Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums

We’re almost there. We can see my Top 15 Albums of 2016 in sight, but standing in our path are the most trash trash albums of 2016. These albums either were straight whack, or fell far short of the hype. Generally speaking, I try not to listen to albums that are truly awful, and if I do, I usually don’t return to them long enough to form a full opinion. But in these album’s cases, they were too prevalent and popular to ignore, so I subjected myself to them for the sake of knowing definitively whether they were good or not. Random note – almost all of these albums had horrible album art; perhaps you really can judge an album by its cover?

In no particular order…

Drake – Views

Drake – Views After Drake’s 2015 surprise mixtape/album If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late, I thought Drake had finally honed in on what I think he’s best at: delivering razor sharp rhymes over sinister minimalistic beats. With Views, however, Drake makes a return to the sappy, pseudo emotional and not quite in on the joke sense of humor from Take Care and Nothing Was the Same. The fact that “One Dance” is the most popular single of Drake’s career is more an indictment of the system than it is of the artist.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book I know I’m going to have a lot of y’all furiously furrowing your brows over me calling Coloring Book garbage. Garbage may be slightly too harsh, but I do believe this album falls under the category of failing to live up to the hype. Get past some of the mixing and production flaws and this album still produces few songs that catch my attention other than the infectious “No Problem”.

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo Again, not an overall terrible record, but certainly not a My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Late Registration or even a Yeezus. This album is so wildly inconsistent, it has soaring highs (“Ultralight Beam”, “Father Stretch My Hands”) trading punches with hilariously bad tracks (“FML”, “Facts” especially). Kanye’s albums have always come to represent various styles or moods of his career, so when you factor in the public embarrassments he’s endured this year, The Life of Pablo makes for a project that will probably not be remembered well.

Rihanna – Anti Just a lazy album with way too many cooks in the kitchen (21 credited producers with Rihanna as EP). While I appreciate that Ri-Ri took some more chances on this album trying to move her sound forward, it felt forgettable and subdued. There’s definitely some moments on this record that I’d like to see her build off of in the future, and perhaps this will be looked back on as a pivot of sorts, but for now I’m probably not cue’ing this one up any time soon.

Bon Iver – 22 a Million I wasn’t a huge fan of Bon Iver’s previous work, finding it much too spacey and disorganized to keep my attention. When I heard that his (their? I never know if Bon Iver is a band or Justin Vernon’s alter-ego) new album had some hype and that it was taking some risks, I was at the least intrigued. That intrigue was killed swiftly when I saw the god-awful album art and torturously convoluted song names (I’m not even going to validate them by taking the time to research that many special characters). The music itself isn’t far behind, taking half-baked song ideas and making them far more complicated than necessary.

Benji Hughes – Songs in the Key of Animals

Benji Hughes – Songs in the Key of Animals Hate to throw dirt on a local artist’s name, but this is a pretty awful album. Hughes has gained some notoriety for writing commercial jingles for Cheerios, Captain Morgan and others, plus his goofy, fat and bearded guy persona plays well with those looking for their complimentary court jester. Animals, however, is an extremely disorganized package of half-witted jokes that no one finds funny, save Hughes himself. It’s really too bad too, since the album art is quite impressive, featuring some very pleasing water color tones.

The Chainsmokers – Collage The Chainsmokers remind me of a nationally-known version of Benji Hughes. This isn’t music made to be dissected or interpreted in any meaningful way. This is music made for a quick laugh or the soundtrack to an Uber ride between bars on a Saturday night. This is music that only the most dense and turgid of frat bros could appreciate. All you really need to know about the duo of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall (prone to slightly misogynistic twitter beefs) is that they sell themselves as “17.34 combined inches” on their website (since removed). “Holy shit, I completely forgot this song existed” is exaclty what will run through your mind in the summer of 2018 after “Closer” comes on at the Epicenter immediately preceding whatever short-lived vapid excuse for pop music that will take its place by then.

The Avett Brothers – True Sadness

The Avett Brothers – True Sadness Perhaps it’s an ominous omen that this is the second Charlotte-based artist on this list. True Sadness is an apt title for this project because that’s the only thing I feel after hearing this misdirected jumble of poor songwriting and aching instrumentation. This album represents what I can only assume are the weights of fame, money and expectations taking their toll on the Avetts, a desperate grasp at a commercially approved radio friendly sound that eschews the lush, ligneous sound of the Avett’s past.

Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over Fucking hell. I guess this is just what happens once you get north of 30. Everything that you held dear and sounded so raw and pure when you were younger gets bastardized and commodified to make a dollar. It’s most depressing in this case especially since Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine have (on this project anyway) meekly submitted to the same capitalistic forces that they once claimed to rage against. Make no mistake, this album is completely devoid of anything rage-worthy, unless you’re raging against the fact that this once-proud and uncompromising collection of artists have come together to make a sad attempt at reclaiming your expendable dollars via an unashamed and un-ironic retooling of songs a generation past their prime.

Others receiving votes: Post Malone – Stoney, Ab Soul – Do What Thou Wilt, Die Antwoord – Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid, Desiigner – New English, Lil’ Yachty – Lil’ Boat

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

Sous Terrain – Seven Questions with Rémy Thurston

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Rémy Thurston

Since 1971, North Carolina has been the nation’s leading producer of sweet potatoes, but in general, they’ve always been second class spuds to their more starchy and mealy brothers. Tonight (Friday, January 6), however, the sweet potato rightly takes its place in the spotlight at Free Range Brewing in Villa Heights.

Photographer Rémy Thurston makes his solo photo exhibition debut tonight from 6-8 p.m. with his sweet potato immersion, Sous Terrain. Thurston teamed up with sous chefs from several prominent Charlotte restaurants like 300 East, The Fig Tree, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen and many more to present a photo series of sweet potato inspired dishes created specifically for the show. Intrigued by the possibilites beyond casseroles and fries, I asked Rémy a few questions about his show.

GohJo: How did you choose the sweet potato to work with?

Rémy: The sweet potato is actually integral to North Carolina agriculture. The state produces the most sweet potatoes in the country. I chose it because there’s a famous photograph of an Irish potato that sold for $1 million. It was a simple photograph, and I was inspired to recreate it in my own way.

GohJo: How did you first experience sweet potatoes?

Rémy: I think my first experience with the sweet potato was as a puree as a kid. I honestly thought it was carrots, but after questioning my dad, the chef, about it I was assured it was a sweet potato, not funny-tasting carrots. I’ve loved them since.

GohJo: You’ve got a premiere lineup of sous chefs working with you including Alex Verica from Heritage Food & Drink, Myles Scaglione from Heirloom, Andres Pico of Customshop and Larry Suggs, mixologist from The Punch Room. How did you decide upon who to work with?

Rémy: Sous chefs often run the kitchen behind the line and let the more experienced head chefs take the praise. It’s not always the case, but I’ve seen my fair share of it when I was part of the industry. I wanted to highlight their hard work in the same way the sweet potato doesn’t get all the praise I think it should as part of the state’s agriculture.

GohJo: Why sous chefs and not the folk at the top of the food chain? [GohJo note: Pun very much intended]

Rémy: The sweet potato doesn’t get any recognition until it hits the sunlight and the palate. Sous chefs are similar. You need to see and taste their work to realize what they’re capable of. This show serves to do both.

GohJo: What are some of your favorite sweet potato recipes?

Rémy: My favorite way to have sweet potatoes is pretty simple actually. I cut them up into cubes and roast them with lots of salt, cayenne, olive oil and freshly ground cumin. I like the sweet soft inside contrasting with the crusty caramelized spice crust on the outside.

GohJo: How long will your art be on the walls at Free Range Brewing?

Rémy: The art will be on the wall until January 29th!

Hit up Free Range Brewing (2320 N. Davidson St.) tonight from 6-8 p.m. where you can not only see Rémy’s work, but also get some sweet potato tamales from The Masa Casa, sweet potato fries from Terra Flora, sample some sweet potato cotton candy (!!) from Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen and sip on some sweet potato gruit from the fine folks at Free Range Brewing. Afterwards, don’t forget to head down to C3 Lab in South End for Lara Americo’s opening reception for Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life from 7-10 p.m. Sweet!

Chrysalis – Seven Questions with Lara Americo

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Lara Americo steps into the realm of visual art.

Charlotte musician and activist Lara Americo is stepping into the realm of visual art, starting this Friday (January 6) with an exhibition at C3 Lab in South End called Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life.  According to the Facebook event page:

Skin and bones are a cocoon for the soul to develop and grow on planet Earth. Chrysalis sheds that shell and peers into what’s hidden beneath.

Chrysalis is an exploration of what it means to inhabit a human body. It is common to assume that we are our bodies. Our bodies are a shell and our true selves are much more than human flesh. Chrysalis examines this flesh and what if means to navigate the world in these bodies using photography and 3-D molding. Each photo and 3-d mold will examine one subject and tell that person’s story.

Chrysalis (a butterfly which is becoming an adult but still enclosed in a hard case) is Americo’s first venture into the world of visual and art, after having released her debut album She / They in November 2016 (read the Creative Loafing review here). Chrysalis is a mixed media installation featuring photography and physical models, some using live people as their foundation.

lara-americo-chrysalis-gohjoAmerico took some time recently to answer a few questions I had for her about the show, which you can see at C3 Lab (2525 Distribution St.) until January 23.

GohJo: Tell me a little bit about what visitors can expect to see at your installation at C3 Lab.

Americo: Visitors can expect to see real life. They will see people, physically. But they will see them in other forms than their human body.

GohJo: It appears that the inspiration for the show may have come from your experiences as a transgender person. Talk about how your gender identity evolution has influenced this show.

Americo: Being transgender forced me to closely examine what it means to be connected to a human body on earth. It made me see that we are not our bodies. The body is just a tool that we use. Even though the body decays we never die.

GohJo: How did you choose the subjects depicted for this show?

Americo: I know it may sound cliché but the subjects choose me just as much is I chose them. Anyone could’ve been a subject for this project. Everyone has a story in a way that they express themselves with their bodies. That’s all that I was looking for.

GohJo: You’ve gained some notoriety for your work as a musician, releasing the album She/They in 2016. What’s different for you in creating an art show versus a musical project?

Americo: I look at both mediums as different forms of artistic expression. Both are ways to describe something that is abstract and both are limiting in their own way.

GohJo: What’s something about the relationship between our bodies and our actual “selves” that people don’t often consider?

lara-americo-chrysalis-gohjo-1Americo: Most people, including me, forget that they are not their body and think the opposite is true. The truth whether we like it or not is that our body is dying every moment. This can be scary unless you realize that you will never die.

GohJo: What do you hope people will come away with after viewing Chrysalis?

Americo: I hope people can see that the human body is precious and beautiful because of its fragility. The fact that the body is dying is what makes the body so beautiful. Still, the true beauty is on the inside but can’t be seen.

GohJo: What else do you want people to know about this exhibition?

Americo: That life is beautiful. It’s always beautiful.

Check out the opening reception of Chrysalis – A Study in Human Life this Friday, January 6 at C3 Lab in South End from 7-10 p.m. All answers edited only for spelling and grammar.

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events

I promise we’ll get to my Top 15 Albums of 2016 in a minute! But since I am my own editor, I think this is the perfect place to talk about my top live music events of the year.

Obviously, I love recorded music and the magic that comes with listening to your favorite album or hearing a new artist for the first time. However, music is most impactful when experienced live. There’s nothing in the world like hearing your favorite artists play your favorite songs and experiencing how their live performance differs from what you’ve heard on record, especially when you can share that moment with a friend or two or 100,000. Let’s do this!

10. The Stooges Brass Band, Double Door Inn This ended up being my final show at the Double Door, but this was one of the most fun shows I got to see all year. It gave me a warm and rich feeling seeing true New Orleans Jazz in one of the most history rich venues in town. Too bad it didn’t last.

9. Lake Street DriveThe Fillmore Lake Street Drive is just a damn good band. Fun and pop friendly, their style is effortless and infectious. This show was also bouncy and effervescent as the quartet brought lots of energy to the Fillmore stage, and the crowd responded with plenty of warmth. While I’m not a huge fan of their latest album, Side Pony (just a bit heavy on the pop angle for me), their music translates well to live shows. It’s also crazy to think that just a few years ago they were booked at places like The Evening Muse.

8. PhantogramThe Fillmore Phantogram came to town for the first time in a while in October. Touring in support of their new album Three, the duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter came out strong, despite a few technical glitches with their projection system. I interviewed Sarah for CLTure prior to this show, which you can read here.

7. Deep Six Division Album Release Party – The Station As Charlotte continues to axe small live music venues, homegrown artists continue to have to find new places to play. The Station is small as a nickel, but sometimes that’s where the best music happens. On this night, the energy was tangible as RBTS WIN, Elevator Jay, Jr. Astronomers and Deep Six Division (Rapper Shane and Mike Astrea) absolutely threw down on a stage that wasn’t so much a stage as it was the corner of the bar. Despite the size limitations, I had more fun at this show than I had in a long time.

6. ScarfaceThe Fillmore This was part of the Arts, Beats + Lyrics mini festival sponsored by Jack Daniels Honey I believe. Sponsorship isn’t ideal, but in reality, that’s what makes awesome events like this one possible. This event combined some really cool art stations, a kind of traveling tour of artists’ work. Scarface, one of the true OGs in hip hop, far from disappointed as he stepped on stage with authority and supreme control. He was also looking fit and trim, a welcome sight for someone who’s battled health issues and depression.

5. KING – Neighborhood Theatre This neo-soul trio from Minnesota (by way of Los Angeles) released their debut LP, We Are KING, in January of 2016 after much anticipation. Counting the one and only Prince as a mentor, these three ladies’ sound is much more mature than their experience would lead you to believe.

They played on the “intimate” stage of the Neighborhood Theatre next to the bar in the front foyer, which actually worked well for the acoustics of the show.  It was a small, but dedicated crowd which added lots of energy to the show. Vocalists Amber Strother and Anita Bias’ effortless harmonies weaved in and out of each other over Paris Strother’s (Amber’s sister) hypnotic electro-pop instrumentals. This was an excellent show, and hopefully the next time KING plays Charlotte, their name recognition will warrant a bigger stage.

Read my interview with Paris Strother of KING in CLTure here.

4. Mobb Deep – Amos’ Southend Probably my last show ever at Amos’, but it was an absolute banger. The Infamous Mobb is just as grimey as ever and they showed it at the soon-to-be defunct music venue. Like most all hip hop shows, they made the crowd wait for what seemed like forever, leaving the hapless hype men out there to a chorus of boos and chants of “We want Mobb Deep!”

mobb-deep-gohjo

So apparently it’s not that easy to get a photo that accurately depicts the show you’re seeing with just a cell phone camera. It’s almost as if you should just put the phone away and enjoy the show. Or nah.

Then, out of nowhere, Prodigy and Havoc appeared and immediately went into a ground shaking set that included all of their classics. The crowd went absolutely ballistic for songs like “Survival of the Fittest”, “Hell on Earth”, “Quiet Storm” and of course “Shook Ones, Pt. II”. The most impressive part for me was how P and Hav traded lines and stanzas seamlessly. The Queensbridge duo have been through a lot and have seen it all, and throughout the show you got the sense that shows like this had become almost second nature. If this was my last show at Amos’, then it was a hell of a way to send it out.

3. Frédéric YonnetJazz at the Bechtler Quick aside, the Jazz at the Bechtler shows have been truly influential for me in the past year. Held the first Friday of every month, the performances feature the Ziad Jazz Quartet, led by Ziad Rabie, playing a different theme, style or artist each month. These guys play together all the time all over the place in various iterations so they are razor sharp wherever they play.

This particular show, however… whoa. Frédéric Yonnet is a harmonica player who’s played with Prince and Stevie Wonder (he toured with Wonder for the Songs in the Key of Life tour), as well as playing the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture, officially making him the most badass harmonica player in the world.

Yonnet’s energy was absolutely infectious and impossible to ignore. He’s the only guest musician to be so remarkable that he absolutely overshadowed the rest of the quartet. Yonnet’s talent with the harmonica was mind bending, making sounds and melodies that I truly couldn’t believe I was hearing. Neither could the crowd, as they gave a standing ovation after every single song. I asked one of our frequent attendees of the Jazz at the Bechtler series, Loyd Dillon (who’s seen 65-ish of the 70-ish shows held in total over six years) to rate it, and he said “Top three” without hesitation.

frederic-yonnet-gohjo

Frédéric Yonnet’s performance was pure, concentrated energy.

If you ever see the name Frédéric Yonnet on a bill anywhere you are, drop what you’re doing and get a ticket to that show because I promise you won’t regret it.

2. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – Knight Theater With jazz being such an influential force in my personal auditory world in 2016, this was a real treat. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, headed by Wynton Marsalis, are clearly some straight jazz OGs. On the final night of the Charlotte Jazz Festival, Marsalis led the orchestra in recreating the vibrant big band sounds of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin.

I went to this concert by myself, a bit socially burnt out but also wanting to experience the mastery of the musicians in complete focus (I’m kinda weird like that). My efforts were rewarded as I could simply sit and take in the way the musicians played off of one another, communicating with no words, only their instruments.

Big band is a style of jazz that has plenty of action, as there were probably 13 or so musicians on stage at once. Despite the big bouquet of sounds, Marsalis was the ever-present maestro, controlling the group at his will, but letting them improvise when needed. He also served as a narrator for the audience, telling stories about the music and how it came to be.

It goes without saying that I’m already anticipating what this year’s Charlotte Jazz Festival will bring to Uptown.

1. Music Midtown – Piedmont Park, Atlanta Granted, this isn’t a single concert, and it was the only true musical festival I attended this year, but oooh lawdy it was a good one. While getting to see acts like Big Boi, Logic, Lil’ Wayne and 2 Chainz, Twenty One Pilots, Alabama Shakes, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, The Killers and more was nice, the best part of the weekend came outside festival grounds.

One of the things that struck me, as someone who doesn’t go to music festivals all that often, was the sheer number of people that were there. I’ve been to a Bonnaroo or two, but those are held in farms in the middle of nowhere. Music Midtown featured 100,000 strong in the heart of Atlanta. The park, while still sprawling, is a relatively confined space in comparison, making the number of people there seem endless. This was most palpable when one set would end and another would begin as enormous waves of people would shift from one side of the park to the other, moving in a sort of chaotic unison, like a school of fish in the sea. There were times where this would happen, and I wasn’t going anywhere, where if I had got knocked over, I probably would have been trampled.

Despite the massive crowds, I still had an almost ideal (and ultimately unforgettable) experience in Atlanta. The mood of the weekend was one of unison and unabashed ecstasy. It’s exactly the reason why music is so powerful. Tens of thousands of strangers came together to experience something that binded them together no matter the distance travelled, color of their skin or content of their bank accounts. It was absolutely beautiful and was probably my favorite moment of the year, musical or otherwise.

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To be fair, I took this photo of Killer Mike, Big Boi and the Dungeon Family with my cell phone.

Two things before I wrap this post.

One, I’ve got to thank my homie Cameron Lee at CLTure for helping me get into and being a part of several of these shows. Cam does tremendous work and his contributions to the local music scene are far underrated in my opinion. CLTure is exactly the type of grassroots organization this city needs, driven by someone so passionate that they won’t be denied by anything. If Charlotte is ever going to be a truly world-class city like we hope it will be one day, we need more Cameron Lee’s and more CLTure (no pun intended).

Second, I’ve got to get to more live music in 2017. This is non negotiable. Especially when it comes to local acts, I’m embarrassingly deficient when it comes to the quantity of shows I’ve seen, at least for my standards.

When you spend money on a ticket to these shows (or the requisite transportation, lodging, food etc.), you don’t leave with something tangible that you can hold on to or an investment that generates future returns.

No, what you get out of these experiences is much more valuable. What you get is something that speaks directly to your soul, something that unifies you with the performers and those around you, like Jedi and the force. The electricity and atmosphere aren’t things that can be recreated in any recording or social media post. What you get from live music is an experience that shapes you as a person, filling your world with color and character that stays with you, leaves an impression in you and makes you a different person than you would have been otherwise.

These memories and moments are priceless, and in the long run, we as people are only what our memories and moments make us. I’m sure I could have taken the money I spent on that Music Midtown ticket and invested it or bought a swanky new overcoat. But I know that when I’m nearing my final breath in this life, I’ll have had a more rich and wonderful experience in this world because of the trip I chose to make and the lasting memories I made with my friends. That will never change. Damn an investment and damn a piece of clothing because you damn sure can’t take that with you to the other side.

2017, like David Bowie said, let’s dance.

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls

In 2016, I finally sucked it up and bought a record player, a Technics SL-0350 specifically, and named her Apollonia. I’ve also built up a very respectable record collection from somewhat meager beginnings, and my attachment to the medium grows every day. So here are my top seven eight nine vinyls that I bought or bartered for in 2016, and after that we may or may not get to actual 2016 music.

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

9. Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night Found at Tip Top Daily Market, via Premium Sound. I’m not an expert in Tom Waits, but I’m learning. This smokey waltz through the hope and anticipation but ultimately lonesome cycle of being in the scene is an excellent starting point.

8. War – Why Can’t We Be Friends? Found on Amazon. An incredibly tight and concise but freely funky latin jazz album that is probably mostly famous for having the single “Lowrider” on it. “Lowrider” is a perfectly awesome song, but please don’t think War is a one hit wonder. Give this album a listen front to back (a trim 44:04).

Steely Dan – Aja

7. Steely Dan – Aja Found at Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. This is an album that you can find pretty regularly in record shops, but it’s a must have in my opinion. Not only my top Steely Dan album (though Gaucho isn’t far behind), but this album is so sonically perfect, it’s used by audiophiles to measure a sound system’s fidelity.

6. Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 Found at The Wax Museum on Monroe Rd (fucking love that website, btw). I referenced this album in my previous post, but it bears repeating, it’s a hell of an album. Jamal, along with only bass, drums and a percussionist, composes a relentlessly sophisticated set that is deep and emotive.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

5. Kamasi Washington – The Epic Found at Lunchbox Records. This album (which lives up to its name at three discs) represents a kind of new generation of jazz. Washington, along with Terrace Martin, Thundercat and Robert Glasper are masters and innovators in their art, and have also embodied the natural relationship between hip hop and jazz. You won’t find anything like Washington’s collaborations with Kendrick Lamar on this journey, but it’s a rich and intricate listen. Seriously, just look at that album cover, the fact he named it The Epic, the fact that it’s his debut album, and tell me Kamasi doesn’t mean business.

4. Frank Ocean – Blond Found at LunchBox Records. Frank Ocean’s long awaited second album saw him make an undeniably unique album that explores his own demons and consciousness in a way that is both figuratively and literally a fuck you to pop music. I liked this album when I was listening to it on Spotify, but absolutely fell in love with it when I got the vinyl. The special clear vinyl edition is also pretty impressive.

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service Pre-ordered from the ATCQ website. I’ll dive into this album a bit more in depth later in this series, but I’m pretty sure this is the first album I’ve ever pre-ordered. As soon as it became available, I knew I had to own it, now I’ve got it and I’m in loooooove with it and no, you can’t listen unless you can tell me who Georgie Porgie is.

2. Phish – Hoist Found on Amazon. You may or may not enjoy Phish, but I’m guessing that if you don’t, you haven’t dug into some of their seminal albums of the mid nineties. Never a band known for their studio efforts, Hoist is the exception. An album that features more traditional songwriting than most Phish projects, Hoist represents an ideal intersection of free-form

Phish – Hoist

improvisation and pop friendly structure. Guest appearances from Allison Krauss and Bela Fleck give the album a bit of a bluegrass feel as well. Super nerdy note: Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation contributes a little trombone.

Despite being released in March of 1994, this album was not pressed on vinyl until Record Store Day 2016 (April 16), making a 12″ copy of this album a pretty rare find in the collection. Fortunately, Amazon is a tremendous resource for hard to find records like this.

1. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life Found in the dollar bin at Lunchbox Records. Finding this album in the dollar bin was a true hidden gem moment. The album cover certainly had some water damage, but the vinyls inside were close to perfect. Getting this groundbreaking album (which goes for $40+ on Amazon, eBay etc.) for two dollars because of a rough-ish cover was the easiest decision I made all year. I mean, what other album has a whole tour anchored around playing it in its entirety?

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums

Like a lot of other wannabe music critics, I sat down to write a Top Albums of 2016 list that would let me weigh in on what I thought the best new albums of a wild year in music were. As I got to reflecting on the past twelve months in music, I found that the new releases only represented a portion of my musical experience. How could I talk about my favorite new artists without mentioning the ones I had discovered (or rediscovered) in 2016?

A major influence on my listening habits developed this year when I finally built up a respectable record collection, after years of exclusively downloading and streaming music. This development alone represented a bulk of my musical appetite, having found a new appreciation for classics that were made for the medium of vinyl in the first place. I couldn’t possibly talk about new music without at least mentioning some of my 12” favorites.

2016 was also the year that I got serious about digging into jazz, an art form that had largely escaped me for most of my life, despite my affinity for hip hop and basketball covertly grooming me for an appreciation of the improvisational nature of the genre. It also helped that I got to see some of the best live jazz in Charlotte in person each month through Jazz at the Bechtler.

That’s where I choose to start this comprehensive, multi-part post detailing my year in music. I’ll start with jazz, go on to my favorite vinyls that I acquired in 2016, detail some of my least favorite albums of the year, shout out some of my favorites that didn’t make the Top 15 cut, show some love to the best local projects of the year, and finish with my Top 15 Albums of the year.

2016 was a year that probably won’t fade into obscurity any time soon, especially for music fans. It only makes sense that I document what the year in music meant to me, as it was probably one of the most significant years in my life in terms of musical development.

Buckle up, readers. We’re about to depart on one hell of a sonic journey.

Top Jazz Albums

In 2016, I listened to far more jazz than any other genre in total and 99% percent of those albums were certainly not made in 2016. Up until this past year, I hadn’t given the genre enough run despite being casually primed into jazz via years of hip-hop. I’ve also been lucky enough to be present for a year’s worth of #BechtlerJazz shows which let me experience the genre in its purest form. So to make a list talking about my favorite music of 2016, I’d be remiss to not at least include my top, let’s say seven jazz albums I’ve discovered in 2016. Also, for my friends that know jazz, hit me up and let me know what else I should be checking out.

Getz/Gilberto

7. Getz/Gilberto: This is definitely one of the most fun listens you can have. Who doesn’t feel swanky when at a dinner party with “Girl from Ipanema” playing in the background?

6. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else: A true core collection type of album, it features Adderley, Miles Davis, Sam and Hank Jones and Art Blakey making seriously smooth sounds.

5. Wes Montgomery – Impressions: It’s really too bad that “guitar music” is seen as old and frumpy these days because Montgomery plays licks on this record that are still scorching the earth to this day.

4. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: I’ve listened to this record prior to 2016, but I picked up a vinyl copy this year, dug into it more, and yet – still feel like I have a long way to go with discovering this album.

Grover Washington Jr. – Soul Box

3. Grover Washington Jr. – Soul Box: The B side to this record has a 30-plus minute recording of “Trouble Man” that will literally take you out of this world.

2. Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985: This is an incredibly clean, clear and crisp recording of one of fiercest jazz piano performances I’ve ever heard.

1. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters: OK, so I’ve listened to this album way before 2016, but this year I got the vinyl and was able to listen to it properly, so perhaps that adds an asterisk to the top spot but hey – it’s my list. I have to shout out this record as being one of the funkiest and most mind bending albums out there, and Herbie Hancock as being such a master of the genre that he really becomes his own sub-style of jazz that absolutely no one has sounded like before or since.

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

My Post-Election Night Thoughts

I woke up this morning firmly in the icy-cold grip of an ominous fog of helplessness, the same disturbing sensation so many others across the country felt as well. Upset with myself, I wondered aloud how I could fail to fully realize how imminently possible a Presidency backed by hate and oppression was. There was no longer anything I could do in my power to prevent a future America backed by intolerance, and I was quick to blame myself for not doing more in the first place.

However, I quickly reminded myself that there is little one person can do that could present a devastating catastrophe on the national scale like the one we bore witness to Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Besides, there is no time for assigning blame or justifying fault.

gohjo-black-and-white

Photo by Brian “BT” Twitty Photography

It is my belief that fear of the unknown is the strongest motivating emotion in human existence. I usually use the same example to illustrate this: If someone tells you to do ten push ups, you do ten push ups and then you’re done. No worries. Now imagine someone tells you to start doing push ups until they say stop. Gets a bit more dicey then, doesn’t it? With each consecutive push up, the uncertainty of your directive doesn’t allow for you to relax, making the aches and sores in your shoulder that much more difficult to ignore.

Fear of the unknown is exactly what had me worried the most today. Fear of what will happen to my friends and family that aren’t straight white males. Fear of what regressive policies will do to the Earth’s already fragile and wounded environment. Fear of what a pro-ignorance Presidency will do to an economy that is just beginning to see the light of day again. Fear of what Russian influence and Vladimir Putin could have on a bombastic yet morally weak and easily manipulated leadership.

This cloudy uncertainty is the feeling that is hitting me the hardest at this moment. Will we start rounding up all those who don’t fit a certain profile and send them to modern day concentration camps? It wasn’t all that long ago we did exactly that to Japanese Americans, back in the day when the new leadership constantly reminds us that America was supposedly great. Will free speech be banished and replaced by a state-sponsored system of propaganda? Will a Gestapo-like force knock on my door one night to make sure I’m not protecting people of color? Will it be determined that I have just enough color (and an odd enough last name) in me to be the person the Gestapo is looking for? Just like I’m not sure when I have to stop doing push ups, I’m not sure when I might need to go into a Hunger Games-like mode of survival.

Fear and uncertainty, however, cannot win.

Despite having a person that epitomizes all that I stand against in the greatest single position of power in this country, I still have the power to put positive energy into this world, and no one can take that from me. I still have the power in me to stand up for what I believe is right. I still have the power to set a positive example in my community, at a time when it is needed the most. I still have the power to stand firmly against the persecution of my friends and family. I still have the power to become more educated and, in turn, help educate others. I still have the power, while there is still a single breath in my lungs, to speak truth to power, and hold accountable those who seek to oppress, diminish or marginalize anyone in my community. I still have the power to volunteer for causes and the money to donate to charities. I still have the power to create art and music and share it with the world. I still have the power to make positive contributions to my neighbors and my society, for building a stronger foundation of knowledge and respect is how I, personally, can make a difference in the face of seemingly impenetrable hate. I still have the power to do all of these things, and no one, certainly not an elected official, can ever take that away from me.

I’m trying my best to remain confident and optimistic that our state of affairs seems much more bleak than what will actually transpire. Regardless, now is the time to stand tallest and most proud of who we are, and to lift up those around us. We are at our strongest when we are together, and we will overcome whatever uncertainty we may face.

This is a new reality. As painful as it may be, it’s one in which we will be forced to become the best possible versions of ourselves, and maybe that’s not as bad as it seems.