2016 was a year of many things - choose to remember it however you wish. We choose to remember the good things - camping trips, new friends, and bunch of stellar new releases from our favorite artists. These jammers helped us stay inspired and ultimately launch this business! Here's a short list of stuff that rocked us. Enjoy-
Ray Lamontagne - Ouroboros
Photo Credit: Brian Stowell - who also happened to snap all the glorious photos for the album's artwork, and runs one the of the best Instagram accounts out there.
Yep, the dude who wrote "Trouble" (which you may remember from an old TV commercial) released one of the most jam-tastic albums of 2016. What feels at times like an homage to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" - this psychedelic journey was made all the more magical with Jim James (frontman of My Morning Jacket) at the producer's helm.
His 2016 tour featured a full performance of the album (which clocks in just shy of forty minutes) with a super-trippy lunar eclipse stage setup. We were lucky enough to catch a performance at the Greek Theater here in LA at the tail end of summer - one of our favorite shows of the year. It also seemed like an appropriate location since the first time we heard it (right after it was released in March) was during a hike in Griffith Park - the very place where the Greek is nestled. Almost as if the whole experience had come full circle many months later (hint hint, wink wink).
"How I Built This"
This new Podcast from NPR only just launched back in September - and in that short time, it's become our go-to for inspiration. Each episode clocks in around 30 minutes - perfect window for a commute, bike ride, or trail run. There are only 16 episodes to date - and while they are all jam packed with provocative insights from brilliant entrepreneurs, we highly recommend a few in particular. Definitely check out the Suroosh Alvi interview (VICE founder); Kevin & Mike (Instagram co-founders) chat about the early scrappy days of that venture; Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder) explains why he doesn't want anyone calling him if the factory burns down; and we also got a kick of the Spanx interview. All episodes available on the NPR How I Built This website - on iTunes, or wherever you get your Podcasts.
Sturgill. Friggin'. Simpson.
Most of us received our first taste of The 'Sturge back in February when HBO released the highly-anticipated 70's era drama, Vinyl. The show's theme "Sugar Daddy" happened to blow our socks off - but alas, even a strong opening credits theme can't keep every show afloat (Vinyl never received a green light for Season 2). Oh - and it was produced by Scorsese and Mick Jagger. WTF right?
But I digress ... what really blew us away this year was the "In Bloom" Nirvana cover. Quite possibly the best track of his new album, "A Sailor's Guide to the Earth," this wild country ride features a little bit of a lyric swap (can you spot it?). We were ridiculously lucky to win tickets to a small KCRW performance where he performed the new album in it's entirety (stop what you're doing and watch it now). We'd go back to that night if we had a time machine ... or a DeLorean ...
Sturgill's 2016 album, "A Sailors Guide to the Earth," is nominated for 2x Grammy Awards: Album of the Year (hot damn!!), and Best Country Album. Good luck, dude!
Vinyl Me, Please
Call it "research" - this was a year where we signed up for a lot (and I mean a lot) of subscription-based services. Since we aim to provide you with the best possible coffee experience imaginable - it was important for us to see what other industries are doing to shake things up. Of all the bacon, beer, cheese, book, wine, (name any other thing) subscriptions we tested out - nobody impressed us as much as Vinyl Me, Please.
The team at VMP is clearly obsessive over each and every little detail that goes into their monthly shipment. You don't just get a record every month - you get a story. What was happening in the world around the time it was released? What cocktail might pair with the sounds I'm hearing? What inspired this stuff?
We've particularly been enjoying "Nina Sings the Blues" (Nina Simone) and "The Lemon of Pink" (The Books) in recent months. Stuff we would never have thought to seek out on our own - which is exactly what makes VMP "The Best Damn Record Club Out There." Did we mention they also host "listening parties" (called The Spins) at record shops around the country to accompany each monthly release? Yeah, they do that. Learn more at the Vinyl Me, Please website.
Radiohead Doing Things
Screenshot from the super-trippy "Daydreaming" music video - directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
What were you doing on May 8th, 2016? Were you sitting down? Checking Instagram? Working on that thing you had been putting off for months (you know, that thing)?
On 5/8/16 I was happily riding a bicycle down the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles (which also happened to be the inspiration for Latigo Coffee). Which explains why I had zero clue that Radiohead (friggin' RADIOHEAD) had secretly dropped a new record after five years of creeping in the shadows ... until after completing the journey.
From the string/rock opener ("Burn the Witch") - to the soft/acoustic jams ("Desert Island Disk") - to the snare/bass dance kicks of "Identikit" - this whole thing is just an absolute pleasure that requires no further comments. Cheers to Thom and the gang for their dual Grammy nods - "Best Rock Song" (Burn the Witch) and "Best Alternative Music Album." Would be totally rad - but they share spots with Bowie in both categories (RIP you space-age lizard king).
Andy Shauf Goes to a Party
"Just a shaking hand without a concrete plan..."
Hitting "play" on this album is like slowly slipping into a jacuzzi with your favorite beer in-hand. "The Magician" (the album's opening track) sucks you into slowed-down universe which almost feels like a free fall in a dream. A Lebowski-style dream with soft neon lights and bowling alleys.
I really didn't know anything about this brilliant artist until this album surfaced (again, and again, and again) on KCRW in recent months. I vividly remember driving along PCH on the border between Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar (a brilliant little California State Park called Crystal Cove) when I listened to the KCRW interview + performance (which you can find here). We especially love that heavy guitar riff on the opening track - the whole thing is just superb.
Khruangbin - The Universe Smiles Upon You
Perhaps you recognize this particular shot from our French Press brew guide!
... it means "Airplane" - or so we were told at their incredibly fun performance in late September at the Teragram Ballroom here in LA. Maybe it's 'cuz we don't know any other "Thai surf rock" bands ... or more likely, maybe we just have a massive crush on Laura Lee (the bassist). Whatever the case ... this has been one of most listenable instrumental albums of the year.
Go ahead - name a situation. Driving around LA? Out for a walk on the beac? Working on the computer, for that thing that's due at Noon (you know, that thing!). Doesn't matter - this album is a smooth as butter and will accompany you under any condition. We simply... cannot stop listening.
A Mineral Love
Start with "Light Up the Sky." Crank up the volume. Try and resist the groove. We dare you!
We've danced around the kitchen more than a few times whilst listening to this super infectious (funk pop?) album. Maybe the best records are ones that defy a genre... which might certainly apply to Bibio's latest work here. It veers between 80's synth dreamscapes ("The Way You Talk") and modern rock/grooves ("Town & Country"), all of them simple and require very little thinking on your part.
Brb, gonna go have a listen again right now...
Ryan Adams Doing Things
Ryan Adams during a brief Morning Becomes Eclectic (KCRW) set back in August (recorded here)
It's quite possible that gaining an appreciate for Ryan Adams requires you to first experience an earth-shattering heartbreak. Perhaps.
During that same SF-LA bike ride earlier this year, I stumbled upon his "Live at Carnegie Hall" album which really changed things for me. It levels the playing field for his entire discography by offering stripped-down acoustic versions of pretty much everything.
I happened to catch him live in San Francisco back in August - just a few weeks after he played a very mellow (early morning) set at KCRW. The short set includes some pretty damn beautiful versions of "Lucky Now," "New York, New York," and "My Winding Wheel." He also dropped news of an upcoming February 2017 release ("Prisoners) during the same interview - you can hear the 2x new singles here and here.
Ryan Adams publishes on his own record label, Pax-Am. Respect.
Charles Bradley is Going Through Changes
Do yourself a favor - listen to the title track of this album right now. Listen to that guy wail. Now ask yourself, "How is this the first time I'm hearing this?"
... but maybe you've been paying attention the whole time. And maybe you were already aware that Mr. Bradley spent the majority of his career in music impersonating James Brown on stage, and didn't find his own commercial success for original recordings until the ripe age of 62.
This entire album is so packed with raw emotion it's hard not to give it 100% of your attention from start to finish. We were particularly stoked to receive this gift at just the right time earlier this year - so our hugest thanks to the man. Our thoughts and prayers are also with him right now as he undergoes treatment for stomach cancer. In his own words - "Music is how I share my love with the world, and the love that my fans have given back brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous faces soon, and to continue to share my love through music." Amen.