journalist for Billboard magazine, L.A. Weekly and others
- Prince Fatty – In The Viper’s Shadow
PF has been busy this year, and I almost chose The Last Poets’ Understand What Dub Is (which he produced), but his second solo LP is too good. Although my taste trends toward ska, rocksteady and early reggae, this brilliant dub album really gets me. It features an all-star lineup of reggae/dub legends, including Cornell Campbell, Marcia Griffith and Tippa Irie, as well as covers of some of my favorite rocksteady tunes (“Queen of the Minstrel”) and a real nice take on The Temptations’ “Get Ready.”
2. The Aggrolites – Reggae Now!
I’m from California and grew up listening to and seeing The Aggrolites, so I was excited for this record to come out. It’s the band’s first studio LP in almost a decade and while it doesn’t break a ton of new musical ground, it has that familiar Aggro sound and excellent production that just makes you feel good. The album’s first track is a particular favorite, and sounds like you’re entering a circus.
3. The Bandulus – Love A Woman
This was a tough one! But I’ve got to hand it to The Bandulus, whose third album does a wonderful job of showcasing the relationship between soul, ska and reggae. Nothing on this album feels like a reach, and I love the spooky harmonies, heavy organ, and lyricism here. There are great dance tracks throughout, and the opening number is a surprising combination of early ’60s rock n roll and ska. Bonus points for the great cover of “Am I A Good Man” and The Frightnrs-style production on “Mr. Bad Luck.” Very close runners-up are Los Apartamentos – Water Di Garden (calypso from Germany!) and The Void Union – Return of the Super Vape (don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t stoner reggae but a wide-ranging look at contemporary ska-reggae sounds).
Jessica Lipsky is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist and DJ. She’s written about ska and reggae for Billboard, LA Weekly, The North Star, OC Weekly and anywhere else that will let her evangelize.