Beautiful, Wonderful Music I Discovered in 2016

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Todd A

, Inspiration

The last year was a wreck. We lost Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen, and too many more. I’ve twice stopped myself from reading through lists of artists’ deaths in 2016. It’s too sad. After I encountered the first list, I decided instead to think about the wonderful, new music to which I was introduced in 2016.

4 bands / musicians I’m grateful to have found

Too Many Zooz and Lucky Chops

Let me start with a YouTube rabbit hole. Several years ago, I went to see They Might Be Giants. Opening for TMBG that night was a band called Moon Hooch, composed of two saxophonists and a drummer. They were incredible. I bought the record they had out at the time. This summer, YouTube suggested a video of theirs to me which prompted me to search to see what they’d been up to. That caused me to stumble onto this collaboration between Moon Hooch and Too Many Zooz:

Naturally, that piqued my interest: who were Too Many Zooz? A search led me to many of their NYC subway performances and this incredible performance in France:

 

One search result was a band that neither sounded like nor resembled Too Many Zooz in its membership save for one colorfully-coifed dude. It was a video mislabeled as being Too Many Zooz but actually another band featuring their baritone saxophone player, Leo P, called Lucky Chops.

Type “Lucky Chops subway” into YouTube for hours of glorious videos of them. Their energy and musicianship is undeniable and I immediately bought every release they had on Bandcamp. While their medley of “Funkytown/I Feel Good” gets tons of video love, it’s their original tune “Coco” that I put on whenever I need a pick-me-up.

Las Cafeteras

I’m late to the Las Cafeteras party. They played a festival in Long Beach this summer that I kicked myself for not attending as I watched Twitter videos of their performance during the show. Then a friend sent me this video which cemented my fandom:


They play a contemporary version of son jarocho Mexican folk music remixed with new rhythms and politically active lyrics. Their remix of “Mujer Soy” is another joy.

Grace Petrie

In the last week of December, another friend told me I needed to listen to Grace Petrie. I found her EP, There’s no such thing as a ‘Protest Singer,’ and was promptly addicted. Through simple, folky protest songs in the vein of Frank Turner and Billy Bragg, Grace demonstrates great wit and lyricism. Find her on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere.

There was, of course, plenty to love from musicians I already knew.

The Friends

Kris Donegan

An acquaintance of mine from Nashville, Tennessee, Kris Donegan is a guitarist who already has storied career as a session player and sideman. This year, he released an EP of instrumentals that is absolutely lovely. Each tune features the voices of several instruments without any one overplaying the others. It’s a remarkable solo achievement. Find it on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere else.

Tower Defense

My friends from Nashville, Tower Defense (whom we profiled in a DIY Spotlight) released an incredible, 5-track, less-than-10-minute slab of riffs that is available in a beautiful translucent green vinyl edition. Everything fits together so seamlessly yet takes unexpected turns that it’s a joy to listen to over and over.

The Famous

De La Soul

My favorite hip hop group for the past 25(!) years released their first record (which was — at least in part — Kickstarted) in 11 years and was nominated for a Grammy for it. This is not my favorite track on the album but it is the only one they’ve made available on YouTube. Check it out for all the guest stars and variety of genres they’ve incorporated into their own style. Their collab with David Byrne(!), “Snoopies” is a wonderful surprise that would fit well on a recording from either artist.

Dragonette

My favorite Canadian electro-dance-pop group released their first album in 4 years. One of its early singles, “Lonely Heart” sucks me in every time it starts.

Here’s to 2017

Hiatus Kaiyote

I woke up on January 1, 2017, to find YouTube recommending Haitus Kaiyote to me. They are an Australian band who were actually nominated for a Grammy for a version of the song below. Not knowing that should indicate how much awards for art mean to me. Nonetheless, it was a great start to a new year to find new old music that I haven’t previously heard.

I’m looking forward to all the new music I’ll find this year.

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