Hats off to everyone who worked on keeping the franchise alive this year. Still sobbing because Rosalía didn’t crack the Top 10. Here’s what I voted for.
Harriet Tubman The Beauty Side of Terror (30 points)
The wordless roar of the NYC drums-bass-guitar ensemble has seldom sounded so poignant – even as it hits the gas on the expressway to yr skull. But better yet, it feels like a possible bulwark against the steady barrage of deceit that has shown up on most of our doorsteps for the last two years – like putting on a suit of new armor before facing down that demon for the umpteenth time.
Bill Frisell Music IS (10 points)
Yves Tumors Safe In The Hands of Love (10 points)
Travis Scott Astroworld (10 points)
Rosalía El Mal Querer (10 points)
The most addictive album to be streamed in this Red Hook brickstone accomplished its goals by foregoing the virtuosity of forebears such as Estrella Morente and concentrating on the kind of futuristic backgrounds that always leave the past in sight. I liked “Malamente” just fine, but doubled down on my commitment to the full disc when echos of tUnE-yArDs and Laurie Anderson wafted through the cantina.
Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel (10 points)
The last quarter of the year was dedicated to letting ‘Interstate Gospel’ pump through the earbuds while heading home from work on the F train to Brooklyn. Harried is as harried does, and but as isolated phrases like “recreational percocet,” “break him in good tonight” or “fool enough to lose the crown,” got visually pasted on my fellow straphangers, the textures of the songs (and their sentiments) became more and more red-blooded. Disappointment is always lurking in the trio’s stuff, and ultimately, if Pistol Annies reminds me of any other act, it’s the Flatlanders. Wonderfully viable on her own, each Annie has a POV that likes to keep a hankie ready for tears even when she’s whooping it up. When they join forces (like Ely/Gilmore/Hancock), that POV gets extrapolated and the emotions in play become more and more palpable. From “Got My Name Changed Back” to “When I Was His Wife” I liked the fact that I couldn’t figure out whether to laugh to keep from crying or cry to keep from laughing – praying all the while that kind of emotional turmoil never comes my way. (From the Nashville Scene’s Critic’s Poll)
Fay Victor’s SoundNoiseFUNK Wet Robots (5 points)
Neneh Cherry Broken Politics (5 points)
Noname Room 25 (5 points)
Beach House 7 (5 points)
Midland “Burn Out”
Still not sure if they own the pose or the pose owns them, but the Nashville trio sipped their double shot of classicism convincingly enough to invest in their twang for 3:08 and the second or two it takes to snuggle that soggy dollar bill into the jukebox. Plus, somewhere in the middle of the dim lights, thick smoke and sad, sad music, the singer’s poor-poor-pitiful-me vibe became pretty damn convincing.
Anuel AA feat. Romeo Santos “Ella Quiere Beber (Remix)”
Ashley McBryde “Girl Goin’ Nowhere”
Leikeli47 “Hoyt and Schemerhorn”
Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin “I Like It”
Sure, sure – props to Cardi and her Caribbean superstar henchmen for guiding this baby through the summer and into the fall. From Washington Heights to San Pedro, no one was doubting its power. But how about an all-caps SHOUT OUT to Pete Rodriguez and his ’60s jewel for powering both the groove and refrain. With deathless charisma like that in the engine house, Tairrie (italics) B coulda been on the mic to kick it to the top.
The Internet “La Di Da”
It’s not as if anyone asked for an update of Jungle Brothers’ “Feeling Alright,” but the sense of Cali cool that’s central to the sunny feels that drive the LA crew’s optimistic nugget is almost equal to the kind of de la soul the Native Tongue outfit sculpted as their mission statement.
Amy Rigby “Tom Petty Karaoke”
Can’t think of anything more restorative than getting out of your head whenever the need truly strikes, and inspired by J Mascis hitting a Cape Cod stage for a karaoke blast through “Don’t Do Me Like That,” one of America’s most insightful songwriters extrapolates about how we can all use some guardian angels who come equipped with radiant refrains and indelible choruses. Rigby has been inspired by icons previously; her ode to Joey Ramone is one of her finest moments, revealing just how transcendent music can be when you’re not liking what the mirror’s presenting. Rigby can take a bow, though. The posi feels she generates while name-checking “American Girl” and “Learning To Fly” glimmers with the same strength of strings that drives the dreams in “Free Fallin’.
C. Tangana and Niño de Elche “Un Veneno”