Best Rock Band
Saratoga quartet Wild Adriatic got a big bump last year from Relix Magazine, who debuted a couple of their videos from Lock and Key. Now they’re off playing big festival bills like Gathering of the Vibes. And deservedly so. Their ’70s-vintage rock is full of meaty riffs and Travis Gray’s falsetto is nothing short of gossamer.
Best Indie Rock Band
Led by astronaut-turned-singer John Glenn, Stellar Young have taken their game to new levels of creativity and professionalism since changing their name from the un-Google-able The City Never Sleeps and releasing Everything at Once this year in the wake of a successful Kickstarter campaign. They’re one of the hardest touring bands in the area, easy to catch at a free outdoor festival if not a small barroom gig.
Best New Band
Meagan Duffy has been quietly coming into her own these past couple years, gigging with almost anyone who can use her skills on a Fender (and most bands can), patiently circling what might become her primary gig. Hand Habits is the worthy result, and the new EP Nameless Lust is an incredibly promising glimpse of where this dream-rock outfit might go.
Best Jazz Band
As you read this, the Chronicles are putting the finishing touches on a new studio album produced by Soulive drummer Alan Evans. The horn-driven sextet can bring the funk, soul and hip-hop but what makes them great is their fluency with the language of jazz.
Best Metal Band
They can thrash, drone, riff, sludge, doom and scream, making Maggot Brain one of the most versatile and engaging heavy acts around. Stop and Breathe, their new Fuzz Records-released 12”, is no question one of the best local releases of the year.
Best Americana Band
Eastbound Jesus are putting the try back in country music. One of the hardest-working live acts in the area, they’ve been landing plenty of festival gigs of late, and scoring tons of cross-over appeal. The fact they’ve been doing a bluegrass rendition of Phantogram’s “Mouthful of Diamonds” should be all the evidence you need.
Michael Poulopoulos approaches this traditional form in a traditional way. His straight-from-the-gut songwriting and sterling guitar work are best heard up close and personal in a small listening room, of which M.R. makes a steady round.
Patrick Porter has written novels and poems, painted pictures and pasted collages, but some of his most distinctive work happens with a detuned acoustic guitar and scratchy four-track recorder. Simply put, the man is prolific. Some would say brilliant. We would concur.
Best Hip-Hop Producer
It’s been a big year for Albany hip-hop but especially for local label Pig Food Records. We’re willing to give producer PJ Katz (Jason Panucci) the credit here. His cassette ’92 Renault Music was rattling trunks for months when it came out, featuring incredible verses from Pig Food’s best, like Giant Gorilla Dog Thing, Elsphinx and about a dozen others. Plus the man is diabolical behind the keys with his live trio Fat Buckle.
This winter, Albany rapper Masai completed his “Almost” trilogy of albums, adding Almost Home to the likes of Almost Gone and Almost Back. The record is a touching portrait of the rapper dealing with the grief of his mother’s passing. Modest and direct in an era of rap posture, Masai’s style harken back to rap’s Golden Age and stands as some of the freshest stuff to emerge from these parts in a while.
Chillwave, dream-pop, call these guys what you like. Titanics are making some of the warmest, juiciest synthesizer tracks around. Perfect for a summer day or a midwinter daydream.
Best Rock Club (Small)
17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
This is a sad place to break the news to you guys, but just this week it was announced that Valentine’s would be razed to make space for a new Albany Med building. So it’s the end of an era when the New Scotland club ruled the local music market. We’ll miss the dangling heat ducts, unidentifiable smell that always clung to your clothes, and of course all of the incredible shows. We wish Howard all the best moving forward. Go Mets.
Best Rock Club (Large)
Upstate Concert Hall
1208 route 146, Clifton Park
It’s a running gag for crowds to school touring performers that they’re actually in Clifton Park, not Albany, but as far as 518 rock rooms go, there’s none greater than the former Northern Lights. Ted runs a well-oiled machine up there and the booking only gets better.
Best Rock Club (Raw)
110 South Front St., Hudson
Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur presides over her rehabbed factory arts space like a Hudson Valley Andy Warhol. Sure, there’s film, dance, installation art and even a pair of ducks that live on site, but the live music she brings through is virtually unprecedented outside of larger metropolitan markets. Keep your eyes on these pages for updates on September’s BasilicaSoundScape featuring Richard Hell, Julianna Barwick and more.
Best Intimate Live-Music Venue with Awesome Wings
The Ale House
River Street, Troy
The Ale House has been a beacon in the night for Trojans for decades. A classic neighborhood pub with a menu that includes award-winning wings, when the dining room gets converted into a live-music venue, the joint starts hopping. Bookings include the best local and some great niche national talent.
From her start with WCDB, Nicole Dellarocca has built a tiny indie empire in the area, booking under-the-radar, buzzworthy bands to Valentine’s hallowed halls. In the past year, these have included Wild Belle, Man Man, Braids and the Babies. She says she’s calling it quits . . . but we’ve heard that before.
Check out the rest of this year’s Best of issue: