Oh, 2016... You're Gone and That's Totally Cool.

This was another very quiet year from me.  Regrettable as that is, it was an unfortunate aspect of my current professional situation, which I'm hoping levels off in the next couple of weeks.  I'm going to make the same promises I made last year, which was to be more visible, more active, and more engaging.  In the meantime, even though I didn't get to write much about it, I still heard a lot of great music in 2016.  So, I was at least able to come up with a list of my favorites that I hope you all enjoy.  I also hope that, if you disagree, you can comment or hit me up via email.  I'd be happy to debate or discuss.

2016 began without much time to absorb the death of Lemmy Kilmister before the world lost David Bowie.  As if to set a precedent for how the year was going to play out, Bowie's death seemed the starting point for a ridiculous streak of musical losses that I just grew numb to after a while:  Glenn Frey, Phife Dawg, Prince, Sharon Jones, Alan Vega, Greg Lake, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Bernie Worrell, Prince Buster, Scotty Moore, Alphonse Mouzon, Pauline Oliveros, Phil Chess... we even lost the man many consider to be the 5th Beatle.  With that said, and with Bowie's passing in mind, it's likely that my top choice for 2016 will be perceived as predictable and boring.  But, Bowie's ★ affected me quite a bit, as it did others.  So, while I don't normally like to pander to or even acknowledge the popular consensus surrounding music, in this instance I couldn't really ignore what was both an excellent and tragic final release from an artist the likes of which we will never know again.  We're lucky to have had him. 

In terms of albums I missed, probably most noteworthy was my intentional omission of Thee Oh Sees, who released two albums this year, A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances.  I ignored Thee Oh Sees because I've begun to feel self-conscious about bands that seem to regularly wind up in my top fifteen.  Without question Thee Oh Sees normally belong in that list, but the fact that John Dwyer's annual output leaves me feeling conflicted about the group's continual inclusion in my round-up made me wait on picking up either album.  It was stupid to feel this way, though.  They'll both be added to my library this year.

I also fucked up with Neurosis, Tortoise, Puce Mary, Autolux, Marissa Nadler, DJ Shadow, Dinosaur Jr., Russian Circles, clipping., Frank Ocean... Yeah, I have no excuse. 

My hopes were high, as was my naivete, for Iggy Pop's Post-Pop Depression album due to Josh Homme's involvement, but I found it very disappointing.  I was also disappointed with Bob Mould's Patch The Sky thanks to that awful vocal effect that bathes his voice on very track.  Seems petty, but my ears couldn't get around it.  I also couldn't figure out the appeal of The 1975 or Whitney.  Someone will have to explain those bands to me.

Anyway, here are my favorite albums of 2016.  Thanks for reading. 

Letters From A Tapehead

15). A Tribe Called QuestWe Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

14). SavagesAdore Life

"Following the acclaim of their first LP, 2013’s Silence Yourself, the post-punk quartet known as Savages offered their much-anticipated follow-up in 2016, Adore Life, an artful and aggressive treatise on love that more than delivers on the intensity promised by its predecessor. While it’s clear Savages smoothed out some of the rougher edges heard on their last album, Adore Life is no less exciting, the rambunctious persistence of 'The Answer' leading into the disco-propulsion of 'Evil,' throbbing and hypnotic rhythmic loops of 'Sad Person' met by 'Adore'’s sultry strut and patient climax. Vocalist Jehnny Beth’s adept expression remains crucial to the band’s makeup, a sound that owes some thanks to the likes of Siouxsie Sioux or Lizzy Mercier Descloux without being at all a facsimile. The distant scream she lets out that sets 'Slowing Down the World' off into a discordant haze a minute from the song’s close is one of my favorite musical moments of the year. Adore Life is the work of a band that continues to thrive, their creative growth evident and offering much to await in the coming years." – transcribed from No Ripcord's Top Albums of 2016

13). The Dwarfs of East AgouzaBes

12). The CoathangersNosebleed Weekend

11). Kendrick Lamaruntitled unmastered.

"While untitled unmastered. technically qualifies as more of a compilation of demos than a proper release, Kendrick Lamar’s surprise follow-up to his excellent To Pimp A Butterfly LP stands as a worthy addition to his canon, an album rich with multi-instrumental explorations of jazz, funk, blues and soul. Lamar continues to be every bit the lyrical craftsman, ably working through every track with a seamlessness that’s always remarkable. The first track that caught my attention was "untitled 03 | 05.28.2013," Thundercat’s minimal bass strokes driving Lamar’s analysis of race and the American dream. Also notable is "untitled 5 | 09.21.2014," an arpeggiated series of bass notes, light brass, and opening stanza from singer Anna Wise, providing a captivating backdrop for Lamar, Punch and Jay Rock to throw around verses." – transcribed from No Ripcord's Top Albums of 2016

10). OpethSorceress

9). AlaricEnd Of Mirrors

"It’s easy enough to point out that Alaric’s sound revolves around the shadows, its dark expanses permeating each track as indication that some cavernous dwelling was provided in which the band could both reside and perform. I would say would, though, that this deepness or bleakness has more affecting resonance than the superficial utilization of a 'misery for misery’s sake' device meant to appease goth fanatics or appeal to angst-riddled frequenters of the local Hot Topic." – 5.4.16

8).  VirusMemento Collider

"Virus has released a follow-up to (The) Agent (That Shapes The Desert) called Memento Collider, a six-track return following five years of silence. That album’s longest offering, 'Afield,' occurs right at the beginning. The guitar sounds are expectedly icy and splintered; the low end and drummed groove still prominent. And vocalist/guitarist Carl 'Czral' Michael Eid still performs his dramatic narratives with a cadence that evokes campfire tales or a B-movie voice-over, an expressive tone that at times passes for an almost croon. Czral’s guitars phrases glaze the track’s disco propulsive swing, his strummed melodies delivered in threes and rarely allowed to stray from his minimalist design." – 6.24.16

7). Leonard CohenYou Want It Darker

"The much beloved singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away this year at the age of 82 a little less than a month after releasing You Want It Darker, his chilling and beautiful closing act. As was the case with David Bowie’s Blackstar earlier this year, Cohen’s ailing health weighs heavy within the album’s contents, his very dry admission, 'Hineni, hineni… I’m ready, my Lord,' less of a self-assuring pep talk before venturing into the unknown than an aware declaration to his Maker. And while Cohen’s words sound consumed by fate for most of the album, ('I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game…,' 'I’m traveling light/It’s au revoir/My once so bright/My fallen star…'), he addresses love and loss with the candor and clarity of a being who has only known and expressed truth in his life. “They ought to give my heart a medal/For letting go of you/When I turned my back on the devil/Turned my back on the angel too,” his voice somewhere between a spoken blues or gravelly croon as he sings in 'On the Level,' testimony from an artist whose finale proves as essential as his most celebrated work." – transcribed from No Ripcord's Top Albums of 2016

6). SwansThe Glowing Man

"For what was a stunningly prolific and creative stretch for Michael Gira’s latest iteration of Swans, The Glowing Man is the final installment. Having revived Swans in 2010 with the excellent My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky after a lengthy period of inactivity, Gira’s vision grew exponentially in scope with every subsequent release, his soundscapes rich with layered repetition and mighty crescendos. For its almost 2-hour runtime, The Glowing Man continues to challenge listeners, tempting accusations of pretension and self-indulgence with lengthy intros (“Cloud of Unknowing”) and a penchant for compositional ruts (“The World Looks Red/The World Looks Black”). But, for all its excesses, the album pulses with unbridled energy and a seemingly limitless imagination, ideas that result in something enormous and distinct. Yes, The Glowing Man is a heavy listen, but only if you mean heavy on reward." – transcribed from Phawker's THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Our Favorite Albums of 2016

5). AnenonPetrol

"Anenon is the moniker of one Brian Allen Simon, saxophonist and creative presence behind Petrol, whose composed intersections of soft and rushed are manifest in such a way as to find solace in spite of constant stimuli. Petrol is apparently an ode to the Los Angeles highway, though there's a lot of serenity within these grooves, too much to attribute to the frustration, anxiety, and stress one experiences when stuck in traffic." – 7.15.16

4). Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree

" 'You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field/Near the river Adur,' Nick Cave narrates, his voice cold and stark against the mesmerizing pulse of 'Jesus Alone,' the song that opens Skeleton Tree, the latest album from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Having been dealt the tragic and sudden loss of his son, Arthur, in 2015, any expectation that Cave’s follow-up to 2013’s Push The Sky Away would be heartbreaking was met with Skeleton Tree, itself rife with somber and cathartic poetry. Though compositionally minimal, the album’s emotional density is, at times, a lot to bear. By the end of 'Magneto,' one of the Skeleton Tree’s more beautifully rendered offerings, its weight becomes almost suffocating. In 'Anthrocene,' a percussive loop and ghostly melody behind Cave’s vocal, his lamentations are turned to the world, an acquaintance with personal loss qualifying his closing advice: 'Close your eyes, little world/And brace yourself.' " – transcribed from Phawker's THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Our Favorite Albums of 2016

3). Child BiteNegative Noise

"I admit to romanticizing a bit when I listen to Child Bite, convinced of a few things but most especially this: That if bath salts had been a thing when Saccharine Trust’s Surviving You, Always or Black Flag’s The Process of Weeding Out had first been unleashed upon the malcontented hardcore class of 1980-whenever, a fringe-variety evolution of some sort would’ve birthed a group like Child Bite much sooner. Thankfully, we have them now. Following-up the serrated bliss of 2014’s Strange Waste EP, Child Bite, the nihilistic purveyors of punk-abstraction, deliver unto us Negative Noise, an appropriately titled long-player packed with a dizzying array of vitriolic and bizarre. From the mantra-driven intensity of 'Death Before Dementia,' to the queasy loop of low end that drives 'Paralytic Phantasm,' and then the relentless, near-progressive phrasing of 'Born A Hog,' Child Bite’s Greg Ginn-centric post-everything blend of art and antagonism remains compelling. The persistent and heavy pulse of 'Video Blood' is satisfyingly abrasive. For 2016, Child Bite is one of the year’s most necessary acts, keeping the fringe alive with perverse and delightfully weird possibilities." – transcribed from No Ripcord's Second Chance Selection (January - June 2016)

2). Danny BrownAtrocity Exhibition 

1). David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)

"It’s worth mentioning that Blackstar is on the level of some of (David) Bowie’s most acclaimed work, especially the more instrumentally progressive and modern aspects of albums like Station to Station and Low. In its relatively short run time of 41 minutes, Blackstar is vast. With Bowie’s constant appreciation for new sounds yielding unexpected forms of electronic and rock experimentation, jazz and string arrangements, and hip-hop rhythms, he’d reportedly taken cues from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and the 'sound and vision' tactics of Death Grips. With a group of jazz musicians led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Bowie slowly drapes his melodic syllables across the title track, combatting the song’s otherwise heightened tempo. McCaslin’s saxophone adds a layer of calm to the piece, its percussion frantic and Bowie’s voice infused with something dark, almost pleading. The second half of the song has a more relaxed stride, its initial restlessness entering into what sounds like resigned understanding. Bowie sings, 'Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside/Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried/(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar).' It’s been theorized that the album’s title may mean 'lesion,' as some forms of cancers tend to look like black stars. As Bowie lists and then denies his reputation as a 'filmstar,' a 'popstar,' or a 'star star,' he’s ultimately renouncing his accolades, accepting that he’s been beaten by his condition in as meaningful a way as possible." – 1.8.16

And, here are my follow ups:

16). DeerhoofThe Magic

17). Ty SegallEmotional Mugger

18). RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool

19). Kaada/PattonBacteria Cult

20). Death GripsBottomless Pit

21). PJ HarveyThe Hope Six Demolition Project

22). Psychic TeensNerve

23). Skinny Girl DietHeavy Flow

24). Cult Of Luna/Julie ChristmasMariner

25). So Pittedneo

26). Wire Nocturnal Koreans

27). WarpaintHeads Up

28). Hooded Fang Venus On Edge

29). EluviumFalse Readings On

30). The Album Leaf Between Waves

31). The Joy FormidableHitch

32). NothingTired of Tomorrow

33). SiaThis is Acting

34). Bob MouldPatch the Sky

35). Iggy PopPost Pop Depression

Singles & EPs:

2). The Holy Circles/t

4). Nisennenmondai#6

Letters From A Tapehead


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