Top Ten Albums of 2016
Honorable Mention: Summertime 06 by Vince Staples. The only reason this record is an honorable mention is because it didn’t hit wax until the day before my list last year was made. Vince Staples might single-handedly save hip-hop, and he’s only warming up with Summertime ’06.
10 Princess by Abra. Technically an EP, Princess by ABRA is dark wave gold. Like the 80s on 808s, ABRA builds her instrumentals from a rich tradition of dance-centric pop. That said, the singer does a lot to innovate musical tropes. With a voice that collages the best aspects of Janet Jackson and Grimes, ABRA is criminally catchy.
9 Mykki by Mykki Blanco. There is only one rapper that can flip from popping glocks to glossing her lips. That rapper is Mykki Blanco. Mykki is equal parts elegy and club-focused ballad. Gender identity and sexuality loom in the background of every song, but more than a single concept record, Mykki blossoms with a multifacetedness that is hard to come by and even harder to create.
8 32 Levels by Clams Casino. This beat-vetern’s debut is full of guest vocalists that lend 32 Levels‘ cathedral beats such bite. Vince Staples, Lil B, Kelela, Sam Herring, and many more pass the bar on these beats. 32 Levels is a DJ album through and through, but one that uses its darkness to subvert the usual expectations of DJ albums.
7 Heron Oblivion by Heron Oblivion. Half-noise driven psych, half-folksy magic, Heron Oblivion’s self-titled is an H-bomb to all things musical. The album is weird and hot without losing that gut-grabbing aspect of the best albums–truly a perfect blend of noise and hook.
6 Gemini by Astronautica. Gemini is pop-centric electronic music. That said, Astronautic sheds the usual trappings of pop for deceptively simple songs. The album unfurls like a cubist rendition of longing, with each track further complicating the unrequited love. Its spacey textures and lovely percussion gives the album an immediate hook.
5 Xtreme Now by Prince Rama. Prince Rama is a powerpop sister duo to stop all powerpop sister duos. Their latest, Xtreme Now, is unrepentant in its ability to unfurl brilliantly written and stunningly arranged songs. This album will make you dance, cry, and scream at the top of your lungs–often within the course of a single groove.
4 Scene Delete by Sasha. Scene Delete is the closest equivalent to night electronic music has ever been. Aquatic beats and wall-away clarity give this album a hypnotic infectiousness that is impossible to deny. Sasha’s house-driven percussion and all-enveloping textures are a beat fiend’s dream, and the album’s arrangement is inviting for even the most casual electronic listener.
3 Sunshower by Psychic Heat. Find me someone who doesn’t like Psychic Heat’s Sunshower, and I’ll show you a liar. The LFK band has made an album that is full of fuzz, cosmic consciousness, and licks so tasty you’ll want to play them until you die. Sunshower is the album Black Sabbath would have made if they were all hippies. Sunshower is the album Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young would have made if they discovered overdrive.
2 Brain Tentacles by Brain Tentacles. Hands-down one of the weirdest releases of the year, Brain Tentacles’ self-titled does so much to reinvigorate the metal scene. Woolly and wild, this album does what experimentation does best: builds on tropes. The band casts a solidly traditional metal base to their tunes which they then proceed to mess with entirely. Brain Tentacles is light years ahead of anything released this year.
1 Testarossa by Yoni & Geti. Serengeti and Yoni Wolf (of WHY? fame) come together masterfully on this album. Constantly balancing the opposing forces of art and commerce, family and fame, Testarossa‘s protagonist spits lyrical the narrative of his fizzling music career and dissolving family life. Focusing on the small scale, almost devastatingly so, Serengeti and Yoni Wolf have made an album as uniquely personable as it is strangely surreal.