Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Duff Guide to Ska's 2015 Year In Review, Part 1!

Illustration by Hunt Emerson.
(By Steve Shafer)

2015 was a challenging year at work and with family matters. Nothing terrible, mind you--I was just very busy, with lots of demands on my time that kept me from writing about so many more ska releases and shows. So, my caveat is that my year-end review is by no means comprehensive. I missed out on a lot of great releases this year, but what I did manage to write about is very much worth your attention. And should you have some money left over from all of the holiday gift-giving or gift cards you received that are burning a hole in your pocket, please consider supporting these bands/releases by purchasing their music!

This is Part 1 of The Duff Guide to Ska's 2015 Year in Review...

Dubistry: Fuel for the Fire digital album (self-released through Bandcamp) -- Dubistry are one of those terrific, hard-to-pigeonhole bands that are an awesome mash-up of many musical styles--in this case, a sophisticated blend of ska/reggae, jazz, 70s rock and R and B, and more. Early 90s ska fans will take notice that lead singer Dunia Best was in Agent 99 with Agent Jay (as well as an early version of The Slackers) and will want to begin their exploration of Dubistry with one of the more straight-up reggae/dub tracks on the album, the almost apocalyptic, call to rise up and take action of "Tomorrow" ("You have to be fuel for the fire/Before you get burned/Because you never know/Which way the road will turn..."). Then check out the sweet, lovers rock of "Give It To Me One More Time"; a great roots reggae cover of Joni Mitchell's "Blue"; and the wonderful, stripped down (acoustic guitar and percussion), campfire ska of "Roll Away." The more musically omnivorous will love the excellent Steely Dan meets Stevie Wonder-ish earworm that is "Butterfly" and the gorgeously lush and romantic "All Through the Night" (that manages to be a great "Quiet Storm"-like soft-rock/soulful reggae hybrid). Don't miss out on this release--it's so good and essential!

Eastern Standard Time: "The Dragon" b/w "Miles and Miles" 7" (self-released) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

Flying Vipers: The Green Tape cassette (Music A.D.D.) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The Frightnrs: "Sharon" b/w "Admiration" 7" (Mad Decent/The Full Hundred) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

HeavensbeeSoul Mates digital album (Trilby Records) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

H.R. and The Scotch Bonnets: Quest EP CD (Morphius Records) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The Lions: Soul Riot CD/2xLP (Stones Throw) -- This is the one release that I never got around to reviewing this year because I was afraid of not being able to do it justice. I am in awe of this record. Like Fishbone's Truth and Soul or Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, The Lions' absolutely phenomenal Soul Riot is full of songs of defiance, despair, anger, and pure joy (where love and lust are concerned) that reflect the black American experience--as the nation's horrific legacy of slavery continues to play out in so many devastating ways (in particular, see "When It Rains," "At a Loss," and "Going Nowhere"). And like Fishbone's aforementioned marketer-confounding album, Soul Riot incorporates bits of many other musical genres into its heady roots reggae mix, including R and B, funk, De La Soul-like hip hop, and dancehall. With vocal duties shared by Deston Berry, Alex Desert (both of Hepcat), Malik Moore (The Bullets, Ocean 11), Black Shakespeare (cousin of Robbie), and even Angelo Moore of Fishbone (on the awesome "Rhythm Rock") and a band full of LA ska and reggae all-star musicians, the songs of social consciousness and protest have rarely sounded this good and compelling. (Did I mention their deadly cool cover of The Clash's "Magnificent Seven" recorded for the essential The Clash Goes Jamaican comp?) As far as I'm concerned, this is the album of the year.

Mento Buru: A Bailar con Mento Buru 7" (Steady Beat Records) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The Meow Meows: Friends on Benefits 7" EP (Jump Up Records) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The Reggay Lords: Run or Get Down LP (Jump Up Records) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The SelecterAccess All Areas CD/DVD (Edsel) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The SelecterSubculture CD/LP (DMF/Redeye) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

The Specials: More Specials 2xCD reissue (Chrysalis) -- While I cringe at how many times The Specials' catalogue has been reissued in various packages (why can't Rico's That Man is Forward and Jama Rico receive this kind of attention?!), I picked up this deluxe version at the recommendation of a friend, who told me that the newly remastered More Specials (so often neglected/maligned in the past) had never sounded so good. One listen to the extraordinary, nuclear dread-filled opening to "Man at C and A"--the only song Jerry Dammers and Terry Hall ever wrote together--or the brightly masked despair of being stuck in a life with no future in Lynval Golding's brilliant "Do Nothing" and you'll be convinced.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra: Ska Me Forever LP/digital (Nacional) -- Read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.

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Click here for Part 2 of The Duff Guide to Ska's 2015 Year in Review!

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