If it’s not yet apparent, I listen to a fair amount of music. Don’t believe the haters, there’s still really amazing new music being made all the time. This year in particular has been pretty stellar, with a slew of incredible releases, including a number by local acts.
Since I write one of these pieces a week, there’s no possible way to stay on top of all of the worthwhile music being released. So, in order to remedy all of my oversights, I decided to compile some of my favorite releases of the year. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for not mentioning some of these earlier.
Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book may be my favorite album of the year thus far. I’ve been listening to it aloud in my apartment, or more often on the roof outside my window while trying to escape the mugginess of my tiny studio, which seems appropriate for some reason. There’s a euphoric stickiness to Coloring Book, the mingled sweat, beer, and sidewalk grit of a summer in the city. “No Problem” is a jubilant club banger, but the sweltering, gospel-tinged melancholy of tracks like “Summer Friends” or “Same Drugs” are where the storytelling prowess of Chance The Rapper is at its most fully realized.
I’ve been meaning to write a review of Trans Day of Revenge, the new EP from Olympia-based queer-hardcore outfit G.L.O.S.S. for a few weeks now. If you haven’t listened to it, go do that now. The whole thing clocks in around seven minutes long but it feels much longer. In a year of highly political music, Trans Day of Revenge is perhaps the most militantly aggressive record put forth within the wider sphere of pop-adjacent music. A sample of the lyrics from “Give Violence a Chance”: “Fuck the peacekeeping, fuck the calm/ the investigation is a fucking con/ The truth is known beneath the gun/ Black lives don’t matter in the eyes of the law.” Oh shiiiiit.
Speaking of queer punk music: until this point, PWR BTTM is a band I’ve liked-not-loved. That said, their recent single “Projection” literally stopped me in my tracks on my way to work (I have a hard time reading small print on my phone while in motion.). On Ugly Cherries, the debut release by the (surprise!) very gay duo, PWR BTTM initially struck me as a slightly-more-polished knockoff of a Pansy Division. Consequent listens, however, have forced me to acknowledge that it’s actually a delightfully clever record and PWR BTTM actually rule. That serpentine guitar hook on “Projection” is an auspicious omen of things to come.
Kathleen Hanna, founding member of Bikini Kill, is a prominent member of my personal musical pantheon, so there’s a real chance that I would defend any record of hers, even if it was mediocre. Luckily, Hanna’s latest project The Julie Ruin couldn’t be further from mediocre. Their latest release, Hit Reset, is a collection of dance punk tracks that touch thematically on feminism (cause duh), an abusive childhood and Hanna’s recent battle with Lyme disease. The album also highlights Hanna’s ability to deftly slingshot between righteous anger and humor, which has always been one of her greatest strengths as a songwriter. Tracks like “Calverton” are also some of the most vulnerable Hanna has ever written, and speak to the punk pioneer’s constant willingness to challenge herself with every subsequent release.
Kamaiyah’s mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto feels like the soundtrack to the greatest backyard barbeque ever. You know the kind where your friends bring their awesome ribs, and everyone gets wasted, and you end up passing out secure in the knowledge that you’re going to have a week’s worth of leftovers? That kind. AGNITG possesses the easy swagger of 90s female MCs. There’s more than a trace of Missy Elliot and Salt n’ Peppa in Kamaiyah’s breezy, unfettered flow, and at the ripe old age of twenty, Kamaiyah definitely has more where that came from.
Because I am easily amused, I love themes. With that in mind, New York quintet T-Rextasy’s debut Jurassic Punk was essentially pandering. Ah well. They don’t really need to pander. Jurassic Punk is a stellar debut by a whip-smart, deeply funny bunch of ladies whose songs eviscerate snotty college-aged boys (“Gap Yr Boiz”), pet names (“Chick’n”) and their fathers’ abysmal plans for their lives (“I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker”). It’s not that they’re trying to be a “feminist punk band,” they just happen to be smart, funny women who write songs about being smart and funny and women. Also, lead singer Lyris Faron’s tilt-a-whirl phrasing is a bizarre spectacle from which I cannot look (listen?) away.