Ryan LaCroix, host of KOSU's All Things Considered and co-host of The Oklahoma Rock Show, shares his 10 favorite Oklahoma albums of 2016:
10. Carter Sampson - Wilder Side
Carter Sampson has had her fair share of classic songs in her decade-plus music career ("Queen of Oklahoma," "Be My Wildwood Flower"), but Wilder Side represents her strongest collection of songs to date. The entrancing live performer showcased at AmericanaFest and spent the last quarter of 2016 touring throughout Europe, where her album finished at number three on the year-end EuroAmericana chart.
9. Sports - People Can't Stop Chillin
Sports' 2015 debut album Naked All the Time was a revelation, melding pop hooks with synth-heavy indie rock. The Tulsa band's seven-song follow-up, People Can't Stop Chillin, continues on the path laid by its predecessor. It's another step forward for the promising young band. Take a cruise with Sports.
8. ADDverse Effects - A Good Problem to Have
The debut full length from ADDverse Effects has been a long time coming, and it was worth the wait. The 13 tracks on A Good Problem to Have span the gamut of party songs, social justice anthems, and introspective meldings of hip-hop and post-punk. The hip-hop band has flourished in Portland since moving there from Norman a few years ago. I'm looking forward to see how their career moves forward behind this new album.
7. Josh Sallee - Hush Hush
Prior to making Hush Hush, Josh Sallee was burnt out and on the verge of abandoning his hip-hop career. But, he says it was this album that helped turn around his negative thinking and it sounds like it was much needed therapy too. Hush Hush is easily his most personal release yet, dealing with depression, anxiety, and the pressures of success.
LISTEN: AWAYO, The Dividends, Pressure
6. Powerhouse Sessions, Vol. 1
This compilation was a remarkable undertaking by Clay Berkes of Powerhouse Bar and community do-it-all man Jerrod Beck. Nearly two dozen Oklahoma musicians crammed into a converted storage unit in Oklahoma City for two days of live recording in March. The fruits of this labor are found in Vol. 1, capturing the sounds of the Oklahoma music community at one of its strongest points in history.
LISTEN: Make It (Kalyn Fay), Trouble (Aaron Pierce), Bound To (Judith)
5. Celadon City - Earth OST
Earth OST was Celadon City's debut full-length and only one of his many releases in 2016. Behind the curtain is 21-year-old Ethan Strange, who is quietly perfecting mood-setting ambient and electronic music in Edmond, Oklahoma. Released on Hush Hush Records, a boutique label run by KEXP DJ Alex Ruder, Earth OST is an imaginary soundtrack set to a loose idea of childhood adolescence. Sit back, relax, and let Earth OST take you to a different plane.
4. Levi Parham - These American Blues
Levi Parham mixes folk and blues on These American Blues, and turns out an incredibly strong collection of songs. In the sometimes crowded and soundalike world of Americana, the McAlester-native has carved out his own lane, thanks to a uniquely powerful voice and a soulful guitar-heavy sound.
LISTEN: Steal Me, Wrong Way To Hold A Man, Love Comes Around
3. Softaware - Networks
Networks is a front-to-back concept album on the effects of technology on human behavior and interaction. Singer/ringleader Colin Nance has been pushing the boundaries of synth-based dream pop for several years and Softaware feels like a fully-fleshed result of his efforts. Unfortunately, shortly after Networks was released, Nance moved to Austin, Texas, leaving the live band in a limbo state. Hopefully, Softaware still has much more in store for us moving forward.
LISTEN: Tender, Future Escape, Links
2. Parker Millsap - The Very Last Day
Parker Millsap's star continues to rise, thanks to consistently strong songwriting and powerful live performances. In 2016, it earned him a NPR radio story and a late-night performance on Conan. The Very Last Day shows Millsap embracing the coming apocalypse—in dreary slow songs and furiously fast-paced songs. Subjects range from being left behind during the rapture to a veteran with PTSD holding up a corner store to the gay son of a preacher trying to reconcile his lifestyle with his Christian upbringing.
LISTEN: Heaven Sent, Hands Up, Hades Pleads
1. Jabee - Black Future
In arguably the strongest year for hip-hop in Oklahoma to date, Jabee's Black Future stood on top. The Oklahoma City rapper's lyrics touch on police brutality, complacency among his peers, and his own regrets and struggles. Black Future is an insightful and exciting album, and earned him a write-up on NPR Music. Tied together by Najah Amatullah's spoken word poetry, the album features production and guest spots by Chuck D, Miillie Mesh, Hannibal King, Meant2B, and Deus, among others. From start to finish, Black Future is undoubtedly the strongest Oklahoma album of 2016