I’ve always had a fascination with bass guitar. I feel like I would be awful at playing one, but I’ve always been interested in trying it, too. It also amazes me how some albums can pass you by, and you might not even remember any of the bass lines. This list, then, is for the opposite. This list is for the bass players that are heard in the mix, inventive in their composition, and high in energy. This is a list for the unsung heroes of bass. Here are my top 10 of 2016.
10. Jon Sykes of The Pineapple Thief
Album: “Your Wilderness”
I honestly had never really paid much attention to Jon’s bass in the past. I’m sure it has always been excellent. However, on this album, Jon’s bass is not just well composed, it is perfectly timed. His ability to break in when it counts the most is why he is on this list.
9. Billy Greer of Kansas
Album: “The Prelude Implicit”
Probably the stand out performance on the new Kansas record, Billy’s bass is powerful and groovy in a way that most aging bands can only dream. He reminds me of Chris Squire as he stood out in the last Yes album, only Billy is surrounded with great musicians and music still.
8. Jared Oldham of Theocracy
Album: “Ghost Ship”
Jared is part of the invincible rhythm section of prog metal band Theocracy. On this newest album, Jared proved himself to be a technical force, delivering more oomph and power into Theocracy’s sound.
7. Stéphane Rama of Children in Paradise
Stéphane’s bass on the new Children in Paradise album is really something to behold. The tone is warmer than most other albums, but he gives it a good growl, too. He is also mixed very well into the sound of the band, so his brilliant composition can be heard loud and clear.
6. Connor Green of Haken
“Affinity” was the first Haken album to feature new bassist Connor Green. He was quite different from the original bassist, Thomas MacLean, who was more known for funky and quirky bass lines. Connor represents, then, the newer direction of Haken in the heavier, more technical vein. His performance is flawless, yes; but the spacey, more abstract moments he offers are something truly special.
5. Nathan King of Frost*
Album: “Falling Satellites”
Nathan’s contribution to the long awaited new Frost* album might escape many listeners. For me, his bass lines are the very foundation of what makes this album work. All the guitars and swirling keys, as good as they are, definitely hold firmly to the smooth grooves that Nathan lays down for them. You might say he paves the way for the whole album.
4. Fabio Zuffanti/Daniele Sollo of Hostsonaten
Album: “Cupid & Psyche”
Fabio Zuffanti is a musical genius. On his Hostsonaten project, he usually is the one to play the bass guitar. This time around, he handles the bass pedals, but Daniele Sollo fills in on bass guitar. This combination is something incredibly special. With the myriad of instruments that make up the music on this album, it takes intense or truly novel bass lines to stand out, and these two offer this in spades.
3. Daniel Mashal of Maschine
I could not have been more impressed Daniel’s bass compositions on the new Maschine record. His style is solidly jazz and blues, and so this combines with the hard and prog rock of the keys and guitars to sublime effect. His bouncing, improv-style runs feel right and are a privilege to hear.
2. Mariusz Duda of Meller Gołyźniak Duda
Album: “Breaking Habits”
Duda is hands down my favorite bassist. Throughout Riverside and Lunatic Soul, his bass is prevalent as one of the tools of melody and expression. On his new collaboration, Duda’s bass is significantly quirkier, though the mix and awesome composition is 100% there. Additionally, due to the very “real” sound they pursued, his bass sounds gritty and ballsy. I can’t get enough.
1. Bartek Turkowski of Votum
Every time a new Votum album releases, I immediately set out to see if Bartek can continue his innovative, edgy bass lines that are so important to the sound of the band. The answer is always a resounding “Yes”. Bartek is one of my favorite bassists, and his spiraling, very heavy bass lines on this new album are for sure the best I heard in 2016. The guy is a genius.