That’s right. I’ve been keeping a list.
If you asked me at any point after March of this year what I was listening to, know that I was trying very hard to keep from blaring “JULIA JACKLIN” at you before you even finished the sentence. The first time I heard “Pool Party” it made me me so, so deeply sad that I knew I had to have more. Because sometimes you need that — sometimes you need music that matches your most extreme emotions, and Julia Jacklin has the ultimate handle on human sadness.
Des Moines, Iowa
There are times when getting a million press releases per day goes so, so right. Christopher the Conquered landed in my PR folder one day and I’m so glad he did — I live for his epic musicianship, imbued with a reckless bombast that made my colleague Daniel ask if he was in fact listening to a Queen cover band. “I’m Giving Up On Rock and Roll” is a critical hit to this former theater kid’s heart.
Delta Spirit shepherded me through some really tough and surreal times in my life. As such, I hate saying this, but I might like Matthew Logan Vasquez’s solo work more than Delta Spirit.
MLV’s Solicitor Returns is Vasquez investing in rock and roll, but retaining his songwriter’s spirit. Vasquez’s work has carried me this far; I have a feeling he’s going to be with me for a long, long time.
Terry’s a bit of a mystery to me as an American. I can’t tell you much about them except that I very much enjoyed this summer’s full-length, which span a range of sounds, from the echoing garage punk of “Moscow on the Thames” and “Chitter Chatter” to glittery head rush of “Third War.”
London, England via Caerphilly, Wales
No, I can’t understand a word they’re saying. But this song sounds so good loud.
Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines — who knew? Well, The Atlantic did a few years ago — apparently Des Moines has established itself as the Brooklyn of the plains, all coffee roasters and bike repair shops and a lot of really, really great bands. Here is Karen Meat and the Computer’s “On The Couch,” a glitchy little tune I could not get enough of this year.
“No Woman” got a lot of play on the PA in our old office — and while I tired quickly of Car Seat Headrest’s “Something Soon,” a song that got a similar amount of airtime, I still love Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake the same way I did when I first heard it. I feel silly embedding this because it’s so ubiquitous now I have heard it in line at Starbucks, but those horns get me every. damn. time.
London, England via Vilnius, Lithuania
Keymono was my very first press-release discovery. Lured by their listed location, I clicked on the “play” button out of overwhelming curiosity. Did not disappoint.
Keymono also set off an obsession with uncovering the Lithuanian electro-pop scene, which is a phrase I never in my life thought I’d write in a professional setting.
A Giant Dog first came to my attention through the floating, swaying “Get With You and Get High.”
Imagine my satisfaction when the rest of their body of work aligned with one of my other musical interests: party-time rock and roll. I’ve made this plea before and I’ll make it again: Come to the Bay! I want to see you live!
New York, New York
I’m kinda late to the party here but in 2016 I boarded the Vagabon train. Vagabon’s hesitant vocals and swiftly-cycling chords remind me of years spent at shows in all-ages clubs, rec halls, and community centers as a teen.
I often get so mad at myself when I don’t know of an artist immediately, because I’m a music editor, and knowing everything about every band in existence is my job, right? Finally finding Vagabon made me realize it’s OK to pick up on bands late in the game. I have Vagabon in my life now, and that’s what matters.
Los Angeles, California
The Bond-theme vibes on “Honeycomb” were so strong I started writing a Bond movie to go along with it in my head as I listened. The plot: A villain is making a fortune producing the most sought-after honey on earth which is really a front for…I don’t know. I gave up there. If you have ideas, tell me in the comments and we’ll split our earnings.
Also, she’s not entirely not local — she grew up in the East Bay. This and more in a revealing Q&A from our editor Valerie over at Bandcamp.
It’s not often I, a San Francisco-area editor, get tipped off to India-based singer-songwriter duos.
They’re a little kitschy, but working in a field where artists so often take themselves oh-so-seriously, I really appreciate the occasional wink and nod.
Sometimes I need a break from all the rock and roll, the theatrical tomfoolery, and the sad, slowly-strummed folk I gravitate toward. For those times, there is Lilith Ai.
New York, New York
She’s 13! Sweet Jesus, I was a frizzy-haired weirdo at 13 who spent less time creating art and more time printing out pictures of rock bands from the internet and melting into the couch cushions in front of the MTV late-night video loop. I hope this girl does not give up. We need you, Juliana Wilson.
Ha ha, you thought I couldn’t find a way to use this as an opportunity to shout at you about Ezra Furman, didn’t you? The last time I saw him live, Furman announced he was leaving his home in Oakland and has made references to moving in recent interviews…but I can’t find any printed evidence of where he landed. In this age of fake-news panic, I don’t want to guess.
Regardless of his location on the planet, Furman put out an unsurprisingly excellent EP this year that plays with all my emotions. I can’t think of a better song to barrel toward the new year with than “Teddy I’m Ready.” Come at us, 2017.
*Not actually everything non-local I loved this year. My original list took far too long to load.