Columbus-based musician Peter Vilardi is an alumnus of the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies. He performs as MC Freeman and as a part of The Underestimated, 96e and Twisted Kids. (Submitted)

Top Tunes ’16: Peter Vilardi

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This is another installment of a December-long series that examines what Athens-centric tune heads have been jamming to all year long. Keep tabs on the series throughout the month here

I wanted to keep my list fresh and different, so my best of list for this year is composed entirely of underground or lesser known records. Many of these are by good friends and associates of mine, but the main reason these albums made it onto my list is that they’re excellent, and I can’t stop listening to them. I hope you like them too.

Nick Seman – Scared of Parties Scared of Ghosts
If you meet anyone who tells you AutoTune cannot be used artfully in a rock context (or at all), show them this album. Nick Seman creates a fascinating blend of indie-pop and robot soul, with great lyrics and vocals.
Star track: “Coward”

Pathos – Rhetoric
The Athens hip-hop wunderkind drops complex lyrics with filthy flow on jazzy old-school production. Jacob Midkiff’s vision of hip-hop and the world around him is grimy, intelligent and introspective.
Star track: “Van Gogh’s Missing Ear”

Hot to Trot: EP2
Athens duo Hot to Trot are a bit like if American Football only played like Fugazi, but as this second EP makes eminently clear, they are their own kind of cool. Cryptic lyrics, eye-popping guitar riffs and an almost telepathic interplay between singer/guitarist Ryan Gabos and drummer Dylan Sams make this one essential jamming material.
Star tracks:” A Lyric From Another Punk Song” and “Clear All Data Points”

Hot To Trot: Clear All Data Points from Colin Trubee on Vimeo.

delay in orbit – talk in stereo
The experimental Akron duo returns with a three-track extended foray into the cosmos. They sound like heaven and earth slowly falling into a black hole, and occasionally like Stereolab as well.
Star track: “talk in stereo”

Pza Prty – BOIGUS
You can tell by their visual aesthetic, ridiculous getups and blaring beats that these two Columbus guys know how to throw a party. Their tracks knock on a subatomic level, occasionally exploding with punky MPC freakouts.
Star track: “Sublimination”

Fresh Breeze Movement – Good News, Everyone!
Remember the guy who took pictures next to people’s cracks at Magic tournaments? Can you imagine how he and his hyperintelligent pal Berez would sound dropping knowledge on old-school beats? You don’t have to. They do, and it’s awesome.
Star track: “Back Tidda Ship”

Cameron Duffner: I’m serious
This record was made in GarageBand over about a week and is 7 minutes long. But Duffner’s disarmingly lowkey mini-statement is packed with interesting pop sonics and streamlined by deft, to-the-point songwriting.
Star track: “Sunday school”

The DysFunktional Family: A DysFunktional Decade: The Best of The DysFunktional Family
Hil Hackworth and Ryan Schwartzoff have been holding down the hip-hop scene for ten years. Their greatest-hits compilation contains some lyrical party bangers that are undeniably local and ridiculously groovy.
Star track: “Letter to Hip-Hop”

Otto Voce – Beware of Cheap Imitations
As Sotto Voce, Ryan Gabos has been growing and expanding his sound, pushing his singer-songwriting headlong into electric and experimental territory. Liquid guitar lines flit about between sumptuous vocal harmonies and witty lyrics; the overall effect, surprisingly, is reflective and inner-focused.
Star track: “No Peeking”

Mannequin Pussy: Romantic
Perhaps my coolest music-scene moment of this year was when my housemates and I hosted a show headlined by these punk folks from Philadelphia. (They crashed at our house too! They were very nice and they put on a live show that is not to be missed – they won’t be playing houses much longer, I can tell you that. Anyway.) Their album – short but sweet, lacerating, numbing, deeply relatable – has been praised by many others in more florid ways than I could ever muster. But I will say this: if you can get them to play in your house, you should.
Star track: “Romantic”

An alumnus of Ohio University’s School of Media Arts and Studies, Columbus-based musician Peter Vilardi performs both as MC Freeman and as a part of The UnderestimatedTwisted Kids and 96e