The best of 2017 so far

We’re halfway through 2017 and I think it’s time to get an early start on our favorite releases of the year. Even though the majority of this blog has been about digging up dusty records from way back, make no mistake we are big supporters of new music too. Each of these 5 bands are very different, but each album is a gem that we’re really excited about—and all of them are on vinyl! We like to think of this blog as an exchange, so please let us know other new releases you’re excited about. Okay, lot’s of tracks to preview here so let’s get into it. (Click on the record pics for links on where to buy the vinyl.)

First up, East L.A.’s own Las Cafeteras and their long awaited second LP Tastes Like L.A. Their debut release from 2012 had them touring nearly non-stop for the past 5 years. In doing so they not only grew a large following, but their sound also blossomed well beyond the bounds of son jarocho into a style of folk music that’s reflective of the many tastes of real folks. Have a listen to their re-worked version of the son jarocho classic Mi Presidente flipped to If I Was President. Even though they are often categorized as social justice music, they also share their joy for simple things that are easily relatable, which of course is very much part of the tradition of folkloric music. Vamos To The Beach is an excellent example of thisI really love the introduction of horns and how it fits seamlessly with a rhythm reminiscent of the Colombian costal music of Son Palenque. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m hearing a little nod to 90s R&B with the song Apache. Again this underscores the range of their influences and el sabor of L.A.

Let’s now head over to the IE (Inland Empire) with Quitapenas who dropped a new 7″ release that has their signature heat waves all over it. Their sound is pure tropical with endless energy. Have a listen and Ya Veran (You’ll See) what I mean. On the flip side of this 45 is a song called La Bestia that’s about the perils of migrants risking everything to ride the freight trains through México.

We’re not done with L.A. yet. Not when Chicano Batman have just released their 3rd and in my opinion their best album to date. The LP Freedom Is Free is getting glowing reviews and for good reason. If you’re already familiar with their music probably the first thing you’ll notice is there is now an added layer of classic R&B that they have incorporated beautifully with their strong psychedelic sensibilities. In all honesty this is one of the best records start to finish I’ve heard in years. The opening track, Passed You By, is a perfect summer tune as you lay on a blanket in the park watching the clouds pass by. On the B side Jealousy comes out the gate with the hard fuzz funk then sews in the psychedelic soul thread that runs through the whole album. The more I listen to this record (pretty much every day as it hasn’t left my turntable), the more I find a deeper appreciation for certain songs like La Jura. With each listening it creeps up on me then rockets me through a cinematic-like journey powered by everything I love about their sound.

Time to go bi-costal and move towards the dance floor with a new partnership between Chico Mann (NYC) and Captain Planet (LA) called Night Visions. The two were already well established at fusing contemporary electro sounds with Afro-Caribbean traditions and their collaboration for this album Night Visions is a perfect match. It’s apparent right from side A all the way to side D that they recorded this for your Summer playlists. If there was ever a record made for a July roof top party it’s this one. I’m willing to bet just hearing Como Me Miras will have you convinced, but let’s throw in Aguacero and Y Ahora Que for good measure.

Rounding out our favs is the second release from Ibibio Sound Machine, Uyai. If you’re not familiar with this UK group with Nigerian roots, they reach back to the 80s era of Nigerian highlife and makossa for rhythmic inspiration while riding the crest of African electro new wave with messages of female empowerment. How does that not sound amazing right? Have a listen to these three tracks and you’ll see how they masterly weave it all together to create feel-good music that feels simultaneously very familiar and totally brand new.

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