For much of this year I felt as though I was not able to keep abreast of music releases well enough to even pick favorites. Then suddenly towards the end of the year I came across several really great releases and A Tribe Called Quest dropped their first album in years which turned out to be amazing. Who knows, another great album might get released in the few remaining days of 2016...
The Body - No One Deserves Happiness
Starting off quiet and dark like Miranda Sex Garden, this album soon gives way to slow-crushing heavy guitar glaciers. Almost like Swans in the 90s turning back into Swans in the 80s.
Horse Lords - Interventions
Loping circular grooves recall the Sub Saharan blues of Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen as well as the Hill Country blues of Junior Kimbrough. A heady, trance-inducing, minimalist rock sound.
Givan Lötz - MAW
I became aware of this record via the instagram account of @thevinylmind. He said, "One of the many things that fascinate me about music is how physical sounds can be. Artists who can create shape and weight with sound have my utmost respect." This was enough for me to seek out the album and I am certainly glad that I found it. Soft-edged electric guitar ballads flow within a muddy stream of ambient textures. The pace is patient, like Low or Codeine.
Abul Mogard - Works
According to the product page on boomkat.com, Abul Mogard found his way to a late-in-life music career after retiring from decades-long service at a factory. Seeking to fill the sonic absence of post-factory life he turned to electronic music and drone-making and we are all the richer for it. Displaying the care and attention of a craftsman, Mogard's drones pulse and swell with emotions both familiar and unnameable.
Strobes - Brokespeak
Strobes plays a thorny angular fusion of jazz, progressive rock, and Battles-style post-rock. My good friend and Pink Hex band mate Joel Kromer turned me on to this one.
A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service...
ATCQ surprised us all in 2016 with this release. The level of execution and individual artistry is something that is getting rare to find in hip-hop releases, especially 2-LP full albums. The music is rooted in the Tribe formula but is a great leap forward as well. The intertwined vocal verses work perfectly to imbue the whole with the spirit of the recently deceased Phife Dawg. Jarobi's contributions are crucial and I can't help but wonder why we haven't heard his voice more before now. This album is so good that I feel obligated to go back and listen to The Love Movement again with an open mind because maybe they only made good albums and I wasn't ready for that one yet.
Yussef Kamaal - Black Focus
Funky, complex, modern fusion. The core of this group is the duo of drummer Yussef Dawes and keyboard player Kamaal Williams (who also operates as Henry Wu). They work within loose frameworks, rarely planning much in terms of arrangements. The result is a loose-limbed groove-based music that sits deeply in the pocket.