Guest Best Of: Starring Paul Vodra (Hometown Sounds)

While yours truly fixates on music from everywhere and then some, it's nice to fixate on the sounds in your own backyard from time to time. Really, there are few folks more qualified to opine on DC music than my friend Paul Vodra, half of the excellent blog/podcast Hometown Sounds. Read on for Paul's picks for favorite local records of DC's 2017.

Hey fellow Fuzzy Logic fans! I’m Paul Vodra, founder of DC music blog & podcast Hometown Sounds. We pick out our fave songs all year long on the podcast, and the blog did a countdown of our favorite music videos of the year. But full albums are a lot to sink your teeth into, so we’re fashionably late with our fave picks of 2017. Here they are, in no particular order:

Will Eastman - Hilo
With an epic DJ career that spans 18 years and shows no sign of slowing down, Eastman should be a top contender for Godfather of DC dance music. He co-founded the U Street Music Hall in 2010 and brought DJ culture the respectability and accessibility it lacked. After years dabbling in singles and cryptic aliases, his debut full length album Hilo came together in response to anxiety and depression from learning that he was adopted. Much like the debut album by another DC dance legend Fort Knox Five, this release features guest spots from notable DC musicians Alex Tebeleff, Eau Claire, and Outputmessage, with art direction from Flash Frequency.

Aaron Abernathy - Dialogue
Soul powerhouse Aaron “AB” Abernathy got good as the musical director for Detroit rapper Black Milk, but he got great on his recent solo releases. 2016’s debut release, Monologue, backed by the band Nat Turner, showed Ab’s tender heart on songs like “Favorite Girl,” an ode to mothers. His sophomore album Dialogue is the socially-conscious conversation we all needed to start having in 2017. The history of Civil Rights flows through Ab’s veins, and the current troubled times bring out the best in many of us, especially creative titans like this bandleader and songwriter.

Near Northeast - True Mirror
Indie folk quartet Near Northeast spread their wings on their sophomore full length release, their first for edgy local label Etxe Records. This record shows the musicians maturing and incorporating nontraditional sounds and instruments in the compositions. The sweet and earnest core shines through on songs like "Just Do Your Thing" and "What To Say," while songs like “Col” provide a melancholy connection to other Etxe acts. “Indali” and its exotic traditional Indian instruments finishes the record in a burst of pop magic.

Verses Records - We Stand: An International Compilation in Support of Planned Parenthood
Verses Records is the spiritual home of DC’s experimental music scene, facilitated by Dave Harris, Dennis Kane, and Super!Silver!Haze!’s Douglas Kallmeyer. They put out excellent ambient releases by James Wolf, The Hunted Hare, and Tag Cloud, but their masterpieces are the epic charity benefit compilations available on Bandcamp. 2016’s 40-song anthology Code Red to benefit the ACLU was bested by last year’s 44-song compilation We Stand, with all proceeds supporting Planned Parenthood. Featuring contributions from near and very far, including DC's Tristan Welch, Mellow Diamond, The Orchid, and medical sound designer Yoko K, this compilation stretches both your ears and your heart.

Light Beams - Light Beams
Dance rock never died, and we are so happy it’s back. Justin Moyer is known for fronting several different configurations of the band Edie Sedgwick in addition to contributing to the snarky Puff Pieces. Light Beams is Moyer’s new trio featuring tight drumming from The Cornel West Theory’s Sam Lavine and funky rolling basslines from Arthur Noll. Their self-titled debut release on Don Giovanni Records is powered by Moyer’s hyper-caffeinated lyrics and triggered synth samples, and hearkens back to the mid aughts glory days of The Rapture and Bloc Party. Final track "Soul Fire Pt. II (for Lee Perry)" shows how applying the sly stylings of Jamaican dub music brings the whole enterprise to transcendence.

[posted 2.7.18]


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