The Best Projects of 2016 You Might Have Missed

The wave had been building for some years now, and when we look back at the hectic summer of 2016, it's looking like it will be remembered as the point at which thing finally crested and crashed down amongst the country and world at large as we've seen someone new emerge from the Chicago Renaissance on a seemingly weekly basis. While albums like Chance's Coloring Books, Vic's There's A Lot Going On and Joey Purp's iiiDrops and many more have been impossible to ignore, in turn vaulting each artist into a new stratosphere, there have likewise been a steady stream of talente releases that have continued to pace the scene locally that may have flown under your radar in the wake of a packed few months of releases. No worry though, the TheseDays team has compiled a cheat sheet for our favorite projects from acts that are on their own journey to the top, but may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Without further ado, we give you our favorite projects of the year so far that you may have missed. 

Kaina & The Burns Twins • Sweet Asl.

Released at almost the halfway point for warmth in the Second City, Sweet ASL is a project that on the surface may look like another talented offering from soem young Chicagoans. In reality, it's representative of where this whole thing is going to be a couple years from now, and we ain't mad at it. Kaina Castillo, along with The Burns Twins and Bedow are firmly part of a budding fourth wave here in the city that comes squarely informed be their predecessors while existing in a lane unto themselves. The players here are a direct lineage from the likes of the Social Experiment, Greg Landfair, Nico Segal and Peter CottonTale actually helped hone the skills of these young musicians and the influence manifests itself here in one of the most impressive EPs we've seen all year, and one that continues to reassure that the city will continue to produce exciting new acts.  -- Jake Krez

Phoelix • "Ingénu" EP

While many have focused on the hip-hop side of the city that has flourished to say the least as of late, the instrumentalists behind the scenes have never ceased to push forward the whole movement. One of those faces is Phoelix, a 24-year-old producer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist (and member of MDMC) who has been making a ton of noise as of late. From the comfort of his bedroom studio he crafted his four-track EP, Ingénu which dropped over half a year ago. Since the release, he's gone on to work with Saba and Cam O'bi on the production aspect of Noname's acclaimed album Telefone. He's also made his way into studio sessions with Monte Booker and Smino, as well as live performances with some of Chicago's finest. Ingenu proves that the young composer can do it all on his own from the confines of his room. This is hypnotizing, electrified R&B, both drowsy and alive at the same. Here, he creates a tightly-wound offering that I'm sure we'll look back on as evidence of what's to come.  -- Jake Krez

JP Floyd • Sarah: EPisode #1 EP

Having performed with Frank Ocean, produced for Kehlani & played on multiple records for Chance, the only thing that runs deeper than JP Floyd's resume is his talent. The former Kids These Days trombonist has already proved himself as a musician and producer, but shows off his eye-raising singing ability with his latest work. A second shy of 13 minutes, Sarah EPisode #1 serves sonic love letter & makes for a short but sweet listen. The EP, which only released a week or two ago, may have slid under the radar for most but we're here to make sure you don't let too much time pass before diving in. -- Eric Montanez


Brian Fresco • Casanova

Yes, this has most definitely proved to be the SaveMoney summer. With releases coming from all sides of the vaunted collective, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say otherwise. While one after the next the group of friends has risen to the forefront of the scene, Fresco flew a little under the radar for those not paying close attention, releasing his long-awaited Casanova project in June amidst a litany of talented projects local and not. While it's hard-pressed to call a project with hundreds of thousands of plays a 'sleeper' it also speaks to the stakes in the city lately. Fresco certainly raised eyebrows with his latest, proving further his ability to exist with a foot in his hometown's rougher neighborhoods while possessing a distinct intellect to break it down for those who might not understand. More importantly? He proved he knows how to make a hit, teaming up with Chance The Rapper for the island-influenced "Higher" which has been on regular repeat around these parts ever since. The prelude to his upcoming project, Post-Drill, this one certainly set the tone for an act we hadn't gotten a new collection from in about a year's time. The next chapter will certainly be one to look out for. For now, dig into what is quietly becoming one of the favorite of the year. -- Jake Krez

Appleby & Elias Abid • Down Dance EP

While they served as our cover story at the top-end of the summer, the duo of Appleby and Elias Abid seems to continue to operate in a shadowy grey area that keeps fans at an arms length while creating music that is some of TheseDays' favorites of the year at-large. Down Dance EP, released in April was easily one of our most sought-after projects of this year and came during a firestorm of new content that may have overshadowed it for the more casual listener. Regardless of when you get to it, the collaboration of Appleby and Elias Abid is a talented one worth your time. If you don't believe me, take NeonPajamas' opinion on our May cover story. While the single "Castles" is still a favorite, and continuing to rack up big numbers on streaming sites, the project proved to be a sort of show of force from the duo, proving that they can tackle a multitude of sounds while keeping their identities somewhat masked. -- Jake Krez

BoatHouse • hibernation EP

Chicago independent label Closed Sessions has had one hell of a 2016. From a full-length by Jamila Woods and Kweku Collins to plenty of loose singles and events scattered throughout, they seem to be handling the calendar year with power. Perhaps their most slept on release of the year comes from in-house producer BoatHouse who has been on our radar for quite some time. After releasing his instrumental EP Girl last year, he followed it up with Hibernation. Featuring vocalists on every track, the four song project features Drea Smith, Kweku Collins, Kipp Stone (who is also signed to Closed Sessions), and Allan Kingdom. With one instrumental track added for cohesion, the quick EP is certainly worth revisiting, especially considering that BoatHouse has a Boiler Room set tomorrow, as well as plenty of content planned down the road. -- Ben Niespodziany