Proprietor of New Paltz record store Jack's Rhythms
The year seemed to be bookended by aural tombstones: Bowie's Blackstar and Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker. In between, I've also been listening to Lodestar, the first album Shirley Collins has released in over 30 years. Her voice is deeper and weathered, the instrumentation spare, and the songs morbid. Always a party in my head. It's not all despair, though. My favorite album of the year may be Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids' We Be All Africans. Ackamoor has been around since the `70s and hasn't released a new album since 2004. It's Afro-jazz with echoes of Sun Ra. Other favorites: Terry HQ (Australian postpunk) and Heron Oblivion (a heavy-psych band with British folk elements; like a heavier Pentangle/Fairport). Too many more to mention, including two studio albums by Thee Oh Sees, great stuff by Swans, Nick Cave, Eno, Dwarfs of East Agouza, Bob Mould, and local heroes Shana Falana and the Sweet Clementines.
Morgan Ywain Evans
Freelance music scribe and Walking Bombs vocalist
This year can be broken into three distinct sections for me. Early 2016 started with a lot of promise for me, so I was enjoying more dreamy, melodic, introspective rock like Marriages or the industrial space metal of Boston trio InAeona. Once Bowie died, I was completely swallowed up by the experience of Blackstar for a while, to the extent that it made most other music seem pathetic in scope. Midyear I went to Europe for the first time, to Estonia and Finland, and I heard a lot of '80s pop hits like Samantha Fox on the radio there, and weird, probably suspicious copies of Drake's "Hotline Bling" resung by a white dude with a Finnish accent over bad EDM while I was partying in a swamp full of sinkholes next to actual death-trap sinkholes. At the end of the year, I got really introspective while making my own pending album, Brave Hours, and pretty much just listened to Globelamp's fairy-folk The Orange Glow, doom band Eight Bells, or Wax Idols' 2015 goth-pop gem, American Tragic. On the local front, I had a blast opening for stoner rockers Geezer for their self-titled CD release and would tell everyone to check out them and psych rockers It's Not Night: It's Space. And of course Shana Falana's record is a blast.
Host of Radio Woodstock's "Locally Grown"
The local music scene has been crushing it in 2016! Just a few off the top of my head: The Sweet Clementines put out their stunner, Lake Victoria, in January; we got an epic new release from It's Not Night: It's Space in June with Our Birth Is But a Sleep and a Forgetting; and Black Table actually got me listening to metal, which is no small achievement, with Obelisk. I've also got to give some love to New Paltz slack rockers Seymour, whose self-titled album blows most of the major label releases I've heard this year out of the water. It could pass for an early Dr. Dog record that somehow got lost in the sofa cushions. Speaking of which, Dr. Dog's The Psychedelic Swamp made me blissfully happy with its joyfully surf-rocky grooves. And of course I've been digging on Innocence Reaches from my favorites, Of Montreal—it's not a perfect album or anything, but the single "It's Different for Girls" is the perfect feminist anthem for the moment and a total banger. Childish Gambino's wildly different new effort Awaken, My Love! has also been in heavy rotation in my car lately—my favorite thing about him as an artist is his ability to completely reinvent himself every time he puts out an album, and this old-soul vibe he's putting out is totally working for me. Bruno Mars dropped 24k Magic in November and it was pretty much game over for me. It's a 33-minute funk/R&B fantasy with not a moment wasted. I can't stop grooving on "Chunky" or getting lost in "Versace on the Floor," and I'm not even mad about it.
Musician with the Lost Radio Rounders and the Ramblin' Jug Stompers, Chronogram contributor, Proctors Theater publicist
In July, the Bang on a Can All-Stars presented a live reading of Brian Eno's Music for Airports at MASS MoCA. Stuck in the middle of the calendar, that performance served as a lynchpin. In a year filled with death, the idea of having sounds that could function in the moment, in the background, in the cerebrum and the aorta, seemed potent. As such, John Cale's bold, brave reworking of Music for a New Society (as M: FANS) was a boon. The same with Eno's own The Ship and Trixie Whitley's Porta Bohemica. Whitley's show at Club Helsinki in September was as mesmerizing as Music for Airports, but in a visceral, grinding way. Her voice is a room you could live in. Speaking of voices, it was a delight to hear Beth Orton's sophomore effort, Kidsticks. Not her second album, you say? Listen to the first, then this, and you'll understand it is—a sure return to the trippiness of the debut, with all that whisper and heather floating over the top. Machines, it turns out, can make music in the right hands. Despite the desire for icy sounds this year (I did vote for Kraftwerk on my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot, after all), the single record I listened to the most was Sierra Hull's masterful Weighted Mind. Forget the instrumental skills, Hull revealed herself to be an insightful, clear-eyed songwriter, with enough youthful angst to remind us all of what it's like to be alive (in a year filled with death).