Category Archives: Albums of the Year

Albums And Songs I Loved In 2022

I wrote more about music this year than I ever have before. And while mostly none of that was on the Everything Ecstatic blog, it all feeds into EE’s 42 Best Albums of 2022.

For the most part, I documented the pulse of pop culture at Uproxx and the best new releases of each week for the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. In the end, that yielded features like this Uproxx post about some of this year’s more slept on releases (many of which appear in this list) and my final entry after over two years as a columnist for the SF Chronicle on the Best Songs of 2022 by Bay Area artists.

In a way, that all coalesces here on the 15th annual Everything Ecstatic albums of the year list. This year’s entries are unranked for the first time ever and are instead presented in alphabetical order (granted my favorite album of the year just so happens to be the final album listed alphabetically.) Selections from almost all of these 42 albums can be found on my playlist of favorite songs of the year below. Press play for a soundtrack to this post, subscribe to it and hit me up on Twitter too! So enough babble, these were the albums that moved me through the waves of 2022. Much love.

— Spinelli

Alex G – God Save The Animals

His latest, his best.

Alvvays – Blue Rev

Probably the last album I really got into this year and it shows an excellent rock band unafraid to take risks.

Atalhos – A Tentação Do Fracasso

Brazilian psych pop band I connected with at Treefort Fest comin’ straight outta Birigui, São Paulo!

Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

I love how Bad Bunny brought in indie Latinx artists like Bomba Estéreo, Buscabulla, and The Marías along for the ride here.

Continue reading Albums And Songs I Loved In 2022

Fave 32 Albums of 2021

Presenting Year 14 of Everything Ecstatic’s Albums of the Year list. This list represents my personal top 32 albums of the year and is the synthesis of all of the Year End Album lists I’ve worked on this year for the SF Chronicle and Uproxx.

Some scattered Bandcamp audio and YouTube music video links are below most entries, and as always, feel free to revisit year’s past of EE’s Best Albums of the Year and check out the Spotify playlist of this featured albums here and an extensive playlist of my favorite songs this year at the bottom of the post. Cheers!

— Spinelli (@AGSpinelli)

32. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

This was truly the year of Japanese Breakfast with a Grammy nom to boot. The album is a big step up and I can’t recommend Michele Zauner’s book, Crying In H Mart, enough, too. 

31. Virginia Wing – Private LIFE

Killer deadpanned Britpop from the London trio. 

30. SUNDUR – Somewhere There’s Music

A serendipitous collaboration between Bay Area stalwart DJ Platurn and singer Savannah Lancaster, this trip-hop endeavor was created in the thick of the pandemic and it’ll have you thinking of Portishead on prozac. 

29. Alfa Mist – Bring Backs

The keyboardist/MC soaks hip-hop sensibility into jazz and is one of the many bright spots in the surging British modern jazz movement. 

28. Rodrigo Amarante – Drama

The second solo album from the Brazilian singer-guitarist of Little Joy and Los Hermanos, finds itself at an incredible intersection of Brazilian and American indie.

27. Sam Gendel – Fresh Bread

The eclectic saxophonist is one of the most prolific musicians in LA and among Gendel’s many releases, Fresh Bread’s 52 tracks always gave me something unpredictable to turn to this year.

26. Rostam – Changephobia

I’ve been a big fan of the former Vampire Weekend core member’s production work for other artists since he left the band, and this is an A+ solo effort. “4 Runner” lived in my head all year. 

25 and 24. Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime and Altin Gün – Yol

Two of my favorite world music releases. One from Tuareg guitar prodigy Mdou Moctar and the other from Turkish psychedelic funk band Altin Gün. Both are can’t miss stuff. 

23. Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant

Singer Nai Palm beat breast cancer and then went with the group to Brazil to link with storied tropicalia arranger Arthur Verocai for some of the sessions on this splendid future funk release from the Aussies. 

22. BadBadNotGood – Talk Memory

Band drama aside, these guys are upper echelon jazz/hip-hop instrumentalists. This is the definition of cinematic music with appearances from Karriem Riggins, Arthur Verocai (absolutely here for the Verocai renaissance btw), Terrace Martin, Laraaji and Brandee Younger. 

21. Darkside – Spiral

A comeback after an eight year hiatus from the duo of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington presents another one-of-a-kind essay on guitar atop electronic production. 

20. Aaron Frazer – Introducing…

Call it blue-eyed soul, but the debut solo release from the Durand Jones & The Indications drummer/vocalist was a stellar nod to 50’s and 60’s grooves. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, this was my standout release from Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label this year. 

19. Televangel & Child Actor – Respawn

One half of now defunct instrumental hip-hop maestros Blue Sky Black Death, Televangel linked with dreamy duo Child Actor for this gorgeous release that might’ve also had my favorite album cover of the year. 

18. Lil Nas X – MONTERO

I loved evetything about this outlandish, flamboyant, sex positive and peak 2021 pop release. Lil Nas X is playing music industry 3D chess and it totally rules. 

17. Mossy Projects – Side A/Side B

It wasn’t just because I wrote the official bio for the album by my buddy James Two and Pretty Lights co-founder Michael Menert. Their free-flowing sample nerd mash-ups in the style of The Avalanches were on constant rotation for me all year long. 

16. The Weather Station – Ignorance

A fully blossomed expression from the Canadian folk singer. Ignorance is the most elegant, textured and expansive version of Tamara Lindeman. 

15. GLBL WRMNGGlbl Wrmng Vol. 1

This was a fantastic regional rap compilation helmed by New Orleans’ Pell, that showcases the regions best up and coming hip-hop talent both on the mic and behind the boards. 

14. Sam Evian – Time To Melt

A psychedelic folk release that flew more under the radar than it should. Evian reminds me of AM & Shawn Lee with a touch of Danger Mouse. The arrangements on every song are spot on here, especially the smoky escapism of “Dream Free” with vocalist Hannah Cohen.

13. Jorja Smith – Be Right Back

Queen Jorja is on a roll. The velvet-voiced British R&B/pop singer just keeps making hits and the eight track Be Right Back EP has two massive ones in “Addicted” and “Gone.” 

12. Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Gary Bartz – JID006

This was merely one of the handful of releases from this year’s Jazz Is Dead series and it sees Oakland saxophonist and Black music trailblazer Gary Bartz enacting amazing new productions with Younge and Ali Shaheed. Check out other equally notable JID volumes with João Donato (JID007), Brian Jackson (JID008), et al. 

11. Alice Phoebe Lou – Glow

The South African singer-songwriter creates incredibly endearing love songs that are so easy to latch on to. Her appearance at SF’s Rickshaw Stop on 02/24/2022 for Noise Pop Festival is one shows next year I’m already most looking forward to. 

10. Helado Negro – Far In

The man behind Everything Ecstatic’s #1 album of 2019 did it again with this one. Written in Marfa, Berlin and Brooklyn, it’s a product of the concept of putting your mind and body in different geographical locales to see what it comes up with; a tactic I live by. 

9. Lala Lala – I Want The Door To Open

This album had some of the best conversations with oneself I heard all year. It’s like taking a long look in the mirror and seeing every fiber of your soul reflected back at you. 

8. Boy Scouts – Wayfinder

Taylor Vick’s music has always been serene and beautiful, but Wayfinder took it to another level. Love her voice, love her songwriting and looooove the video for “Didnt I.”

7. Larry June – Orange Print

My favorite Bay Area hip-hop album of the year showcases the best album yet from the dynamic SF rapper who’s been on a non-stop hustle to finally get his flowers. 

6. Floating Points & Pharaoh Sanders – Promises

My go-to evening zen album is this sublime collab between British electronic composer Floating Points, pioneering psych saxophonist Sanders and strings from the London Syymphony Orchestra. 

5. Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

A lovely poet whose lyrics transferred masterfully into song on this Mercury Music Prize winning album. 

4. Buck Meek – Two Saviors

The Big Thief member’s latest solo album was the perfect blend of folk, Americana, country and Southern charm. 

3. Sons of Kemet – Black To The Future

A powerful, gripping and unpredictable Afrofuturist jazz masterpiece. Saxophonist/composer Shabaka Hutchings proved why he’s among London’s best and Theon Cross’ tuba has never sounded this well-placed and accessible. 

2. Charlotte Day Wilson – Alpha

The Canadian singer/producer has been one of my favorite artists over the years and finally put out her proper full length LP. Alpha is the benchmark for exactly what I want to be listening to. 

1. Little Simz – Sometimes I Am Introvert

The best album with the year’s best song. Simz’s pointed, vulnerable and devastating hip-hop is propped up by production from the venerable Inflo and multiple appearances from vocalist Cleo Sol. In a way, this felt like an extension of Sault’s Untitled (Black Is) Everything Ecstatic #1 album of 2020 — but it undoubtedly kept the light on Simz singular talent. There’s a range of standout moments from start to finish here, but it’s the way the British MC bears her deepest emotions over Inflo’s flawless production on “I Love You, I Hate You,” that show what a game-changing talent she is. Little Simz is a new global star and left an indelible mark on 2021. 

Peep the Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from this year below and find all of the albums featured on this post here!

25 Favorite Albums of 2020

Welcome to year 13 of Everything Ecstatic’s Albums of the Year list. I’ve cut the number of albums featured significantly down from last year’s 60 (it was a lot!) to better represent the albums that I know I’ll be coming back to for years to come. If you feel like going down the rabbit hole of EE’s lists from year’s past, the Albums of the Year tab is where you’ll find it all in semi-organized fashion. 

At any rate, I read somewhere this year that the intro to these year-end lists is like the most mundane piece of music writing you’ll read all year. I couldn’t agree more, so let’s get to the albums.  I write about a ton of music like this year-round, so hit me up on Twitter to be tuned in as it happens and follow Everything Ecstatic on Twitter and Facebook to be updated whenever something goes up on the site (it’s rare these days, but always meaningful.)  There’s a track selection/video under each entry, a full playlist at the bottom of this post and if you’re thinking about buying any of this music, please do it directly through a label or on Bandcamp as they actually pay artists a reasonable split. Shouts!

— AS

25. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters 

I gotta admit, while I’d listened to Fetch The Bolt Cutters a number of times this year, I hadn’t tuned in with an objectively critical ear until I wrote about it as one of this year’s standouts for my Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook. Fiona Apple is bar none of the best lyricists alive and there are few experiences quite like her impactful music. 

24. Thelonious Monk – Palo Alto 

The story behind this finally released recording might be my favorite of any album this year. So Monk and his quartet got booked to play a show at Palo Alto High School in 1968 and the tapes only existed because the high school janitor of all people recorded the 47-minute set. It’s a fantastic set of classics that you can read more about in this piece by Marcus J. Moore of the New York Times.

23. Jordana – Something To Say To You 

The Grand Jury Music label has been consistently finding emerging talent for years and Wichita’s Jordana is their latest gem. I couldn’t quit her bedroom pop EPs that dropped throughout the year and this album is a combination of two of them. There’s charm in the simplicity of these productions and Jordana doesn’t give up her pointed fieriness for her everlasting wit.  

22. Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

I’ve been touting London jazz scene up and comers for the past few years and drummer Moses Boyd is among its finest prospects. This record shows Boyd’s traditional jazz drumming prowess, but with modern production sensibility. He’ll go from jazzed out hyperspace at one turn, to paying homage to his Caribbean roots at another. The Mercury Music Prize-nominated release also features cameos from other names in London jazz you need to know like saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, tuba player Theon Cross and others. 

21. Dirty Projectors – 5 EPs

I love listening to anything Dave Longstreth creates. He focused on a different Dirty Projectors vocalist on each of the five EPs the band put out this year and then brought it all home on the fifth one. The 5 EPs album is a collection of those five releases and it shows how Longstreth can morph the band’s lineup over the years and still make amazing music. 

20. Porridge Radio – Every Bad

This album hit me like the two Savages albums from this past decade. Brighton’s Dana Margolin is pompous and punk all over this record and it’s a refreshing edge. British journalist Everett True called them “the best band in the world” back in 2015 and it’s as if Margolis has carried herself with that idea ever since and has now exploded with passionate anger on Every Bad, the band’s official breakthrough LP. 

19. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

I’m gonna be listening to this album on the beach forever. Tom Misch has presented perhaps the most accessible offerings from the new London jazz movement and now the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist links with the drummer Yussef Dayes for incredibly polished effort that’s meant to make it big. There’s even a Freddie Gibbs feature on the track “Nightrider” to boot. 

18. Waxahatchee  – Saint Cloud

Think I listened to this album while avoiding pandemic-infested San Francisco in Calistoga more than any other this year. It’s easily the best Waxahatchee album to date as Katie Crutchfield taps into instantly vintage pick-up truck Americana. 

17. Ambrose Akinmusire – on the tender spot of every calloused moment

Already a world-renowned trumpet player, this album represents the maturation of Akinmusire’s illustrious career with the mindset of someone who’s finally made it back full circle to the place where they learned the trade: Oakland. I spoke with him for KQEDArts in October about this blues-heavy essay on the state of America and Black music. The album just got a Grammy nomination and was one of my best Bay Area album of the year picks. 

16. Woods – Strange To Explain

Along with the Waxahatchee album, this was a constant companion as I spent as many days as possible on our family’s land in Calistoga this year. It’s perfect folk escapism from the Brooklyn band that was recorded in Marin County’s Panoramic House Studio and brims with the feeling of the Northern California coast.

15. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

This might be my favorite Wilco or Wilco-adjacent record since Sky Blue Sky. Damnit if Jeff Tweedy ain’t one of the best songwriters in the world. I also read his memoir this year and it’s a comforting feeling to know that not all of your musical heroes are assholes and can in fact be good people with interesting things to say about life’s struggles, it’s triumphs and their art. With instrumentation from Tweedy’s sons, Love Is The King picks up where the memoir left off in my eyes.

14. Buscabulla – Regresa

This was a powerful release from Buscabulla, who recorded everything after moving back home to Puerto Rico from New York in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The album’s title itself means to “return” and every beat of this Latinx electropop album bursts with the feeling of a greater purpose to their island community. I wrote about them in May at Paste and I’m forever moved by Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle’s story. 

13. Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad – Jazz Is Dead 1

Was anyone busier than Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad this year? With the Jazz Is Dead project alone, they released 5 albums, plus the original score to Run This Town. Younge also released an excellent album with singer Angela Muñoz, another with Loren Oden and an album of production collabs. But I digress, Jazz is Dead is Young and Ali’s concept of revitalizing the music of jazz luminaries and including the subjects in the process. The first volume merely presents a sampling of the finest work from each of the installments (and future ones). In it, you’ll find the music of Roy Ayers, Azymuth, Marcos Valle, Gary Bartz, João Donato, Doug Carn and Brian Jackson… all alongside Younge, Ali and live instrumentalists. It’s a fascinating effort by the pair to introduce and re-introduce the the greats to old and new heads alike and you gotta hear it. 

12. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

From where I’m standing, this was the best electronic release of the year. Apologies to albums by Four Tet and Caribou (both narrowly missed being included in this list) but Owens creates some of the most exhilarating productions I’ve heard in quite some time. Her music doesn’t feel derivative of anything, with the melody and bass floating in a world of its own. This one’s been living on repeat and I’d kill to sweat my ass of to a live set at a club from the Brit right now. 

11. Låpsley – Through Water

Låpsley has never put anything out in her short career that I haven’t absolutely gravitated too. I became enamored with the XL Recordings singer and producer’s EPs in 2014-15 and Through Water was a much-anticipated follow up to her 2016 debut LP. I cook to this music more than anything else as it puts me in an unparalleled zen state as I craft sauces, sauté vegetables and season meats. If you know me well, this is really saying something! This is deeply introspective music from an artist whose sound is exactly what I seek out.

10. Thundercat – It Is What It Is

There are very long and necessary deep exhales and then there’s this. The greatest cosmic bass player on the planet gave us 15 sweeping future funk and nu-jazz tracks about loss, grieving, depression, friendship, a life in flux and love in its many forms. Speaking of deep exhales, I had the pleasure of seeing Thundercat play a Drive-In concert at a driving range in Burlingame this past October and he seemed to know about how much I needed to stop arguing with my dog and go see a live show. 

9. Marcos Valle & Azymuth – Fly Cruzeiro

Another fascinating story about this re-issue. It was originally released in 1972 as a gift to flyers on the Cruzeiro Brazilian airline where only 500 copies were pressed. So now in crazy ass 2020, Light In The Attic Records pressed another 500 copies of this collection of Brazilian standards by damn hell ass legends in Valle and Azymuth. Listening to Fly Cruzeiro, I can’t help, but think of sleazy Mad Men-era smoke-filled flights or of some of the late 80’s flights I took as a kid on shuttered Brazilian airlines like Varig and Vasp, or even just being in the Mexico City airport today. This is a real Brazilian music treat and I just picked it up on vinyl through the label this very moment… if you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ out, you should probably do the same.

8. Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine

I thought this was the best pop record of the year. I yearned to hear more of Róisín Murphy’s late-career resurgence after  she graced DJ Koze’s “Illumination” last year and damnit she delivered. Songs like “Incapable” and “Murphy’s Law” aren’t too far-removed from Robyn, but with a decidedly disco lean. Queen Róisín of Ireland has entered the building. 

7. Cleo Sol – Rose In The Dark

This teases my #1 pick, but along with Arlo Parks (who didn’t put out an album this year), Cleo Sol was this year’s biggest revelation for me.  Sol writes and delivers sumptuous newfangled soul inflected with her roots as a British-Jamaican. Hers is a voice I can’t wait to hear grow just as she does as a globally-minded singer. More on her later, but for now, watch this:

6. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder and Kamasi Washington – Dinner Party and Dinner Party Dessert

Yes, you read that correctly, Terrace Martin + Robert Glasper + 9th Wonder + Kamasi Washington. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? It’s the jazzy hip-hop supergroup that we the people of this godawful year deserve for our misery. It clocks in at a modest 23 minutes, but the Dessert edition of the Dinner Party EP features elevated versions of all seven songs with singers and rappers including an unfuckwithable number featuring Rapsody on the mic and Herbie freakin’ Hancock on the keys. 

5. Seu Jorge & Rogê – Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions

Nothing made me prouder and happier to be Brazilian this year as much as this album. Look, I worship at the church of Seu Jorge (I interviewed him about the Bowie covers four years ago for KQEDArts and it meant the world to me) and although I’d never heard of his friend Rogê before, the result of their collaboration is mastery of Brazilian musical art forms; part samba, part MPB, with the pair on vocals and guitar backed by notable Brazilian percussionists. Their distinctly different voices contrast but coalesce via songs about friendship, passion, Rio and being fiercely Brazilian. 

4. Adrianne Lenker – Songs

I was finally able to put my finger on what makes Big Thief so great via this masterful feature on Lenker by The New Yorker‘s Amanda Petrusich (easily one of the best music scribes in the business btw.) The Big thief frontwoman stole away to the Western Massachusetts mountains to spend time away from COVID-riddled New York. She recorded this album in the cabin she stayed in and said it felt like playing inside of an acoustic guitar. That imagery never escapes you while listening to one of the most beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. 

3. Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma and Divorce

Ahhh…the storied hip-hop deconstruction album. A lot of the great ones have been there and on Anime, Trauma and Divorce, Open Mike Eagle opens himself up for what I thought was the best hip-hop record of 2020. Since the end of last year, his show on Comedy Central (The new Negroes) got cancelled and he and his wife got divorced. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t shy away from his vulnerabilities on this album and I legit lost my shit the first time I listened to “Everything Ends Last Year.” Rapper, comedian, podcaster and more, Mike Eagle has become one of the finest hip-hop renaissance men in the business and this is his “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” 

2. Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind

Yves Tumor’s music has typically been a grinding and abrasive listen. But on Heaven To A Tortured Mind, they peeled back a thick layer of hurt to drop an album of unapologetic pop that’s somewhere between the chasm of Prince and Mykki Blanco. Every track is an unpredictable force that pulls at different peaks and valleys of infatuation.  The various hairpin turns of lust on “Kerosene!” and the difficult solace found on “Strawberry Privilege”  were more enamoring than anything else in 2020 and I’ll be hard-pressed to ever put this album down. 

1. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

Nothing mattered more in 2020 than the fight for racial justice and equality that the surge in Black Lives Matter protests put firmly at the forefront of our lives. What Sault was able to do with Untitled (Black Is), is place the struggle and debate that was centered in America and very clearly show how passionately it resonates beyond our borders. A transatlantic collaboration between British producer Inflo, Chicago rapper Melissa Young (aka Kid Sister) and singer Cleo Sol (see above at #7), Sault found an argument for global unity within Black music. Soul, hip-hop, dancehall, gospel, R&B, trip-hop and then some, were all present on these thoroughly spiritual 20 tracks. And they did it by keeping their identities largely private. What mattered was the music and the purpose behind it. The pain it described and the healing it sought. Love over hate, compassion over greed, with peace through sound piercing through it all. 2020 was a motherfucker, but there’s hope in this album and there may be hope for us all yet.

Playlist: Best Songs Of 2019

Closing the book on 2019 with EE’s favorite songs of the year. All 30 of them are in the Spotify playlist below and while unranked, I’ll say this: “Not” by Big Thief and the harmonious collab we never saw coming in “Studie” by Teebs & Panda Bear, are the two songs that’ll stay with me the longest from this year.

The playlist checks in at 121 minutes and it’s a journey through the songs that marked 2019 for me. From Flying Lotus putting a bow on Denzel Curry’s “Black Balloons” trilogy and Priests’ fierce “The Seduction of Kansas” to Spellling’s post-Castlevania vibes on “Under The Sun” and Pop Smoke’s Brooklyn drill pomp meets North London swagger on the “Welcome To The Party” Skepta remix. Press play, enjoy. Peace.

Check out Everything Ecstatic’s Top 60 Albums of 2019

The Top 60 Albums of 2019

Ranking the best albums of the year shouldn’t have to be about consensus. Heck, I’ve been making this yearly list for over 12 years and while I’ve sometimes fallen victim to the pitfalls of slotting and naming certain albums on the list because of the prevailing critical belief about their greatness, that approach is now effectively out the window.

What you’ll find in Everything Ecstatic’s Top 60 Albums of 2019 list, is a direct reflection of the best music I listened to and enjoyed the most this year; whether it’s by a mainstream artist, or someone you may have never heard of before. The latter, is what I think has made EE’s Albums list great for so long. ‘Cause at the end of the day, this site is about discovery and enthusiasm for said discoveries (of course). Stylistically, it’s always gonna be all over the map, from jazz to hip-hop to indie, electronic and beyond…from all over the globe.

Lastly, I’ll say this: I’m glad that I waited until 12/23 to release these picks, because the more days we have to listen to the insane amount of tunes that are getting released throughout the year, then the less likely it is to miss something you absolutely needed in your life (Jamila Woods’ incredible Legacy! Legacy! for example, would not have made its way onto the list, let alone into the Top 10 if this list was finalized in early December. )

So with that, here’s Everything Ecstatic’s Top 60 Albums of the Year, along with a Spotify playlist of them all at the bottom of the post. Follow @EcstaticBlog us on Twitter and like the EE Facebook page to get music shouts on the regular and to stay up on the EE live events series.


Click the Albums of the Year tab at the top of the web page to re-visit more than a decade of EE year-end lists.

Stellar Spins (60-51)

60. Arthur Russell – Iowa Dream

59. Kedr Livanskiy – Your Need

58. Rosie Tucker – Never Not Never Not Never Not

57. Hand Habits – placeholder

56. Hot Chip – A Bathful of Ecstasy

55. Skepta – Ignorance Is Bliss

54. San Fermin – The Cormorant 1

53. Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy

52. Nate Mercereau – Joy Techniques

51. Jordan Rakei – Origin

The Top 50

50. Black Belt Eagle Scout – At The Party With My Brown Friends

49. Mndsgn – Snaxx


47. Kindness – Something Like A War

46. Salami Rose Joe Louis – Zdenka 2080

Continue reading The Top 60 Albums of 2019

The 60 Best Albums of 2018 (+6 EP’s)

Aaaaaand…we’re back! This the 11th annual Everything Ecstatic Best Albums of the Year roundup and for 2018, I’ve laid out the 60 albums that meant the most to me this year along with six EPs in a separate section about a third of the way down.

I covered a good number of these artists throughout the year and am linking to some of my favorite features or podcast interviews I did with them if it applies. This was also definitely my most fulfilling year in music festival coverage so you’ll notice that a lot of these interviews may have even happened on site in Montréal, San Francisco, Austin, etc…

Keeping the words brief, but including cover art, scattered audio/video/photos and a Spotify playlist at the bottom of the post. My hope is that you can come back to this list and discover artists that you may have skimmed through the first time around or click on a different link and really get to know them. Click the ‘Albums of the Year’ tab on the top of this site to re-visit past years and hit me at @AGSpinelli on Twitter  or Instagram to follow along with my year-round escapades in music. Lastly, Everything Ecstatic has been producing not just features and blog posts, but also events! Like us on Facebook to stay connected! Enjoy and cheers!


61-51: Stellar Spins 

61. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
60. Cornelia Murr – Lake Tear of the Clouds
59. Tom Misch – Geography
58. The Ophelias – Almost
57. Saba – CARE FOR ME
56. Kurt Vile –  Bottle It In
55. Steady Holiday – Nobody’s Watching
54. Jim James – Uniform Distortion
53. Soccer Mommy – Clean
52 . Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
51 . Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth

The Top 50 (+ some EP’s)

50. tune-yards – I can feel you creep into my private life

An uncomfortable album on the surface, but a brilliant and important one when you dig deeper.

I wrote about it for the KQEDArts Best of the Bay Series.

49. Jefferson Park Boys – Casual Horns, Dog

A stellar beat tape from Mr. Carmack + Kenny Segal + Mike Parvizi.

48. Kamaal Williams – The Return

One half of nu-jazz group Yussef Kamaal, Williams teams with keys player Henry Wu for one of this year’s many stellar jazz releases in the budding London scene.

47. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Tearing At The Seams

One song to rule them all:

46. Robyn – Honey

One song to rule them all part 2:

45. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food

One of the best band’s on the planet, straight up.

44. JAIN – Souldier

My favorite globally-inspired French pop singer belongs in the same conversation as the Charli XCX’s and Carly Rae Jepsen’s of the world.

I got the great pleasure to sit down with JAIN for an interview at the Montreal Jazz festival. 

42. Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse

On her third LP, Sadie Dupuis has really settled into one of the most consistent indie acts of the last five years.

Sadie was a guest on the Noise Pop Podcast where we discussed the finer points of the Scream movie franchise (among other things.)

43. Tierra Whack – Whack World

The 15 song Whack World video was the best 15 minutes of the year.

Continue reading The 60 Best Albums of 2018 (+6 EP’s)

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!


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.


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.


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!

The 10 Best EPs of 2017

Everything Ecstatic’s year-end round-up has begun! The Best Albums of the Year list will be released in about a week, but first, I wanted to give shine to the 10 EPs that resonated most with me this year.

Not quite an LP and a bit more than a single, EPs are an opportunity for artists to make a statement before an upcoming album release, release a shorter collection of tracks without the time/energy/costs associated with a full-blown album, or simply a concise artistic expression within a limited number of tracks. These 10 positively merit your attention and listen to them via the playlist at the bottom of this post. Here they are, in no particular order (with the label that released them in parenthesis.) Peace.

Amber Mark – 3:33 AM (PMR/Harvest)

A promising young pop singer, Mark delivered a cathartic collection of soulful dance music that helped her cope with the loss of her mother. The self-produced 3:33 AM shows that joyous pop music can still carry a deeply emotional message. Take note of Amber Mark, she’s next up.

Modern Cosmology – Summer Long (Elefant)

Laetitia Sadier’s latest project is a collaboration with Brazilian group Mobojó. The former Stereolab frontwoman is my favorite vocalist on the planet. Period. There’s nobody like her and Modern Cosmology is a welcome addition to one of the finest artist catalogs you’ll ever hear.

Steve Lacy – Steve Lacy’s Demo (Three Quarter)

Steve Lacy is a core member of LA-based group The Internet (who dropped our #9 Album of 2015). Now, the guitarist and producer is building out his solo repertoire starting with these six tracks and a slew of other notable collabs. “Dark Red” is a Top 10 song of the year, bar none.

Spooky Mansion- I’m the Moon, You’re The Wave (so plz change w/ me) (Self-released)

Hailing from San Francisco’s Sunset District, Spooky Mansion sound like the personification of the ocean air emanating from the cold and comfortable Bay.  Gotta head over to Bandcamp to peep this 4-track release properly.

De’Wayne Jackson – Don’t Be Afraid (MDDN)

Rappers from Houston don’t normally sound like this. Jackson’s Don’t Be Afraid is a visceral and vulnerable release and this dude caught me surprise in a major way. This is exactly what I look for in hip-hop and really looking forward to more from Jackson, who’s now based in LA.

Houses Of Heaven – Remnant (Felte)

Industrial rock-focused Felte Records is a small operation that put out some gems this year. Among them, San Francisco/Oakland products, Houses of Heaven, which we highlighted as our favorite Bay Area EP of the year on a Noise Pop Podcast episode.

Yaeji – Yaeji (Godmode)

Korean-American DIY-electronica artist Kathy “Yaeji” Lee dropped some seriously sticky productions across both Yaeji and EP2. While the latter got more press looks, the self-titled release marvelously calls back to late-90’s chilled out dance floor beats and her vocals are hypnotic. Peep the video she directed for “Noonside”:

Toulouse – Extended Plea (Terrible Records)

Brilliant pop singer on the Terrible Records label run by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. I can see Toulouse really pushing through into the mainstream with his glorious voice and expansive productions. Extended Plea is truly a journey.

Ela Minus – Adapt. (Yebo Music)

I fell hard for Colombian electronic producer Gabriela Jimeno’s 3-year spanning three EP series. Adapt is the final and best installment, with four tracks that are bright, complex and rhythmic.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press (Sub Pop)

The Melbourne, Australia indie rock scene has bene churning out some incredible artists as of late. This guitar-heavy quasi-surf rock band are a welcome addition to the likes of Courtney Barnett and Tash Sultana. One of my SXSW standouts, this was a notable release for Sub Pop.

Listen to all ten EPs on the Spotify Playlist below and subscribe to it here!


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


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!


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


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


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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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 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


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


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 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’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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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%


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


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


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


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


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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!!!