20 of the best albums from New Orleans artists in 2016

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Leyla McCalla. - SARRAH DANZIGER
  • SARRAH DANZIGER
  • Leyla McCalla.

A lot of music came out of New Orleans in 2016, and to avoid the New Orleans echo chamber, here are my favorites (arranged alphabetically by artist) that you might have missed. You can also listen to the playlist here.

Ambré

2090's
19-year-old Ambré Perkins follows her well-received debut Wanderlust with a deep cut take on dreamy, narcotic pop R&B that takes a vulnerable, emotional trip through schizophrenic love and ambitions.

Brass Bed

In the Yellow Leaf (Modern Outsider)
The Lafayette-New Orleans rock band released its fourth, and best-yet LP, in 2016, mining its misanthropic power-pop and noisy Nuggets influences — yielding perfectly messy blasts of reverb and diverse, Nilsson-like arrangements — to build on its gorgeous, world-weary songwriting in the face of all-consuming anxiety and that thing called time. Ugh, time.

Casual Burn

Talk Bad
This tape explodes at some point. Relentless, fast and loose treble riffs and screaming ("losing is fine!" on "Vacation Brain" and "it's all fake!" on "Bitter Pill") meet bummer jam Feelies ("Doorways") and an imploding Stooges ("Cheap Date").

Mike Dillon

Functioning Broke (Royal Potato Family)
Mike Dillon's ridiculously prolific year — from his work with Nolatet on its debut Dogs to nonstop performance with his anarchic Mike Dillon Band and Punk Rock Percussion Consortium — opened with this seemingly simple, beautiful collection of mostly covers, thoughtfully arranged visions of unlikely Dillon favorites. His percussion-only palette resurrects Elliott Smith, Martin Denny's cornball exotica, and Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done," closing with a decidedly mantra-like original "Tabla Goodnight." ("I wasn't intending on putting it out," he joked. "I just wanted to hear how it sounds, have it in my car, give it to my girlfriend.")

Helen Gillet

The Wind Shakes the Trees
Helen Gillet's latest live album, recorded at Antieau Gallery, follows 2015's Bankgok Silver, evolving her solo looping techniques and gifted ear for finding and layering melody with her voice, cello and percussion.

Gland

Neurotica (Community Records)
The best punk band in New Orleans released its anticipated full-length debut (following an exciting, terribly recorded iPhone "EP") as a destructive, cathartic nine-song cassette, skimming surf, Del Shannon, Bratmobile and faithfully not giving a shit.

Heavy Lids

We Believe in the Night (Pelican Pow Wow)
A fast, woozy debut from the city's reliable stash of garage-punk bands, blasting fuzz and psychedelic swirls with grim delight.

Max & the Martians

Max & the Martians
On his debut, New Orleans sideman Max Bien-Kahn reveals serious songwriting chops with tear-in-your-beer country- and bluegrass-tinged bummers, echoing into infinity like they've been broadcast to a honky tonk after closing time. Rolling piano, fiddle and lap steel sing alongside broken-hearted harmonies on "End of the World" and disappear for the closing, slow-motion doo-wop of "What I Came For."

McGregor

Fell EP
From the promising Gold & the Rush comes the heavy Heartbreakers Americana of McGregor, whose brief, four-song debut EP teases jangly open chords from a pit of dark despair and stuck-in ruts.

Leyla McCalla

A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey (Jazz Village)
Leyla McCalla followed her Langston Hughes-inspired Haitian folk- and jazz-influenced 2014 debut Vari-Colored Songs with a self-portrait of an album pulling from Haitian roots and an American palette, mingling politics and identity with impressive, stripped-down arrangements that bridge the classical and contemporary.

MJ Guider

Precious Systems (kranky)
MJ Guider's exceptional debut for venerable Chicago label kranky crafts soft, dystopic synth hypnosis into a propulsive descent down the antechambers of the album's gorgeous centerpiece "Evencycle." Along the way, album highlights "Lit Negative" and "White Alsatian" carve through the album's foggy daydream.

PEARS

Green Star (Fat Wreck Chords)
The band's second LP and debut for Fat Wreck Chords is ludicrously packed with unpredictable, out-of-nowhere hooks, jammed into songs clocking in under three minutes, an exercise in pop songwriting at light speed.

Valerie Sassyfras

Sassquake!
Valerie Sassyfras, the queen of Piccadilly, a one-woman outsider cabaret whose performance mirrors a gauzy Solid Gold routine or "Addicted To Love" pantomime, channels disco, zydeco, hip-hop and pop on her 2016 release.

Second Woman

Second Woman (Spectrum Spools)
Turk Dietrich (Belong) and Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) commit to delicate electronics and textures, "tweaking the perception of time and space within the audio field," influenced by ASMR phenomena, as if scoring a trip into a digital abyss.

Sexy Dex and the Fresh
Plus One Edition (Community Records)
Dexter Gilmore and his versatile Revolution in The Fresh released the year's best single ("Speed Racer"), and the playful LP that followed explodes with the band's Prince-like rapture and basement disco through eight tracks spanning cosmic R&B and their original, addictive funk.

Sharks' Teeth

It Transfers & Grows (Gigantic Noise)
Prolific songwriter Tyler Scurlock grew his knob-twisting ambient electronic moniker Sharks' Teeth to a full-blown emotional Kraftwerk. Album opener "Don't Touch My Feet"  asks "what's wrong with me?" over big bass notes, synth washes and a drum machine that slams into the album's standout dance track "She Teaches Art."

3D Na’Tee

The Regime
After steadily building up and enriching her budding rap empire, 3D Na'Tee released her anticipated followup to a string of mixtapes and music video projects on The Regime, a nearly double album and masterclass in storytelling, head-turning raps.
Trance Farmers
For Whom the Scare Crows (Glue Moon)
On his latest tape, the Los Angeles-New Orleans Swamp Thing behind the greasy psychedelic pop of Trance Farmers funnels The Seeds and queasy doo-wop and soul through Gary Wilson's night terrors.

Video Age

Living Alone (Inflated Records)
Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli channel their lovesick guitar pop through Kinks worship and a worn-out synthesizer on their debut as Video Age. "Throwing Knives" is among the strongest album openers of 2016.

Young Greatness

I Tried To Tell 'Em 2 (Quality Control)
How do you follow the ubiquitous radio single "Moolah," with millions of streams and endless hype on rap blogs, The Breakfast Club and everywhere in between, on late-night TV music spots, and the halls of XXL for consideration on this year's studied-over Freshmen list? Put out a remix. With Lil Wayne. And put out another "Moolah," but call it "Ball," and add Akon. In between? A whole bunch of solid tracks with production from Jazze Pha, Haz Fucha and Dun Deal.

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