2015. We opened the new home of Mister Sunday on the border of Brooklyn and Queens; we did our last season at Industry City; and Eamon and I DJed a roller rink in LA while Dam Funk rocked the mic and Snoop Dogg rolled around on one of those hoverboard things smoking a giant, brown pixie stick. So, you know, no big deal.
Beyond that stuff, I bought way too many records. Here’s a look at some of my favorite discoveries of the year – not necessarily released in 2015, but all new to me. As a bonus, I’ve made a Youtube playlist with all the songs herein for your listening pleasure. Enjoy. And happy holidays!
Harvey Sutherland “Bermuda” I think I have played this at every party since it came out. Musical, dynamic, groovy, unpredictable. An instant classic of the Mister and I’m sure of many, many other parties. Don’t stop, Harvey!
Mr. Complex “Desire” A couple times over the summer I started the day off by playing long hip-hop sets. That was largely inspired by my finding this record at Human Head (my favorite record store in New York). Complex, who I’d never heard of before I found this record, is an excellent MC, and the beat, produced by a total unknown named Darp Malone, is beautiful and simple, just a descending set of guitar chords, a tastefully played electric bass line, and a perfectly sampled snare and hi-hat. It’s the kind of tune that makes you wanna listen to hip-hop all day.
Matt Karmil “Moment” Another weird and wonderful release from Studio Barnhus, one of my favorite labels. This one is an anthem, but it’s executed with shadowy, snaky synth sounds overlaid on a bed of grumbling, off-kilter bass.
.xtrak “Facc” This is a stupidly good techno record that Todd Sines made for Peacefrog back in 1995. I heard it in the midst of Derek Plaslaiko’s epic, twelve-hour Boiler Room set from late last year and tracked it down in the first days of 2015, and I’m still not tired of playing it.
Floating Points Elaenia Since this album came out last month, it’s been the soundtrack of my home life. It is beyond good. If I were ranking this list in some kind of hierarchy, it would probably be at the top. Every track and its placement in the sequence is so well considered without being overwrought; voices and instruments blend into and out of machines manipulated to sound just as delicate as any of the organically created sound on the album; and the songs feel so alive – simmering at a whisper that begs you to turn the volume up so you can hear every detail and crescendoing into near explosions. A real masterpiece. Way to go, Sam.
Jackie McLean & Michael Carvin “De I Comahlee Ah” This eleven-minute drum and sax freakout that Jackie McLean and Michael Carvin recorded in 1975 is pure dancefloor joy. There’s chanting that’s immediately seared into your mind, swinging drums that make it impossible not to dance and a saxophone that rips you wide open. And then at the end, the drums and sax disappear, and it’s just the two musicians keeping the groove alive with their voices.
Atjazz “Fox Tooth (Atjazz Galaxy Aart Dub)” Atjazz was releasing his biggest records right when I first started to DJ. Those records have stood the test of time in a way that many of the other records I bought back then have not. I was so pleased to see a new release by him this year. He’s not deviated terribly far from the sound that I loved back in the early ’00s, but for the same reasons the records he was making back then have stayed with me, this one will also surely be in my bag for years to come – tasteful production, a raft of catchy, interplaying melodies and a good dose of drama.
Paul McCartney and Wings “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five” I can still hardly believe it, but back in May, Eamon and I got invited to a private dinner where Paul McCartney was supposed to perform. We both thought he’d come out, play a couple tunes on the piano, take a bow and say goodnight. Instead, we were brought into a room that held maybe a thousand people, and he proceeded to SLAY IT with a full band for at least a couple hours. Truly incredible.
He played everything from early Beatles to songs from his recent album, and in the midst, a Wings song I’d never heard called “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five,” which blew me away. I tracked down the 45 after the show, and one evening, in June I think, I dropped it as the last tune of the night. When that piano rolled in, the dancefloor exploded, and I attached yet another amazing memory to the song.
Tom of Finland “Summerjam” The name says it all. One of my favorite songs of the summer.
Shamir Ratchet “On The Regular” was on constant rotation for me over the summer, but the whole album was such a breath of fresh air. Shamir is lovable, playful, self-assured and sharp. (The lyric, “Guess I’m never-ending, you can call me pi,” is a pretty great summary of said qualities.) Totally unafraid to be himself in a way that gives me hope for tomorrow. Which we need sometimes. To boot, the production, executed by Nick Sylvester, is WICKED.
Henry Thomas “Ragtime Texas” Complete Recordings 1927 to 1929 I discovered this album this year as I obsessed over the work of Mack McCormick, an American music historian who passed away a couple weeks ago. Mack compiled this album from all of the known sides that Thomas recorded in his brief recording career. The album is special not just because Henry Thomas was a wonderful singer and player, but also because he was probably the oldest of all the African American musicians recording traditional songs during the recording boom of the 1920s. These songs are a rare listen into the types of music that preceded the blues, which is to say, they are an amazing glimpse into the history of all modern music that sprung from the blues. And to top it all off, McCormick’s liner notes are the most compelling words about music and history that I’ve read.
I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you any more tomes and just leave you with a handful of other things I discovered along with quick descriptions. (Everything here is in the playlist, so you can listen. That’s the important part anyway.)
Taxie “Rock Don’t Stop” Love On The Run reissued this with Sam Floating Points, and I am so glad that they did.
Barbara King “What I Did In The Street” I heard the very same Love On The Run play this at a wedding in the Catskills, in the midst of a grove of trees, and I had to have it.
Arnie Love and the Loveletts “We Had Enough” A late disco gem for the working man.
Hiatus Kaiyote’s Tawk Tomahawk Hiatus Kaiyote came out with a new album this year. That led me to this album, which I like even more.
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly Deserves every ounce of attention it is getting.
Reg King Reg King An early 70s English rock record with amazing vocals and experimental mixing.
Mississippi Delta Blues Vol. 2 Featuring the dancefloor ready very first recordings of RL Burnside.
Seven Davis Junior’s remix of “I Wanna Know” by Beat Spacek So dope.