Hey I’m the Editor-In-Cheef of the Hassle site. Holy shit what a year of music. Sorry to the amazing performers I surely overlooked and left off this list. SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC!! It’s the music made by your neighbors! **Check out my amendment to this list HERE**
Birthing Hips – Urge To Merge (NNA)
One of the more stunning bands to emerge from Boston in recent years. Here’s what will be (unfortunately) their lone full length recording. The experimental glam rock/art rock/freak punk monster that they were is gorgeously preserved here for eternity thanks to the record making killers @ Vermont’s own NNA.
Wendy Eisenberg – Time Machine (HEC Tapes)
What do you get when the best guitarist in Boston (years running) takes time out from her (just now defunct) killer glam post-punk band (BIRTHING HIPS) to record an intimate bedroom “pop” record? TIME MACHINE. Ten tracks of Brattleboro-esque meandering lofi songs that skitter between intimate reflection and observation while being propelled by the aforementioned stunning six string skills that take these sparse tales to another level… Read my whole review here.
Mini Dresses – Mini Dresses (Joy Void Recordings)
Boston’s finest pop rock band. They gave us a full length here finally after an amazing slew of EPs. One of those scenarios when more is better. Beautiful songs. Beautiful voice. One of the pure treasures of Boston’s music scene if you ask me.
Kevin Wynd – Kevin Wynd is Secret Roger (Erased Tapes)
Extra ordinary guitarist Matt Delligatti has been in so many awesome Boston bands that somebody should give him an award (with a cool little guitar on top). Here’s his first foray as Kevin Wynd (I think). It’s weird (natch). Keyboards soar, vocals transform, and everything isn’t quite right, which is perfect.
Funeral Cone – Turn Me On Dead Man (100% Breakfast)
14 songs, none more than 2 minutes. That’s TURN ME ON DEAD MAN the first full length from Boston/ Providence outsider punks FUNERAL CONE. They’ve been around for a while though. Their use of the farfisa is dangerous. And all members are major science fiction fans (just trust me). And the sound is all their own. A post-punk/ hardcore/ street punk/ garage punk concoction that is obviously the work of regular players of Dungeons and Dragons… Read my whole review here.
Rejiem – New Beginnings
Going back a few years now REJIEM are a band you can turn to and grin about when you might begin to wonder where the fucking evil bands are in Boston. Nasty japanese sludgy metal encrusted dbeat from right here, with two releases out this summer. A split with the west coast’s PALE HANDS, and an EP of their own which is called NEW BEGINNINGS. Turns out it’s also their swan song… Read my whole review here.
Dimples – Whimpers (Feeding Tube/ Laughable Recordings/Nicey)
Some mysterious, metaphysical jangling psych-folk courtesy of Greg Hartunian and Colby Nathan, that restless wanderer we know from HYENA, (NEW ENGLAND) PATRIOTS, etc. This is music that is bone dry and sopping wet all at once. Not sure if I’m sitting on a porch on an island off the coast of Maine in spring, or waking up in some dusty, forgotten place over there on the California/Nevada border. Now legal drugs call to me. I’ll probably answer… Read my whole review here.
CYBERBULLY – imhavingthetimeofmylife
Straight up some of the most fucked up electronic music being made in Boston. Bombastic noise with a voice of its own in a crowded world of electronic noise where imitation is definitely the sincerest form of flattery. This stuff just flattens the listener is what it does. Fantastically grotesque throughout the six tracks here which range from brain melting to very public mental breakdown.
John Cushing Big Band – Live @ Magnolia Loft (Erased Tapes)
Earnestness bleeds from John Cushing’s music, and has for years around Boston. The guy must be swimming in bloody earnestness by this point. On this ERASED TAPE the big band version of John’s songs was put to tape, sparkling with horns, candid live moments, and warm organ. Very sweet.
Sidney Gish – Ed Buys Houses
Totally intoxicating indie rock/ indie pop hybrid from here in Boston. SIDNEY GISH has a voice that is very comfortable. Wrapped up in fuzzy guitars, finger snaps and driving basslines how can she be stopped? I don’t think she will be honestly. This music is destined to touch a lot of ears I would think…. Read my whole review here.
Joe Mygan – Hidden Features (Moon Villain)
A deep dive into electronic psychosis w/ one of the Boston areas special peddlers of such for the last many years. Joe doesn’t release music frequently, but when he does it is the kind that I like to slip inside my ear and then push all the way on through until I can feel it in my brain. Boston’s Moon Villain label doing it right.
Rob Noyes / Alexander split 7″
Rob Noyes has been a music making marvel in these parts for decades(!) now, and his turn in recent years to beautiful acoustic guitar mashing has been exhilarating. Alexander’s (David Alexander) playing is stunning to say the least. To my ears less chaos fueled than Rob’s but hey imagine what I don’t know! Alexander released released 3 other full lengths this year as well! You’d be a fool not to check them out!
Ed Balloon – Flourish (Deathbomb Arc)
Over the last couple years Ed Balloon has become one of my favorite performers in all of Boston and New England. We don’t get too many artists fucking with new school RnB up here in Boston, so when someone does it as exquisitely as Mr. Balloon does here (and previously) I must take notice. Bouncy, introspective, and challenging at times Flourish is Balloon’s best release to date. Watch out for this guy cuz his shit is real and real special. And man what a performer. And you know I know that Deathbomb Arc is legendary, so much love to this partnership.
Mark Cone – Now Showing (Neck Chop Records)
The latest synth punk pinnacle has been reached and it was Jackie from Urochromes/Sediment Club that did it. Fringe punk is made by fringe punks and the vast majority of punks from western MA are fringe punks. Not sure where Jackie is these days, where his Mark Cone-ing has most recently taken him, but dude’s legend is LARGE in Massachusetts, and you gonna need to really stretch AND tell lies if u gonna tell me that there was a better synth punk record made all goddamn years. Brilliant.
Pucker Up – I Live In Your Mouth (Crass Lips Records)
Rumbling, droning, squawking earthen post-punk that should be recognized for what it is: rare and precious. I’m not saying this about the music itself, no no, this music will cut you. What I mean to say is that the band and their existence (their being) is (alongside other beacons of noise damaged punk, say (New England) Patriots and Bugs and Rats to name two) at this point, essentially, the canonical modern Boston underground sound. This band seriously fucks with timbre and the results are wonderful. I Live In Your Mouth is their best record to date.
World War – Soundsystem (Hausu Mountain)
Blow’d out is Davey Harms’ aesthetic. And he doesn’t disappoint on Soundsystem which comes via the ever greater Hausu Mountain label. The World War attack is more varied and technoid than ever on this and that alone makes this the most interesting album Harms has ever put out in my opinion. The tracks bang and the samples are freaky and broken, and this is all I ever want to dance to.
Vintage Lee – Pimp
Laid back hip hop that I fell in love with this year from Roxbury. The production, choruses, and VL’s flow are all what I’m talking about. Vintage Lee is no regular degular. I’m getting wafts of ILoveMakonnen over here, but maybe that’s just me (I love ILoveMakonnen btw)? Anyway, Vintage Lee and this great album Pimp, are part of a serious wave of some of the best rap to come out of Boston in a very long time. Yes, I am riding that wave. It is good. Production by Tee-WaTT, M.Ali, Jew Paidro, LDG Beats and LoLoTheGod.
American Whip Appeal – Stop & Freak
Total Dylan worship, but it works here because the people making this music like Dylan for the right reasons. What are those reasons? Like I’d tell you. Shambolic shit kicker country rock+ from people who ricochet between Boston and New Orleans which is lunacy. Lou Reed worship too, and they pull it off. The only kind of rock that is stomach-able in… good lord… it’s 2018. Definitely an anachronism of some variety. A pleasant one.
Horse Girl – Been Better (Anxiety Pop)
DIY pop/punk done pretty much better than anyone else in New England right now. Very stomach-able rock. This is throw it all on the line noisy pop that sounds like friends rocking naturally in their own special way. And it turns out these friends can write songs. And the singing is co-ed and perfect and the guitars sound good distorted and all chorus’d out. And I’m in love.
Erika Nesse – Glass Gardens (released late ’16)
“Produced by software designed and built by Erika Nesse”. Music of the mind recalling the work of Terry Riley, and to get local maybe Keith Fullerton Whitman or Jake Meginsky. With the tech industry descending upon the Boston area like a dark, digital… yes, cloud. As the minds behind such industry invasive-ly sprout from the earth of Cambridge and otherwise. My mind wanders wondering what the positive side effects may be (if there are to be any) of all this? And maybe, just maybe (?) I and we can hope that on the streets we cannot afford to live on, in a city operated entirely by robots (humans can no longer go outside because of the quality of the air), and run by a half woman/machine who/that cannot live if disconnected from the machine; thatTHIS is the music playing through the speakers that have been placed on light poles throughout the city in an effort to ease the minds of the troubled robot slaves that are actually running the city.
Joey Agresta – Let’s Not Talk About Music (Wharf Cat Records)
“A Win Song For Bernie”, a hopeful synth voyage, opens this one up. I appreciate this. The rest is Joey Pizza Slice minus the buzz, hiss, and interference. All that stuff, which I’ve always loved, isn’t missed though. Joey has always been a great songwriter. That’s why I keep coming back. That rarer and rarer skill set is on more overt display than ever on Let’s Not Talk About Music. This is underground pop heaven and so very sunshine filled (in its own demented way). As if that dust coated window finally got some time with a nice clean rag.
Bacterial Husk – Agnosia of Omens (released late ’16)
If you’re making death metal and it is not as disgusting as possible, then you need to ask yourself what the fuck you are doing. This is not a question that Bacterial Husk need to ask of themselves. For Agnosia of Omens, their debut, is grimy af. The bass is slimy and metallic at the same time. Vocals are straight out the sewer. Drums are tight as hell, and the guitar playing is absolutely ripping and soul stirring. Monstrous bad ass shit.
Bill Nace / Chris Corsano / Paul Flaherty – These (Open Mouth)
Improv giants of today doing the things that improv giants do. Together. Letting this trio wrestle for your ears is most likely one of the better things you can do for yourself. Few sax/guitar/drum crews could fuck with this.
no streams online that I could find
Crippled Beggar – Death Is The Tarn, And I’m The Conduit
Awesome sounds, and never boring songwriting make this some of the best grind I heard all year. A blackened stew of hardcore, thrash, and metal that is technical without going over the top and filled with riffs that go for miles. That last song is really weird!
Beverly Tender – What Have You Done To My Water? (Disposable America)
Courtesy of one of Boston’s best labels, Beverly Tender’s second release is a sweet and sour amalgamation of knotted guitars, cracking female voices, indie rock (the genre), and nebulous electronics. This fucking town has been turning out really amazing some-kind-of-indie-rock-that-doesn’t-suck bands on the regular for years now. A unique member of the extended family, Beverly Tender.
Creative Healing – Demo Tape (Friendship Tapes)
Freak rock the western MA way. Sax and violin power couple. They were a stunna @ Hassle Fest, and they are a stunna here on this tape. Part of a wonderful nexus of former NEC students that has spawned so many incredible bands (see elsewhere on this list). I stagger and listen in awe. Captain Beefheart. The interplay between instruments on display here is quite heady.
Wound Man – Abstraction
Probably the heaviest and most evil band in New England right now. I’ll probably get spit on for saying that. I mean no disrespect toward all the other incredible metal, hardcore, noise, or whatever bands currently slaying. I just love this band. The full throttle brutality. The violence of the music. New Bedford, man.
Lilith – Apology Plant (Disposable America)
More great pop rock out of Allston (and Boston in general). Quite a year for good pop around here. Apology Plant jangles away like a goddamn breezy summer day. And the vocals hover like soft white clouds. And the songs are wonderful. And let me just play the whole record one more time. Another amazing album from Disposable America.
Brandie Blaze – Spinster
Brandie Blaze is a force of nature, and her debut full length captures some of the maelstrom that is her (though I’m not sure any recording could ever catch all that is BB). Brandie’s got the hooks, and can seriously bring whatever flow the song demands. Spinster is BB on full display. Shit is explicit and bombastic. Simpsons references, gorgeous production, infectious fucking attitude. Mmm. I thank you Brandie.
Tortured Skull – demo (released late ’16)
Sick thrash outta somewhere in western MA. Riffs are tight, band is tight (but not too tight), and the vocals are spot on. The guitars sound like a jet engine. This is a good thing. Expectations are high for what comes next (hopefully something!), but this (digital only? tape?) slab stands on its own. Shout out to Phineas Gage.
Blau Blau – Kiss Kiss
2/3rds of Mini Dresses (who you can find further up this list) and two other underground heros (from band like CosMc and Tiffany’s House). How could this go wrong? It can’t. Only 4 songs but damn am I left wanting more! Hopefully the quartet will gather again some day. Dream pop w/ an awesome sour twist of art rock. So so good.
Water Cycle – Other Boys
Earnest indie pop of the highest order. These guys jangle and sing about relationships. The bass bounces beneath lyrics about mom jeans. The Water Cycle steers clear of twee, and navigates the warm summer breeze skillfully in their little sail boat for three.
Puppy Problems – (((((demos))))
Bare bones and heartache filled raw demos from this Allston singer songwriter whose music I’ve been enjoying for a number of years. Guitar and multi-tracked vocals and an empty room, and some personal lyrics that move round and round and rarely find resolution. If you can do you this stripped down you can do anything. Looking forward to more full band stuff.
Spirit Level – Dinner | with | the | Devil (Erased Tapes)
Absolutely stunning avant-RnB and eccentric anthemic pop from Jamaica Plain and yet another killer Erased Tape. I knew Adrienne Arditti could sing, but fuck. Girl can sing. The platform that is this band is some kind of sick pop playground for these NEC miscreants. Not only does this work on the Boston underground circuit, but it would also fly @ the South Shore AND North Shore Music Circuses. One of the more system shocking releases I heard from New England all year. Unbelievable and awesome.
Matt Robidoux – Irish Collection (Feeding Tube Records)
A person (who happens to be an incredible experimental guitar handler) of Irish decent making a connection to the culture of his forefathers. Or something like that. “Eulogy For A Fallen Trooper” is a work of art that all people of Irish heritage located within the bounds of the state of Massachusetts should be forced to listened to (annually, and on loop for at least 3 hours on the holiday of their choosing each and every year). Fractured, beautiful, melancholy, like a noisy dream, and also ridiculous… this tape demands to be listened to. Feeding Tube do it again.
Pink Navel – Raw Navel
Released at the very very beginning of last year, but I did not forget. Pink Navel’s rhymes, the strange vibe that Pink Navel creates through song and sample, the wide open and limitless feeling that Navel imbues in their particular hip hop. I feel it all the time. It’s that South Shore thing. That wearing nylons to CVS thing. Hip hop is bending here and Navel is bending it and I believe in Navel. I do. Hoping for more Navel in 2018 (the new year).
Pandemix – Scale Models of Atrocities (Boss Tuneage)
My favorite hardcore recording from Boston this year (and that’s actually saying something in this town). This is some timely and ripping hardcore punk that breaks down many of our society’s ills and smashes them to pieces via jagged unrelenting riffage. Filled with hate for everything wrong with our present. If this doesn’t get you going something is very wrong with you.
Peach Ring – Rubber Baby
Fresh & spastic stripped down art punk/noise rock power trio that I hope lives to ride again cuz these first recordings are really awesome. Riffage, slammin’ beats, and seriously dangerous front woman yelping like few have yelped before. They got it all. Definitely among the bands that did the most ear damage in Boston this past year.
Exit Order – Seed of Hysteria (Side Two Records/La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
Exit Order may very well be Boston’s best punk band right now. They have a great sound that is at once classic, and modern and the energy that they imbue their punk rock with is special. And the special ingredient. Fucking songs. Exit Order writes amazing songs. Having La Vida Es Un Mus Discos release your record is fucking legit too.
Ok, I lied, it’s actually 39. But that title had such a ring to it. Thanks for reading/listening.