Before saying goodbye to 2016, Cream Puff Records invited some of our friends and family to share their thoughts on the year in music. This post features lists, thoughts, and ramblings from a collection of folks we’ve met along the way. We've also included a couple Cream Puff Scene Reports, brief live music highlights from Charlotte this year. Enjoy!
Terrence Richard - Singer, Junior Astronomers
Best Records of 2016:
Radiohead "A Moon Shaped Pool"
Local Natives "Sunlit Youth"
2 Chainz "ColleGrove"
Bas "too high to riot"
Future "Purple Reign
Mitski "Puberty 2"
D.R.A.M "Big Baby D.R.A.M"
Justin Faircloth - Musician, Ancient Cities; The Houston Brothers
Perhaps it was the combination of nostalgia and current binge-watching habits, but we loved this show. The soundtrack is part of what makes the show great--I love washes of analog synths and the dark, mysterious melodies that create ambience and dischord. I fell hard and you’ll hear some of this influence in our future work.
Young Mister, self-titled
What a treat to discover a great young talent here in the QC. Steven Fiore has a gift for melody and pop songwriting that is tight, surprising yet familiar. Our label mate on Charlotte’s Refresh Records, I strongly recommend checking out his self-titled 2016 release. It’s the only CD in my car right now so it gets heavy rotation.
I simply can’t overemphasize the impact of these three legends on my life. It’s a tragedy for the world of music to have lost these men in 2016. Bowie and Cohen left us with parting gifts, two solid releases this year that crown their respective legacies. It’s humbling what they were each able to accomplish, each in his own distinct voice. I’m just waiting for the revelation that will be Prince’s vault. . .
The Lemon Twigs - Do Hollywood
Youth! These kids are my daughter’s age, and they have a vision. Every listen is a laugh-out-loud moment for me, a surprise to rediscover what can take place and what can be left behind in a rock and roll song.
8 tracks, 1 inch
Our new mission: to record a crop of records in 2017 with no computer at all. Artistically, it’s exciting. Every musician would do something different in their records past, and for me it’s all of the editing and polishing in the digital realm. That’s about to change for us.
My new aggression outlet and discipline. We spar, throw, choke and have a blast. It makes my drumming better and my piano playing worse--bumps and bruises are part of the practice.
The grotesque and hilarious absence of music for Trump’s inauguration
Because, fuck him. On repeat.
Cream Puff Scene Report #1: The Neighborhood Theatre
At a time when the great Charlotte music venues seem to be losing the battle against development, The Neighborhood Theatre continues to be a vital spot for live music. The best Charlotte show of 2016 took place here when Dinosaur Jr. melted faces on a sweaty summer night. And a stripped-down Built to Spill showcased their signature guitar assault the night rioters took to the streets this Fall. The legendary Neal Casal played there twice this year, first with Hard Working Americans and later with Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Roots rock heroes Deer Tick and Heartless Bastards played great sets early in the year as well.
And watch out for next year: Parquet Courts, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Lee Fields & the Expressions are already booked for early 2017.
Abigail Covington - Freelance Music Writer; Contributor, Pitchfork; AV Club; Oxford American
Top Eleven Records of 2016:
- Frank Ocean - Blonde
- Solange Knowles - A Seat at the Table
- Chance - Coloring Book
- Beyoncé - Lemonade
- King -We are KING
- David Bowie - Blackstar
- Dawn Richard - Redemption
- Jamila Woods - HEAVN
- Kanye West - Life of Pablo
- A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It from Here
- Angel Olsen- My Woman
Jay Steele - Artist Manager; Contributor, Aquarium Drunkard
Various Albums/EPs/Mixtapes I Listened to This Year.
Mostly New. Some Old. In no particular order:
Nxworries - Yes Lawd!
BadBadNotGood - IV
Lionlimb - Shoo
Justin Peter Kinsel Schuster - Constant Stranger
Kikagaku Moyo - House in the Tall Grass
Imarhan - Imarhan
A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It from Here...Thank You for Your Service
St. Paul & the Broken Bones - Sea of Noise
The Gospel Jubilee - Doing the Will of God
Young Thug - JEFFERY
Natural Child - Okey Dokey
Sampa the Great - The Great Mixtape
Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
D.R.A.M. - Big Baby D.R.A.M.
William Tyler - Modern Country
Forth Wanderers - Slop EP
Anderson .Paak - Malibu
Pat Thomas Introduces Marijata
Soul Jazz Records Presents Betty Harris: The Lost Soul Queen of New Orleans
Frank Ocean - Blonde
Cream Puff Scene Report #2: Live Music at TABOR & Soco Gallery
Tabor and Soco Gallery hosted some great live shows this year:
Leadville Social Club played a ripping set at our Spring party.
Doug Keith graced us with his presence in the Fall – you could hear a pin drop as he played original songs and covers of Sam Cooke and Megafaun.
The Fat Face Band closed our year out in style with a couple sets of jazz standards, holiday classics, and David Bowie hits.
Soco Gallery got into the live music game this year too, hosting an intimate performance by Peggy Honeywell in advance of her alter-ego Clare Rojas' exhibit opening. Click here to read our review.
Tal Schuszler - Curator, Choice Cuts Radio
Top Ten Records of 2016
1. BadBadNotGood - IV (Favorite Song: In Your Eyes) These young Canadians blend jazz and hip hop, and have fun in the process. With an eclectic mix of collaborators and some slick production, 'IV' ends up being one of the most polished albums of 2016.
2. Allah Las - Calico Review (Favorite Song: Could Be You) While each song can certainly stand on it's own, 'Calico Review' is best listened to front to back. The album is a love letter to Los Angeles that makes you eager for your next summer adventure.
3. BJ the Chicago Kid - In My Mind (Favorite Song: Turnin' Me Up) 'In My Mind' is a thoughtful album with some classic party jams, like 'Turnin Me Up' which resembles the light hearted funked-up atmosphere of Marvin Gaye's 'Got To Give It Up'.
4. The Frightnrs - Nothing More to Say (Favorite Song: Gonna Make Time) Inspired by the Rocksteady movement of the late '60s, The Frightnrs have created an incredibly authentic Reggae record. The impact of this album is heightened by the fact that the lead singer was diagnosed with ALS in the process of recording, and tragically never got to see its release.
5. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Favorite Song: Four Years of Chances) With a voice like her female country idols and an attitude to match, Margo Price is helping country music get back to its roots.
6. The Mystery Lights - The Mystery Lights (Favorite Song: Too Many Girls) This is the first record released on Wick Records, the subsidiary rock label of Daptone Records. The Mystery Lights pour their heart and soul into this heavy hitting psych-garage album that sounds like it came straight out of the 60's.
7. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book (Favorite Song: Summer Friends) 'Coloring Book' is a breath of fresh air in the Hip Hop genre, that perfectly uses the gospel music sound as its base. It is densely packed with guest features, and all 14 tracks are well done.
8. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression (Favorite Song: Sunday) How could the result be anything less than epic when the godfather of punk is backed up by members of The Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stoneage? The album title hints at being Iggy's last cry before retirement, if so this is a great note to end on.
9. The Growlers - City Club (Favorite Song: Dope on Rope) The grungy self-described "Beach Goth" group took this albums sound in a new direction, and they nailed it.
10. Kaytranada - 99.9% (Favorite Song: You're the One) For giving us the hottest record of 2016, Kaytranada can have the extra 0.1%. Don't listen if you don't want to dance uncontrollably or groove out into oblivion.
Cream Puff Scene Report #3: Thriving Charlotte Music Venues
Contrary to widespread assumptions, local music venues are thriving. Highlights of 2016 included:
The Station on Central. The Station ruled this year. Mary Lattimore mesmerized the crowd with nothing more than a harp and an effects pedal. Gun Outfit also played a killer set, putting their Sonic-Youth-meets-Woody-Guthrie vibes on full display. Charlotte’s best local band Patois Counselors was the opener and delivered the ferocious post-punk they’re known for.
The Evening Muse. Mount Moriah’s set at The Muse the day after the election was crucial, especially their cover of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues.”
Petra's. Shoegaze upstarts Jenny Besetzt astonished us with their set at Petra’s, as did Joshua Cotterino and Serfs early in the year.
David Walker - Curator, New Commute Records; Contributor, Aquarium Drunkard
Allah-Las- Calico Review
Black Marble- It's Immaterial
Monster Rally- Mystery Cove
Tracy Bryant- Subterranean
Drugdealer- The End of Comedy
Exploded View- Exploded View
Natural Child- Okey Dokey
The Mild High Club- Skiptracing
Vanishing Twin- Choose Your Own Adventure
Less Win- Rituals // TRUST
Black Marble- Iron Lung // It's Immaterial
Michael Nau- Maralou // Mowing
Sam Evian- Tear // Premium
Chain Wallet- Shade // Chain Wallet
Forth Wanderers- Slop // Forth Wanderers EP
Heron Oblivion- Your Hollows // Heron Oblivion
Kikagaku Moyo- Green Sugar // House In The Tall Grass
Kacy & Clayton- Strange Country // Strange Country
Drug Cabin- Wiggle Room // Wiggle Room
The Shacks- Orchids // The Shacks EP
Mose Allison- Mose Allison Sings
Heron- Upon Reflection: The Dawn Anthology
Jerry Jeff Walker- Ridin' High
Lynn Taitt & the Jets- Rock Steady Greatest Hits
Alex Putto- The Golden Age of Danish Pornography
Dando Shaft- An Evening With
Josh Higgins - Founder, Refresh Records
Top Ten Records of 2016:
10. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial - Car Seat Headrest had one of the best songs of the year with their hit “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”. Without this song, I’m not sure I would have included Teens of Denial on my list, despite it being a solid album in it’s own right. The song manages to lift the entire album in a way that reminds me of Midlake’s song “Roscoe”, which carried the weight of their 2006 album, The Trials of Van Occupanther. Listen: Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
9. BadBadNotGood - IV - Just a friendly reminder that no one in this group is over the age of 25. BadBadNotGood’s returned with their 4th album, 5th if you're counting their 2015 collaboration with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. The jazz fusion group manages to create a timeless sound with even more collaborations in IV. It’s just damn good Listen: Time Moves Slowly (feat. Samuel T. Herring)
8. Nothing - Tired of Tomorrow - Despite it’s oft dark lyrics, Nothing’s latest album brings an uplifting sound to their droning brand of rock. In my opinion, the album manages to position itself among the likes of Hum and Smashing Pumpkins. Listen: A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)
7. Diarrhea Planet - Turn to Gold - I admittedly couldn’t get into this album at first. That is until I saw Diarrhea Planet playing these songs on an outdoor stage in Atlanta. At that moment it all clicked and I understood that this is a rock anthem meant for expansive stages and open air… And it excels in that regard. Cut off your sleeves, grow out your hair, and blast this shit in the middle of a park to get the full experience. Listen: Life Pass
6. Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost - You can call this one my guilty pleasure. Apparently there’s a 15 year old girl with a studded belt and green hair waiting to break out of my skin, because this album is pop punk at it’s finest. Just try to hate it and let me know if that works out for you. Listen: Tracks 1-2… Holy Ghost & Wedding Singer
5. NxWorries - Yes Lawd! - Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s debut collaboration landed late this year and it’s one to sink your teeth into. The album dances from soul to funk to R&B to hip hop so smoothly that you’ll miss the fact that you’re churning through 19 tracks. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from NxWorries. Listen: Lyk Dis
4. Aesop Rock - The Impossible Kid - Aesop’s latest lyrical marathon proves once again that the man has the largest vocabulary in hip hop. The Impossible Kid paints an introspective story of a boy growing up and making his way through an oft complex life, told with a rhythm and flow that never sways. Listen: Shrunk
3. Young Mister - Young Mister - Is it tacky to include one of our own albums? Nahhh. Young Mister’s debut album is a perfect introduction to what’s happening inside singer-songwriter Steven Fiore’s head at all times. An orchestrated blend of classic Americana meets modern pop and a twinge of folk… Think Dawes, but if Dawes continued to make good music. The album tells the story of Fiore’s time spent away from the Carolinas making his name as a songwriter in southern California, 2000 miles away from the woman who would become his wife. I may have personal bias, but this album easily takes it’s place in my personal top 3 albums of the year. Listen: Pasadena & Anybody Out There
2. Kishi Bashi - Sonderlust - Kaoru Ishibashi is a pop genious, and you’re crazy if you can’t recognize that. Sonderlust reminds us again of this fact. On that note, I have never been able to explain Kishi Bashi very well. “Yea, he plays J Pop influenced indie music on a violin looped through various pedals and his backing band is a drummer and a guy who plays a banjo with a drumstick… No, seriously… Just listen to them.” Listen: Hey Big Star & Can’t Let Go, Juno
1. Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered. - One would think a peek at the cutting room floor wouldn’t make for the best album of this year, but, somehow, it did. With untitled unmastered., Lamar provides a look at the sessions that surrounded To Pimp a Butterfly, spanning from 2013-2016. The songs are toned down, raw, humorous, and still quite powerful. 2016 was a big year for hip hop and Kendrick Lamar made his mark by showcasing that he simply has nothing to prove. Listen: untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.
Cream Puff Scene Report #4: Long Live the Double Door
Yes, it will shut its doors for good in the next couple of days, but The Double Door went out in style this year. Mothers played a great set of Sharon Van Etten-meets-Television songs early in the year. Mike Taylor (nee Hiss Golden Messenger) wowed the place with his solo acoustic show a month or two later, and Knopfler-disciples Toleman Randall closed it down with class right before Christmas.
Ken Cotner - Bassist, Leadville Social Club; "Mr. February 10th, 2017" Men of the Thirsty Beaver Calendar
This year was the .275-hitting second baseman with 10 homers and 60 RBI’s – dependable, consistent, but lacking flair.
- Hiss Golden Messenger – “Heart Like A Levee”. I still don’t know why I enjoy MC Taylor’s band; I just know I look forward to whenever a HGM album comes up on the shuffle. This one seemed to have some sonic departures from their previous releases, in a good way. A good example of the inadequacy of language to describe why some music connects.
- Bob Mould – “Patch The Sky”. He still has the fire after all these years.
- Wilco – “Schmilco”. This one keeps growing on me; always a good sign.
- David Bowie – “Blackstar”.
- Wussy – “Forever Sounds”. One of my favorite bands with one that I couldn’t elevate to the level of their 5 previous gems, but a strong effort nonetheless with several high points.
- Robbie Fulks – “Upland Stories”. More bluegrassy/folky than most Fulks albums, this one exhibits all his lyrical gifts, has stellar players, and one of the year’s best songs in “Fare Thee Well Carolina Gals”. A worthy Grammy nominee.
- Phil Cook – “Southland Mission”. A shout-out to Cream Puff Records for turning me on to this one. I didn’t know Cook’s music, but this one brought a smile to my face every time I played it.
Walter Salas-Humara – “Explodes and Disappears”. Silos’ frontman did new versions of some old Silos classics. This one is essentially Part 2 after 2015’s “Work, Part One”.
I also found a bunch of older stuff I love, including several classics that somehow I’d missed out on before. Kind of like finding a TV rerun of Secretariat’s Belmont thrashing, or a Bird-Magic Game 7.
- Terry Allen – “Lubbock (on everything)”. I knew Terry Allen’s name but wasn’t familiar with his work. “Lubbock” is an amazing set of songs from the multi-talented west Texan. “The Beautiful Waitress” and the art-song trilogy are stunning examples of his depth.
- Kamasi Washington – “The Epic”. A more aptly named record will not be found. I don’t get to hear much new jazz, but this 3-album (!) 2015 release from the Kendrick Lamar’s sax player was worth it.
- Alvvays – “Alvvays”. I have no idea how I found this Canadian band, with members mostly from the eastern provinces Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. But their 2014 self-titled release sounds to me like early R.E.M. with a distinctive female singer. And “Archie, Marry Me” is my favorite song I heard this year - a pop masterpiece.
- Bottle Rockets – “South Broadway Athletic Club”. I’d gotten away from the Rockets for a few years, but this 2015 release rivals “Brooklyn Side” as my favorite.
- Mono Town – “In The Eye Of The Storm”. A generous friend gave me a mix of Iceland music before a trip last summer. I loved the delicate Emiliana Torrini and the dance music of FM Belfast, and this 2014 album from Mono Town continues to get regular play.
- Tom Waits – “Rain Dogs”.
- The Pogues – “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”. I had to finally get this after reading James Fearnley’s account of the band’s rapid rise and descent, “Here Comes Everybody”. Well worth it.
- Al Green – “I’m Still In Love With You”. Yeah, “Love and Happiness” is all that, but Al’s take on “For The Good Times” surprised the hell out of me and is every bit as strong as Ray Price’s.
And finally, hands down, the Todos Santos Music Festival in Mexico was my best live music experience of the year, and my favorite festival ever, by a large margin. TSMF is held over 2 weekends in January, in the beautiful Baja California village of, you guessed It, Todos Santos. The festival was started and championed by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and his wife Chloe Johnson, part-time residents of the town, and benefits the local Palapa Society. TSMF featured many of Peter’s musician friends, including Jeff Tweedy, Drive-By Truckers, Old 97’s, Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Chuck Prophet, and many others. “Festival” is probably an overstatement – the venue is an outdoor patio of a local hotel, with maybe a couple hundred folks in attendance. The vibe is, to say the least, relaxed – musicians spent as much time in the audience as backstage. Bands did scheduled sets, but there was almost limitless mixing of personnel. Favorite musical moment: Rhett Miller singing Bowie’s “Life On Mars”, with only Josh Kantor’s keyboards accompanying. My favorite band was also the biggest surprise for me – Filthy Friends, featuring Corin Tucker (Sleater Kinney), Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, and Kurt Bloch. FF are a force of nature, I sure hope they tour in 2017. Daytime brought stressful decisions about which carnitas place to try and which café to pick for brunch, while gazing at whales and sea lions in the ocean. Sadly, the festival is taking a break this coming January, but I’m hopeful that it returns in 2018.
Alec Sheaff - Co-Founder, Cream Puff Records
Top Releases of 2016
- Steve Gunn – Eyes on the Lines
- The Skiffle Players – Skifflin’
- Fruit Bats – Absolute Loser
- Fela Kuti Reissues
- Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee
- Woods – City Sun Eater in the River of Light
- A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
- Cass McCombs – Mangy Love
- Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn - Parellelogram
- Lee Fields & The Expressions – Special Night
- Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
- Jack Rose Reissues
- Tender – EP III
Danny Gassaway - Music Writer, The Charlotte Agenda
I saw a lot of live music this year, but a particular show stood out. On the last weekend of October, The Travelin’ McCourys and the Jeff Austin Band performed at Bluegrass Underground in McMinnville, TN.
Bluegrass Underground is a venue 333 feet below ground in a cave at the Cumberland Caverns. The show started around 8pm, so we got to the parking area an hour early, walked up the hill to the entrance of the cave, picked up and flashed our wristbands, and walked inside. We had some time to wander and explore the cave as we made our way further into the earth before it all opened up to a large space, complete with a small stage and a beautiful chandelier dangling overhead. The intimate room, with three walls and an incline to the left of the stage, was perfect for music, especially bluegrass. As soon as the first notes were played, I realized why I, my friends and everyone else in attendance had made the trek. The sound stayed in the room, filling every groove or bump in the walls and ceiling. Each band played a set by itself and then came together to perform a final set of Grateful Dead songs. We exited the cave at the end of the night to a chilly breeze and a starry sky.
At 333 feet below ground in a cave in a town in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service, no bar (or even alcohol for sale) and a dirt floor, it was nothing like a normal venue in 2016. But every single person of the few hundred who were in attendance was there for the music. And we all danced and smiled and found ourselves looking around and admiring the room we were in and the people we were with as much as we were admiring the bands on the stage. And as we did just that, we were reminded that this is what music is all about.
Bill Johnston - Founder, Recover Brands
Working with musicians and festivals is a big part of Recover’s DNA. We simply love music. It offers us a place to showcase our products to the masses and spread the word about sustainability. We were proud to continue that works this year. Even better - we saw a major increase in sustainability efforts from festivals and individual bands/musicians. Despite the challenges of 2016, it is now more clear than ever that music brings people together and fills us with feelings of hope and community. Highlights from the year included:
- The launch our RAD Program – Recover Artist Development - a program where we partner with artists to produce sustainable merch for them to sell on tour.
- Hosted Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster (of Water Liars) at the Recover HQ for an intimate, acoustic set of songs chosen from his record Constant Stranger
- A new partnership with Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, the promoters behind the Bonnaroo and Forecastle music festivals.
- A deal to supply shirts for Wilco’s summer and fall tours - a euphoric moment for this avid Wilco fan.
- Increased emphasis on sustainability throughout the music world. One of our partners, Clean Vibes, a waste management service, diverted 91% of the waste at Outside Lands in San Francisco. That’s up from 84% last year.
- Some truly great festivals, including:
Big Ears Festival - Knoxville, TN - Festival season and the partnership with AC kicked off at Big Ears festival in March, and it was one of the most unique festivals we’ve ever been a part of. For starters, the lineup was stacked with an eclectic mix of some the world’s best musicians. The jams skew towards experimental and you get the feeling that the artists want to be there as much as anyone. They are there to showcase their skills and give their fans a mind-bending experience. Personally, I was as excited to see Yo La Tengo and Lambchop as anyone at Big Ears Festival this year, and sure enough, they played a set together on Saturday night at the renowned Bijiou Theater. It was epic! While there were countless noteworthy shows, the most inspiring performance I saw at Big Ears was a Saturday, late night set from Kamasi Washington. The California based jazz superstar is as funky as he is uplifting. A perfect show to close out a killer festival. Already excited for Big Ears 2017.
Forecastle Festival - Louisville, KY - This one was a big deal for us this year. It’s set in the heart of downtown Louisville, and in its fifteenth year, the festival brings in over 30,000 patrons per day. Beyond a fully stacked lineup, Forecastle puts a tremendous emphasis on sustainability. From eliminating single-use plastics at the festival to using 100% recycled, sustainable merchandise (Recover), Forecastle gets it, and they practice what they preach. They also book incredible music! Some of my favorite bands were at Forecastle this year, and I was fortunate enough to see sets from Phosphorescent, Dr. Dog, Steve Gunn, Alabama Shakes, Ryan Adams, and Local Natives, to name a few.
Floyd Fest - Floyd, VA - From Louisville, we headed to the scenic Floyd Fest, located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was our fourth year working with Floyd Fest as the official merchandise provider and our second year setting up in the Outdoor Experience tent. Floyd Fest is a perfect size for Recover to engage with festival goers. They bring in 12,000 patrons per day and by the end of the festival you feel as if you’ve met everyone there. It was really exciting for us to see fans seeking out “this year’s Floyd Fest Recover shirt”! Like Forecastle, Floyd Fest is a leader in sustainability. The fans and festival producers get it. It’s a real outdoor festival where everyone camps and most everyone embraces the philosophies of Leave No Trace. They also bring in a wide mix of musicians so everyone can have their own Floyd Fest experience. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats played one of the most energy charged sets that I saw all year. But the most inspiring show I saw at Floyd Fest 2016 was from Femi Kuti. Femi is from Nigeria and the son of the afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The very origins of the music are uplifting. The high-energy funk / jazz ensemble speaks to its fans about real world problems. In the case of Femi, it is about political corruption and oppression in his native country. The music and message, however, can be felt by anyone who listens. These are earth moving, awe-inspiring, get-up-and-do-something about your issues kind of jams. We captured some of the vibes in this video: