15 Great Albums You Didn't Hear in 2016

Rolling Stone critics choose LPs that flew under the radar

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Phony Ppl, 'Yesterday's Tomorrow'
15
12/15

Phony Ppl, 'Yesterday's Tomorrow'

I would have missed this album myself except for a chance December encounter in the Columbus Circle subway station. This Brooklyn future-R&B quintet – an evolution in personnel, direction and hard-ball touring since 2011 – was performing for commuters and promoting an after-midnight residency at the Blue Note. I stopped because the first number I heard was hard, sharply cut funk – vintage Living Colour with garage-rock force – and stayed because the soul got bolder and deeper in "Why iii Love the Moon," an instant knockout of velvet-Seventies romance and Kaya-era Bob Marley. Phony Ppl have a long library of internet drops, but this 15-track album, released in January and including that killer "Moon," is the band's true declaration of arrival – a matured fusion of modern-pop songcraft, live-band hip-hop drive, classic-R&B singing and instrumental Steely Dan poise. Guitarist Elijah Rawk, bassist Bari Bass, drummer Matt Byas, keyboard player Aja Grant and singer Elbee Thrie have history and ties with Theophilus London, the Roots and Erykah Badu. They are now ready for their close-up. David Fricke

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