MU­SIC

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MU­SIC -

Mon­roe, and Bak­ers­field leg­end Dwight Yoakam, who re­turned with his best ef­fort in years. It was vet­eran-tune­smith-turned­solo-artist Chris Sta­ple­ton, how­ever, whose de­but at age 37, “Trav­eller,” shock­ingly earned him four Coun­try Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion awards and who led the pack with his no-fuss, catchyas-heck throw­back.

Folk/singer-song­writer: Former Drive-by Trucker Ja­son Is­bell con­tin­ued his streak as Amer­i­cana’s dar­ling with an­other eclec­tic, finely etched ef­fort. Suf­jan Stevens resur­faced with the most heart-rend­ing al­bum of his ca­reer. And Rhi­an­non Gid­dens of the Carolina Cho­co­late Drops stunned with her solo de­but. But in­die vet­eran J. Till­man, re­leas­ing “I Love You, Honey­bear,” his sec­ond al­bum as Father John Misty, de­liv­ered the most gor­geous record of the year, lay­ered with jaw-drop­ping melodies and per­sonal lyrics that man­aged to be at once snarky and mov­ing.

Jazz: You prob­a­bly don’t know any of their names, but there are a lot of ex­cit­ing young per­form­ers in jazz to­day. Suf­fice to say any year that sees new re­leases from Robert Glasper, Maria Sch­nei­der, and the Bad Plus team­ing with Joshua Red­man is a very good year. I give the edge, how­ever, to 77-yearold Mem­phis-born sax­o­phon­ist Charles Lloyd, who con­tin­ued his in­cred­i­ble late-ca­reer re­vival with “Wild Man Dance,” a 2013 live record­ing of an orig­i­nal six-part jazz suite.

R&B/RAP: I know. This is a wide spec­trum to pack into one cat­e­gory, a span rep­re­sented by the two front-run­ners. In the world of rap, Ken­drick La­mar, with his third al­bum “To Pimp a But­ter­fly,” wres­tles with real world is­sues in mean­ing­ful, in­ter­est­ing ways. On the other side is Texas retro-soul man Leon Bridges, who, with his de­but “Com­ing Home,” ex­ca­vated the sim­ple, soul­ful plea­sure at the heart of both R&B and rap. I give the slight edge to the more en­joy­able Bridges, but it’s a coin toss. Honor­able men­tion to the women of R&B — Jazmine Sul­li­van, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Bet­tye Lavette, Lalah Hath­away, and Lizz Wright — all of whom rep­re­sented with strong out­ings this year.

Rock: Another ridicu­lously broad lump­ing that em­braces pop and in­cludes ev­ery­thing from Keith Richards to Se­lena Gomez, who both had strong en­tries. Aus­tralian in­die-rocker Court­ney Bar­nett is top­ping a lot of lists, and the best of class should also i nclude Wilco, Tame Im­pala, and a promis­ing young singer named Adele. But it was an­other pow­er­house vo­cal­ist, Brit­tany Howard, and her band the Alabama Shakes who rocked the most in 2015 with “Sound & Color.”

MARK RICHENS

“To Pimp a But­ter­fly” — Ken­drick La­mar: This one was an easy choice: a sprawl­ing and son­i­cally am­bi­tious doc­u­ment of manic cre­ativ­ity from hip-hop’s most im­por­tant young star. It also served as a sound­track of sorts (par­tic­u­larly the an­them “Al­right”) to Black Lives Mat­ter and the jus­tice move­ment that helped de­fine the year.

“The Epic” — Ka­masi Wash­ing­ton: This could be the jazz com­pan­ion piece to La­mar’s “Pimp.” Wash­ing­ton, a young tenor sax dy­namo from Los An­ge­les, de­liv­ers an au­da­cious triple-al­bum door-stop­per full of right­eous fury and tran­scen­dent wail­ing. With shades of Pharoah San­ders, Alice Coltrane and the later works of Charles Min­gus, it’s the most ex­cit­ing jazz al­bum to come out in ages.

“Multi-love” — Un­known Mor­tal Orches­tra: The New Zealand/port­land-based project led by Kiwi pop­ster Ruban Niel­son (for­merly of in­flu­en­tial garage-pop act the Mint Chicks) ef­fec­tively merges psy­che­delic pop with Todd Rund­gren-es­que stu­dio rock and a bit of funky disco. Don’t miss the stun­ning an­i­mated videos.

“To­mor­row Is My Turn” — Rhi­an­non Gid­dens: The op­er­at­i­cally trained front­woman of roots-folk act Carolina Cho­co­late Drops pays trib­ute to songs made fa­mous by women, from Rosetta Tharpe to Nina Si­mone to Dolly Par­ton. Pro­duced by T Bone Bur­nett, it’s a proudly fem­i­nist ef­fort to bring folk mu­sic back onto the cul­tural front lines. And it’s beau­ti­ful to hear.

“Grease­paint Smile” — El­yse Wein­berg: A singer-song­writer from the same Toronto scene that gave us Joni Mitchell, Wein­berg only had one al­bum come out (1968’s “El­yse”) be­fore her la­bel went un­der and she changed her name and left the mu­sic busi­ness. This is a reis­sue of her un­re­leased sec­ond al­bum from 1969, and it’s mag­nif­i­cent. Just 23 at the time, Wein­berg’s rough-hewn voice sounds like bro­ken glass and cig­a­rette butts. Imag­ine Ja­nis Jo­plin singing with The Band.

Scharpling & Wurster

“Multi-love” — Un­known Mor­tal Orches­tra

“Grease­paint Smile” — El­yse Wein­berg

“The Epic” — Ka­masi Wash­ing­ton

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