Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Justin's Favorite Music Albums of 2016 Part 4.

And so we come at last to the end, I have to admit it's been a bit of a chore, but it's also been kinda fun. I've enjoyed getting to talk about some great artists (albeit briefly) and introduce people to them. If you're interested in catching up on parts 1 - 3 as well as figuring out how I'm formatting this and whatnot check out the links to the right under the dates, these have all been posted in December of 2016.

I'll probably be going back to 25 or less next year, but hope you've enjoyed this and not just been overwhelmed or bored.

And now we finish this:

76. Run the Jewels - RTJ3

Playing a little fast and loose here because while Run the Jewels did release RTJ3 digitally in 2016, their physical release won't be til 2017. Despite that, I'm allowing it on my list because it's just such a fun, good rap album, as all their albums are. El-P and Killer Mike are masters.****

77. School of Seven Bells - SVIIB

A beautiful album of dream pop tunes that might be this band's last album, though I hope not, cause it's one of their best and only shows potential for greater and greater heights.****

78. Seth Bogart - Self - Titled

The titular Hunx from Hunx and His Punx, Seth Bogart creates infectious pop that is as much garage rock as pop. His newest album, and first true self release is both a celebration and critique of the celebrity culture that he lives in, with bouncy synth pop tunes and crunchy garage rock numbers. Throughout Bogart's sexuality (he is openly gay and even considers himself part of the "queercore" genre) plays a backdrop to his experiences of life around him, as is true of all of us, our identities always affecting our worldviews. It makes for an affecting, honest, happy album.***

79. Shearwater - Jet Plane and Oxbow

Shearwater plays that rare mysterious sound somewhere between rock and indie folk, not alt-country, more indie rock with folk influences. This continues on Jet Plane and Oxbow which derives as much influence from the 80's as from the indie folk from their past album. With help from music composer Brian Retzell (known for composing music for The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and other films) this new album has a more cinematic and richer sound than they've ever had before.****

80. Shura - Nothing's Real

I heard of Shura while having a discussion about Carly Rae Jepsen believe it or not, who some friends were arguing that her newer album had a good synth sound. Someone mentioned Shura, and after listening to her I was in love. Synth pop that is infectious and fun, and even a little contemplative. With Kylie Minogue-esque sound and a strong sensibility for what makes good pop, Shura is sure to become a well known name in the music industry up there with Jepsen and others while also playing music worth listening to.***

81. Sin Fang - Spaceland

Like the name implies Spaceland is like an ambient electronic tour of the stars, and other worlds. Hailing from Iceland, and a part of the ensemble Seabear, Sin Fang usually plays a more earthy chamber pop/folk, but Spaceland is an adventure into a more electronic "future R&B" sound that is reminiscent of How To Dress Well, and other indie pop musicians. It's a really good album, and a nice new fresh direction for Sin Fang.***

82. Sound of Ceres - Nostalgia for Infinity

Being a major fan of the band Candy Claws, I was rightly excited when I heard that they'd branched off to form Sound of Ceres. And they did not fail to impress, Nostalgia For Infinity is a beautiful, stratospheric dream pop shoegaze record that feels very "infinite" and big. The album also features members from The Drums and Apples In Stereo, truly adding on to make a full, rich, sound that takes you on an adventure through the stratosphere of time and space.****

83. Springtime Carnivore - Midnight Room

"In my midnight room, I'll never stop dreamin of you." so says the title track, and the music is dreamy in just the same way, jangly, dreamy, folk pop with pianos and guitars that is a little bit Beach House as much as its own sound, and Greta Morgan's great voice to round out this amazing album. Definitely a great album that shows the potential for these artists.****

84. St. Lucia - Matter

One of the first albums I listened to in 2016, and still one of my favorites. Loud pop that is like a jolt of coffee, danceable and fun.****

85. Still Corners - Dead Blue

A little darker than their previous albums, Dead Blue is as much darkwave with it's synths as it is dream pop with its indie rock. It truly feels like the kind of album you might be listening to on a night drive through a dark and spooky forest like the cover shows. Spooky-pop, that should be a genre name.****

86. STRFKR - Being No One, Going Nowhere

I like to think of STRFKR as a sexier Passion Pit, but since I'm pretty sure they've been around longer than Passion Pit (or another similar band MGMT), you might say that those two are poppier versions of STRFKR (or their more NSFW name Starfucker), which plays funky indie pop that is danceable and head bobbable. This latest album is just as fun as the rest of their music, and just as danceable.***

87. T.O.L.D. - It's Not About The Witches

A good pop album that shows great potential to come. I also like to refer to this as "that album with the guy who looks like Joseph Gordon Levitt on the cover"***

88. Tancred - Out of the Garden

Definitely the most straight meat and potatoes rock of all the albums on these lists, Tancred is the solo work of Now, Now's guitarist Jess Abbot. A pure 90's "modern rock" sound. Gritty, grungy, and fun.***

89. Tasseomancy - Do Easy

Psychedelic indie folk that feels a bit like a drug trip (or so I'm sure, I wouldn't fully know lol). This is a very pretty album with atmospheric enchanting vocals.****

90. Thomas Cohen - Bloom Forever

Cohen was only 23 when his fiance, Peaches Geldof, died of heroin overdose. Throughout Bloom Forever Cohen uses late 70's-ish indie rock sounds to talk about grief, loss, and renewed hope. It's a sad and beautiful album.****

91. Tinpan Orange - Love Is A Dog

Pretty indie folk from this Melbourne Australia brother/sister duo who have made quite a name for themselves in Australia. ***

92. Tor Miller - American English

Few albums feel more "New York" than American English, with piano pop that you feel you might hear in a backroom bar, or on the stage of a local venue. It's a beautiful sound that feels like you're driving down the New York strip as the sun goes down, and the town is being lit up in electronic glow.***

93. VHS Glitch - Moral Decay

Rounding out my group of synthwave releases that I loved this year comes Moral Decay, another cinematic concept album about a cyberpunk dystopian future. With pulsing beats and synth sounds it stands out on its own merits as one of the best synthwave albums of the year.****

94. The Weeknd - Starboy

While Blood Orange channels Michael Jackson's more funky sound, The Weeknd is just straight up Jackson-eque pop and soulful hip hop/r&b. I'm a huge fan.This is definitely his most rap and r&b influenced album, and it's pretty great.***

95. Wet - Don't You

Sort of R&B influenced indie pop that has become popular these days with bands like Polica, Rhye, How To Dress Well, and Broods etc. Wet doesn't manage to inspire or enchant nearly as much as these other bands, but their brand of synth pop/r&b is always fun to listen to, and Don't You shows a lot of potential for the future.***

96. Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat To Earth

Well, if I were to pick any one album to be my favorite of the year, I think it would be this one (possibly tied with Kyle Craft). Every year I discover a new female voice that just enchants me, like Sera Cahoone, Tiny Vipers, Orenda Fink, Alela Diane, Basia Bulat, or Yowler in the past, and this year it's Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood. Her voice is low and beautiful. Her music is straight up 60s/70s folk. And this album is my favorite of the year. **** #1

97. Wild Nothing - Life of Pause

Another one of my perenially favorite indie rock bands that consistently make great albums. Life of Pause is no exception. ****

98. Wymond Miles - Call by Night

The second solo album from Fresh & Only's guitarist, its a great psychedelic folksy rock album. ***

99. Yndi Halda - Under Summer

Probably the most anticipated album of well, the past several years, for me is Under Summer, and it does not fail to disappoint. A truly beautiful post rock record that unlike most bands in that genre also includes vocals. Post Rock is cinematic orchestral music, and this band is probably one of the most beloved of that genre. They've only put out one other album, and the wait in between was almost ten years for this their second album. A whole decade. But it was worth it, this album is everything good about the genre while also pushing it to new creative heights in a period where there seems to be a lot of stagnation. I'd put this at #2 on my list this year if we're going to tie Kyle Craft and Weyes Blood at #1. **** #2

100. Yuck - Stranger Things

Last, but not least, is Yuck's Stranger Things (no relation to the tv show). It's a great, loud, melodic rock record that continues in the indie rock shoegaze tradition of their earlier albums. ****

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Justin's Favorite Music Albums of 2016 Part 3

Part 1 (that explains formatting and stuff), part 2

some of these are newly added ones (that replaced some others) and thus don't follow the alphabetical format continuity of parts 1 & 2

51. Alex Cameron - Jumping the Shark

Cameron is a weird soul, playing to the broken dregs of humanity more than the privileged crowds. He makes an art of self deprecation, even so far as wearing fake scars on his face, producing trippy eccentric music videos, and grainy "documentaries" about visiting music festivals and always being on the outside looking in, and writing facebook posts in a lilting sometimes poetic, mostly weird vernacular. Musically he's like a pastiche of Bowie and Nick Cave. Despite his self deprecation as art, his album is actually one of the most beautiful, weird, trippy, creations of music you will heart his year.****

52. Blank Banshee - Mega

I'll be honest I don't get my love for vaporwave, it's a weird messed up genre that spends more time sampling other music than making its own. MEGA is no different, a cornucopia of samples, beats, and electronic sounds. But it's also a great album when you take the time to listen. Blank Banshee have been one of the pioneers of the vaporwave movement for years, and still continue to make some of its best music.***

53. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

So many great rap and hip hop artists coming out of Chicago, and Chance The Rapper is one of the best. Along with Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, and so many others Chance the Rapper is the voice of a next generation of rap that is going to change the world.***

54. Frank Ocean - Blond

It was a long, long wait for Blond, but it was worth the wait. This is Ocean at his best. Soulful hip hop that is both deep and excruciatingly honest.***

55. M83 - Junk

One of those strange offerings from a band that usually traffics in more indie pop, this is more like a late 70's/early 80's pop record, but it really works, and after the initial shock of its difference, one really finds a lot in it to like.***

56. Marissa Nadler - Strangers

A beautiful, haunting album. Though recorded in 2015, it was released in 2016, and is one of the best albums of the year, according to me at least.***

57. Mass Gothic - Self Titled

After the dissolution of Hooray For Earth, Noel Heroux has gone on to perform solo as Mass Gothic, and this is his debut solo album, out on Sub Pop. A great indie rock record. 'Mind Is Probably' is one of my favorite songs of the year.****

58. Maxthor - Another World

One thing I love about the synthwave scene is how deeply it goes for the nostalgia factor. Take one look at the cover of Maxthor's Another World, and nothing drives that home more than the faded edges. This is an album meant to feel like it came from another era. One of the true tests of whether a synthwave artists does well with this genre is whether they can sound like they're from another era without also giving into lack of artistry and creativity. Maxthor passes with flying colors on this album, making a great vocal synth album that would have fit on any retro 80's station.****

59. Morgan Delt - Phase Zero

Another great psychedelic indie rock record, the second album from Los Angeles native Morgan Delt, out now on Sub Pop.***

60. Mykki Blanco - Mykki

Mykki Blanco is art as much as person, the feminine presenting alter ego of Michael Quattlebaum Jr. who draws more from the riot grrrl tradition than drag queen. Blanco does not consider themself a queercore artist, or a drag queen, they are using rap and hip hop to explore the fluidity of their own gender identity. Mykki Blanco is as much a part of Quattlebaum Jr. as their more masculine presenting industrial rock outfit No Fear. The fluidity  of this gender presentation is in part what makes Mykki Blanco such a great artist, this is art with no fear. Read any review and it's almost funny to see how they try to work around Blanco's pronouns, sometimes referring to Blanco as "her", while in their own descriptions of their albums the artist uses male pronouns, female pronouns, and nonbinary ones. We all want to live in a binary world where if you present feminine you are female, or present masculine you are male, but Quattlebaum Jr., through Mykki Blanco is not here for your gender binary, and is here to screw up your misconceptions. Musically Mykki is a great rap album that breaks many boundaries.***

61. Mythical Vigilante - retrolectro

It's just what the title says, retro electronic music of the synthwave genre, and one of the best albums of that genre this year.***

62. The Northern Lights - Alchemy

Like FM-84 or TimeCop1983, The Northern Lights are well known for playing within the dreamwave subgenre of synthwave, which incorporates the same 80's synth sound giving it a pretty, dream pop sound. Alchemy is a lovely album.***

63. Nowtro - Dream Digital

"The year is 2036. Now implanted at birth, the nano computer has become an integral part of modern life. Forgetfulness a thing of the past; memories stored permanently on the chip. Governments and corporations have invested in technology that will one day allow mankind to live forever in a machine; individual lives meshed together in a database. In this digital world, time and space are an illusion, limited only by the speed of thought. Dreams become reality, revisited at any time." So is described Nowtro's synthwave futurisitic yet retro concept album, an album that reflects much of the science fiction wonderment of the 80's as well as looks forward to our own, dare I say hopeful, transhumanist future.****

64. Ogre and Dallas Campbell - Beyond The Infinite

What would the seminal science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey sound like with a synth score instead of it's more conventional orchestral one? This is what Robin Ogden (aka Ogre) and Dallas Campbell set out to create when they collaborated on what is probably the most ambitious album of the year, if not the last few years. Through many painstaking hours of simultaneously watching the film and scoring with vintage authentic synth instruments, these artists have crafted a masterpiece that not only manages to pay due homage to film and original score, but also add a great deal to it. Don't miss out on this album!**** #3

65. Okkervil River - Away

Away is not a swansong, though it almost seems like it. From the first lilting harmonies of 'Okkervil River R.I.P.', it seems as if Will Sheff is singing goodbye. And maybe he is, if not to the band, then to the person he once was, dead and buried, the new Will Sheff rising from the ashes to the hopeful morning depicted on the cover of this album, where hundreds of species of birds are taking wing into the sunrise. It is truly a work of art. In a year where hopelessness seems the reality of the world, Away is a "thing with feathers" perching on our souls, letting us know there's light at the end of the tunnel, dawn at the end of the night.****

66. Operators - Blue Wave

Operators is yet another Dan Boeckner band, and if that sounds like criticism it's not. He's had a long illustrious career, with Wolf Parade, with Handsome Furs, with Divine Fits, and now with Operators. Continuing the same new wave indie rock sound of the other bands, Blue Wave picks up on a lot of the paranoia that haunted that genre of the 80's. It's a great album that manages to be one of the best Boeckner has put out in years.****

67. Perturbator - Uncanny Valley

Figured I'd go ahead with the "safe for work" cover of this album, but you can see the actual cover by clicking on the link above to their bandcamp page. A great industrial synthwave album that like Dance With the Dead and GoST plays with the horror genre of the 80's and in this case adds a cyberpunk flair.***

68. Polica - United Crushers

Indie pop that is both sultry and beautiful. United Crushers is the protest pop album for all those too tired to protest anymore, filled with both sadness and ennui, but a continued desire to see justice prevail where there seems little to prevail.***

69. Porches - Pool

Pool is Aaron Maine channeling an introvert's dance party, a quiet, affecting pop album that is less dance and more contemplation. It's a quiet introspective piece of art.****

70.  Postiljonen - Reverie

Swedish dream pop similar to Bon Iver's more electronic songs, or M83. Beautiful music.***

71. Puro Instinct - Autodrama

Shoegaze that is less rock and more pop. Great album.***

72. Rogue Wave - Delusions of Grand Fur

Following two annoyingly crappy radio friendly indie pop records that really didn't do it for me, Delusions of Grand Fur is a modest return to form for this band that has always been one of my favorites. Ambitious cover art too (a Confederate general with his eyes cut out, representing America's current present blindness to the sins of their past.)****

73. Sad13 - Slugger

Slugger is circa 90's pop sound for the social justice warrior generation, a female empowerment record with exclamation points. While some reviews feel it hammers it over the head too much, I love the lyrics angle, and the music itself is fun. Sadie Dupuis (of Speedy Ortiz) has crafted music with an actual message. Just check out the fun music video for "Get A Yes" a song all about learning and practicing consent in relationships. ****

74. Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop - Love Letter For Fire

Another beautiful collaboration record, this time from Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, and up and comer Jesca Hoop. Their voices harmonize and dance on this pure indie folk record. ***

75. Santigold - 99 cents

 Probably my most favorite pop album of the year, 99 Cents is just a fun, sunny, pop album full of hopeful dance beats.**** #4