As December whisks by and we ready our glasses to toast to the New Year, I’ve come up with a selection of 12 albums. Yes, 12, not 10, one for each month of the soon-to-be-gone 2017 to celebrate the cream of the crop of Tuscany’s 2017 music yield. Whether you’re looking to cement your Florentine memories with a sonorous souvenir or planning to surprise your music-obsessed friend with a riveting record of the Tuscan-kind, hook in your headphones to find your holiday hit! (A special mention goes to Florence-based girl folk-psych duo Darmabams: their eponymous EP was one of this year’s highlights.)
Aquarama / Riva
Dynamic duo Dario Bracaloni and Guglielmo Torelli are breaking radio waves with their toe-tapping vintage pop, über-elegant funky reverbs and suave sun-kissed tropical rhythms. Nestled between Phoenix and Tame Impala, Aquarama’s style captivates and convinces throughout the nine tracks of their debut album, a wistful homage to summers past.
Naomi Berrill / To the Sky
Florence-based Irish cellist Naomi Berrill delivers a work so deep and rippling with light that it’s no wonder that the album’s inception revolves around the element of water. Baroque, pop, classical, folk, jazz: all of these genres coexist and acquire new meaning through Naomi’s ethereal voice and arrangements.
BowLand / Floating Trip
This Iran-born Florence-based band sent a chill down 2017’s spine. Mixing analog and digital instruments, Pejman Fa, Saeed Aman and singer Lei Low play out their personal take on trip-hop. Their debut album Floating Trip musters up high-caliber musical references such as Portishead, Laika and Gorillaz.
Campos / Viva
Recorded while Campos members were scattered between Berlin and their hometown of Pisa, Viva is digital folk at its best. Long-distance sessions generated layers of warm vocals that soothe the soul, adding a delayed twang of electro-western guitars to give the album an edge of nostalgia. Blues and synths magically go hand in hand, also thanks to German producer Jan Driver’s mastering work.
Clap! Clap! / A Thousand Skies
Clap! Clap! aka Cristiano Crisci’s ethnic-electronic melting pot hauls in traditions, cultures and, last but not least, music samples from all over the world. A Thousand Skies speaks the universal language of dance, mixing afrofuturistic vibes with hip hop and house. Fun fact: Crisci produced three tracks on Paul Simon’s latest album Stranger to Stranger.
Lucio Corsi / Bestiario Musicale
Grosseto’s answer to the overseas freak-folk scene. Reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens and CocoRosie, Lucio Corsi’s delicate guitar-plunking and narrative singing style also sink their roots into the great Italian tradition of songwriting, from Lucio Dalla to Fabrizio De André and Edoardo Bennato. Young Corsi’s Musical Bestiary is a delightful woodland hike, on the trail of foxes, porcupines and metaphors.
Form Follows / Morfosi
This young Livorno-based duo conceives and constructs mind-blowingly complex realms of sound through the collection of recordings and samples. In their debut album, guitarists Filippo Conti and Fabio Saggese have taken their research to a whole new level and peered into the rhythm-laden worlds of indietronica, trip hop, jazz and ambient.
Simone Graziano / Snailspace
Simone Graziano pens a tribute to slowness, intended as a form of rebellion. Considered one of the best among Italy’s rising young jazz musicians, the pianist lets a pop filigree shine through the carefully entwined coils of his compositions, recorded alongside multi-instrumentalist Francesco Ponticelli and New York drummer Tommy Crane.
Hugolini / Hugolini
Italian Casanovism at its best. Florentine singer-songwriter Lorenzo Ugolini aka Hugolini’s debut solo album is proof that old-style courtship still exists. Throughout the track list he conjures up an
irresistible mélange of all things seductive: the twinkle of a Brazilian forrò, the under-the-window-serenade sound of the ukulele and the catchy beats of an ‘80s prom dancefloor.
Plastic Man / Sounding Aquarium
Expect much fuzz and watch out: it sticks to you! Florentine band Plastic Man borrowed their name from the title of a song by The Kinks and owe their overall style to “nuggets” garage rock and psychedelia of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Sounding Aquarium is rough, ragged and absolutely classy.
Solki / Peacock Eyes
The magnetic magnitude of Serena
Altavilla’s piercing to soothing vocals, combined with outbursts of instrumental psychedelia supplied by Lorenzo Maffucci (guitar) and Alessandro Gambassi (drums and synths), gives rise to a hauntingly beautiful album that puts the band on the shelf alongside the early oeuvres of under-the-radar queens such as Chrissie Hynde and PJ Harvey.
unePassante / Seasonal Beast
Singer-songwriter Giulia Sarno strikes again and this time, it’s beastly good.
Result of long-term experimentation, the album is a perfect balance of throbbing techno echoes and pop-perfect heart-jerkers, such as one of the singles, Florence be kind to me, an open letter to the city that has become the Sicilian singer-songwriter’s home and main musical dwelling ground in recent years.