Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Best Albums of 2016: #50-26

#1-25 #51-100 Good albums that didn't make the cut
#50: Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers
Impeccably written and arranged gospel/soul
#49: Bleached, Welcome the Worms
Imagine The Go-Gos with guts, more punk sensibility and a sense of noise, and you'll get a sense of what this band sounds like. Start with the opening track, "Keep on Keeping' On" for a sample.

#48: Dinosaur Jr., Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
J Mascis and crew still crank out some of the truly grungiest guitar music around. His guitar sound is instantly recognizable as is his reedy off-kilter voice.

#47: Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pretty Years
Cymbals Eat Guitars produces dramatic indie pop that covers a range of sonic territory and styles, pulled together by Joseph D'Agostino's slightly strangled voice and the occasional absolute ripping guitar noise.

#46: DΔWN, Redemption
One of a number of powerful musicial statements from female artists (particularly African-American artists) this year. Heavily electronic R&B with great grooves and terrific songwriting.

#45: Angel Olsen, My Woman
Great Asheville-based singer-songwriter with crunchy hooky country-blues full of yearning and melancholy

#44: Whitney, Light Upon the Lake
Low-key well-crafted '60s-flavored pop and soul anchored in Julien Ehlrich's expressive high-pitched voice and careful instrumentation.

#43: Kishi Bashi, Sonderlust
Sunny, fun upbeat electronic pop with hooks that are impossible to ignore unless you're dead, and even then...

#42: School of Seven Bells, SVIIB
Recorded by Alejandra Deheza using parts recorded by former member Benjamin Curtis (who died in 2013), this is moving tribute, sad and yet uplifting - and proof that electronic music can have heart. Just listen to "Open Your Eyes."

#41: The Thermals, We Disappear
Punky well crafted rock, short and sweet songs with nicely political lyrics

#40: Martha, Blisters in the Pit of My Heart
I'm not surprised this album ended up right next to The Thermals as it's the same kind of high speed, punk-flavored melodic rock.

#39: Savages, Adore Life
A step up from their debut album (which didn't quite make the cut in my 2013 albums list), this is an intense urgent effort, a worthy post-punk offering of chugging basslines and dark guitar.

#38: Sad13, Slugger
This is nothing like the guitar shreadding of Speedy Ortiz (for which Sadie Dupuis, aka Sad13, is known), this is a collection of cheeky synth-pop, including the anti-date rape "Get a Yes" and the extremely rude "Hype."

#37: Kyle Craft, Dolls of Highland
In this year in which David Bowie died, this serves as a kind of tribute album to his '70s glam period. There's even a song called "Berlin" that wouldn't be entirely out of place on Ziggy Stardust.

#36: Margo Price, Midwest Farmer's Daughter
A Nashville-based, Illinois-born singer-songwriter very much in the Emmy Lou Harris/Dolly Parton tradition, Margo Price's songs are positioned clearly in the "he done me wrong" and "I'm hurtin'" school. Fairly traditional country sound without the overblown and overly slick production of mainstream country.

#35: The Mowgli's, Where'd Your Weekend Go?
Tuneful melodic pop-rock, not surprising for a band from that home of bright pop, Los Angeles County.

#34: Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen was a terrific songwriter but his gravelly almost spoken-word voice made it hard to get behind his own albums: he tended to be an artist whose best work was covered by othersy. This, his last album before his death, plays to his limited voice with great success based on soul and R&B flavored backing tracks.

#33: Misty Miller, The Whole Family Is Worried
Misty Miller is like a tighter, slicker Courtney Barnett. This is a great punk-pop album with terrific hooks and the occasional slow moment, highlighted by Miller's yearning, pleading voice.

#32: The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It
This group could be called 1985 with its '80s-inspired synth-pop, although the vocal approach and melodies definitely place the album in current times.

#31: Esme Patterson, We Were Wild
A wide-ranging collection of styles that somehow hangs together around her charming voice. The opening track is a kick-ass piece of acoustic rock with a Pretenders feel. "We Were Wild" is a slice of country-rock. There's soul, rock, and R&B ixed in there, too.

#30: John Congleton and the Nighty NiteUntil the Horror Goes
John Congleton is known more for his higly in-demand production skills. He unlooses his quirky voice on this collection of equally quirky songs. Take something like "The White Powerless" which is a fairly straightforward piece of '60s soul that's turned into something quite different and almost threatening with buzzing electronics and treated vocals. And those lyrics: "I love you like a lion loves its food."

#29: Devandra Banhart, Ape In Pink Marble
I've had trouble getting into Devendra Banhart in the past. It just seemed like he was trying too hard to be weird and this didn't always produce the best music. But this balances melodicism with quirky instrumentation and the occasional musical u-turn. Recalls Nick Drake, Laurel Canyon folk, but also includes slinky almost dance numbers like "Fig in Leather."

#28: ANOHNI, Hopelessness
A powerful set of neo-soul, torch songs featuring her incredible voice. The most emotional and moving album of the year. If you don't feel something listening to this, you may need a heart transplant.

#27: Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
One of three artists on this year's list that also land on my "I can't believe they're still alive" list (the other two being the Chili Peppers and Green Day). This is a surprisingly melodic outing with a kind of David Bowie feel via electronics, distorted bass lines, and industrial rock.

#26: The Julie Ruin, Hit Reset
Quirky and almost amateurish but with enough skill to pull it together into something coherent and quite charming.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Best Albums of 2016: #100-51

#1-25 #26-50 Good albums that didn't make the cut

  1. Crying, Beyond the Fleeting Gates
  2. Bear Hands, You'll Pay For This
  3. Bob Mould, Patch the Sky
  4. Tancred, Out of the Garden
  5. Skylar Grey, Natural Causes
  6. Japanese Breakfast, Psychopomp
  7. Big Thief, Masterpiece
  8. Andrew Bird, Are You Serious
  9. Wilco, Schmilco
  10. Daniel Romano, Mosey
  11. The Arkells, Morning Report
  12. Hurry, Guided Meditation
  13. PJ Harvey, The  Hope Six Demolition Project
  14. Emma Ruth Rundle, Marked for Death
  15. The Dandy Warhols, Distortland
  16. The Pretty Reckless, Who You Selling For
  17. Kaleo, A/B
  18. Weezer, Weezer (White Album)
  19. Black Mountain, IV
  20. Peter, Bjorn and John, Breakin' Point
  21. The Strumbellas, Hope
  22. Saint Motel, saintmotelevision
  23. Grouplove, Big Mess
  24. Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math
  25. Nothing, Tired of Tomorrow
  26. Greg Laswell, Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet
  27. Slingshot Dakotas, Break
  28. Andy Shauf, The Party
  29. Green Day, Revolution Radio
  30. The Bouncing Souls, Simplicity
  31. The Prettiots, Funs Cool
  32. Globalamp, The Orange Glow
  33. Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life
  34. Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway
  35. Bats For Lashes, The Bride
  36. Feels, self-titled
  37. Alex Cameron, Jumping the Shark
  38. Sioux Falls, Rot Forever
  39. John Doe, The Westerner
  40. The Handsome Family, Unseen
  41. Frightened Rabbit, Painting of a Panic Attack
  42. Anna Meredith, Varmints
  43. TOY, Clear Shot
  44. of Montreal, Innocence Reaches
  45. Weyes Blood, Front Row Seat to Earth
  46. Kyle Morton, What Will Destroy You
  47. The Nobility, Ashford Castle
  48. Highasakite, Camp Echo
  49. Okkervil River, Away
  50. Band of Skulls, By Default


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Best Albums of 2016: Who Didn't Make the Cut

Starting off my "Best Albums of 2016" process, here are the albums that did NOT make the cut. Not that they're not good records (I skim everything first so they had to grab some degree of my attention). In fact, I think I own more from this list than from the top 100 as what I admire artistically and appreciate musically may not always be what I want to listen to.
  • A-Wa, Habib Galbi
  • Aaron Lee Tasjan, Silver Tears
  • Adan & Xavi y Los Imanes, self-titled
  • Against the Current, In Our Bones
  • American Authors, What We Live For
  • American Football, LP2
  • Angelica Garcia, Medicine for Birds
  • Ash Koosha, |AKA|
  • The Avett Brothers, True Sadness
  • Bad Rabbits, American Nightmare
  • Band of Horses, Why Are You OK?
  • Bastille, Wild World
  • Bayonne, Primitives
  • Bear's Den, Red Earth and Pouring Rain
  • Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Call It What It Is
  • Beth Orton, Kidsticks
  • The Black Queen, Fever Daydream
  • Blind Pilot, And Then Like Lions
  • Bombino, Azel
  • Brett Dennen, Por Favor
  • Brian Eno, The Ship
  • The Coathangars, Nosebleed Weekend
  • Chris Pureka, Back in the Ring
  • Cullen Omori, New Misery
  • Damien Jurado, Visions of Us on the Land
  • Dawes, We're All Gonna Die
  • The Dean Ween Group, The Deaner Album
  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Person A
  • Empire of the Sun, Two Vines
  • Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness
  • Fitz and the Tantrums, self-titled
  • Flume, Skin
  • Frankie Cosmos, Next Thing
  • Free Cake For Every Creature, Talking Quietly of Everything With You
  • Half Waif, Probable Depths
  • Hamilton Leithauser/Rostam, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
  • Hayes Carll, Lovers and Leavers
  • Highly Suspect, The Boy Who Died Wolf
  • Honeysuckle, self-titled
  • Imarhan, self-titled
  • Ingrid Michaelson, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense
  • Into It. Over It., Standards
  • Islands, Should I Remains Here At Sea?
  • Jacob Collier, In My Room
  • James Blake, The Colour In Anything
  • Jason Collett, Song and Dance Man
  • JEFF the Brotherhood, ZONE
  • Jessy Lanza, Oh No
  • Jim James, Eternally Even
  • Jimmy Eat World, Integrity Blues
  • Justice, Woman
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Ears
  • King, We Are KING
  • Kristin Kontrol, X-Communicate
  • Lake Street Dive, Side Pony
  • Lambchop, FLOTUS
  • Larry Groce, Live Forever
  • Laura Gibson, Empire Builder
  • LIGHTS, Midnight Machines
  • Lily & Madelaine, Keep It Together
  • Lisa Hannigan, At Swim
  • Lori McKenna, The Bird and the Rifle
  • Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts of Highway 20
  • Lucius, Good Grief
  • Lukas Graham, Lukas Graham
  • Lucy Dacus, No Burden
  • Lvl Up, Return to Love
  • The Lumineers, Cleopatra
  • M83, Junk
  • M. Ward, More Rain
  • Mannequin Pussy, Romantic
  • Marcus Balter, Balter/Saunier
  • Maren Morris, Hero
  • Marissa Nadler, Strangers
  • Minor Victories, self-titled
  • Mothers, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired
  • My Bubba, Big Bad Good
  • Nakeen, oddments of the gamble
  • Peter Wolf, A Cure for Loneliness
  • Pinegrove, Cardinal
  • Pity Sex, White Hot Moon
  • The Pixies, Head Carrier
  • Porches, Pools
  • Rachel Newton, Here's My Heart Come Take It
  • The Range, Potential
  • Ray LaMontagne, Ouroboros
  • Real Friends, The Home Inside My Head
  • The Record Company, Give It Back to You
  • Robert Ellis, self-titled
  • Rufus Wainwright, Take All My Loves - 9 Shakespearean Sonnets
  • RY X, Dawn
  • Ryley Walker, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
  • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop, Love Letter For Fire
  • Santigold, 99 Cents
  • Seratones, Get Done
  • Shearwater, Jet Plane & Oxbow
  • The Shelters, self-titled
  • Shovel & Ropes, Little Seeds
  • Sleigh Bells, Jessica Rabbit
  • Slow Club, One Day All of This Won't Matter Amymore
  • Snarky Puppy, Culcha Vulcha
  • Snowblink, Returning Current
  • Søren Juul, This Moment
  • Sound of Ceres, Nostalgia for Infinity
  • St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sea of Noise
  • Sting, 57th and 9th
  • STRFKR, Being No One, Going Nowhere
  • The Suffers, self-titled
  • Sunflower Bean, Human Ceremony
  • Tall Heights, Neptune
  • Tegan and Sara, Love You to Death
  • Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, A Man Alive
  • Thrice, To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere
  • Tim Hecker, Love Streams
  • Tom Odell, Wrong Crowd
  • Tove Lo, Lady Wood
  • Twin Limb, Haplo
  • Weaves, self-titled
  • Wet, Don't You
  • White Lung, Paradise
  • Will Butler, Friday Night
  • With Confidence, Better Weather
  • Wye Oak, Tween
  • Yak, Alas Salvation
  • Young the Giant, Home of the Strange
  • Yuck, Stranger Things
  • ZHU, GENERATIONWHY