Friday, December 16, 2016
2016 Favorite Albums (Numbers 10-1)
Without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2016:
Warpaint - Heads Up
Perfect mixture of their first album's driving post-punk and their sophomore album's murky electronics.
Porches - Pool
Water themes abound in this haunting collection of synth pop masterpieces.
The Weeknd - Starboy
The Weeknd is now firmly entrenched as a pop star, and he takes it to the next level with this deliciously varied set of R&B, pop, and electronic tracks.
James Blake - The Colour in Anything
Yes, it is way too long and needed some judicious editing. With that said, the jewels here far outnumbered the duds. Further exploring that wonderful voice, Blake married it to the most richly textural electronics in recent memory. Each song is deeply felt, and is akin to aural sculpture.
Beyonce - Lemonade
Only someone of Queen Bey's stature release an album about her husband's infidelity (with his assistance) and come out stronger and better than ever. This is a ferocious record that has Bey trying on all sorts of different musical looks, and making them all work for her.
Solange - A Seat at the Table
While her sister's album has garnered a lot of attention, it wasn't enough to overshadow this stunning record. For me, Solange just barely edges out Bey, more because this album felt more like a cohesive cycle of songs about what it means to be black and a woman in these times. It also skyrockets Solange into the upper echelons of songwriters. A truly amazing experience.
Beacon - Escapements
Ice cold synths and whispered vocals propel these tracks, reflecting on time, love, and memory. While to some this minimalism may be off putting, but for me, this duo expertly keeps you focused on their intricate productions. As the album journeys forward, the intensity rises, and by album's end, you are taken aback by how they have added more acoustic elements into the mix, showing that there is a beating heart at the center of things.
David Bowie - Blackstar
What more there is to say about Bowie? It is likely that we will never ever see anyone like him every again. He left this world a fitting epitaph to his life and work, the stunning Blackstar. For an album that is mostly about ruminations on death, there is a creative vitality to this work that shows the life still emanating from this great man. RIP David Bowie. My life has been better for having had you exist in it.
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Aside from "Burn the Witch," A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead's quietest record, full of ballads and lullabies. There is a despondency in these songs that is heartbreaking. Thom Yorke's haunting, very human voice gives the album its center and keeps it from being too morose. Radiohead are never satisfied with doing things the same way each time. It's a testament to their career, that they keep pushing the envelope, and A Moon Shaped Pool is certainly no exception.
Haelos - Full Circle
I am sure most people are like, who? And, why this album? At the beginning of this year, I was tasked with taking the California bar exam, and this record was basically my life-line back to reality. I had very little free time while going through that experience and I would pretty much listen to it early in the morning when going to the gym and through getting to and from work. There is nothing ground-breaking about their sound. It's an update on 90s trip-hop, but there is a wonderful, warm glow beneath the sounds. The harmonies especially are magical. While the songs all touch on the hardships of love, and the hardships of existing in this insane world, that underlying warmth provided hope. We all need hope. That is why this is my record of the year. It's gorgeous.