Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 10 Local Albums of 2016

I'm a Long Island guy who grew up in Queens. I used to do a radio show highlighting "local" music (Local Insomniac Music), and a couple of public access TV shows (The Jill Morrison Show and LIMC-TV) as well.

When I talk local music, I try to keep a fairly loose definition of the word "local". For the purposes of picking a Top 10 Local Albums list, here's what I consider "local": 1. Long Island, for sure; 2. The 5 boroughs of NY (especially Brooklyn, where a lot of Long Island bands have run off to) 3. Sometimes Jersey or a little ways upstate, if the mood takes me. (I'm not giving away money or anything, so I kind of get to make up the rules as I go along). Also, if a band or artist spent a decent amount of time living on and playing on Long Island, they get to qualify, even if they've moved to another area of the country.

As for format of what constitutes an "album" I'm going by the same rules I used on my The Top 10 Albums of 2016 list --there  has to be a hard (CD copy) of the album, and it has to full-length; No EPs. allowed.

Because there's no suspense about the top slot (since we already know that Bayside took the top slot on the national list), I'm going to print this list from top to bottom. I'm thinking that next year, for the sake of suspense, I should print the local list first, but we'll see.

Top 10 Local Albums of 2016

1. Bayside - Vacancy

Anyone who has followed my mad ramblings over the years won't be surprised that this one made my Number One album of the year slot. Until such time as Paramore returns to top form (which may never happen, given the bad feelings between Hayley Williams and Josh Farro), Bayside is my favorite band of the modern rock era. Their albums usually make my Top 10, and it's not even the first time they've taken the Number One slot (they first did it back in 2008 with their excellent Shudder album). For my money, Anthony Raneri is one of the best vocalists and best songwriters out there today. This one makes Number One on the strength of  a solid album throughout, led by two particularly strong numbers, the album's lead-off song "Two Letters", a song about working out a complicated ongoing relationship with your ex (even though he doesn't like to use that term), and "Mary" which an upbeat song that seems to be a tribute to a deceased friend/fan. While "Two Letters" is a song very much in the usual Bayside style, Mary is a more danceable number in kind of a classic rock style (I'm thinking Springsteen/Joel/Mellancamp here). Anyway, for me, this is Bayside's strongest album in awhile, and that's saying something.

2. Taking Back Sunday - Tidal Wave

I almost feel bad for Taking Back Sunday, because in terms of my taste, they always seem to play the role of Alydar to Bayside's Affirmed. Seems like the two bands always release albums in the same year, and I always like the Bayside one better. But that's not a knock on TBS -- this is an excellent album, and there's even a bit of a change of sounds for them. The excellent title track, which is my favorite song on the album, almost sounds like a Clash song. I saw some speculation as to whether this would be their last album together, but I hope it isn't. They haven't put out a bad album yet.

3. School of Seven Bells - SVIIB

This is a New York City indiepop/shoegaze band that I learned about for the first time this year through the Sputnik Music website. The first track on the album "Ablaze" is a total winner. Unfortunately, the future of the group is in doubt because one of the three band members left the band a few years ago, and another one passed away this year, so for right now, the only band member left is vocalist/guitarist Alejandra Deheza.

4. Ingrid Michaelson - It Doesn't Have to Make Sense

Always good to see New York folkie/pop artist Ingrid Michaelson back on the list. For me, this is her strongest album since 2008's Be OK. She mixes her sound up a little on this one, with the playful, funky "Celebrate", "Hell No" wherein she seems to be chanelling Taylor Swift (which I wouldn't like to see as a long-term strategy, but for one song it's kind of cool), and the beautiful and poignant tribute to her mother, "I Remember Her".

5. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry.

This is Rosenstock's second year in a row on the list, following upon last year's We Cool?, with his manic brand of folk punk. My favorite number here is "Festival Song", but "I Did Something Weird Last Night" is also pretty great. In fact, the whole album is consistently good.

6. Regina Spektor - Remember Us to Life

This is another artist I only learned about this year from Sputnik, New York City anti-folk queen Regina Spector. The back of the album drags a little for me, but the front is amazing, especially the Kate Bush-esque Small Bills.

7. Nine Days - Snapshots

Good to see these guys back and making new music. Snapshots has the very recognizable Nine Days sound, which is pretty terrific. A lot of songs here about aging, family, etc. My favorites are the track that leads off the album, "Obsolete", and the title track. Welcome back, boys.

8. Amanda Jayne - Strike a Match

This is a Long Island acoustic artist with a cool, under produced DIY album. Her best track by far is the excellent "One" (for which she also has a very clever and funny video). I found about her in the weirdest way -- a friend of hers was running for my local schoolboard, and he had a link on his Facebook page. I'm glad I researched him, and that I followed the link.

9. Miles to Dayton - Forces Unknown

These guys have been making excellent music in the americana genre for years now, and it's not the first time they've made my list. My favorite track here is an upbeat number called "You Are".

10. They Might Be Giants - Phone Power

An album of songs from their Dial-a-Song service, with tracks about armageddon, murderous Lovecraftian monsters from another dimension and time traveling assassins. I particularly love "Trouble Awful Devil Evil", wherein the singer  blissfully descends into Hell for thousand of years, unaware of the apocalypse taking place around him.

Thanks again to anyone who took the time to read this list. I should have the Top Songs of 2016 list posted withing the next few days.