Top Music for 2016
It’s that time of year again, time to review my favorite music from the year. This last twelve months has been particularly difficult to strum through due to not having Last.fm on my phone since March. Last.fm keeps track of all your played music retroactively, however lately I’ve been playing significantly more music through my Sonos system at home which doesn’t work with the app to my knowledge. I need to look into getting the application working again on my phone and through Sonos, but this year it’s out. Due to that, this is a much more manual review than data centric.
This was another really good year for music generally. I’m listening to fewer albums, I think partly because podcasts are becoming a much more prominent use of my time. They are an excellent way to learn about new things while in the car or at work while doing otherwise menial tasks like updating spreadsheets, etc. Music isn’t becoming less important, but it is getting harder to keep up with all the albums from bands I used to listen to more frequently and the new bands discovered in the course of the year. The fact that my year end lists reflect albums from different periods and outside the sequential chronology of a musician is a good thing as it provides more of a rounded view on the content over time.
TLDR: great year, tough to choose, here we go:
Chvrches – Every Open Eye: Another gem from the synth keyboard rock set from the United Kingdom. This band puts out rich synth pop with many layers, and most songs are of such catchy, replay value high intensity that it’s surprising they aren’t top ten. Tough cut, but it was a good music year.
Okkervil River – Away: Likely an album I’ll return to in the future, Away was a beautiful deviation from the previous Okkervil records, due to altering the band. Will Sheff compiled some truly amazing songs and lyrics in this one. He believes it to be his best record. I don’t currently feel that way over a few earlier records, but have to feel this album will outlast them. Okkervil River RIP, Comes Indiana Through The Smoke and a few others are timeless. That is very difficult to do.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music: The first modern country album I’d bought in, well ever really unless you count alt country rock bands…and I don’t. I’d heard some rumblings about his 2016 relase A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, listened to a bit of it on Amazon but never bought it for some reason. This album was on sale about a month back and I figured it a good time to get in. It’s really well done and was a prompt for my last tangent on music throughout my life simply for the fact that country hasn’t had a prominent place, yet that seems like it will change if artists such as this exist and put out material. Good music is good regardless of genre. I have a feeling his 2016 release, by most accounts his best work, may find it’s way on to my 2017 list.
Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN: Heady, sultry singing and rock music from a new voice with lots to add. Songs touching at the core of human emotions in relationships while still jamming out a bit.
The official list of top ten albums from the year:
#10: Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid – Ian Bavitz is aging, much like the rest of us. Seems unlikely for this one, a veritable walking dictionary explaining concepts in crossword rap, colored by mood altering backgrounds wont to alter at any moment, for the better or worse depending on the direction he wants to guide you. Rap is a young mans game, it would seem. Of course, to a certain extent, music is as well. Aes is aging extremely well. He is human and copes with multiple issues on record. He brings you in and shares difficulty, the effort needed to move on, and more. The Impossible Kid may not be his best album, but it’s as good as any of them, if that makes any sense. His craft is mastered at this point, he’s just picking his spots. And you shouldn’t miss any of it.
#9: NOFX, First Ditch Effort – A long time favorite. Definitely in my top five bands all time. They put together another punk gem, rife with funny subject matter that is always worth listening to. It’s catchy punk, but Fat Mike pulls no punches either–he’s still at odds with a great deal of American policies and many who promote them.
This is their best effort since Coaster for certain, and perhaps better than Wolves in Wolves Clothing. Probably only a good buy for someone who already likes the genre.
#8: Modern Baseball, Holy Ghost – This is the first album of this band I’ve purchased. It took quite a few listens to get into the thick of it. Once I did, it was pretty obvious why so many people think they are the next big thing in alt rock. It’s fast, energetic music yes, but it’s also honest and forthright about what’s happening in the lives of the band members. They wear their emotional hearts on their sleeves and put out an honest record with enough variety to keep you coming back.
I’ll likely purchase some other albums to see what else they’ve cooked up, but the quality for this album is very good while still being a high energy work. There aren’t enough of those bands right now.
#7: Bon Iver, 22, A Million – Justin Vernon has been a favorite of mine for some time. Regardless of the project, from Bon Iver to Volcano Choir to his other multiple collaborations, his works are always very good. I heard this album in its entirety at Eaux Claires Music Festival in the summer, and at the time stood under rapture for roughly an hour as he put on one of the better live performances in my recollection. At that point in time it seemed this was destined to be album of the year. It took another few months for it to arrive officially, and at that point something was lost. The album is good, but there are enough points of disconnect throughout that as an entire work it does not seem as good as either of his prior releases. Many will disagree with this thought as it has been cited as his best album.
This is still an excellent record. The opening track is one of the better…