Lucy Dacus, No Burden
As is often the case a strong argument can be made for any of the top five records on this list to sit in the number one spot. To my ears, Lucy Dacus’ No Burden just stood a bit higher than the rest. This record is explosively introspective. Dacus’ lyrics are confessional but confident. This record is not searching for but rather declaring the positions of its creator. The power of Dacus’ voice and the explosiveness of her riffs will draw you deeper and deeper into this record with each listen. There is something basic and flawless here that just works. Literal goosebumps.
David Bowie, Blackstar
Bowie’s final record threw us all for a loop. Released just days before the icon’s unexpected death, the album’s meaning changed overnight. Blackstar sees Bowie relentlessly innovating while retaining the core of what made his sound unique. There is an unflinching examination of death here that is unselfishly presented as a love letter to everyone who looked to Bowie for inspiration over the years. The album and its attendant media properties comprise a dense mesh of meanings both hidden and overt for us to pour over for years to come. Even now astute observers are still finding new surprises in the album artwork. This is a rare instance of a true legend fortunate enough to leave with a proper farewell.
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead’s 9th LP maintains the balance and integrity we have come to expect from Yorke and company over the last twenty three years. This album is perhaps a bit bleaker due to its genesis in the dissolution of Thom’s long standing relationship. There are some true gems on this record. “Daydreaming” is an absolute masterpiece and we have finally been given a studio version of “True Love Waits”.
Tegan and Sara, Love You To Death
I’ve spoken quite a bit about this record over the course of the year. It was less a question of whether this album would be on the end of year list and more a consideration of where. The sheer fun of this record belies the seriousness of its content. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the exciting and the devastating. This is one of the essential driving records of the year.
Daughter, Not To Disappear
This dark folk trio led by Elena Tonra has consistently produced some of the best music of the past few years. The territory that the band is exploring here seems like familiar ground tread by the likes of The Cure and Massive Attack, but there is something more. Tonra’s voice holds a steady and unwavering spell over the proceedings. There is a longing inherent in the tracks that is not struggling but is rather settled in its desire. This is an elegant record that takes its time revealing its mysteries.
I have to confess that I know very little about Tuareg music as a genre, but the rhythms that exist on Imarhan’s self titled debut have stayed with me all year. The band describes these tracks as slow burning and that is exactly the impression one receives as a listener. The rhythms establish themselves very carefully and by the time the beats are fully developed they are implanted upon your brain. I challenge you to listen to this record without returning to it repeatedly.
Frank Ocean, Blonde
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Frank Ocean but Blonde is a powerful and complete follow up to Channel Orange. This record is hard to quantify. It is too experimental for R&B and too melodic to truly be psychedelic. What Ocean has given us here is a fully realized sonic journey that carries the listener along. I find myself listening to this record repeatedly.
Angel Olsen, My Woman
For My Woman Olsen has branched out from her accustomed low-fi sound and found a poppier sound. Olsen is still interested in plumbing the same emotional depths that she has explored in the past but the accompanying production has added new layers to her sound. The album is arranged for vinyl with side A being more pop oriented and side B being a bit more introspective. The juxtaposition of the two sides creates a great context for each of the songs in the context of the others. I’ll be interviewing Olsen about this record and her current tour in the February issue of New Orleans Magazine, so look for more then.
Mothers, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
The Mothers are an experimental folk band from Athens, GA who exploded on the scene with their debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. The band began as a solo project of singer/songwriter Kristine Leschper. Leschper has one of those hauntingly melodic voices that carries the listener through the record. This is a symphonic record. It swells with the weight of its insights.
This record seemed to come out of nowhere to be everywhere at once. Anohni cast off the chamber pop style of her previous band for an electronic foundation. This album is an overtly political catalog of the technologies and injustices that have become an accepted part of the fabric of contemporary society. What separates this record from a lot of protest albums is the joyousness of the songs themselves. The hooks on this record are astounding there is an exuberance that accompanies this outpouring.
Outside of Classification
Ian William Craig, Centres
Occasionally a record comes along that stands to the side of the scene or any attempts to classify it. Ian William Craig has delivered one such album—a masterpiece of ambient drone experimentation. This record is unlike anything else this year. It captures the anxiety and dread that has marked out long stretches of 2016, but it is also punctuated with moments of hope and even joy. The conflicts between the disparate elements of this record create seams along which meanings emerge briefly before returning to the chaos. This is a record to live with for a while.
To Do This Week
Tonight check out Tank and the Bangas with Kristin Diable at Tips. Friday the Jesus and Mary Chain will be at the Joy. Saturday Jim James and Twin Limb will play The Civic. Monday check out Glen David Andrews at d.b.a.
To Listen this Week
- Patti Smith sang for Bob Dylan at this Nobel Acceptance Ceremony via the New Yorker
- Fred Armisen wrote and recorded an EP of KFC Jingles via CoS
- Soulwax have released a remix of Warpaint via Youtube