Jean Rah, drummer for electronic dance group Rah Bras
Cristal "Self-titled LP" (All Is Number Records)
"This is the perfect soundtrack for huffing nitrous in a T.G.I.F. parking lot at Arundel Mills Mall near BWI Airport around midnight. It has to be very loud, and it would help if you had just dined while watching grown men with meticulous facial hair joust in a sand pit full of dry ice at the medieval-themed restaurant next door, then wondered aloud what sorts of terrible things those horses must have done in their past lives. Pretty much one step up from coming back as one of those red lights above urinals that flushes for you when you walk away."
Rah Bras play the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., Dec. 29 with Trans Am and The Apes.
Christian Newby, drummer for punk band VCR
Kool Keith "Lost Masters Vol. 1" (DMAFT)
"If I have to pick one release from this year (and I don't really know that many), I would say Kool Keith's 'Lost Masters Vol. 1.' A lot of the tracks he doesn't even rhyme; he just ends every line with the same word. It's still pretty tight. He also makes most of the beats on it, maybe all of them, and uh, they're kinda awesome, too. There's also a 'Lost Masters Vol. 2.' It's less awesome but still pretty tight."
Ted Blanks, singer of synth-pop group The Gaskets
Fiery Furnaces' "EP" (Rough Trade)
"Fiery Furnaces are perhaps the only current band that can get away with putting out a record called 'EP' that's 10 songs and 45 minutes long and, for all intents and purposes, functions as a proper album. 'EP' was a godsend, because while it retained all the abrupt arrangement change-ups and Who-ish guitar solos as their previous two-hour-plus opus, it made the songs accessible enough for me to get my disbelieving friends to understand what all the fuss was about."
Blanks' band, The Gaskets, will be releasing its second full-length album in February.
Heath Haynes, alt-country singer-songwriter
Sloan "A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005" (Koch Records)
"It's all their singles, plus two new songs [from this Canadian power pop quartet]. Huge riffs, soaring melodies, all their best stuff. Why these guys never broke in the States is beyond me." (The release contains a bonus DVD with all the band's videos, commercials and a documentary about the band's history.)
Tim Harding, sax and guitar player for world/funk group Hotel X
Thomas Mapfumo "Rise Up" (Calabash)
"Thomas Mapfumo, voted 'most important Zimbabwean of the 20th century' by his fellow countrymen, continues to make some of the most sublime music on the planet. Now 60 and exiled from his homeland for his opposition to the growing political corruption, he entices us to 'Rise Up.' Percolating rhythms, a sublime distillation of musical notions from America and the Caribbean, married with the ubiquitous m'bira [thumb piano] and its guitar adaptations; this is music of great dignity. Thomas' wise, soothing voice, enchanting [Shona] vocal arrangements and deep social and political commentary are a great tonic for a world that could surely use one."
Hotel X is playing New Year's Eve at Art6 with Rattlemouth and DJ Charles Williams.