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Jeremy's 35 Favorite Records '16

Descriptions of the top 10. (The same top 10 showed up on The Needle Drop - here is an expanded list!)
35Devendra Banhart
Ape In Pink Marble

KEY TRACK: Mourner's Dance
34Emma Ruth Rundle
Marked For Death

KEY TRACK: Protection
33Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
Love Letter for Fire

KEY TRACK: Know the Wild that Wants You
Strange Little Birds

KEY TRACK: Even Though Our Love is Doomed
The Magic

KEY TRACK: Criminals of the Dream
30Lady Gaga

29Flock of Dimes
If You See Me, Say Yes

KEY TRACKS: Semaphore
28Bitchin' Bajas and Bonnie 'Prince
Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties

KEY TRACK: Nature Makes Us Ourselves
27Eric Bachmann
Eric Bachmann

KEY TRACK: Dreaming
26Eleanor Friedberger
New View

KEY TRACK: All Known Things
25Beth Orton

KEY TRACK: Dawnstar
Not to Disappear

KEY TRACK: Doing the Right Thing
23Okkervil River

KEY TRACK: Call Yourself Renee

KEY TRACK: Can't Get Enough of Myself
21Roisin Murphy
Take Her Up to Monto

KEY TRACK: Mastermind
20David Bowie

KEY TRACK: Lazarus
19Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon


KEY TRACK: Atomic Number
17 Bell

KEY TRACK: Stomach It
16Kate Bush
Before the Dawn

KEY TRACK: Prologue

KEY TRACK: 4 Degrees

12 Kristin Hersh
Wyatt at the Coyote Palace

11Regina Spektor
Remember Us To Life

KEY TRACK: Sellers of Flowers

Yet again, Charlift – a band I liked since their debut but never thought would become a band I adore – have proven themselves to be an incredibly strong musical duo. Their last record, Something, pushed them into new, focused territory, marrying their electronic pop influences with their own specific brand of weird and clever songcraft. Caroline Polachek’s voice remains one of indie music’s most versatile, emotive, and strange instruments, guiding each of Moth’s beguiling pop numbers like a beaming ray of light. She zips through “Romeo” and “Moth to the Flame,” grooves through “Polymorphing” and “Show U Off,” and glistens sadly through “Crying in Public.” Her swagger is infectious on should-be hit single “Ch-Ching,” and she knows when to dial it back, as on the plaintive closer “No Such Thing as Illusion.” The band may not be the most unique stylistically, but they have enough of their own individual flavor to push them into their own small, vital world of music.
A Moon Shaped Pool

I’ll gladly go on record and say I don’t really consider myself a Radiohead fan. I never took to OK Computer, I think Kid A is at least very interesting, and I love In Rainbows. That probably tells you most of what you need to know. I don’t usually look forward to their LPs, though I don’t dread them, and with this one, I was pleasantly surprised, much like how I was with In Rainbows. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous record, full of weeping strings, raindrop pianos, and sensitive slow singing from Thom Yorke. It’s basically everything I like about Radiohead. “Daydreaming” and “Glass Eyes” practically melt out of the speakers, while more intricate songs like “Ful Stop” and “Burn the Witch” pulsate with a brittle energy. I am not sure if this is their greatest record ever, but it is the kind of Radiohead album that actually does leave me curious for their next step.
KEY TRACK: Daydreaming
Jet Plane and Oxbow

I fear this record, Shearwater’s eighth record, will be one of 2016’s most slept-on, and that’s a shame, because this is far and away the strongest thing the band has released since 2008’s Rook, and one of their best records to date. Masterful drummer Thor Harris has departed, which is perhaps one of the reasons there are a few more electronics and programmed beats here, but the band still hits hard, with some shimmering, towering songs like “Quiet Americans” and “Filaments,” with the thundering “A Long Time Away” being quite a high watermark for the band. As usual, Jonathan Meiburg and co. know when to tone it down, as on the beautiful “Only Child” and the closing track. Meiburg’s voice is, as ever, able to be forceful and gentle, often within the same song, going from rough to tender and back again. I sincerely hope people find this record while catching up on 2016’s music output.
KEY TRACK: A Long Time Away
7School of Seven Bells

What a sad couple of years for School of Seven Bells. The musical – and romantic – duo of Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza saw a tragic loss when Curtis passed away in 2013, after a battle with a rare form of cancer. The songs were all written before his death, and finished after it. It’s hard not to see them in an all-too-heartbreaking light. When on the glistening single “Open Your Eyes,” Deheza sings, “Open your eyes, love / You’ve got me crying,” and talks about how she’s been waiting “for too long,” and when she sings on “Confusion” how “I understand nothing of these changes,” with such exhaustion, it’s just crushing. It’s not all gloomy – there are moments of great joy and energy, like the charging opener “Ablaze” – but the album exists in a sort of melancholic space. It’s unclear what will come of the School of Seven Bells moniker now, but let it at least be said that if SVIIB is the band’s last album, it’s a majestic, masterful swansong.
KEY TRACK: Open Your Eyes

I didn’t expect it, but this record is great. It’s the kind of Big Pop Album that I am often a sucker for, from arguably pop’s biggest voice right now. It’s not that I’ve ever disliked Beyoncé; every one of her albums have songs I loved (“Irreplaceable,” “Ring the Alarm,” “Love On Top,” “XO”) but I hadn’t been head over heels for a whole album of hers until now. Lemonade is an intimate, beautifully thought-out document of the fall and eventual hopeful rise of a relationship. Beyoncé starts off wondering, moves to anger, descends into sadness, then sort of comes around to hope and determination. Things might’ve ended up OK, she just really had to work this one out. Every song is impeccably produced and performed, with catchy bits all over the place (the chorus of “All Night” and “Hold Up”, the ending of “Sorry”, the entirety of “Formation”). The question is: what could she ever do next?
KEY TRACK: All Night
5PJ Harvey
The Hope Six Demolition Project

Another largely politically-minded record from PJ Harvey, a songwriter who used to write about love and heartbreak and anger in ferocious, visceral, nearly unmatched ways. These days, she’s less interested in the personal and more interested in the global, the historical. Unlike her last record, which dealt mostly in British war history, this album takes a more international approach, inspired by her travels in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C. The album is fiercely poetic, startling, candid, disturbing. it’s a tense, fiery piece of work, with a brittle, almost lo-fi energy. Songs like “The Ministry of Defense” are charging and industrial, while “The Ministry of Social Affairs” and “The Wheel” are gritty with sharp guitars and blaring saxophones. Harvey remains one of music’s sharpest observers, making great records in her third decade of work.
KEY TRACK: The Ministry of Social Affairs
4Angel Olsen
My Woman

This one took a minute to grow on me. I am an ardent fan of Angel Olsen’s debut record, Half Way Home, and less a fan of her follow up, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, so I was a little skeptical of this new one. After a few listens though, it opened up, and I found myself lost in it. Olsen’s singing has changed pretty drastically since her early days – there’s very little in the way of her once-trademark warble – and I think this record illuminates how much a transitional period her sophomore record was. Here, she emerges confident, smart, with a keen eye for melodic detail. Lyrically, too, she really comes through with some memorable, moving passages, spinning songs – often quite long songs – about love, desire, and what it might mean to be a woman right now. The first half is endlessly catchy, and the second half is sublimely, sensuously drawn out. After all my hesitation, this is doubtlessly Olsen’s best work yet.
KEY TRACK: Shut Up Kiss Me
Ultimate Care II

It’s hard to say much about Matmos’ latest record because it really just demands to be heard. When you say it’s an album consisting entirely of the sounds of a washing machine, that could come off as a desperate gimmick. But the thing is, Matmos have always dealt in this kind of conceptual composition. Whether it be plastic surgery noises or the innerworkings of ESP, the band has always walked that fine line between being smart and clever, and being decidedly up their own asses. Luckily, their 2016 release is the former. It’s a behemoth of a record – a single 38 minute track – that is, essentially, the full journey of a single wash cycle. Of course, Matmos being Matmos, it’s chopped and screwed and profoundly manipulated, to the point where it’s aggressive, abrasive, beautiful, and labyrinthine all at once.
KEY TRACK: uhhhh...yeaaahh...
2Marissa Nadler

One of the finest songwriters working today, Marissa Nadler continues to improve and to darken on her latest record, her second for Sacred Bones, a marriage of artist and label that makes so much sense for her brand of dooming folk that it’s a wonder it hadn’t happened earlier. Strangers is Nadler’s darkest, dustiest record yet, treading the waters of anxiety, relationships of the past, and apocalyptic visions. The one truly bright moment, “All The Colors of the Dark,” is also one of the finest songs of her career, as is the stormy “Janie in Love,” in which Nadler compares a friend’s self-destruction to a hurricane. This is definitely mood-music, and it might not be appropriate for casual, middle-of-the-day listening, but it’s an exquisite document, and by far the finest of the genre this year.
KEY TRACK: Janie in Love
1Xenia Rubinos
Black Terry Cat

Anyone who knows me probably saw this one coming. The album I’ve played the most frequently, danced to the most unstoppably, had lodged in my head most completely – every song here is fun, groovy, witty, and profoundly catchy. It’s also extremely thoughtful, with themes of race and politics running through its DNA. Songs like “Mexican Chef” and “Right?” and “See Them” have highly valuable messages ingrained within, but don’t forget that you’re also here to dance. On the flipside, we have sexy, slinky numbers like “Don’t Wanna Be” and “Lonely Lover.” The fact that Rubinos made such an important album that was also such a god damn good time is what really seals the deal for me. It’s truly the album of the year.
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