From politically-charged hip-hop and punk to otherworldly musical explorations, the best in local music had it all in 2016.
Lady Ace Boogie x JRob, The Great Ones
There was no song released by any local artist this year more powerful and poignant than “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” the lead-off track to this limited release by area rappers Lady Ace Boogie and JRob. Addressing the police shootings plaguing the country and the prevalence of racism across all aspects of society, the single quickly proved that the duo could easily live up to their boastful name. The playfulness of other tracks like “On Another Planet” displayed not only the diversity of the duo’s style, but the depth of talent in Grand Rapids’ hip-hop scene. Shout out to local label Hot Capicola Records for taking risks and helping make something this truly great actually happen.
Forget cooling off: Grand Rapids’ psychedelic rockers Heaters scorched through 2016 with the release of a second LP this summer. Coming less than a year after the band’s debut full-length on New York's Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records (and a 10" through GR's own dizzybird records in 2014), this sophomore set expanded minds and opened third eyes to new sonic possibilities and the growing range of likeminded psych bands right here in West Michigan. With a record this heady in tow, sky’s the limit for this trippy trio heading into 2017.
Nashon Holloway Band, The Palace and The Hut
Kalamazoo native Nashon Holloway is a singular talent. A gifted singer-songwriter with a five-octave range, she can pull music lovers from every generation together with her tenderly crafted blend of jazz, soul, folk and more. Her debut LP has a sound so soft, yet sophisticated, that it rewards careful and casual listeners alike in uniquely unexpected ways. Just be ready to feel your heart move as much as your feet.
Watching For Foxes, Undone Bird
Sad, flannel-clad indie-rock, accompanied by cello, banjo and piano has never sounded so bewitching and beguiling. This six-piece folk-rock ensemble out of Grand Rapids has crafted a cinematic showcase of emotion packed with as many memorable hooks as it has moving, existential passages. The collision of roots music’s rich tradition and modern rock’s unquenchable angst allows the band to move stealthily in whichever direction it chooses. Be on the lookout for where this group is heading next.
The Lippies, self-titled
Some bands burn too bright and too fast to last long. The Lippies burst onto the Grand Rapids punk scene like a roller derby queen obliterating demolition derby cars. On fire. The band’s fierce, feminist ideologies flung frontwoman Tonia Broucek and company into the limelight upon the release of an ultra-catchy pop-punk debut back in March. A few whirlwind tours and a few months later, the band was done, but Tonia has gone solo as Tonia Bug, and this record still stands as one of West Michigan’s best in a year where far too many good things felt far too fleeting.