We asked our followers and contributors to list some of the overlooked/underappreciated records of 2016 – up first is The Modern Folk (a.k.a. J Moss, editor of The Modern Folk Music of America and owner of Portland,OR label Practice Records)
As far as music is concerned, 2016 might go down in history as a year where we lost too many of our greatest talents. I’m not going to list them all here, you know what I am talking about. But as the song says, music is a circle that must remain unbroken no matter what tragedies occur, and 2016 also provided us with excellent, life-affirming new music. I could write thousands of words about how much I loved certain major releases, such as Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’, Chance the Rapper’s ‘Chance III’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Untitled, Unmastered’, the final statements of David Bowie and Lenoard Cohen, or the great new albums by Beyonce and Solange. but that isn’t really my brand… I’m here to bring you stuff you haven’t already heard of, so here, in no particular order, are ten of my favorite albums from 2016
75 Dollar Bill is a New York based guitar/homemade drum-box duo that weaves mystical ragas out of guitar and homemade percussion. On their newest album they are joined by some strings and horns for a fully realized, organically psychedelic sound.
Each album by Virginian Takoma style guitarist Daniel Bachman is somehow better than the last. With his self titled 2016 release he reinforces his status as the premiere torch bearer for the music pioneered by John Fahey. This beautiful album begins with a glistening drone that gives way to some of the most meditative and disciplined solo acoustic guitar playing that has ever been committed to tape. A stunning record.
C. Strøm is a reclusive Norwegian songwriter and interpreter of folk traditions. This year, the excellent Dying for Bad Music label released a retrospective collection of highlights from his many recordings over the past 15 years. Self-described as being similar to the sound of waves beating against a rocky shore, C. Strøm’s music is like nothing else you will ever hear.
Will Csorba is a rising star in the world of solo acoustic guitar, and 2016 saw the release of his most assured record to date. 15 tracks of silvery american primitive picking from the heart of Texas.
Prolific industrial/noise/blues duo Buck Gooter lets every layer and facet of their musical diamond shine on ‘Stainless Steel Mirrors’. This record manages to be angry, sad, funny and hopeful all at once, an emotional range that matches the musical range that these guys manage to wring out of a drum machine, an amplified acoustic guitar and a bunch of pedals. Buck Gooter, more than any band I can think of, reproduces what it feels like to live right now and this record is fucking great.
Azores is a thinking man’s rock band from the mountains of Virginia. Their debut LP ‘Copper Beach’ is awash in 80’s-90’s power pop moves and bitter late night lyrics. Tight rhythms and big riffs all over this beach.
‘Home Problems’ is the vinyl debut of Charlottesville, Virginia rock band New Boss. This band is a brilliant synthesis of the glam-rock gloss and finger-snapping attitude of 70’s Bowie and T-Rex with the intricate arrangements and melodic and rhythmic twists and turns of baroque pop auteurs such as Squeeze, XTC and Sparks. An excellent record that has been haunting my turntable.
New York singer/songwriter Freddie Nunez made his album-length debut in 2016 with the excellent ‘Heaven’s In Your Head’. Freddie is an excellent guitarist and songwriter. The blue moods and full-sounding production on this album will remind you of the more produced music of Elliott Smith, such as from his Heatmiser days or on XO.
Skyjelly is a psychedelic/noise/rock band from Boston. Their latest release, out now on cassette from Doom Trip Records, is a compilation of two of their most recent album length recordings. The music is eclectic, influenced equally by international sounds and electronic methods as by the tripped-out 60’s. for fans of The Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, and The Sun City Girls.
Yeah, I put my own 2016 release on this list. Deal with it. If I am 100% honest, yes, my own record is one of my favorite records of 2016. If you made a record and you say IT ISN’T one of your favorites, either you’re a liar or maybe you made a really bad record that not even you can like. I think ‘Modern Folk II’ is really good, I’m proud of it, and no one else has written about it, though my efforts at getting it in front of those who might have been admittedly minimal. The reason I started writing about music on the internet in the first place was out of frustration with the fact that no one would write about mine…so this is what you get. With releases like the stuff I listed above, maybe 2016 wasn’t so bad after all? Nah, it was pretty fucking bad in a lot of ways. But if there were no bad times, you wouldn’t know what the good ones looked like. Keep sending me the music you make, and I will keep writing about it on themodernfolk.net. Let’s hope 2017 has a lot of good things in store for EVERYONE.