Ten Great Records from 2016
2016 was a bittersweet year for music. We lost some of our most influential artists, but many bands also released great albums. So many good albums, in fact, that I had more difficulty than usual whittling down my list to ten. I decided to choose albums that may not receive as much coverage in the online magazines (so no Radiohead, Bowie, Wilco, etc.), but I believe they are all solid. Enjoy.
Nostalgia for Infinity by Sound of Ceres
Befitting its title, Nostalgia for Infinity sounds both new and incredibly classic. Dreampop and synthy with science fiction lyrics, the album evokes a sorta warmer and inviting take on the late-period Flaming Lips sound with hushed Yo La Tengo-ish vocals.
Everything and Nothing by Hammock
Something feels special about this new Hammock album. Sure, they all feel epic, like post-rock versions of The Church or something, but this record feels different. Maybe what makes Everything and Nothing stand out is that the band writes more songs, in the traditional sense, with lyrics. The record starts off nice enough, but really soars to the end. I think we’ll be talking about this one for years to come.
Here by Teenage Fanclub
More jangly pop tunes and Byrds-esque harmonies. But that’s exactly what you want from Teenage Fanclub, right?
Wild Pendulum by Trashcan Sinatras
While Weightlifing may someday be regarded as a/the classic Traschan Sinatras album, Wild Pendulum is the band’s most psychedelic album. (One may even go as far as to call it the band’s Odessey and Oracle.) The songs are catchy, the arrangements are meticulous and Frank Reader’s harmonies are beautiful. What more do you need, oh discerning music lover?
Casio Drone by Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
I want to give all my money to Mike Adams. Yet another perfect indie pop album. This time around, the band chose to record drums at a studio, making it sound a little more professional or something. But in no way did the band trade hooks for clarity because Casio Drone still sounds like the work of a garage band in love with early Weezer and Starflyer 59. And that will always be music to my ears.
Visions of Us on the Land by Damien Jurado
To be honest, I sorta forgot that Damien Jurado released an album this year. Could it be I’ve started taking for granted that he and Richard Swift will always deliver psych-folk masterpieces with exquisite album art?
Zigzagger by Takuya Kuroda
With a little more energy and chicanery than its predecessor, Zigzagger seems to be the logical follow-up to Rising Son. Kuroda still plays catchy soul jazz, but this time around, there is even more of an emphasis on the keyboards and Dilla-influenced drumming. If you need the perfect music for your next house party, look no further.
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not by Dinosaur Jr
It’s yet another solid album by Dinosaur Jr. What more do I/you want? Even the Lou Barlow songs are great. (In fact, Barlow’s songs might just be my favorites on the album.) A perfect summer road trip album, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Tired of Tomorrow by Nothing
Nothing’s last album, Guilty of Everything was impressive, in that it didn’t sound like just another shoegaze (or is it newgaze?) retread. It’s impressive how it seems Nothing has found its own voice in a genre whose rules were basically codified and the style perfected a quarter-century ago. Tired of Tomorrow feels a little like a typical mature follow-up album, but in the best way possible. I feel like it requires an investment of the listeners’ time, but the hooks are there.
Paging Mr. Proust by The Jayhawks
Unlike some of my friends who grew up in the nineties, I’ve always been a fair-weather Jayhawks fan. (I don’t even consider its classic, Tomorrow the Green Grass, to be the band’s best record.) Although their harmonies were always spot-on, I think I prefer Gary Louris’ craft to Mark Olson’s spontaneity. With Olson out of the band (again) and with the aid of Peter Buck in the studio, Paging Mr. Proust is quickly becoming one of my favorite Jayhawks albums.