Odds and ends, things that I feel need to be recognized to sum up the year. Some categories return year-on-year, some don't.
Label of the year
This was not an easy decision. Last year's winner actually improved, with a lot of unexpected incredible albums from lesser-known groups. But if you just look at just the surf LPs put out by Hi-Tide this year (so not even 7"s):
- Satan's Pilgrims
- The Bradipos IV
- The Volcanics
- The Manakooras
- The Surfrajettes
- Bloodshot Bill
- Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited
I'd be surprised if they ever top that lineup.
Unobtanium of the Year
Swami John Reis dropped an amazing surf record out of nowhere in 2015 then went back to do Hot Snakes and stuff. This year he released a collaborative 7" with Creepxotica that I believe was also instrumental surf. It was sold out in hours and hasn't shown up digitally. Anybody heard it? I hope I get to some day.
Least Expected Use of Surf Music
Spotlight: The Youtubes
I don't want to crown anybody in this category because they're all doing different things well.
@PiRecords">Ryan Hagerty from Pi Records has not slowed down since last year and seems hellbent on interviewing every surf band. It's nuts. He's expanded to reviews, gear discussion and other things.
Also on that channel, DJ Dotty did 7 weeks of Weekly Surf Music News. I can understand how doing that plus her radio show/podcast would likely be too much to sustain -- we're all doing this stuff for free after all -- but it was impeccably well-prepared and delivered.
Meanwhile Chad and Cherry's Surf Reviews have been a treat. I haven't listened to all of them, but they have a lot of insightful thoughts and it's especially great hearing two perspectives simultaneously.
This is probably not the best place to say this, but I do want to put a call out out there to everybody that wants to talk with their fingers. I know blogs are mostly dead, but text is great. It's easy to search for, quicker to consume, and more easily linkable. If you've ever felt like you wanted to write about surf music, I suggest DO IT. I certainly was not qualified when I started, and I still suck at it. I'm down for guest writers on this website if you need a place to do it.
This was a toughie! Once upon a time compilations were kind of a crucial discovery tool for surf music, but that seems to have cooled off in the digital age. However, it feels like they're making a comeback, with big and cheap surf series like Surf Britannia, Surf You Next Tuesday, Triple Agent Records, L'Appel de la musique Surf vol°2 and of course The Continental pack-in comps all doing a great job of highlighting regional and lesser-known groups. I think every one of them managed to show even me a band or two I hadn't heard, which means I'm a failure at what I do.
I especially love tribute compilations, which have fun covers and show bands stretching their sound to others' works. Surf 'N Glue was a gigantic tribute to the Ramones via Brazilian instro groups, and Sea Sea Rider took on Elvis, which I appreciated more than that stupid movie. An Evening in Nivram took a great existing comp and super-stuffed it with new tracks. No Costume No Candy had a great jack-o-lantern bucket full of Halloween tunes, and of course the Surfin' Kitty Xmas compilations not only saves stray cats, it rescues my show's playlist around Christmas time.
But I have to give it to the one I listened to the most, which is probably the least exotic of the bunch: Wave Walk'n: A Tribute to the Surf Raiders. Bob Dalley was excitedly emailing me about this months before it saw daylight, and I don't think he could have expected such a great outcome. It really gives you a greater respect (as if it were possible) for The Surf Raiders' body of work to hear these songs in a new way, and it really feels like everybody involved wanted to make these songs shine rather than just appear in a lineup.