We asked a range of Boston-based artists to name a favorite recording from a local peer in 2022. These were their recommendations.
On his latest record, rapper Cousin Stizz spends time looking back on his early years in Dorchester. Composer-producer Johan Lenox says he’s been taking notes. “For me, Stizz’s music has always been partly about humility,” he says. “His career really resonates with me as a lesson in keeping one’s head down and doing the work, even when the world is going crazy around you.”
Blending elements of garage, punk, and psych rock, Children of the Flaming Wheel brings the raucous energy on “Mother Planet,” released in April. In the words of Mercet’s Sai Boddupalli, “Listening to this album makes me feel like my feet are on the ground but my head is in space. … [It] could be a symptom of the head rush from getting up too quickly to dance.”
Ballad, “Lemonade” (single)
Naming anything “Lemonade” has been a bold move ever since Beyoncé’s visual album of the same name, but Brockton-based R&B crooner Ballad “has all the components for a national next step,” according to saxophonist and poet Tim Hall. “He’s been able to tap into a sound that will allow him to elevate in a really cool way,” says Hall. “It’s beatmaker-heavy, but it has this bounce that lays back in the beat a little.”
When New Hampshire-based singer-songwriter Wyn Doran was feeling the winter blues this year, she turned to Tory Silver’s January release. “It picks up on the angst and reflection of New England winter days,” says Doran. “Tory has a way of explaining simple details of her life. The way she paints the picture is super effective.”
Yet to Bloom, “People Pleaser” (single)
“People Pleaser” is the only song released to date by Yet to Bloom, says Hayley Thompson-King, although she’s heard that an EP is forthcoming. “YTB gives me ‘90s young punk, like being back home in Florida (I mean that sweet Less Than Jake-Discount-Dance Hall Crashers-angst) and I am here for it. I was so completely taken with them when I saw their set last month at Brighton Music Hall. But this band is more than a throwback, they are modern, dancy, pop punk with sincerity — and they are killer musicians.”
Michael Dinallo, who recently returned from Nashville to the Boston area with his wife and musical partner, Juliet Simmons Dinallo, thinks that “slow, sultry, and low” is a quality more singers and songwriters should learn. He says that on her latest, “Ms. Ali gets it. And she can play that damn guitar, too. There’s a history scattered through soul music, and blues, that speaks to this aesthetic. Boston and New England last saw this combination with a gal named Sue [Tedeschi] a couple of decades ago.”
Alli Raina and her band, Paper Lady, are infatuated with “Surface Tension” by their friends Clifford the Band. “They’ve managed to take glimmering feelings of yearning, love, and honesty and capture them perfectly,” says Raina, who sings backup on “Best Friend.” It’s “indescribably special.”
A Band of Killers, “Illegal” (single)
Johnny Trama didn’t have to look far for his favorite recording of the year: He made it with his latest project, A Band of Killers. But the reason he chose it is the guest vocal by Toussaint the Liberator, who wrote the original lyrics. Called “Illegal,” this rock ‘n’ soul song has proven timely as the debate over immigration continues to smolder. “It was an honor and a pleasure to write this with Toussaint,” Trama says. “He’s definitely one of our most talented artists in the Boston music scene.”
Mary Orji, “Conception” (Visual LP)
“I think Mary Orji is a young and innovative talent that everyone should have their eye on,” says Boston singer and music subscription box curator Safiya. “Her infusions of spoken word, jazz, Nigerian highlife, soul, and neo-soul creates a compelling and unique take on growth, spirituality, and youth.” (Mary Orji and her collective perform “Conception: The Awakening of Ogbonné” at the Berklee Performance Center Jan. 31.)
Russ Gershon, whose longtime presence on the Boston music scene includes his band Either/Orchestra and, most recently, bugalu outfit Lookie Lookie, is excited about this debut. “The well-oiled Bim Skala Bim rhythm team unfurls driving and effortlessly relaxed Caribbean grooves under wry and wistful lyrics and vocals from their guitarist Jim Jones,” he says. And by contributing arrangements and some sax and flute work, Gershon helped make it what it is.
“Courtney is mostly known for being the lead vocalist for Bent Knee, but she also has been doing a lot of solo stuff of late,” says bassist and Club d’Elf bandleader Mike Rivard. “I’ve had the pleasure of doing some duo jamming with her, with her processing her voice with pedals and looping, as she does on this album. She’s one of the most creative, artistically fearless folks I’ve met, and I love the soundscapes she conjures, always filled with surprises.”
“This was my favorite album from a local Boston artist,” says rapper and newly minted BAMS Fest managing director Paul Willis. “He’s a talented R&B singer with amazing stage presence. I’ve never seen a crowd respond to an artist the way they did at his album release party.”
Released in May, the latest from North Attleborough duo Brevin Kim builds on their “trademark combination of emo, rap, pop punk, and almost Yeezus-esque amounts of distortion,” says composer-producer Johan Lenox. “I still have no idea how they manage to make this music so ugly yet so crisp at the same time.”
The latest offering from the New Hampshire-based folk artist Fimbel was just released at the end of November, and singer-songwriter Wyn Doran has had it on heavy rotation ever since. “This one hits me in the moody, sad, somber feels,” she says with a laugh. “I grew up loving Death Cab for Cutie, and this kind of hits those nostalgic rock vibes but in a new way.”
Taking inspiration from dance music, hip-hop beats, video games, and everything in between, “Dual Shock” flexes Haasan Barclay’s range across a series of instrumental experiments. “This record is such a breath of fresh air — I feel like there’s a track on this album that could underscore anything I do on a given day and it would fit the vibe perfectly,” says Sai Boddupalli, the multi-instrumentalist and producer who records as Mercet.
Billy Wylder’s Avi Salloway loves Mali Obomsawin’s new album for its fearlessness and exploratory nature. “ ‘Sweet Tooth’ is a suite of indigenous resistance weaving together jazz composition, folk songs, radical improvisation, and Native stories passed on by her ancestors,” Salloway says. “Wabanaki bassist, singer, composer, and activist, Obomsawin brings together a killing band on this adventurous and potent album. ‘Sweet Tooth’ draws our attention to Native life of the present day and the past, calling for indigenous sovereignty through imaginative performances and sounds of protest.”
Ward Hayden doesn’t want to play favorites, so he’s recommending records by two of his Ward Hayden & the Outliers bandmates. “Country music can be a very tricky thing, and expanding the parameters of country, while still staying ‘country’ can be a slippery slope. Greg Hall succeeded in this feat and did so quite earnestly.” As for Nilsen, “known around town as an impressive multi-instrumentalist, his debut album shows him finding his voice as a songwriter and doing what a good writer does: writing about the things they know, while creating a lush roots rock soundscape as the bed for the stories of his songs to lay upon.”
(Contributed by A.Z. Madonna, James Sullivan, Karen Muller, Noah Schaffer, and Stuart Munro.)