|Round's Favorite 101 Albums Of 2016|
This year was a great one for music and a strange one for myself. Adventures, obstacles, and a whole lot of THE NEXT THIRTY MINUTES ARE AD FREE, THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS
|101||Chance the Rapper|
(Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop) Really solid gospel-influenced rap album from Chance. Not as good as Acid Rap overall but definitely a fun listen. Best Song: "Blessings"
What One Becomes
(Genre: Post-Metal/Sludge Metal) More bulldozing sludge from this duo-turned-trio, really nice having Brian Cook on this thing to give it that low end. Best Song: "Blackout"
(Genre: Art Punk/Punk Jazz) Politically charged and strangely sexy without overdoing it; these guys seem to have a nice future if they already do things that tactfully. Best Song: "Fetish Queen"
(Genre: European Jazz) Really smooth and enjoyable French-style jazz; it's very easy-listening but it never becomes uninteresting. Images of lady Parie abound. Best Song: "Above All"
Disposal Of The Dead // Dharmata
(Genre: Brutal Death Metal/OSDM-Revival) First side is way better than the second side. It's not even close really. And on that note: brutal death > Floridian death worship. Best Song: "Generosity Of The Deceased"
Good Luck And Do Your Best
(Genre: Microhouse/Downtempo) Was pretty lukewarm on this at first but it grows on you. Not anything super original or groundbreaking but lovely and lively nonetheless. Best Song: "In My Car"
|95||Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions|
Until The Hunter
(Genre: Alt-Country/Dream Pop) Ultra-consistent hazy alt-country with one of the warmest and most comfortable atmospheres of the year. Kinda samey but the immersion you get as a result is pretty great. Best Song: "Let Me Get There"
(Genre: Post-Hardcore/Screamo) These guys are always hinting at something bigger and better and they delivered on that here, so it follows that the next one will be even greater. Very good stuff. Best Song: "Tangled"
The Lost Vault of Chaos
(Genre: OSDM-Revival/Incantation-Core) All of Disma's non-Megalith material in one convenient package. If you like Incantation or Funebraum, these guys basically mix those two bands and do a great job at it. Best Song: "The Vault Of Membros"
(Genre: Black Metal) Really earthy and warm black metal from these dudes. I absolutely love Watership Down, and because it may be my favorite book of all time, any music even remotely associated with it gets at least a cursory listen from me. Best Song: "Drown Alone"
|91||Suis La Lune / Shirokuma|
(Genre: Screamo/Post-Rock) Suis La Lune's side is great, to no surprise at all, but Shirokuma actually outdoes them on this split LP with a wonderfully evocative performance. Keep an eye on those guys for sure. Best Song: "Leave Me"
(Genre: Trap/Pop Rap) If you can't at least get with this at a club or something I'm sure you're a fun individual who has very ~refined~ taste. Party rap's favorite duo puts out their final (?) record and it's unsurprisingly a winner, more consistent than the last one too. Best Song: "Look Alive"
(Genre: Screamo/Emo) Very short yet pretty well done screamo. It covers a few styles too. There are moments of emoviolence, moments of hardcore played straight, and moments of melancholy emo, but mostly it's just really solid screamo. Best Song: "Unthought"
(Genre: Conscious Hip-Hop/Cloud Rap) More or less the Floridian GKMC thematically, but with a grittier edge and a nice hazy sound to it to separate it from its influencer. Guys got some great stuff and he's another to keep an eye out for in the near future. Best Song: "Warfare"
|87||Deer In The Headlights|
(Genre: Screamo) Intense skramz from Bosnia-Herzegovina with one coarse vocalist. Nice mix of screamo, post-rock, and crust punk. I can only guess at what they're talking about in their songs because they have no lyrics for them, but whatever they're saying they sure do mean it. Best Song: "King Of The Border"
|86||Ski Mask The Slump God|
Drown in Designer
(Genre: Trap/Industrial Hip-Hop) AYY, COCAINE IN MY BREAKFAST HOLD THAT PISTOL AMBIDEXTROUS YUH Best Song: "R.I.P. Roach"
The Violent Sleep of Reason
(Genre: Progressive Metal/Djent) Meshuggah doing Meshuggah things the way only Meshuggah can do Meshuggah things. That of course makes it pretty darn sweet. Best Song: "By The Ton"
(Genre: Ambient Pop/Lo-Fi Indie/Dream Pop) Pleasant in just about every way. The vocals are gorgeous, the atmosphere is warm and comforting, and the songs are as catchy as the day is long. It's her first release in five years and it's clear she spent a ton of time perfecting her craft during that time. Best Song: "The Moon Hangs In The Sky Like Nothing Hangs In The Sky"
Stillness In Wonderland
(Genre: U.K. Hip-Hop) Gotta love Simbi. Though it doesn't touch her debut, this record is still a great listen and there's a feeling that she's got even more up her sleeve in the future. And what that means, of course, is P E R F E C T I O N. Best Song: "Low Tides"
(Genre: Cloud Rap/Alternative R&B) Lean is really great on this surprise tape, but the features on this absolutely slay, especially Adamn Killa and Bladee. And of course if whitearmor is producing most of the tape it's gonna sound phenomenal. Best Song: "Hennessy And Sailor Moon"
All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us
(Genre: Metalcore/Progressive Metalcore) They sound similar to their 2009 selves, but with a re-invigorated punch to it that hits home when you find that they're the last compositions of a man who was soon to die. R.I.P. Best Song: "Momento Mori"
(Genre: Harsh Noise/Glitch) Glitchy harsh noise with layer upon layer upon layer of sounds to peel back. Somewhat disturbing and you gotta love that album cover. For those of you who don't know, this is one of Nick Shutter's earlier projects. For those of you who did know, high five! Best Song: The only one.
(Genre: Progressive Black Metal/Avant-Garde Death Metal) Krallice is one of the more controversial bands in the already controversial USBM scene, but they create another in a long line of very solid and occasionally brilliant progressive black metal albums with this one, sounding as passionate as they've ever sounded. Best Song: "Transformation Chronicles"
It's been a swell year for deep house, with Vynehall's latest offering being one of the best of the bunch. Some of the best study music this year has so graciously bestowed upon us. Best Song: "Blush"
(Genre: Experimental Big Band/Free Jazz) This ensemble has been one of the best that jazz has to offer in the 2010's, and though this record isn't as good as their last two, it's still a vibrant and explosive display of orchestral jazz mastery. Best Song: "Ritual Part 4"
Heaven's Too Good For Us
(Genre: Hardcore Punk) This stuff just punches you in the face and refuses to stop for eighteen minutes. Everything on this record is designed to give the maximum power to the music in a minute at a time. Drums kill, riffs are awesome, and the vocals are perfect for the style. It's straight up hardcore unabridged and unapologetic. Best Song: "The One And Only"
(Genre: Post-Punk/Art Punk) Wom- I mean Viet C- I mean ~Preoccupations~ is a band that is pretty hard to predict. And though this new record of theirs doesn't have the catchiness of their last, it succeeds on an atmospheric level probably even better than that one. Anything these guys seem to put out, no matter what style of post-punk they chose, seems to be gold. Best Song: "Memory"
The Disco's of Imhotep
(Genre: Acid Techno/Industrial Techno) This one surprised me right away. Not only are the styles of techno employed strangely synergetic to each other here, the use of Egyptian themes and sounds are quite tactful and add a nice spice to the record. It's got a nice variety too, not settling on one tempo. Best Song: "The Way Of The Tree Of Life"
|73||The World Is a Beautiful Place...|
Death To New Years
(Genre: Emo/Post-Rock) And once again TWIABP put out an EP that hits all the right spots. The opener is one of my tracks of the year, and was part of the soundtrack to a pretty transitional summer for yours truly. One of the few songs around that has moved me to tears. Best Song: "Even More Forever"
Nightmare On The Strip
(Genre: Trap) Members Only be the clique. Flyboy Tarantino's debut is one of the best from the rapidly ascending south Floridian hip-hop scene, making some of the most imposing trap this side of Maxo Kream. That Clint Mansell sample on "STAIN" is absolutely perfect. Best Song: "STAIN"
(Genre: Post-Punk/Post-Hardcore/Shoegaze) One massive, ambitious punk record that embodies that type of youthful grit that remains captivating throughout generations. S/o to BMDrummer for this marvelous record, and may you have the best of luck in your future endeavors. Best Song: "Analgesin"
It Kindly Stopped for Me
(Genre: Acoustic Rock/Emo) So many people dismissed this thing because it wasn't pop-punk and rather an acoustic album. They missed out, though, because if you take it at face value, it's a quite evocative and sad album. The backstory on this EP is another reason why it hits, and it's something I'm sure many of us have dealt with and overcome. Best Song: "A Will"
Thought Rock Fish Scale
(Genre: Jangle Pop/Indie Rock) Usually I don't like these kind of albums but somehow this one eschews all of the things I dislike and manages to be one of the most peaceful, catchy, and easy-listening albums of the year. It never gets too laid back or lazy but has just the right amount of casual coolness to be a confident and fun indie record. Best Song: "Lion In Chains"
(Genre: Neo-Soul/Alternative R&B) It's a bit more streamlined than his previous works, but there's definitely a lot to appreciate about this album. I love how it's overarching positivity and chill vibes are interwoven tastefully into the album and never becoming overdone or obnoxious. Plus that voice, and that production. Best Song: "Hands Up"
(Genre: Trap) I was a bit lukewarm on Everybody Looking, but Wizzop delivered on his second album out of the Feds. The production is almost as icy as the cover, and he sounds like he's finding his groove again very quickly. And let's just get this out of the way right now: if you have ever used the term "mumble rap" unironically, stop listening to hip-hop. Best Song: "Hi-Five"
(Genre: Post-Rock) Leave it to Yndi Halda to make a fantastic post-rock record without ever leaving the confines of the genre in the year 2016, a full 13 years after the genre met its logical conclusion. It does lean on the tropes expectedly enough, but there are too many moments of sheer beauty on this thing for that to be a detriment. Best Song: "Together Those Leave"
Trans Day Of Revenge
(Genre: Queercore/Hardcore Punk/D-Beat) R.I.P. G.L.O.S.S., gone far too soon. Just as awesome as their last demo, with all the intensity and catchiness and perfect production being retained. Their discography is only about fourteen minutes long and it beats out plenty of bands' multiple-hour discographies. Best Song: "Trans Day Of Revenge"
|64||Bladee and Thaiboy Digital|
(Genre: Cloud Rap/Alternative R&B) The sound these two operate with here is one unique in style and execution, and nothing not from these two or their affiliates sound anything like it at all. It's one of those things that you have to hear for yourself because a simple description cannot do it justice. gtbsb has this whole style on lock. Best Song: "2X"
(Genre: West Coast Hip-Hop) After its all said and done, I'm quite positive Warm Brew will be looked at as one of the most underrated, yet well-respected, west coast rap groups of all time. All of their emcees are deft in flows, lyrics, and charisma that it's perfectly easy to tell them apart from each other on one listen alone. Also, "The Mission" is the hip-hop track of the year for yours truly. Best Song: "The Mission"
|62||Self Defense Family|
(Genre: Post-Hardcore/Post-Punk) Seriously, that closer. The three tracks before it are all pretty good, don't get me wrong, but my goodness that closer puts them all to shame and stacks up with the band's best material. Everything from the songwriting to the emotions to the lyrics is nothing less than perfection. Jam it or miss out on one of the punk tracks of the year. Best Song: "Brittany Murphy In 8 Mile"
(Genre: Neo-Soul/Southern Hip-Hop) Houston isn't all dirty south gangsta rap, screw tapes and menacingly powerful trap, as if that weren't enough to make it one of hip-hops darling cities. No, The HUE come through with a spacey, neo-soul-influenced take on southern hip-hop and it's quite the relaxing and smooth hip-hop record. Gotta love a relaxing and smooth hip-hop record. Best Song: "Magic City"
Det Langtande Djuret
(Genre: Hardcore Punk) One of Sweden's most influential punk bands is back with an under-twenty full-length and its every bit as catchy and passionate as you'd think it would be. The vocalist is a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get used to her Swedish tongue she's pretty awesome. If lively and even somewhat memorable hardcore punk is your thing, get on this. Best Song: "Pa Ratt Sida Av Sparrvakten"
From the Deep
(Genre: Jazz-Funk/Nu-Jazz/Psychedelic Jazz) Like going out to a bar with lil mama and talking about the most random stuff while the band plays smoothly on in the background. It has an atmosphere that I just can't get over. It's probably because it has a kind of dirty feel to it that really enhances the whole funky and psychedelic feel of it all, like that bar you're in is full of smoke from cigarettes and joints. Best Song: "Outer Realms, Pt. 2"
(Genre: Pop-Punk) Punk royalty Mikey Erg's debut solo album, full of impossibly catchy pop-punk with emphasis on the punk. It's no coincidence that everything he's ever been involved with, especially The Ergs! and House Boat, is important and awesome punk, and so it's not surprising that this is as great as it is. Best Song: "Faulty Metaphor"
The Impossible Kid
(Genre: Abstract Hip-Hop) I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Aes, and although he's definitely put out some less-than-spectacular records, this isn't one of them. It's full of the most uncomplicated and straightforward songs he ever penned, at least from a lyrical standpoint, but he doesn't skimp on the production either, which used to be his glaring weak point as an artist. Good on him. Best Song: "Lazy Eye"
(Genre: Trap) This guy definitely has something going for him. The beats he chooses are always very dark and sinister, matching his blunt lyricism about gang violence and death perfectly. His delivery is so unflinching when talking about all this that its actually kind of disturbing. And of course, Metro continues on a roll spanning a couple of years now. Best song: "No Heart"
|55||Apollo Brown and Skyzoo|
The Easy Truth
(Genre: Boom-Bap/Conscious Hip-Hop) One of those albums that does the style of boom-bap in a way that is sonically a throwback, but with a more modern twist on it. Apollo Brown is as consistent as ever and puts down some chill beats that are perfect to vibe with. Skyzoo is a very capable emcee who spits stories of his time in New York, which is always a crazy city. Really good stuff, recommended for fans of boom-bap. Best Song: "A Couple Dollars"
(Genre: Harsh Noise) Consumed by the muck and the junk. It sounds how that cover looks: grainy, bare, and dead inside and out. Nicely intricate and the use of quieter passages is tasteful and not just thrown in for some lame attempt at jolting the listener. Thirty-four minutes seems like an hour in the best way possible. It needs some patient listening for sure but it rewards those who are able to penetrate it. Best Song: The only one.
A Sailor's Guide To Earth
(Genre: Alt-Country/Country Soul/Outlaw Country) A bit surprised this is up for AOTY at the Grammy's. It's not gonna win, but out of the choices this one is clearly the best. The opener to this is definitely one of my favorite songs from the year, and Sturgill's voice is absolutely phenomenal, and very versatile as well. Love the instrumentation at play here too, as it sometimes takes a jazzier route than one would expect. Best Song: "Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)"
|52||Ghost of a Dead Hummingbird|
Under The Ultraviolet Light
(Genre: Screamo/New Wave) Yes you read that correctly. This EP is a unique mix of screamo and new wave, and actually manages to be so in a tasteful and carefully-crafted way. Their LP was beautiful if unoriginal skramz, but this cannot be called unoriginal at all. I know originality doesn't necessarily mean it's good, but in this case they really might be on to something. EP of the year. Best Song: "Perro Que Ladra No Muerda"
(Genre: Dark Jazz/Ambient/Experimental Electronic) These guys came out with their debut last year and with this one they are two for two on creating interesting, atmospheric, and ultimately pretty beautiful albums. The songwriting here is less focused on atmosphere as it is with intricate interplay and progressions between the dark jazz sound and the experimental electronic sound the trio employs. One of the most impressively written albums this year. Best Song: "Who The Last Says No"
|50||The Body and Full Of Hell|
One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
(Genre: Powerviolence/Noise/Sludge Metal) I really enjoy what I've heard from these two elsewhere, and here they're absolutely synergetic and really complement each other. The bookends of the record are particularly of note, the opener being born of frustrated and saddened pain and the closer being born of encompassing and debilitating rage. It does have a clunker or two, but when this thing is on its game, woo boy. Best Song: "The Little Death"
Plastic House on Base of Sky
(Genre: Gothic Rock/Darkwave/Art Rock/Avant-Prog) Though they're playing with their most reduced sonic palate to date here, Kayo Dot's PHOBOS has an absolutely undeniable and wholly enriching and enjoyable atmosphere. It sounds like laying in the ocean during a sunset feels, which is needless to say both relaxing and beautiful. Doesn't really seem like they'll ever put out a weak album, does it? Best Song: "Magnetism"
(Genre: Slam Death Metal) Some of the most unique slam out there and definitely one of the most unique metal albums of the year, Devouring Humanity's approach to the genre strips it down even further, making the constant slams, blasts, pinch harmonics, and low growls like one combined entity. It's almost ambient (slambient). It's really dumb from a performance perspective and doesn't take itself too seriously, but considering the dudes behind this, that's not surprising. Thus, it also shouldn't come as a surprise that the atmosphere is absolutely suffocating and the production is pitch perfect. Slams to the dome, brutality accomplished. Best Song: "Brutality Accomplished"
The Colour in Anything
(Genre: Future Garage/Art Pop/U.K. Bass) It's weird, outside of Enough Thunder, isolated spots of his self-titled, and a few other songs on his numerous EP's, I'm not too hot on James Blake. Yet, the way he crafts and croons his way through this lengthy album is a little too human and intimate for me not to enjoy. It's easily his most consistent full-length, and the war between minimalism and maximalism heard here is both intriguing and a joy to listen to. Best Song: "Noise Above Our Heads"
At This Age
(Genre: Indie Punk/Midwest Emo) Cleveland or nowhere. It's certainly not the most original stuff around, but it's more than well done, and has plenty of genuine moments that tug at the heartstrings (that closer, man). There's plenty of love for nostalgia here, but another theme at play here is how being an adult does have its perks, even if there were times in the past you wish you could relive. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times growing up in The Land. Best Song: "A Song For Ana"
(Genre: Free Improvisation) This year saw some pretty awesome free jazz records, and this one may be the most "free" of them all. Little beyond occasionally repeated melodies keeps this thing from falling apart at the seams, but given that small structural support, it's songs able to flourish without worrying about the coherency of them. There are some pretty strange and really interesting moments here, and though it may not have an atmosphere as strong as some of the other jazz albums this year, from a songwriting perspective it's hard to deny this one. Best Song: "Squirrels"
Too Many Voices
(Genre: Dub Techno/Ambient Techno/U.K. Bass) Stott is one of the most underrated men in electronic music, continually crafting techno albums defined by their dents, dings, and imperfections rather than cool mechanical efficiency. This, of course, gives his music an undeniably intimate and human quality, and this new record of his is no exception whatsoever. That doesn't mean he's stagnated from a sonic standpoint, just that his craft is continuing to be honed even now. Best Song: "On My Mind"
(Genre: Alternative R&B/Cloud Rap/Trap) I know I may have genres tagged for this, but this is really unlike anything else out there right now. I really slept on this thing too, even after enjoying his features on Warlord. Nihilistic, robotic, and freezing cold, the lyrics and vocals by Bladee are contrasted intensely by whitearmor's crystalline, beautiful, and melancholy production. To me it sounds like being high on Percocet all winter long and being so apathetic about everything, even things you would normally enjoy, that life tries to become a colorless, miserable slog. And even so there are moments during it all that you experience that if given the chance to experience again, you'd take it one thousand times out of one thousand. Best Song: "Rip"
(Genre: Free Jazz/EAI) The use of electroacoustic improvisation combined with free jazz is exactly as challenging to listen to as you'd expect, but through it all Full Blast manage to keep the listener on their toes and keep an excellent sense of songwriting. The intense flailing of the horn all throughout the album is replaced in dominance by noise and drones, and when these two are on an equal playing field, the interplay is astounding. Best Song: "Doss House"
She Sleeps, She Sleeps
(Genre: Swedish Free Jazz/Dark Jazz) There's one doozy of an atmosphere at play on this one. I always imagined sound here as coming from some sort of intense pit fire in the deep blackness. The pit, stones and all, is the percussion, the wood is the bass, and the fire shifting from a deep, slow-burning red to a steady and strong orange to a wild and unrestrained yellow is the saxophone. It's tense and almost harsh and suffocating, but in the end it's almost a soul-cleansing experience. Wild stuff. Best Song: "She Sleeps, She Sleeps"
(Genre: Art Rock/Jazz-Rock/Experimental Rock) There's nothing to be said about this album that hasn't been said. I was almost moved to tears by "I Can't Give Everything Away", but the whole album is as beautiful and bittersweet as that song. R.I.P. Best Song: "I Can't Give Everything Away"
Distance | Collapsed
(Genre: Death-Doom Metal) The spiritual successor to diSEMBOWELMENT release the modern day Transcendence Into The Peripheral. Well, maybe not quite that good, but you get what I'm saying here: this album continues the legacy of one of the finest, if not the finest, death-doom metal albums ever made. It's songwriting is similar and thus awesome, but the change here is the more modern production job, which doesn't hurt anything as much as it just gives a different spin on a classic sound. Embrace the crushing bleakness, or something equally as painful-sounding. Best Song: "From The Eventide Pool"
No One Deserves Happiness
(Genre: Sludge Metal/Drone Metal) You'll always get quality when The Body is involved, that enough is certain, but who saw this one coming? Perhaps it's not "the heaviest pop album ever made", as they wanted it to be, but that doesn't mean there aren't legitimate pop sensibilities that are used in the most tasteful manner. It still trudges along like a giant made of wet cement, but this time even more than before there are melodies or even choruses that stick into your head. A seamless marriage between catchiness and heaviness. Best Song: "Prescience"
The Forsaken Triptych (2012-2016)
(Genre: OSDM-Revival) French OSDM-Revival on a moderate dose of psilocin. This comp has everything the band has ever done, and progresses in a way that shows their growth from an above-average cavernous death revivalist group to a sci-fi-influenced psychedelic death metal band. All of the material here is pretty great, although the best of it is found on the EP they released earlier this year named Dimensions Obscure. Still, if you like cavernous death metal or death metal with leanings towards psychedelia, check this out. Best Song: "Where Darkness Reigns Pristine"
|36||Jachna / Mazurkiewicz / Buhl|
(Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz/Free Improvisation/Ambient/Drone) One of the most meticulously crafted jazz albums of the year. It's equal parts performance skill, songwriting ability, and atmosphere, as the smokey, darkened feel the album gives off is very addicting. The trio knows exactly when to use restraint and the album is more often than not somewhat quieter in nature than what you'd expect a free jazz album be. All of this was composed on the spot, but it's performed so wonderfully and the progressions and interplay are so natural that it sounds like it was pre-written. Best Song: "Nie Wiem, Mysle"
A Moon Shaped Pool
(Genre: Art Rock/Ambient Pop/Chamber Pop/Electronic Rock) Never really got the claims that this album is a jumbled mess of ideas that don't go anywhere or that it doesn't flow like an album should. It might not flow as well compared to other Radiohead albums, but it's not like there isn't a defined sound here. Some truly beautiful moments can be found here, and though a couple of songs don't seem up to par with the others, the songwriting here is marvelously consistent. It's really just another in a line of excellent albums from one of the most influential and important artists in alternative music in general. Best Song: "Decks Dark"
You Can't Go Back if There's Nothing to Go Back To
(Genre: Alt-Country) For what it's worth, this was my country album of the year this year and is a fantastic swansong for some of the most stand-up dudes in the business. Everything from the sound of the album to the storytelling lyricism to the heartbreaking voice the lead man sings with is a really beautiful thing, and as such is one of the many bittersweet albums made this year. I'm no country buff, not even close, but I know these guys are going to be missed. Best Song: "Don't Skip Out On Me"
(Genre: Progressive Death Metal/Technical Death Metal) If you really want to get a taste of how death metal sounds nowadays without going too far into left field, there is literally no better album to hear than this one. It mixes progressive and technical death metal in that most tasteful of ways, and captures the abstract sound that the best of the genre lead with today whilst simultaneously keeping the genre at its roots. It's all under thirty-five minutes too, so if you want to get into modern death metal, this is the perfect place to start. Best Song: "Vitrification Of Blood (Pt.1)"
(Genre: Outsider House) This is an underrated gem of house, and marks the debut of a man who should definitely be on your watch list if you're a fan of the genre. Kovacs combines deep house and funky house to create a beautifully-blended outsider house sound, and nearly all of the tracks here showcase just how talented the man truly is. Catchy, danceable, and never overbearing, this is quite the impressive debut for a guy that's only been on the scene for a few years now. Makes pretty perfect studying music if I do say so myself. Best Song: "Josey's Tune"
(Genre: Alternative R&B/Neo-Soul/Art Pop) This was kind of divisive, no? Most people think it's pretty good, but there are some who think it's one of THE artistic statements of the decade and others who think it is a horrendously misguided and overblown attempt at the style. I obviously lean (slightly) towards the former, but in all honesty it's really just a very well done and (very) occasionally brilliant alternative R&B album from a dude who has a whole lot to say but doesn't want to just lay it all out there. No matter what, though, Frank never misses a chance to make things very interesting. Best Song: "Self Control"
|30||Every Time I Die|
(Genre: Metalcore) The boys are back in town, but there's no parties this time. It's just anger at yourself and your circumstances expressed through groovy, infectious riffs and a career-best vocal performance. They sound like they're a bunch of twenty-somethings again, and this is most certainly their best since Hot Damn! in just about every way. The energy and frustration present here are almost certainly the result of vocalist Keith Buckley's wife and kid nearly dying and his subsequent relapse, so he and his dudes channeled this hardship well. Best Song: "1977"
(Genre: Trap/Pop Rap/Southern Hip-Hop) People get so up in arms about Thugga it's honestly funny. I guess it's because these "real" or "intelligent hip-hop" fans are so deep within their respective echo chamber that they refuse to even humor the idea that Thug is one of the most unique and charismatic artists in hip-hop, and that JEFFERY is one of the best works of his career. Incredibly fun, undeniably charismatic, a penchant for addictive vocal melodies and in several instances humorous, it's everything a good Thugga tape should be. Best Song: "Guwop"
(Genre: Deep House/Tech House) Rarely do you find a collection of tracks a synergetic as these within house. It's far more than the sum of its parts, as each track individually is really great, (except for "Prepare", which is unbeatably amazing and electronic SOTY), but the way they flow into each other makes each of them better by association. So many tones and shades find their home here, some totally unexpected, and the overall charmingly human nature of it makes it a beautiful listen. Best Song: "Prepare"
(Genre: U.K. Bass/Progressive Electronic/Footwork/Dark Ambient) This is one of the most unsettling electronic albums I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. And things don't start out like that either. It's initial atmosphere is a spacious, broad one, but at the drop of a hat it turns into a suffocatingly tense nightmare. From there on out, very meticulously the seedy darkness creeps further and further down this rabbit hole of discomfort, only poking it's head out for mere moments before diving directly back in, as if only to tease you. It's quite the unexpected, yet totally awesome ride. Best Song: "Broken Fox - Black Hole"
(Genre: Folk Pop/Indie Pop) Ridiculously catchy indie goodness from the archipelagos of Iceland. And let's give a hand to Icelandic music in general, awesome stuff (shout out to Zhrine, Unortheta just barely missed the cut). This isn't the most original sounding indie album but I'd be hard pressed to call it a rip-off, due to the magnificent use of strings and wind instruments that enrich the album deeply. At their core, they're undeniably infectious pop songs, which are always great, but the blossoming and spring-like feel of the record definitely knocks them up a notch. Best Song: "Hailslide"
|25||Vomir / Train Cemetery|
(Genre: Harsh Noise Wall) I listened to the Vomir side in full in the dark with no breaks whatsoever and I swear by the fifteenth minute you reach this type of listening purgatory where your thoughts and the noise become intertwined and you can literally hear things that aren't there. And of course, after the Train Cemetery side I felt like I'd lost ten pounds and I got the best sleep I'd had in weeks. Mind bending stuff. Best Song: "Untitled"
(Genre: Abstract Hip-Hop/Industrial Hip-Hop) While XXX is still Danny Brown's crowning achievement in my heart, I can't deny that this is objectively his best work. That's due to the impeccable production, which invokes the spirit of post-punk and industrial rock whilst remaining true to the genre. It's also due to Brown's endless bevy of flows, deliveries, and clever lyricism, but the production is some of the most interesting I've heard on a hip-hop record in a few years. Best Song: "Ain't It Funny"
You Want It Darker
(Genre: Chamber Folk/Singer-Songwriter) His very own Blackstar, only better. Pretty much everything you've come to love about Leonard Cohen done by the only man who can do himself justice. Almost every song here is a emotional roller coaster, and his voice is absolutely sublime for this type of thing, as always. He's exceptionally vulnerable and sympathetic here as well, and the emotion that caries through everything on this record is notable and appreciated. A truly beautiful ending to an illustrious career. R.I.P. Best Song: "If I Didn't Have Your Love"
Blank Face LP
(Genre: West Coast Hip-Hop/Gangsta Rap) This is the first record from a TDE member other than K. Dot that I have no problem calling excellent. ScHoolboy is many things on this record, and he does them all very well and with a marked consistency. The production is pretty sweet, as expected, and all of the features here really tear it up. There's a couple of clunkers in the latter half of the album, but for the most part the record is a really enjoyable and thoroughly memorable one, spreading out its vast wealth over an hour-plus and keeping the listener hooked the whole time. Best Song: "By Any Means"
Legends Never Die
(Genre: R&B/Trap) Banger after banger. This man was well on his way to becoming a hitmaker for the underground before he was slain in 2015. Hearing both him and Stack Bundles rap on "All Good", which may have been the hip-hop track of the year were it not for Warm Brew, sends chills down my spine. It's some of the most well made and well rounded mixes of trap and R&B this year, and it's certainly a worthy swansong for a very promising artist. It's very fun, obviously, but it's also quite bittersweet, as these are likely the last creations of a husband and father before his untimely death. The world is a harsh place, all we can do is try our best to be good people and enjoy life. R.I.P. Best Song: "All Good"
The Healing Component
(Genre: Jazz Rap/Conscious Hip-Hop) Yes, those interview sections are almost painfully self-fellating and pseudointellectual, but once you get past them, this is one of the most relaxing and beautifully atmospheric hip-hop albums of the year. The production is quite fluid and jazzy, really providing the perfect backdrop for Mick's solid collection of flows and some pretty lovely lyricism as well. It's all laid-back, but it never becomes boring due to Mick, as he varies his flows and his delivery enough to give songs a different feel with base emotion of chilled-out relaxation remaining static. Musically excellent if conceptually flawed, he's got the talent to do great things. Now if he could just get his head out of his butt. Best Song: "Strange Love"
False Readings On
(Genre: Ambient/Drone) This album makes me feel like I am floating in an ocean made of clouds. Cliche I know, but the familiarity involved with this lovely ambient/drone album is undoubtedly there on purpose, working the genres own cliches into something nostalgic, feel-good, and ultimately gorgeous. The listening is easy, and though it's not the most original stuff on the planet, it is some of the most well done ambient in this style in the past few years. It's a deeply intimate and heartwarming listen, and when you consider how minimal it all is, it's impressive it can be as stunning as it is. It's definitely something I can count on when I'm feeling content and relaxed. Best Song: "Movie Night Revisited"
The Persona Tape
(Genre: Trap/Southern Hip-Hop) Maxo returns with an absolutely thunderous mixtape full of the most imposing trap since, well, Maxo187. The production here takes a slightly more cloudy route than its predecessor, and though it's only a shade below it, still gives a dark, powerful feel to the tape. Maxo himself does the brunt of the work, though, dropping clever and quotable lines about the life of a Houston gangster, all with one of the best flows and threatening deliveries in trap right now. The bookends on this thing are a couple of the best trap songs all year, and the songs in between them either match or come very close to matching them. Purple City burner, indeed. Best Song: "None Of Y'all"
(Genre: Post-Hardcore/Screamo) This thing hits home for a lot of people, myself included. It's a pretty gripping story despite how unfortunately common these things are, and it's relatability cannot be understated. The songwriting is the most consistently evocative in their whole career, and Jeremy Bohm turns in a notably pained and beautiful vocal performance. The loss of a loved one is never an easy thing to deal with, no matter who they may be. It's a small solace, having a record like this that reassures you you're not alone in the world, but it's a solace nonetheless. The memories love on, under the lights. Best Song: "Displacement"
(Genre: Pop-Punk/Punk Rock) The catchiest album of the year bar none. Pretty much every riff and hook here has earworm potential, and it definitely follows that this is an extremely memorable album. I was in the middle of binge-watching The Office when I first heard this, and thus whenever I hear it I think of that show, and vice-versa. It's one of the feel-good records of the year; it's the sonic representation of having a cruddy day but just being happy that you're alive and the people who love you are alive too. Also their vocalist can really sing, which is pretty sweet for a pop-punk record. Best Song: "Dull"
|15||The Dillinger Escape Plan|
(Genre: Mathcore/Alternative Metal) They left us with a bang. This whole revelation that most of the lyrics the band wrote post-Calculating Infinity was about Greg and Ben's personal rivalry-slash-bromance is also pretty funny, just because it was unexpected and that I would totally watch if there were ever a sitcom written about their working relationship. But seriously, this is their best since Ire Works hands down, and Greg turns in what may be his best performance and definitely his most versatile outright. Riffs, bass, and drums predictably slay whether in mathcore blasts or slower numbers, and the experimentation heard here is tactful and adds a lot to the compositions. Live long and prosper, fellas. Best Song: "Honeysuckle"
(Genre: Trap) The god of hooks and the god of bangers must've both given Zel their holy blessing for this one, because he's on his game like never before here. Yes, he's had his shining moments before this, for example "Ultimate", which is an amazing song and one of the best trap songs around, but everything that makes Zel the face of south Florida's hip-hop scene (or co-face if you want to associate young Kodak with the scene) is flowing freely through every joint on this mixtape. Perfect flow, a penchant for mixing clever lyricism with storytelling and street talk, and a bevy of little-known but very good producers make this one of the best tapes of the year. Best Song: "Knotty Head"
The Last Witness
(Genre: Technical Death Metal) That guitar tone is absolutely freaking delicious. Things here have a very alien feel to them, and the added dynamic of having pretty awesome lyrics help the general aesthetic and atmosphere the album radiates. It's as if the bands are harbingers of death from the foreign bodies of the solar system, coming down from the stars with a suffocating poison. The songwriting is angular and the progressions unconventional, and while the playing performances are almost mechanical in their efficiency, the strange tones and tense alien atmosphere give it all some notable and needed personality. Definitely one of the most engaging and interesting death metal albums of the year. Best Song: "Progeny Omega"
(Genre: "Blackgaze"/Atmospheric Black Metal) This is one of the most meticulously written and emotionally affecting blackgaze albums ever written. Most bands in that style tend to retread the path that Alcest and Deafheaven blazed a while ago, but Oathbreaker see this a raise them the next great album in the vaults of the subgenre. The emotions flying here are just as passionate when there is little more than acoustic guitar as when the blast beats and tremolos are dominating things, and vocalist Caro Tanghe turns in an absolutely marvelous vocal performance whether it be black metal shrieking and shouting or the slightly off key yet beautifully endearing clean vocals. The perils of addiction and abusive relationships are dealt with with just the type of emotional intimacy and inconsistency that you'd expect, and it makes for a beautifully tragic experience. Best Song: "Second Son Of R."
(Genre: Trap/Cloud Rap/Industrial Hip-Hop) I know what you're thinking, but just hear me out. This was originally somewhere in the high 70's, but after I read that Fader article on Yung Leandoer, my whole perspective on this album was changed, and it's even better as a result. It went from a really fun album with a perfect, enveloping atmosphere and amazing production to an almost disturbing but completely gripping snapshot of the worst time in his life while it masqueraded as the best time. While initially it seemed as if the album was good despite Lean, he is an absolutely irreplaceable part of this puzzle, and the same goes for all of his previous and future endeavors, which is something that took me a while to realize. Several tracks that I initially thought were weaker are now some of the best on the album, and it goes to show that the context surrounding an albums creation and thematic elements can totally change the way you hear the music within. Best Song: "Miami Ultras"
(Genre: Post-Industrial/Glitch-Hop/Wonky/Sound Collage/U.K. Bass) I'll level with you: I didn't think that the mixtape of the year would come from Arca, but it sure did. And the notion about Arca's EP's, comps, and mixtapes being better than his LP's is true, and I really like his LP's. This thing is a perfectly flowing, unsettling, entertaining, interesting, and even taxing listen. The atmosphere is uneasy and tense, with plenty of moments seemingly unstructured that are brought together by an overarching sense of cohesiveness. It progresses in almost some of sort of industrial hell crescendo, with more and more things whether they be samples of terror, consuming bass, or unearthly glitch "melodies", all coming together so perfectly in a chaotic and unhinged congealment. Best Song: The only one.
(Genre: Ethio-Jazz/Post-Punk/Jazz Fusion) Simultaneously the jazz album of the year and the feel-good album of the year. I don't quite know what "Ukandanz" means, but when I see it I immediately think of "You can dance", and you most certainly can to this stuff. It juxtaposes dark, smokey post-punk with loud and lively Ethiopian jazz, with a vocal performance that is better left unspoiled. It's undeniably an intricate album, with the constant interplay between the punk riffs, dusty bass, plodding drums, striking horns, and endlessly versatile vocals dominating the album, but it's also easily danceable and very, very catchy. All of the performances are very obviously impassioned, and the production gives this thing an earthy, smoke-filled atmosphere that is a joy to lose yourself in. Quite the accomplishment. Best Song: "Tchuheten Betsemu"
(Genre: Melodic Hardcore/Hardcore Punk) That a compilation of music recorded from 2012 to 2014 reaches this highly up the 2016 ladder speaks volumes of how phenomenal this stuff actually is. This is some of the most emotionally resonant, passionate, and evocative hardcore of this decade, with everything the band ever recorded besides last year's gem of a full-length debut here. Each song is at the very least excellent, and each song has something to offer the listener. It's a beautiful, heartrending, crushing, and hopeful experience all the same, and I have no qualms whatsoever calling this group of upstarts a force in hardcore only four years into their careers. Amazing. Best Song: "For What It's Worth"
4 Dimensions On A Paper
(Genre: Boom-Bap/Conscious Hip-Hop) And now we come to the hip-hop album of the year, which is undoubtedly one of the best boom-bap revival albums to ever be penned. Both emcees have the type of storytelling ability that is foolish not to covet, and never once does it feel like they're talking down to the listener. They're not spitting just to spit, here. They have something interesting to say on every single song and manage to cover a wide array of topics with tact and precision. The production is in a classic boom-bap style with a modern clarity given to it, and it is malleable enough to shift along with the duo to fit the tone of what they're putting down. It's a well-rounded, enriching listen that never becomes boring and warrants plenty of listens. This is how boom-bap should be done in this day and age. Best Song: "All I Need"
|6||Tiny Moving Parts|
(Genre: Post-Hardcore/Math Rock/Emo) It's uncanny how this band seems to turn up when I'm having a tough go of it. In other words, they happen to pull this ish while I'm in the middle of a transitional period for myself. This time around we both grew up. Their songwriting is absolutely off of the charts, and the passion that flies so prominently across the board is very much appreciated. Their last full-length was a nostalgic look back at where that classic style of math rock and emo had been, but this one shows us where it's at now. If this isn't one of the best albums the emo-revival scene has brought to the table, I want to hear the better ones because they'd probably be 5's. Best Song: "Common Cold"
Shrines of Paralysis
(Genre: Technical Death Metal) It's been one heck of a year for death metal and this album is a nice part of that. It's atmosphere is an absolute maelstrom of blood and is more warlike than plenty of albums that claim to invoke the spirit of battle. This was my first experience with Ulcerate, (I don't know why I didn't check them out before seeing as how I adore this style of tech-death) and initially it was such a dense and oppressive listen that I didn't quite feel right about it. After several listens it becomes apparent just how intricate and well thought out it is in every department, and it becomes one really fun listen. It's interesting how, depending on how you listen to it, it can either be really fun or completely miserable (in a good way). Best Song: "There Are No Saviours"
Le Dernier Crépuscule
(Genre: Technical Death/Death-Doom Metal) It means "the last twilight" in French, and it also means what it implies: there is no more light after this. The murky production, along with the strange angular riffing and suffocating atmosphere, gives this record a personality that reminds one of those Finnish greats. You know the ones I'm talking about. It's kind of like the third circle of Dante's hell, where everything just lies in its own filth, rained on by a constant downpour of muddy sleet. They do the Lovecraftian thing as good as any death metal band before or since, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if this was the only full-length they release. They're a bit too weird for longevity, you know? Best Song: "Scriptures From The Typhlodians"
|3||Howls of Ebb|
Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows
(Genre: Blackned Death/Death-Doom/Avant-Garde Metal) The current kings of death metal? Possibly. Let's have a look at the evidence, shall we? A constant, burning atmosphere that is as alien as it is oddly satisfying, songwriting ability as original and engaging as anything in the genre today, and a crisp, yet fiery production job. And this is a totally different beast from their two releases beforehand, giving the band a quality many would die for: unpredictability. You never really know what they're going to try next, and even though it seems like they throw everything and the kitchen sink at you on one song (tactfully I might add), the next one has just as many surprises. Howls Of Ebb, I salute you. Best Song: "Cabaals Of Molder"
|2||Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds|
(Genre: Art Rock/Art Pop/Singer-Songwriter/Spoken Word) I'm not usually one to cry at music. Few non-classical pieces have done it to me, and most of those are on City Of Caterpillar as it is. Still, something about both "Rings Of Saturn" and "Distant Sky" made me cry. I think it's the way Cave sings "Watch the sun, see it rising in your eyes..." for the latter and the background vocals with that piano for the former. I've never heard anything so saddening be so catchy at the same time. It's almost cruel when you think about it. Those little electronic blips in the beginning of the former makes me think of car rides in a city lit up to its limit, not necessarily saddening, but ultimately extremely beautiful. I really love this album for that: it's ability to be purely sad on the outside, but so many more things past the surface. Best Song: "Rings Of Saturn"
(Genre: Technical Thrash/Blackened Thrash/Progressive Thrash Metal) Like you expected anything else. Seriously, my soundoff for this said way more than I can say for it at this time, so just read that and know that I still mean every word of it. Anyways, 2016 was one phenomenal year, and I hope you guys had as good of a year as I did. I know I don't often comment around here (I have more soundoffs than comments -_-) but you guys have been really cool in the few interactions I have had, so thanks for that. Best Song: "Collapse"