapes, but saved the best for his albums and Kilt 3 is some serious shit. The Trackademics produced “iPhone & a G-Mail” is a serious banger as is “Aura” produced by Mike Zombie. Local producer Cal-A and SU himself claim a couple production credits and the HBK CJ beat on “Up All Night” was one of the most recognizable Bay Area jams of the year.  After launching his own label Su recently announced that he’s moving to Atlanta, but says he’ll be splitting time in the Bay too. Get after it!

8. Young God – …but he who causes darkness

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-12-55-10-pm

While atmospheric hip-hop/electronic production duo Blue Sky Black Death’s storied career is likely over, Oakland’s Young God (neé Ian Taggert; one half of BSBD) has been quietly releasing solo music on the regular. His Greenova South project with Main Attrakionz’s Squadda B and rapper Pepperboy was cool, but it’s  …but he who causes darkness — “a loose collection of beats and songs…”  — that channeled the magic  he created with BSBD for a decade. It’s an album to zone out to blissfully in the bedroom, on a plane or anywhere in your headphones. Here’s to Young God continuing a low-key prolific run in the Bay.

7. Xiomara – Seven Nineteen

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-12-57-43-pm

This is some straight “Where the hell did this come from?!” shit. San Francisco’s Xiomara is an R&B songstress, whose Seven Nineteen — co-produced by SF’s Brycon and Xiomara— was one of the most complete local records of the year. She’s funky, but elegant. She’s emotional, but sharp-toothed. This is can’t miss stuff.

(Note – Shamelessly plugging a show I’m putting on at Rickshaw Stop on January 24th, with Xiomara opening for the wonderful Bells Atlas and a DJ set from Anthony Ferraro  of astronauts, etc. — The man behind my #1 Bay Area album of 2015. Full details here. Come hang!)

6. Elujay – Jentrify

elujay

The word “phenom” comes to mind when thinking about 20-year old Oakland rapper Elujay. I love this dude cause he can fucking sing. He’s clearly studied up on the R&B/hip-hop crossover classics and I see the same star rising in Elujay that I saw in Caleborate two years ago. “Google Maps” is velvety smooth and flat-out beautiful. Elujay will be the next big Bay Area hip-hop artist. I believe that shit with everything I got. Mark it down.

5. The EP’s – Rayana Jay – Sorry About Last Night/Day Wave – Hard To Read

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-12-59-49-pmdaywave

Two for one  on this entry: First off, Rayana Jay’s excellent concept EP featured impeccable production from Mikos Da Gawd and showed Jay to be a controlled force on the mic. “Sleepy Brown” might be the Bay Area’s song of the year and there’s a bright future ahead here..

Day Wave’s Hard To Read is merely the precursor to Jackson Phillips’ upcoming album, due out in 2017 on Harvest Records. But he followed up on last year’s Headcase EP with 5 new tracks that build on his library of unique daydream-pop that’s soaring worldwide.

4. Jay Som – Turn Into

jaysom

Melina Duterte is the auteur behind Jay Som and with Turn Into, she became a critical darling following its re-issue on Polyvinyl Records. The album harkens back to some of my favorite female-fronted 90’s acts like Mazzy Star, shades of Tonya Donnelly and beyond. Duterte is a clever songwriter and there’s a radiant flow to Turn Into that rallied a lot of people behind this record. More importantly, Jay Som is one of the acts who’s helping define the Bay Area’s transitional sound in the post-garage rock era.

3. Caleborate – 1993

caleborate

I’m proud of this dude. Straight up. When I first met Caleborate two years ago, he had a distinct vision for his music and his career and he’s stuck to his word to a fucking tee. What’s always defined him for me, is what he continues to do, and that’s surrounding himself with talent that helps the whole succeed. 1993 is easily his most polished work to date and features production from some of the Bay’s best producers in The Julia Lewis, P-Lo, Cal-A and Mikos Da Gawd, Ian McKee and more. “Options” with Pell and Sylvan Lacue is fun as hell and one of my favorite songs of the year. On it, he sings: “Had to call my Pops and let him know his son’s about to blow.” True. Wishin’ Caleborate nothing but the best as his star deservedly continues to rise.

2. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto

kamaiyah

Queen of the Bay. If there was ever any doubt, her second  set at the quasi-disastrous Treasure Island Music Festival in the pouring rain was the most powerful performance by a Bay Area artist in 2016. Her feature on YG’s “Why You Always Hatin” along with Drake raised Kamaiyah’s profile immensely and A Good Night In The Ghetto did a fine job of staying true to The Bay (“How Does It Feel” will be a Bay Area anthem for a loooong ass time) as well as it did showing an artist who’s ready for nationwide recognition. The Trackademics produced “Freaky Freaks” is a G-Funk era throwback, tailor made for Oakland’s post-hyphy era and shows that no matter how far Kamaiyah’s promising career goes, she’ll always be from the Bay.

Number One: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down- A Man Alive

thao

What could easily be my overall album of the year, A Man Alive saw Thao opening herself up to her past and the intense emotions that came with living a life in the shadow of her estranged father. I had the pleasure of reviewing A Man Alive for Paste Mag earlier this year and it gave me an opportunity to dig into what I feel is the best lyrical album of the year. I remember on my final listen before I started writing, I lost my shit three times: On “Guts,” “Millionaire” and then “Hand To God.” These types of powerful music moments don’t come around too often and when they do, you’re probably staring an Album of The Year candidate in the face.

On Thao’s best record to date, she’s joined by producer Merrill Garbus of tune-yards, who helped Thao explore deep self-reflection and make music that spans far beyond her folk-leaning roots. I love this album, because it poked through the Bay, when hip-hop is really dominating the area for me in terms of quality and showed how good rock and roll can still be made here. It showed what an incredibly talented songwriter Thao is, who is still expanding her musical boundaries. But most of all, it showed how a San Francisco artist (Thao) and an Oakland artist (Garbus) can come together to create the best local album of the year, and it’s a microcosm for what we can all accomplish together if we bridge both sides of the Bay. This was the record that drove the point home of how we’re much stronger artistically if we look for ways to merge the creative hub that Oakland has become, with the inspirational beauty, infrastructure and musical history of San Francisco.

Can’t wait for 2017 y’all…much love and Bay Area stand up!!!

Best Music Video of 2016: Jamie XX’s “Gosh”

From the moment I first watched it, Jamie XX’s “Gosh” video directed by Romain Gavras grabbed me. It successfully depicted a world I never knew existed, but wanted to know everything about when the video came to a close. Watch the video and read my entry for Paste Magazine’s 20 Best Music Videos of 2016 feature from 12/15/16 below. 

Romain Gavras never takes the easy way out. The Greek-French music video director, who is most well-known for directing M.I.A.’s provocative “Born Free; and flamboyant “Bad Girls; videos, doesn’t just make music videos as much as he makes musical short films for his signature stamp on the video he conceptualizes and directs. Gavras often creates post-apocalyptic worlds like with “Born Free” and Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church In The Wild;” And on Jamie XX’s “Gosh”” video, Gavras’s setting is a utopian ghost city, which in fact, isn’t a utopia at all, but rather the Tianducheng development in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, which was built to look like Paris and house 10,000 residents, but is now is sparsely inhabited (The story of Tianducheng itself is one of the internet’s most glorious rabbit holes by the way. Feel free to start here.)

The world of “Gosh” sees Hassan Kone — an albino of African descent — as its focal point, traversing the city amidst hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese boys, whose soldier-like choreography and visual and mechanized uniformity is masterfully portrayed by the Xiaolong Martial Arts School. Kone comes across as the last hope for the decrepit cesspool of Tianducheng, as he races through the film in a Subaru and ends it standing beneath the 300 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica, while the Xiaolong boys circle him in patternized movement. It’s what Busby Berkeley choreography would look like in the year 2100.

All the while, Jamie XX’s opus founded on elements of ragga drum and bass, is hypnotically in sync with the movements of the characters. Mattias Rudh’s drone cinematography pans out to show the sullen buildings of Tianducheng, creating a CGI feel, which adds to the eerie, futuristic feel of the video.

Gavras tosses out his usual violent themes in favor of a different type of fear. The fear that this utopian city from the future is actually from the present. Kim Chapiron and Iconoclast’s “Behind The Scenes” mini-doc (watch it below) is a welcome companion to Gavras’s “Gosh” video and a look into the method behind the artistic madness of one of the most intriguing music video directors in the business and one of the best videos of the year.

The Anderson .Paak Features Playlist

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the soulful rasp of Anderson .Paak’s voice. AP broke through with 6 features on Dr. Dre’s Compton album and built some serious momentum before dropping his own latest release, Malibu. If you haven’t given that a spin yet, consider it a top priority, as it’s one of the early highlights of 2016.

But beyond the magic of Compton and Malibu, Paak is tireless and seems to keep popping up as a featured vocalist on a number of other artist’s tracks: Kaytranada, Tokimonsta, Milo, Hiatus Kayiote and Snakehips to name a few. So I compiled a 32-track playlist of some of the best featured appearances by Anderson .Paak. When you’re as prolific as Paak has become though, not everything is gonna land, so I vetted this list thoroughly to only feature certifiably bomb shit. You won’t find any of AP’s Watsky features, or that abrasive track he did with A$AP Ferg and I had to cut out one of his tracks with The Game, cause Game is straight up insufferable sometimes. Here you’ll gems like Milo’s killer “A Day Trip To The Nightosphere” and Elements of Music’s “Get Along” with Blu. (And yes, I even included a couple cuts from his NxWorries project cause it just wouldn’t have felt complete without ’em.)

Hear the business below, check out my feature on Paak in Paste from last December if you need to get yourself up to speed on the man and peep some words I wrote in Forbes about how Paak was the proverbial “big winner” at SXSW 2016. Dig it. One love.

AS

Drop Everything And Go Listen To The New Brass Bed Album Now

The word “FLAMES” comes to mind when spinning In The Yellow Leaf, the 4th LP from Lafayette, Louisiana psych band Brass Bed. This is guitar rock of the highest order and the trio teamed up with producer/engineer Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall) at his The Dock Studio in Sacramento to create a fantastic album.

It’s currently streaming on NPR First listen here, but go ahead and give “I Am Just A Whisper” a play below. It’s a crisp recording that has every element in check. A jangled guitar driving the melody, fast-paced drums and more guitar goodness on top of that. Have I mentioned how badass Brass Bed’s guitars are? Check it:

Top image by Allison Bohl DeHart for Makemade.

New Playlist for 2016: Jubilation

Another year means a new progressive playlist (one that’s constantly updated with new tracks.) You might remember last year’s Everything Ecstatic playlist, Indian Summer or 2014’s Random Musings. And now for the last couple months, I’ve been adding tracks to Jubilation.

Peep Jubilation below and subscribe to it on Spotify to be updated whenever tracks get added (usually a handful a week or so.) You can expect Jubilation to be a mix of everything from indie rock, chilled out electronica, conscious hip-hop, some timely classics, etc… Artists like Taylor McFerrin, Jessy Lanza, White Lung, Kendrick Lamar and more.

Enjoy y’all!

AS