One of the things I love about a certain streaming service is how easy it makes the exploration of unfamiliar artists. Many of the albums on this list came to my attention via a more familiar starting point—a side project, a guest appearance, a recommendation based on your regulars. Since I understand streaming services have their own pay equity issues, I try to support artists in additional ways. I buy albums and t-shirts, and make sure to attend their shows when they come to town. Shows are another key avenue for finding new music. There are gems waiting in the undercard, so I try to catch opening acts and bounce around festivals to spend time with bands I don’t know.
Here’s a list of new releases from some of the treasures I unearthed for myself—some of them new formations and some of them just new to me—and a little bit about their networks, in case you would like to pick up the thread, too.
- The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio | Cold as Weiss (Colemine Records)
The rabbit hole of organ music I tumbled down after the passing of Dr. Lonnie Smith last year eventually led me to the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. They released this bluesy, groovy collection this year, and I had the good fortune of catching one night of their brief residency at Jazz St. Louis as they toured it. “Big TT’s Blues” was already a favorite of mine, and you almost can imagine the directions they took with this epic jam live.
- Adrian Quesada | Jaguar Sound (ATO Records)
I’ve overlooked Quesada insofar as his role in the Black Pumas duo, but I didn’t realize his solo style is so squarely in that Texas psych sound. Many of these instrumental tracks entertain a riff idea until they fade out, like on “Noble Metals.” Absence of a committed ending grants freedom of exploration, like in “Alberto’s Loop.” His sound sits in a sweet spot between Khruangbin’s chill rhythms and the intensity of dark funk like The Budos Band. If you dig those, you will probably enjoy these laidback meanderings.
- Ibibio Sound Machine | Electricity (1Merge Records)
They released their first album in 2014, but Ibibio Sound Machine only entered my life this year thanks to their newest release, produced by Hot Chip. With vocals alternating between English and Ibibio, the national language of Nigeria, the band is a gathering of talent, rhythms, and instruments from Caribbean and West African countries, among others, assembled in London. This album is a high-energy electronic dance party of positive disco funk vibrations combined to addictive effect in tracks like “17 18 19” and “Oyoyo.”
- Bloodshot Bill | Songs from the Sludge (Hi-Tide Recordings)
This is a prime example of why you don’t skip the opening act. I had never heard of Bloodshot Bill before he opened for Black Lips in the Duck Room basement, but as my friends so aptly asked shortly after he took the stage, “How is this not the headliner?” I am thankful that Black Lips introduced us all to the unique Screamin’ Jay Hawkins/Buddy Holly/Clarence “Frogman” Henry vocals with rockabilly guitar that is Bloodshot Bill. After being mesmerized by his wild one-man show, I dove right into his catalog of recordings, which includes two 2022 releases: Songs from the Sludge and Trick & Treat, which explains the choice he gave us before his last song: surf or monsters? The correct answer is both.
- Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk | Laminated Skies (Def Pressé)
I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon Damu the Fudgemunk and his many projects, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Black Thought and the Okayplayer community, because this album fits nicely with that distinct flavor of jazz-hip hop fusion. I haven’t paid enough attention to that trail of late, but this album drew me back in. The rhymes are contemplative and forward-thinking, and the beats are gripping. Start with the first track, “Open Road,” and feel your heart lighten its load a bit.
- Telekinetic Yeti | Primordial (Tee Pee Records)
This two-piece was a festival discovery in a roundabout way. They were slated for the particularly stoner metal-heavy Muddy Roots 2020 roster. Since that glorious lineup never happened (it was clearly too good to be true), I jumped at the chance to finally see them live this year. It was everything I had hoped for, with long hair swirling and terpy smoke curling everywhere. They totally sold the album, and I think “Toke Wizard” captures the vibe eloquently.
- -M- Matthieu Chedid | Rêvalité (Labo M)
One of my favorite albums of the year brought me to discover -M-, aka Matthieu Chedid. Follow this train with me: Khruangbin to Vieux Farka Touré, to Ali Farka Touré, to Toumani Diabaté, to Lamomali Airlines (Live), and finally, to -M-. It was an exciting reminder that a whole world of music is happening completely unbeknownst to me in other locales. -M- is a huge French rock star I’ve only just encountered, which is a thrilling prospect. His tender, trilling voice teases love and melancholy en français with pop flair and funky basslines that will get your fingers snapping and feet shuffling. Try “Dans le living” for a big brassy production or “Mégalo” for something a little more sinuous.
- Boulevards | Electric Cowboy: Born in Carolina Mud (Normaltown Records)
A certain concert announcement from Off Broadway with bright colors and cartoon illustrations caught my eye, demanding investigation. While I couldn’t make it to the show, I’m thankful to have learned about Boulevards, whose music isn’t nearly as Western in the way you’d think, given the album title. Rather, this is Southern-flavored neo-soul, weaving influence from Georgia and DC legends such as Parliament Funkadelic, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown into cowboy music in the more dark, tormented outlaw sense. The vibe reminds me of Rafael Saadiq’s Jimmy Lee. Sometimes, as in “Hooked,” his voice does, too.
- Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul | Topical Dancer (Bounty & Banana)
Another gift I received from Hot Chip this year was the discovery of Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul. Their Freakout/Release was so wonderful it got me searching for more, which led me to Hot Chip’s Late Night Tales contribution, including a track from Charlotte Adigéry. Follow that trail to this new album with Bolis Pupul, and dig their minimalist dance tracks rife with social critique in English and French. The sarcasm in “Thank You” is thick enough to slice with a knife. I have since watched a live performance of “HAHA” and was stunned to see them reproduce every detail in the complete vocal track with incredible fidelity to the recording.
- Otoboke Beaver | Super Champon (Damnably)
My husband presented me with this tip from Converge’s Jacob Bannon. This all-female Japanese punk band sounds like technicolor fire with a good dose of carpal tunnel. I don’t have to understand all the words; the titles and their vivacious delivery communicate plenty to know they have strong feelings about bad relationships, social awkwardness, food, small talk, and “I Am Not Maternal.” Their garage rock comes with an added bonus of performance art that you can feel in the frequent time changes even when you can’t see it. | Courtney Dowdall