Best Music of 2016

A lot of us spent 2016 wondering when this never-ending trainwreck of a year would end. There were some high points musically, as well as some snoozers (Views and Starboy could each be half as long). “We had some massive highs, we had some crushing lows” – my man Craig Finn. Allie and I’s decision to name a cat Feline Dion was a massive high.

Frank Ocean – Blonde

Key tracks: “Solo”, “Self Control”, “White Ferrari”, “Siegfried”, “Godspeed”, “Futura Free”

Frank Ocean easily tops the list. Blonde came one day after Endless, featuring production that felt out of left field (guitars everywhere) while remaining true to Frank’s universe. “Summer’s not as long as it used to be, everyday counts like crazy” – that line stuck with me all year.

Warpaint – Heads Up

Key tracks: (really all of them) “Whiteout”, “By Your Side”, “New Song”, “The Stall” “So Good”, “Heads Up”, “Today Dear”

Warpaint’s last record reminded me of Pablo Honey-era Radiohead. This album is great from start to finish. One of my favorite bands.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Key tracks: “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”, “715 CR∑∑KS”, “29 #Strafford APTS”, “8 (circle)”, “00000 Million”

“It might be over soon…” is at once hopeful and an admission of being in the midst of absolute despair. Justin Vernon rewrites the playbook every time he drops a record from any of his projects. Revisit the record Repave by Volcano Choir (Vernon + Collections of Colonies of Bees) if you never got around to it.

Francis and the Lights – Farewell, Starlite!

Key tracks: “See Her Out (Thats Just Life)”, “Can’t Stay Party”, “I Want You To Shake”, “It’s Alright to Cry”, “Friends”

Francis Starlite was present throughout the year – with his first full-length album at age 35, helping out on “Close to You” on Frank Ocean’s record, and having a standout appearance on “Summer Friends” from Chance the Rapper’s breakout, Coloring Book. Bon Iver appears on Francis’s track, “Friends”.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Key tracks: “No Problem”, “Summer Friends”, “Blessings”, “All Night”, “Smoke Break”

Chance 3 raised the bar. Coincidentally, Francis and the Lights opened his whole tour. I listened to this album 6 times in a row that day I found it. I have yet to make it through one entire listen of Views

Flume – Skin

Key tracks: “Never Be Like You”, “Say It”

“Never Be Like You” was maybe my favorite track of the year. EDM or whatever you call this kind of house music always lends itself to aching and longing vocal performances. While most of the songs by The Chainsmokers sound like they came out of a 3D printer, Flume remains strange and unique, which is next to impossible in this copycat scene.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Key tracks: “True Love Waits”, “Identikit”

As someone who has OD’d on all of Radiohead’s material over the past 20 years: I liked this record, I just didn’t go nuts. “True Love Waits” is two-times the gut-punch it has always been (most people are used to the live recording from 2001, on the I Might Be Wrong live EP), knowing that it was released in the wake of Thom ending his decades long relationship with the mother of his 2 children.

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Key tracks: “Vincent”

My favorite indie-sounding record of the year. It sound like Pavement & Neutral Milk Hotel with a shot of Ben Kweller.

The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware if it

Key tracks: “UGH!”

This record is strange and awesome and mainstream and not-mainstream. I kept coming back to it without really knowing why.

My 2016 Best-of Playlist

Here’s a sampling of the year’s best. Enjoy!

Best Music of 2015

I never know what will catch my interest musically in a given year, and 2015 was no exception. The Purity Ring record hit me at just the right time. It soundtracked my wife and I’s move to Williamsburg and was the soundtrack to my commute for at least 2 months – I was also heavily into Run The Jewels 2 around this time, which I snoozed on last year.

The release of the Phosphorescent live record was a pleasant surprise, as I was at the shows it is culled from. Jason Isbell continues to hit it out of the park. His new record contains some of his best material yet. I still need to study Chris Stapleton’s Wikipedia page, but man oh man, what. a. record.

Kurt Vile had one of the most solid records of the year, which I enjoyed more than Wakin on a Pretty Daze, his previous. Courtney Barnett was possibly the buzziest artist in NYC, and deservedly so. The tunes sound so effortless. Same with BØRNS, who seemingly came out of nowhere and released the new MGMT record we’ve all been waiting for.

Two of the consensus best records of the year were Kendrick and Jamie XX. I didn’t spin either one of them a ton of times, but I enjoyed them. I have a soft spot for Panda Bear, and tend to listen to his records while I work.

The Weeknd released a decent record, nowhere near as good as anything previous, but with some brilliant moments. I feel kinda the same way about Sufjan’s latest. Was really good, but didn’t make me lose my mind – although “Eugene” is a perfect song.

The Carly Rae Jepsen record is weirdly awesome. Seriously, give it a listen. The 1st of Beach House’s 2 records from 2015 is ethereal.

Purity Ring – another eternity

Key Tracks: “heartsigh” (below), “push pull”, “stranger than earth”, “flood on the floor”

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometime I Just Sit

Key Tracks: “Elevator Operator”, “Small Poppies”, “Depreston”

Beach House – Depression Cherry

Key Tracks: “Levitation”, “Space Song”, “PPP”

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Key Tracks: “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Whiskey and You”

BØRNS – Dopamine

Key Tracks: “10,000 Emerald Pools”, “Electric Love”, “Holy Ghost”

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Key Tracks: “Speed Trap Town”, “Children of Children”

Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

Key Tracks: “Gimmie Love”, “All That”, “Boy Problems”

Phosphorescent – Live at the Music Hall

Key Tracks: “Nothing Was Stolen”, “Down To Go”, “A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise”, “Wolves”

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Key Tracks: “Eugene”

The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

Key Tracks: “Tell Your Friends”, “Often”, “The Hills”

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Key Tracks: “Boys Latin”

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Key Tracks: “How Much a Dollar Cost”, “Mortal Man”

Kurt Vile – believe I’m going down

Key Tracks: “Pretty Pimpin'”

Jamie XX – In Colour

Best Music of 2015 So Far

Here is what I dig most from 2015 – this is not my year-end list, mostly a nudge for people to suggest their favorites to me. There were a lot of individual songs I liked this year (no, I want to look good for YOU, Selena Gomez), but I tend to gravitate towards records I can listen to repeatedly and wear out.

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Key Tracks: “Elevator Operator”, “Small Poppies”, “Depreston”

Beach House, Depression Cherry

Key Tracks: “Levitation”, “Space Song”, “PPP”

Beach House manage to leave everyone in the dust the years they decide to release a new record. Thank Your Lucky Stars sounds like an addendum to me, but Depression Cherry has been murdering me since my first listen.

Purity Ring, another eternity

Key Tracks: “heartsigh” (below), “push pull”, “stranger than earth”, “flood on the floor”

This album is amazing in its entirety, basically the only thing I listened to for an entire month earlier this year. Has the electro vibe that makes feel like you are floating on air.

The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness

Key Tracks: “Tell Your Friends”, “Often”, “The Hills”

This album is WAY too long, and the 2nd half can basically go in the trash, but the back-to-back “Tell Your Friends” > “Often” > “The Hills” is as good as anything he has done.

Kurt Vile, b’lieve i’m goin down

This is easily one of my favorite tracks of the year.

Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

Key Tracks: “Speed Trap Town” (below), “Children of Children”

I actually enjoy this album more than Southeastern. He is outperforming and outselling the Drive-By Truckers these days – deservedly so.

Chris Stapleton, Traveller

This album is new to me, but wow.

BØRNS, Dopamine

Key Tracks: “10,000 Emerald Pools”, “Electric Love”, “Holy Ghost”

Phosphorescent, Live at the Music Hall

Key Tracks: “Nothing Was Stolen”, “Down To Go”, “A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise”, “Wolves”

TORRES, Sprinter

Key Tracks: “New Skin” (below), “Cowboy Guilt”

Those are the albums I am digging.

PLEASE TELL ME YOUR FAVORITES.

(I know I left off Kendrick – loved it, but didn’t feel the need to listen to it more than 3 times).

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all of artists above plus some others:

All the Feels: Beach House’s Intangible Truth

Pitchfork:

Consider this approach Beach House’s overall philosophy—and perhaps why their music taps into the subconscious so well. Over the course of several interviews, Scally repeatedly talks about how he believes musicians serve as mediums; Legrand poses questions like, “Are artists fearless hunter-gatherers of the energy that people need?” But for all the vibe talk, they definitely don’t take themselves too seriously. Minutes after emphasizing words like “clairvoyance” and “fate” when discussing their bond, they’ll start arguing over the validity of Burning Man’s lore of Jiffy Lube sex tents.

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