Culturally and politically 2016 was one of the most explosive and consequential years in recent history. As we go to press with the news of the end of the Syrian Rebel resistance in Aleppo, the year will equally be remembered for unbridled human depravity and genocide from all corners of the world. We shouldn't bum out with so much shit news because, really, what's that got to do with music?
Well, actually it has everything to do with music. Music is what helps define us, offers respite, and even vicarious expression. It's supposed to, anyway—when it's done right.
This is the final little installment of 2016 music done right in Tucson, stuff that enhanced and educated me throughout the year. Again, this isn't a complete list of my personal favorites. Rather, and as twilight descends on '16, these are local records that helped shape my memories. ...
Freezing Hands—Freezing Hands II (Burger)
The journey from punk to garage rock to post-punk singer/songwriter makes sense. Punk is the rejection of rock 'n' roll for folks who secretly love rock 'n' roll, garage rock has attributes that can make it appear to be the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll for punks, while maturation and life experience usually demands a broader emotional palette—the singer/songwriter archetype. But for musicians who take this road, that last stop is tempered by lessons learned from their earlier incarnations, specifically economy and an aversion to traditional sentimentality and introspection. Which isn't to say that singer/songwriter/guitarist Travis Spillers has become a drag on the second Freezing Hands album. But his song sketches are closer in viewpoint and tune to, say, XTC's Andy Partridge at his most eloquently nostalgic and reverent. Being that this is under the authority of Spillers' pen, there's a certain layer of American junk culture presiding, but his tales of domesticity and daily life resonate as much as they ever have.
Foxx Bodies—Foxx Bodies (self-released)
Who said youth is wasted on the young? Nobody who ever meant much to Foxx Bodies, apparently, easily the year's most arresting and affecting new local band. The riot-grrrl surf-punk quartet shattered genre stereotypes while taking on gender stereotypes but still managed a tuneful, vital and mostly implicit political record that lets the listener connect the dots of policy and progress, while the music and singing is an explicit joy of startling performances. The songs connect the personal to the political with nary a seam in sight.
Lando Chill—For Mark, Your Son (Mello Music Group)
The year's most ambitious area record doesn't mince words. In fact, Lando Chill and his words flow, his beats stand up, and it's all beautifully coherent. In terms of articulation and sonic breadth, it's one of the year's greatest musical achievements, period. While it doesn't rewrite the book on soul-searching soul, Chill's irrepressible and razor-sharp flow and evocative verses detail every sensation they touch upon. It's a triumph, to be sure, especially for a debut album. Bonus points for employing found sounds and ultra-limber grooves that erase the line between timely and timeless. For Mark, Your Son is an endlessly inspiring record.