With so many local bands constantly releasing new music, it's easy to lose track of everything that's going on. We dug up six records (one pretty new, four old, and one super old) that you should seek out. Ranging from female gangster rap to transcendental sitar recordings, there's something for most everyone on this list.
Jack O and the Sheiks — Live! From the Burgundy Ballroom (Secret Identity Records, Red Lounge Records)
Think of it as the Memphis version of the Kiss album Alive!. Even though it's not an actual live recording (the band added plenty of overdubs later), Live! represents a time in Memphis where a house on Harbert Avenue was one of the best places in town to see local music. Known to everyone but the landlord as the Burgundy Ballroom, the makeshift venue was the headquarters of the Sheiks, serving as a recording studio, sanctuary, and speakeasy. Sometimes they slept there too. Recorded and mixed by Toby Vest and Pete Matthews, Live! bounces around through Jack Oblivian's solo career, blazing through 13 tracks that fans new and old will recognize.
While it's technically an import (released on German labels Red Lounge Records and Secret Identity Records), this record is all Memphis, and the first testament of the power of Jack O with the Sheiks backing him.
Best Track: "Black Boots."
Aquarian Blood — Aquarian Blood Demo (Zap Records)
While local music fans were sad when Moving Finger called it quits after just one single on Goner Records, they didn't have to wait long to hear more creepy garage punk from JB Horrell and his wife Laurel. Months after Moving Finger stopped playing shows, the Aquarian Blood Demo surfaced. The new band began appearing around town at places like Amurica and Black Lodge Video, blazing through live versions of songs Horrell had been recording at home mostly by himself. Heavily influenced by Father Yod and the Source Family, Aquarian Blood sound like a punk project of the Ya Ho Wa 13 tribe but with less Sky Saxon and more Charles Manson. If that sounds weird, it's because it is. Aquarian Blood's demo tape is nearly sold out, but a debut single is rumored to be released soon.
Best Track: "Down my Spine."
Tori WhoDat — Krewe Dentials Mixtape (self-released)
When I said these are reviews of records we might have missed, I meant it. The Krewe Dentials Mixtape was released a year ago last week, yet this is the first time we've written anything about it. Krewe Dentials has almost as many different producers as it does tracks, making for a pretty diverse mixtape even though it stays within the confines of modern Southern rap. Memphis rapper Lil Wyte makes appearances on the Krewe Dentials tracks "Smoke Sum" and "Bad Bitches," and it's no surprise that those are the mixtape's two strongest songs. Local MC Lucha Luciano also makes an appearance on the murder-obsessed track "Hitchcock," but "We Do This" proves Tori WhoDat can definitely handle a beat without relying on established guest artists. At 17 tracks, Krewe Dentials is a great introduction to WhoDat, DJ Crumbs, and the rest of this local hip-hop sect.
Best Track: "We Do This."
Reserving Dirtnaps — Reserving Dirtnaps EP (Self Released)
When you name your band Reserving Dirtnaps, chances are you aren't interested in showering the world with a positive message. Reserving Dirtnaps features members of Clenched Fist and Dead City, two groups who proudly waved the banner of Memphis-style hardcore. While Clenched Fist hold the throne of the heaviest hardcore band in Memphis, Reserving Dirtnaps are becoming one of the premier hardcore bands in town, routinely getting the opening slot when similar touring bands come through. The Reserving Dirtnaps EP features five tracks of heavy modern hardcore, and while vocals and riffs are what normally stand out on hardcore albums, the drumming on Reserving Dirtnaps is also pretty incredible. Physical copies of Reserving Dirtnaps are sold out, but the EP is still available for download online.
Best Track: "No Consent."
Manateees — Sit and Spin (Pelican Pow Wow)
Even if the local music press missed out on this release, media outlets like Pitchfork and Terminal Boredom had no problem calling Sit and Spin one of the most gruesome and grisly punk albums released last year. While their earlier singles might have dipped into the dark side of garage rock (and black metal), Sit and Spin is for the most part a melodic punk album, with front man Abe White singing instead of howling and screaming over harsh stabs of noise. Sit and Spin wound up on plenty of year-end lists in 2014, and Manateees toured all the way to the West Coast last summer on their signature brand of "1-2-F-U" punk rock. After a handful of well-received singles, Sit and Spin is the victory lap for Manateees and proof that White has plenty more up his sleeve.
Best Track: "Cold and Rhythmic."
Naan Violence — Naan Violence (Zap Records)
File under most likely to be played in Ebbo's Spiritual Supply House. Naan Violence is the project of Arjun Kuhlharya, a sitar player from Atlanta who spends his time in Memphis when he's not on tour. Kuhlharya calls Naan Violence "Transcendental Free-Sitar," and that's a pretty accurate description, with the three songs on the album going well over the 10-minute mark. Recorded by Andrew McCalla, Naan Violence features tablas, synthesizer, flute, and a whole lot of spaced-out sitar. Kuhlharya's willingness to take his show on the road and play in places that you wouldn't normally hear the sitar (dive bars) has sent him all over the country, and he's currently gearing up for another summer tour. It's limited to 400 copies, so act fast.
Best Track: "High Noon Tea at the Connected Gates."