My favorite albums of 2016

There was an awful lot of music I liked this year, but not a lot of complete albums that I loved.

Even as someone who is totally nonplussed by Raidohead and can’t seem to find the appeal of Queen Bey, this was a great year for music.It seemed like there were always several good albums to parse through every month, and it was easy to do because the music was quality and there weren’t many totally transcendent albums taking up my time with repeat listens.

It took a lot of thought and pointless delineation for me to figure out which albums I would name as my favorite of the year, but the cream and the chafe must be separated, and I want to crank this list out while it’s still 2016, dammit.  So, here they are in descending order. I know it takes away some drama, but why bury the lead? If you want to stop reading by No.6 or so, it’s fine, I understand.

1. Car Seat Headrest-Teens of Denial

This was one of the few albums I got hung up on this year, and  I can’t tell if it’s because I’m a sucker for hooks and derivative guitar rock, or if it’s because it was such a sprawling statement of disaffection that it took me a while to digest it all, but I do love it. The lyrics are funny without being totally detached, Will Toledo sounds like the exact middle ground between Ray Davies and Julian Casablancas and every version of guitar-driven indie rock is represented on this sprawling album.

2. Angel Olsen-My Woman

The interesting folkie from Asheville, N.C. with the distinctive voice made a truly great album. “Shut Up and Kiss Me” alone justifies the album’s existence, but it’s joined by eight other excellent songs(“Intern” is fine, but vestigial. On a hip-hop album it’d be “Intern (Intro)”). I’d even argue “Give It Up” and “Not Gonna Kill You” are event better than “Shut Up…”. While I’m particularly keen on the album’s tighter, rocking first half, but the more ethereal, ambient second half is great too, and it includes the album’s emotional center, “Sister”, which clocks in at seven minutes and change

3. Kanye West- “The Life of Pablo”

West’s slightest and sloppiest offering since 2007’s Graduation is excellent. Production, as always, was immaculate, and “Real Friends” and “Wolves” are some of the most emotionally stirring work Kanye has done. TLOP wasn’t a grand statement like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it contained a variety of sounds that kept in from having the cohesion granted by Yeezus’ uniformly abrasive texture. This album has been accused of feeling like a greatest hits compilation because of that lack of a through line. But in the same way you can be conditioned by a mix tape to sequentially connect two totally unrelated songs, eventually the album’s structure feels surprisingly comfortable. It easily stands among the year’s best releases.

4.G.L.O.S.S-Day of Trans Revenge

An absolutely furious onslaught of frenzied hardcore couldn’t be more topical. It’s scant run time barely exceeds seven minutes, but that’s just the right amount of profane rage to take in at one time. This is as loud, fast and vicious as you could ever want punk to be.

5.Martha-Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone be as high on this album or heard someone gush about it the way I’m about to. This is without a doubt the catchiest collection of songs I heard all year. It is absolute bubblegum power pop, and that’s OK because it’s executed to perfection. Every song has at least one hook that burrows deep into your brain before re-emerging as a half-hummed melody days later.

(Tie)6. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book/ Noname-Telefone

Gypsy first popped up on my radar during her excellent verse on Chance’s Acid Rap track “Lost”, so it felt right to have them tie for this spot. The classic backpack-sounding beats on Noname’s album are intensely comforting and perfectly compliment the dense, monotone and slightly cerebral rhymes that Telefone has in spades. Coloring Book is the sort of joyous explosion that only Chance could pull off. Both are tremendous works. It was a big of a letdown after Acid Rap, but “No Problems” is  a hell of a song, and if it leads to a joyful, vaguely psychedelic movement in hip-hop, I’d be pretty happy.

8.Mitski-Puberty 2

This is a quarter life crisis captured in a recording studio. In the same way Coloring Book could only come from Chano, I couldn’t imagine anyone else making dour expressions of self-doubt and existentialism seem so funny and fun. For me, this album is at its best when Mitski bangs out slightly abrasive pop-rockers. “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” and “A Loving Feeling” are two of my favorite songs from this year.

9.Kaytranada-99.9%

This is everything I loved about Settle by Disclosure, including an AlunaGeorge feature. This album is a little stranger and much funkier. I can only listen to it in the car if the speed limit is 55 MPH or higher.

(Tie) 10. Bon Iver- 22, A Million/ Katie Dey-Flood Network

Both of these albums are deeply weird, spacey works by interesting and supremely talented singer songwriters, both of them include songs with inscrutable titles and both are among this year’s absolute best music releases.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite songs of 2016

I have been woefully negligent of this website, and while it pains me to disappoint my three regular readers, I’ve been busy, injured, the down arrow on my keyboard doesn’t work and there haven’t been many releases I’ve felt positively compelled to write about.

However, I thought it would be worth recording my thoughts on my favorite songs of the year, and since I’ve been so derelict in my blogging duties, I’m going to run down my 40 favorite tracks from 2016.

These aren’t going to be particularly deep insights, but here they are along with the required Spotify playlist in no particular order.

  • “Have You Ever?”- Twin Peaks

    This is probably my most listened to song of the year. It’s a perfect homage to ’60s rock while also being shout-along barroom perfection.

  • “Real Friends”-Kanye West

    The non-Chris Rock parts of “Blame Game” are my favorite Kanye song. Introspective Kanye is best Kanye,

  • “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”-Tacocat

    A funny, insightful and ridiculously catchy song about an unexpected breakout and the anti-climax of not getting to exercise any righteous fury.

  • “Sex & Drugs”-A Giant Dog

    The jauntiest tune on a lively, awesome rock album filled with them. Naturally, the very next track is titled “& Rock & Roll”.

  • “Oh Sarah”-Sturgill Simpson

    This song embodies everything that was awesome about Simpson’s self-produces, excellent psych-country album from this year. “Oh Sarah” is sweet, it’s deeply personal, Simpson’s voice sounds fantastic and the instrumentation is varied in a way that is simply absent from a lot of modern country.

  • “Fool”-Frankie Cosmos

    I always forget she’s Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cate’s daughter, but always remember she’s an expert at crafting quirky, wonderful guitar-driven pop.

  • “Cherry”-Chromatics

    I involuntarily head bob when I hear this song. It hasn’t happened in public yet, thankfully.

  • “Back Into It”-Islands

    My dad injured is back in a severe car accident this year, haven’t gotten around to showing him this song, which is simple joy of a rock song.

  • “Unforgiving Girl(She’s Not)”-Car Seat Headrest

    Teens of Denial was not a lean, taut effort, and this is often cited as one of it’s shaggiest and expendable songs.  I love its improvised vibe, call-and-response lyrics and  varied styles. It sounds like live rock music.

  • “Door”-Nice As Fuck

    Drums, bass and Jenny Lewis come together for an excellent piece of post-punk dance music.

  • “Piano Player” The Hotelier

    Don’t judge an album by its cover, these songs are equally appealing as Goodness‘ NSFW cover art was repellent.

  • “Vroom Vroom” Charli XCX

    This song has some of the corniest white girl rapping this side of Fergie, but Charli kills the hook as she’s wont to do, and the SOPHIE production gives her both some of the sweetest and most aggro music she’s ever worked with.

  • “No Matter Where We Go”-Whitney

    I was a big fan of the Smith Westerns up to their third album and was sad when they disbanded. This whispy, summery rock scratched an itch I thought was here to stay.

  • “Strive”-A$AP Ferg

    I’d take Ferg over Rocky any day.

  • “(Girl we Got A” Good Thing”-Weezer

    The best song on Weezer’s best album in  more than a decade is a beach-ready ode to a promising relationship just starting to bloom. It’s a Blue Album type song with some Maladroit-esque guitar shredding and melody changes reminiscent of Pinkerton. Just a phenomenal track.

  • “Can’t Get Enough of Myself (Feat. B.C.)-Santigold

    In my perfect world, this song would’ve dominated Top 40 radio in spring.

  • “Audrey’s Dance”-Xiu Xiu

    I once saw Xiu Xiu open for Swans. For some reason, it was just a buff silver fox type and a machine that made pulsating sounds. This is much better

  • “We The People…”-A Tribe Called Quest

    RIP Phife Dog. Q-Tip’s flow has always been one of my favorites.

  • “Big Body”- ScHoolboy Q

    Blank Face had a lot of dark moments, but oddly the Tyler, The Creator-produced song was the party jam with a Dogg Pound feature.

  • “Learn in School”-Muncie Girls

    This is a damn fine self-empowerment punk anthem about carving your own path.

  • “Ice Cream and Sunscreen”-Martha

    It’s clear from the opening guitar strums this song is an ascendant bottle rocket destined to explode, but it is still so very satisfying when it does.

  • “To Be A Ghost”-Jeff Rosenstock

    I love that a kiss off to the internet includes a gut-punching lyric about police brutality. That a song this incredibly cynical has a soaring chorus is a testament to the weird lane in which Rosenstock operates very proficiently.

  • “Lump Street”-Frightened Rabbit

    Icy synthesizer backs much of this depressing look at a pair of ragged, impoverished lovers. Cancer and violence metaphors abound. Still, things finish with a triumphant sprint celebrating flourishing love despite a total lack of nourishment from the environment.

  • “Have a Heart”-Cymbals Eat Guitar

    Remember that catchy Goteye song? What if it was about a lifetime of personal shortcomings before finding love and becoming a better person? Listen and find out.

  • “Casket Pretty”-Noname

    This already sounds classic.

  • “Pain”-LVL UP

    Tell your friends it’s Neutral Milk Hotel, and they’ll probably believe you.

  • “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams”-Camp Cope

    A pitch black comedy of a song about a woman disillusioned by sexism becoming a conspiracy nut.

  • “Fear O The Light”-Katie Dey

    A woozy cacophony, lots of reverb and chipmunk vocals somehow make a very compelling pop song.

  • “Here in Spirit”-Jim James

    I’ve never been a big My Morning Jacket song, but James’ newest solo album struck a chord. This song’s piano and hip-hop drumbeat particularly got a hold of me.

  • “Home”-Common

    Wish I could tell 14 year old me that both Common and Weezer would one day put out quality albums in the same year. This is the most engaged Common has sounded in years, and the beats are gorgeous.

  • “Come Down”-Anderson.Paak

    This puts the jam in “James Brown pastiche”.

  • “Dumb Baby”-The Coathangers

    This sparse punk number simply rocks. Like the rest of  the one-time The Black Lips sister band’s 2016 release was thoroughly enjoyable, and for me this was the stand out track.

  • “No Problem(Feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz)”-Chance The Rapper

    It just sounds like Chano has fun making music.  A great chorus and interesting guest spots from Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz make this one of the most memorable songs of the year.

  • “Trying to Lose Myself Again”-Bleached

    Just a gnarly rocker from the band I like to imagine as what would happen if HAIM spent time in the Thunder Dome instead of California.

  • “Ready for the Magic”-Honeyblood

    If you like Bleached and the Coathangers, you’ll like Honeyblood.

  • “Ivy”Frank Ocean

    I didn’t appreciate this hazy, perfect crooning about growing old and growing apart until I listened to the Katie Dey album. Somehow it calibrated things just right and made me open to a shoegaze R&B marriage.

  • “Patriot”-Crying

    Chiptune and cheesy, ’80s guitar licks are somehow a perfect match. Haven’t seen this hyped anywhere outside of Stereogum, where this album was super revered for some reason.

  • “A 1000 Times”-Hamilton Leithauser+Rostam

    If the Walkmen had covered the old folk tune “500 Miles” made famous by Perter, Paul & Mary it would sound a ton like that. I mean that in a really good way. Plus, Leithauser’s voice sounds great.

  • “Gamma Kinfe”-King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

    Including  cut off of an infinitely looping concept album was pretty difficult. If thise sounds good to you, listen to the whole thing.

  • “A Loving Feeling”-Mitski

    I now realize how badly I need a Mitski version of 69 Love Songs. Her hilarious and profoundly sad take on love, lust and relationship power dynamics is 92 seconds of absolute bliss.