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Best of 2016: Kelly's Personal Picks (now with more cat)!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 31, 2016 02:18pm | Post a Comment
best of 2016 vinyl tony molina egyptian lover blonde redhead tele novella violent change dick stusso dry spells the she's bandit beyonce solange baskets twin peaks eden ahbez
Looking back at 2016, it was a good year for music, if for nothing else. If you're reading this—hey!—you survived the ride. How did you do it? Was it the music? Without a doubt, music has saved my life, or at least my mood, as often as once a day (very probably) over this past year and for that I am thankful (most definitely). Here follows a little list of personal favorites that really came through for me in 2016. My cat may be in some of these pictures...

tony molina confront the truth 45 slumberland
Tony Molina
- Confront the Truth
(Slumberland)

I never know what to expect from Tony Molina, aside from hella Bay Area bombast and great short songs, and Confront the Truth further confused matters for me (save for the short songs tip) in the best way possible. This lovely 45 is brimming with just the sort of comfortably spun, little-bit-country/little bit folk 'n roll melodies I like. It can also be said that it's brimming with conspicuous influences, namely bits n' bobs reminiscent of The Beatles, Elliott Smith, and perhaps even a little early Skynyrd (think "The Seasons"). Nevertheless, it's easy to appreciate the truth of Molina's heartfelt songwriting and superb ability to navigate a softer power as he coaxes and bends his strums and twangs 'til the bitter end on this ten-ish minutes long, eight song confrontation. Or 'til the bittersweet end, as the cherry on top is a loving cover of Thin Lizzy's wistful instrumental "Banshee" rounding out the record like a would-be bonus track. Altogether a perfect example of how beautifully moving even the most fleeting music can be.


egyptian Lover greg broussard box set stones throw 1983 1988
Egyptian Lover - 1983-1988
(Stones Throw)

This 4 LP box set, along with the 1984 LP Egyptian Lover released last year, has been the most important music for me during 2016, no contest. I'm no noob to Egyptian Lover's 808 kingdom, but something clicked in me over the last 12 months that made fiend for his beats more than ever and, as such, I pretty much forced it on everyone around me (not that anyone complained). Though I have already expressed my many thanks and affection for Greg Broussard's electro alter ego and his freadky deaky machine in a previous post, I'd be remiss if I didn't include Egyptian Lover in this year end best-of post.  To quote the man himself: "What is a D.J. if he can't scratch? What is a MC if he can't rap? What is a beat without a live clap? Well, I can do it all, baby, just like that."


Dick stusso nic russo Nashville Dreams Sings The Blues Vacant Stare Records vinyl grace sings sludge cooper
Dick Stusso - Nashville Dreams/Sings The Blues
(Vacant Stare)

Somewhere out there a guy is chasing his dirty rock 'n roll dreams tonight, do or die. Oakland's Nic Russo is the that guy bringing Dick Stusso's hellbent fantasies to life, maybe real life, or something like it. He may look okay, but Dicky sounds like a demented drunk branded to fail upwards
towards his hardtack escapist visions of fortune and freedom via middle America's back-country highways, one infectious, nightmare-edged ditty at a time. Part T. Rex boogie, part Gram Parsons twang, all grain alcohol down the hatch and back again, these country fried, mud-soaked porch aspirations hang loose together like plucked notes on a low string being tuned ever downwards. Featuring additional vocals by Grace Cooper (The Sandwitches/ Grace Sings Sludge), this record is pretty limited so don't sleep on it. Get some Dick asap!


tele novella house of souls natalie ribbons agent ribbons sacramento macabre pop yellow year best fo 2016
Tele Novella
- House of Souls

(Yellow Year)

I got my first taste of Natalie Ribbon's penchant for dark n' lovely bygones and whip-smart singer-songwriter prowess years ago the first time I saw her perform as a part of Agent Ribbons, and I've been hooked ever since. She brings that same sinister energy and torch-bearing realness to Tele Novella, the "macabre-pop" band she joined after moving to Austin, Texas a few years ago. Her mark on their debut LP, House of Souls, is as recognizable as her distinctly smokey yet capable-of-cracking-a-marvelous-squeal vocal range. The album showcases a curio cabinet of yummy trick-or-treat compositions wreathed in dreamy harmonies and spooky jingle-jangle know-how. Another limited press best snatched asap.


little wings light green leaves LP gnome life reissue best fo 2016
Little Wings - Light Green Leaves
(Gnome Life)

Technically this is a re-issue, but it also kind of isn't. When Little Wings' Light Green Leaves was first released via K Records in 2002, the main man behind the magic, Kyle Field, recorded three versions of the record and each version was released via three formats (CD, LP, and cassette tape). The CD version was my gateway to Little Wings' trippy, lo-fi landscape, with songs like "Look At What The Light Did Now" quietly pushing that whole "Freak folk" movement towards it's zenith. Thanks to the good folks at Gnome Life, this year was the first time that the CD version of Light Green Leaves saw the needle on my turntable (yes!!). What's more, this pressing comes with added rainbows thanks to the thrilling effect of the holographic foil-stamped cover sleeve. Also, I've had the pleasure of chatting with Kyle a few times, here and here are two of those times.

VC3 Violent change gladys Bleyle melters best of 2016
Violent Change - VC3
(Melters)

VC3 is the third full-length effort from San Francisco's Violent Change, a dank basement rock band that always sounds like they're broadcasting live from some subterranean rusty-yellow iron lung via janky infernal radio channels that just won't tune in, and therein lies the appeal. This record is a bit mellower than their 2014 release, A Celebration of Taste, and brandishes a less Sex Pistol-y energy while putting the damage on some decidedly Shoes-y sounding riffs, with "Unit A" being a standout example of bandmaster Matt Bleye's ability to  cut crystal visionary pop melodies through all that fuzzy distortion. VC3 is "the lowest form of high art" indeed.


the she's dry spells split 7" empty cellar
The She's/The Dry Spells split 7"
(Empty Cellar)

This cool little spit 45, housed in some fun, lens-bending 3D cover art, contains atmospheric and sonic harmonies exemplary of a very "San Francisco" sound duality, each side presented in perfect reflection by two different San Francisco bands. Side A sees The She's ripping through “Cherry Red"—a golden nugget of a California beach-ready lipstick bop reminiscent of The Breeders and Shonen Knife. Then the fog rolls in languid and thick on side B as The Dry Spells' moody, spellbound psych-folk tendrils slowly wend all over "Heliotrope," the first new music from the band since their 2009 LP Too Soon For Flowers, thus making this split effort one of the more satisfying 7-inch fixes this year.



solange a seat at the table
Solange - A Seat At The Table

(Columbia)

Sisters, sisters...it's been a good year for the
Knowles sisters. Both Beyoncé and Solange released absolutely fab, extremely successful pop albums that simultaneously reinforce and redefine what a fab, successful pop album is and how it's made. It can even be argued that both albums are "important" in their own way. That said, the two records differ greatly enough that discussions on the topic can spur folks to declare one's preference for one over the other, which isn't important at all. Still, while Beyoncé's Lemonade is an audiovisual tour de force and cause for much commotion, Solange's subtle yet powerfully meditative A Seat At The Table (and the accompanying body-positive music videos) have inspired comparisons to theatrical surrealism and the nickname "the thinking man's Knowles" within my social circles, which I find amusing. Whatever, they're both splendid works and you've probably already decided you like both, no matter how you rank them. Don't hurt yourself!


blonde redhead peel sessions record store day and masculin feminin numero group box set Blonde Redhead - Masculin Féminin [box set]; Peel Sessions [RSD 7"]
(Numero Group)

Any year that sees a release from Blonde Redhead is a good year for me. In addition to the powered-by-various artists Freedom Of Expression On Barragán remix album, Numero launched two trips into the Blonde Redhead vaults with the Record Store Day special Peel Sessions 45 and a the gag-worthy 4 LP Masculin Féminin box set comprising the band's first two albums, singles, and demos from their early era—stuff that has been out-of-print, hard to find, or otherwise unheard until now! Even if you already have the albums and the singles, this box set is simply a must for the rarities et cetera contained within, including a heap of old photographs and two telling essays by Arto Lindsay (DNA) and Erin Osmon, altogether exploring to the source of the Blonde Redhead sauce. Did you know Blonde Redhead recorded a country song?!

Incidentally, Numero Group has, as always, been killing it with some great new releases this year. If I were made of money, I'd be all up on everything they have to offer, but aside from the Blonde Redhead stuff, two compilations in particular (pushed via their Numbero imprint) have continued to delighted and surprise my senses: the mysterious Shanghai'd Soul Episode 4 collection of bygone deep funk/soul gems mined for the adornment of modern hip-hop cuts (hence the titular tip-of-the-hat to Wu-Tang's Shaolin stylings), and the Record Store Day compilation Los Alamos Grind—a "post-apocalyptic-bachelor-pad" gyrating jukebox homage to those tattered yet titillating Las Vegas Grind comps that still filter in through the used new arrivals vinyl bin from time to time. Get into it!

Well, that about does it for my picks, save for this year's killer stack of Exotica and Exotica-adjacent releases pictured way up top (I wrote about those here) and my Burt Reynolds odyssey (saving that for another post). Happy New Year everybody! Dumpster fire or no, it's time to get a move on. 
fuck U 2016
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Relevant Tags

Agent Ribbons (5), Best Of 2016 (18), Blonde Redhead (19), Numero Group (11), Tony Molina (3), Egyptian Lover (7), Dick Stusso (1), Solange (6), Beyonce (30), Violent Change (3), Little Wings (15), Tele Novella (1), The She's (4), The Dry Spells (1)