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2016: Records of the Year

07 Dec Ask Greg, News | Comments
2016: Records of the Year

Here we are. Another year of absolutely terrific music. I don’t know that I listened to the goal of 340+ new (to me) albums this year, but I gave it the ol’ college try. I’m still getting acclimated to the new era of music listening, taking advantage of the potential of the streaming services. The order of my favorite records probably change on the day you ask me. Ultimately, this list is just a collection of things I enjoyed this year, and not intended as a definitive “these are the best records of the year in this order” list.

As always, here is the list for my favorite’s from the previous year!

12. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool

It’s always exciting to have a year with a new Radiohead record. I was pretty turned off to their last album, but AMSP was more of what I was looking for. Lush production, dense layering, and arrangements allowing Johnny Greenwood to flex his cinematic muscles. The accompanying Paul Thomas Anderson music videos were a lovely touch.

11. ThriceTo Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

I will always have a soft spot for all things Thrice. There aren’t many bands who I feel have matured (musically) in lock step with me. They were heavy when I wanted heavy, experimental when I wanted experimental, and always managed to be consistent & authentic in the process. The new album is just a good alternative rock record. The production, lyrics, riffs, are again all things I’ve been looking for in music. Black Honey and Hurricane are two songs that are on my list of the year.

10. O’Brother – Endless Light

This is such a stunning release. Perhaps my favorite in their already terrific catalog. A perfect blend of heavy, dark, atmospheric, and melodic. It was a perfect running partner for our overcast spring. Such a consistent record from front to back, with a perfect production to suit the songs.

9. OwenThe King of Whys

This is the first installment of the Mike Kinsella love on this list. On the surface, it’s very much typical Owen album. Sarcastic, snarky, mathy, and beautiful. The S.Carey production (a name seen on previous lists) puts an emphasis on more creative instrumentation, as well an improved vocal delivery.

8. Magnet SchoolThe Art of Telling the Truth

I didn’t know we’d be getting a new Magnet School record this year, so I was doubly excited when it was released. The larger than life spacey indie rock sound supports some great songs. It just feels like gigantic drums and a couple of jazzmasters are right in your ears playing perfectly crafted poppy tunes.

7. DeftonesGore

I don’t know how these guys are still doing it. Gore is a slight departure in production and songwriting for them, but it was exactly what I wanted to hear the moment I heard it. It’s on the lighter side for a Deftness record, but the atmospheric production really suits the songs. This was a great counterpunch to the O’Brother record that was released around the same time.

6. Bon Iver22, A Million

Like many people, I love everything Justin Vernon releases. Like many people, I was anxiously awaiting the return of his Bon Iver. Based on the direction of some of the performances I had seen, I had anticipated some additional electronic elements to his ‘sound’. That’s quite the understatement. This album leans more towards samples, keys, and a custom vocal effect than that of the traditional organic instrumentation. Because of that, it’s in a world all its own. It’s a terrifically unique, dense and brilliant record.

5. PinegroveCardinal

I couldn’t tell you the last time a band I saw at a show made the top 5. I was admittedly late to the Pinegrove party, but I absolutely love their music. They opened up the Chicago date of the Into It Over It tour, and the wife and I were hooked. They have such a distinct sound, blending elements of indie, alt country, and classic influences like Paul Simon. Just a terrific record, and probably near the most listened to album this year.

4. American FootballLP2

This would have been on my most anticipated list of the decade had I known there was a chance it would happen. Given their brief history, there is a lot of reasons why this record could have failed to meet expectations after such a long hiatus, but it’s a GREAT record. Mathy, complex, and gorgeous. So thrilled these guys are getting back to it, because they are only getting better with age.

3. Into It Over ItStandards

Evan has truly become a terrific songwriter. His lyrics are fantastic, his guitar parts are intricate, and he’s developed such a keen ear for the ‘song’. I love the story behind the album, crafting it in a remote winter cabin and recording it in an all analog environment. But beyond that, the songs are great, the flow is great, and it’s really just a wonderful record.

2. Butch Walker Stay Gold

You know I love Butch. That’s a tremendous understatement. I LOVE Butch. I was so stoked on another full length release in consecutive years. This record is the antithesis to his last release. It’s a big, high energy, cap tip to 80’s anthem rock a’la The Boss. Just some terrific songwriting meeting a great production & performance. One of the most listened to records of 2016, for sure.

1. BaronessPurple

This album. A tricky grey area. It came out with a week to spare in 2015, not 2016. But, the list was written, and I like to give a record more than 7 days to really listen to it. So, it’s on the 2016 list, to give it full credit.

But GODDAMN it’s a stunning record. The perfect blend of heavy and melodic. Riffy, mathy, high energy, and incredibly authentic. A modern heavy record, with nods to classic rock, classical, progressive influences. Just perfect.

 
Should be on the list:
Lybria – Apogee
Longtime students & friends in Lybria have been chewing on this album for years. Literal years. They are finally releasing it in 2016, but it’s not out yet. I had the pleasure of recording most of it, mixing all of it, and even playing a little guitar on it. I love it, a lot, but I’m probably too close to it to put it in the top list where it deserves to be. It’s unfortunate that it’s coming out now, because it’s going to miss being on a lot of people’s lists of the year…..because the record is absolutely spectacular and (imo) deserving.

 

Just missed the big list:

J RobbinsOur Own Devices / Anodyne
J Robbins from Jawbox/Burning Airlines will always be one of my favs. These songs are stunning. If there were more than 4, it would be a top 3 album. Incredible songs.

Daughter Not To Disappear
Terrific somber, emotional, atmospheric female fronted indie rock.

David BazanBlanco
Another album that would have made the list, but most of these tunes were already released in ’15 as part of the EP collection.

The Life and Times – Doppelgängers
A killer covers record from one of my favorite bands. The Romantic cover is a song of the year. Addicted to it.

WeezerWhite
Weezer hasn’t been on the list since maybe ’96. This album is just a blast. Welcome back.

 

Other Stuff I dug.
Autolux – Pussy’s Dead
More electronic influenced indie pop.

Red Fang – Only Ghosts
Fun Stoner rock.

Tycho – Epoch
Chill electronic tunes.

Brian fallon – Painkillers
Simple pop rock tunes.

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
An all time favorite band, produced by an all time favorite producer/mixer.

Sunjacket – Mantra
Chicago local electronic infused indie rock. Terrific.

Sequoia – Shots
Angular indie rock produced by Al & Eric from The Life and Times. Their best work!

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years
Great noisy indie rock songs with dense layers. Love it.

Wilco – Schmilco
More of the same from Wilco. Just solid tunes performed by great musicians.

Russian Circles – Guidance
Heavy instrumental tunes from guys who helped define the genre.

This Town Needs Guns – Disappointment Island
Mathy, complex, technical, smart indie rock. Impossible guitars.

Little Tybee – S/T
Interesting tunes, but the focus is on the legendary guitarist Josh Martin.

Tiny Moving Parts – Celebrate
High energy indie rock with just killer killer riffage.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
This is the record of the year for many people. Just terrific indie / garage rock.

Mock Orange – Put the Kid on the Sleepy Horse
These guys have released some of my all time favorite music. I was stoked to get this record, but I didn’t love it.

Saosin – Along the shadow
Heavy alt rock with killer riffage, and a big production.

Lifted Bells – Overreactor
Chicago indie rock all star band.

Sioum – Yet Further
Local friends writing a phenomenal cinematic prog record.

Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
A great 90’s call back record. Really dug this.

British Theater – Mastery
Electronic music from the Oceansize frontman.

Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
Just great indie rock tunes from the Husker Du frontman.

Nels Cline – Lovers
Amazing stuff from the legendary experimental guitarist.

The Suffers – S/T
Huge funky pop soul tunes from Texas.

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
I wish the rest of the modern country industry would follow this guy’s leade.

 

Didn’t Do It For Me:

The Dear Hunter – V
Imagine one of the most well written pages you’ve ever seen, with zero capitalization, punctuation, or grammar. I miss what these records were.

Metallica – Hardwired to Self Destruct
I get it. Metallica released a record that isn’t as bad as the previous releases. But, let’s face it, this band has been bad longer than they have been good. Once the recency bias wears off, and people want to listen to Metallica/metal/something heavy, are they going to reach for this over the first 4-5? I see this being on the top of the pile of Load, Reload, Garage Inc, S&M, St Anger, Lulu, & Death Magnetic.

Ad-libs for Metallica reviews:
They are finally _____ again.

It’s nice to hear them finally play ____ again.

It’s the best release since ____.

Lars’ drumming is totally ____.

 

Some of my favorite songs of the year

Thrice
Black Honey

J. Robbins
Our Own Devices

The Life and Times
Talking in Your Sleep

Pinegrove
Cadmium

Sunjacket
Grandstanders

Butch Walker
Ludlow Expectations

 


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