• Category Archives Mixes by Year
  • Top 50 Albums of 2017: 50-41

    50. HUNDRED WATERS- COMMUNICATING

     

     

    Third full-length release from experimental electronic pop quartet is their most accessible effort yet.  Despite being signed to Skrillex’s label OWSLA, Hundred Waters have little in common with bro step.  Their music is gorgeous, relaxing and chill.  The first half of the album is nearly perfect starting with lead, and most radio-friendly track “Particle” and “Wave to Anchor” being the biggest highlights.  The second half dips in quality slightly aside from “Blanket”, one of the group’s best tracks yet.

     

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    49. IRON & WINE- BEAST EPIC

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Iron & Wine’s sixth album shows Sam Beam and company returning to the sparer, more stripped down sound of their earliest records, after more recent more band-oriented efforts.  At this point, it is same to call Iron & Wine one of the most consistently good bands in indie-rock as they’ve yet to have a misstep.  While “Beast Epic” may lack immediacy, there are no bad moments and it’s a gorgeous listen from start to finish.  The majority of this album is just Beam’s beautiful voice, his acoustic guitar and some strings and the occasional bass to back him up.  I’ve really enjoyed the group’s busier sounding records as well but this return to roots is nonetheless refreshing.

     

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    48. GIRLPOOL- POWERPLANT

     

     

    Second album by this L.A. based female indie folk-punk duo barely out of their teens. Girlpool only just added a session drummer for “Powerplant”, giving their sound a bit more muscle.  But the focus is on Girlpool’s otherworldly harmonies which bring to mind both the Breeders and the Roches.  Highlights are peppered throughout the album with lead single “123” and penultimate track “It Gets More Blue” being at the top of the heap.

     

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    47. DESTROYER- KEN

     

     

     

     

     

    It’s hard to believe that Destroyer, the long-term project of ultra-literate and eccentric singer-songwriter (and New Pornographer member) Dan Bear, has been active for over twenty years.  The first half of “Ken”, Destroyer’s 11th album, is equal in quality to their 2011 masterpiece “Kaputt”.  Opening track “Sky’s Grey”, single “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood” and “Cover From The Sun” are some of the best Destroyer tracks ever.  “Ken” loses some steam at the end but is overall a worthy effort and a step up from 2015’s still pretty good “Poison Season”.

     

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    46. JAY SOM- EVERYBODY WORKS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Jay Som is SF Bay area multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte.  “Everybody Works” is her official debut album after late 2016 mixtape “Turn Into”.  Though her music plays as lo-fi bedroom pop, her strong sense of melody and propensity to ROCK allows “Everybody Works” to rise far above most other music of its kind.  Duterte is only 22 years old and her talent, ambition and wisdom at such a young age gives me the sense that she could be around for a long time and really make a name for herself in music.

     

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    45. FLEET FOXES- CRACK-UP

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fleet Foxes third album and first since 2011’s “Helplessness Blues” is their most musically complex & least song oriented album to date.  “Crack-Up” needs to be listened as an album rather then piece by piece so that you can dive into its sheer beauty.  Three of the tracks are over six minutes, including two song suites.  It is safe to call “Crack-Up” progressive indie-folk.  The Foxes’ signature gorgeous harmonies are in tact- there is not mistaking this band’s sound.  It’s just so much denser and layered than ever before, but ultimately rewarding for the listener who sticks with it.

     

     

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    44. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE- VILLAINS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Mark Ronson-produced seventh album shows this hard-rock institution at its most ass-shakin’ and experimental.  Queens have always been a groove-oriented group but I’ve never heard them actually this close to danceable.  Lead single “The Way You Used To Do” seems prime to take over radio but most tracks run into the five to six minute mark. This does not make them inaccessible.  Any long-time fan of Queens will not be disappointed.

     

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    43. DRAKE- MORE LIFE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Over the best decade, Drake has become the most commercially successful and well as prolific artists in Rap. Though critically he falls well short of Kendrick Lamar, his output of great songs and albums is undeniable at this point. 2016’s “Views” was bloated and an artistic disappointment but still contained a number of standout singles such as “One Dance”, “Feel No Ways” & “Controlla”, not to mention “Hotline Bling” and it was DRake’s most commercially successful album to date. AS a follow up Drake gives us a nearly hour and a half long mixtape in “More Life”. While even longer than “Views” it seems more generous and less bloated with a free flowing vibe and a plethora of guest stars- Drake at times cedes entire songs to the featuring artists. It’s a fun album showing Drake stylistic diversity while still offering up a number of absolute standout singles like “Get It Together”, the summer-friendly “Passionfruit” and the previously released smash “Fake Love”.

     

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    42. ALVVAYS- ANTISOCIALITIES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second album by Canadian quintet improves on the group’s very good 2014 self-titled debut.  While it may lack a track as immediate as the debut’s “Archie, Marry Me”, “Antisocialities” is much more consistently winning overall.  Alvvays makes hook-filled indie-pop with a nod to shoe gaze and dream-pop. Lead singer Molly Rankin’s airy vocals are punched up to the front of the mix helping to make the group’s sound even more accessible than before.  The album barely breaks thirty minutes and is air tight without a dud among the ten tracks.  “Dreams Tonite” and “Plimsoll Punks” are two early standouts.

     

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    41. ARIEL PINK- DEDICATED TO BOBBY JAMESON

     

     

     

    Forty-something eccentric L.A. weirdo Ariel Pink dedicates a set of songs to Bobby Jameson, a sixties L.A. fellow weirdo who was once a fixture of the city’s psych-rock scene before dropping out due to mental health and substance abuse issues.  With “Bobby Jameson” Pink mixes 60’s psych sounds, 70’s soft rock and millennial dream pop.  His genius is his ability to morph this zany, outsider experimental music into catchy pop songs.  But he mostly succeeds here, particularly with tracks like “Bubblegum Dreams”, “Feels Like Heaven” and “Another Weekend”.

     

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  • TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2017: 40-31

    40.  PRIESTS- NOTHING FEELS NATURAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album by D.C. based, mostly-female, political punk rockers is a perfect antidote to Trump-era nonsense.  It was released back at the top of this year but I finally got around to listening to it in August.  Like 70’s punk & post-punk bands like the Raincoats and the Slits, Priests are far more interesting than straight-ahead, paint by numbers punk, adding elements of funk, jazz, reggae and indie-rock.  First single “JJ” is the catchiest track, but closing cut “Suck” is the most musically interesting.  “Nothing Feels Natural” is a barely thirty minute album with not a second wasted.

     

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    39.  REAL ESTATE- IN MIND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth full-length by Northern Jersey bred indie jangle pop act is another winner, making a strong if subtle case that Real Estate is one of the best and most consistent rock groups of this decade. There are small tweaks to Real Estate’s well-honed sound. Founding guitarist Matt Mondanile has left the group and was replaced by fellow Jersey native, the formerly solo artist Julian Lynch. The lyrics concern chief songwriter’s recent move to the upstate New York town of Beacon, marriage and new fatherhood, showing that the band has moved on a bit from post-collegiate, suburban ennui. While every song on “In Mind” sounds unmistakably like Real Estate, the group does rock out at bit more than on prior albums which can seem dramatic to a group with such a mellow, well-formed sound. Opening track and lead single “Darling” is an early favorite and one of the band’s best songs yet but this band is just ear candy to me and I expect to find my favorite songs to change over time with each listen.

     

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    38. WOLF PARADE- CRY CRY CRY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Cry Cry Cry”, Wolf Parade’s first album in seven years, is quietly its most rewarding listen since the Canadian group’s debut “Apologies To The Queen Mary”, which took indie rock by storm back in 2005.  Wolf Parade sticks to its recognizable driving rock sound, led by punchy synth riffs and co-singer/songwriters Dan Boeckner & Spencer Krug’ passionate vocals.  The group  brings a better stable of songs to the table, after two decent but not great albums released over the last decade in “Expo 86” and “At Mount Zoomer”.  Tracks like “You’re Dreaming”, “Artificial Life” and “Valley Boy” are among the band’s best and though many of the album’s songs stretch past the five minute mark, “Cry Cry Cry” speeds by quickly without any real missteps.

     

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    37.  BIG THIEF- CAPACITY

     

     

     

     

    Sophomore release from Brooklyn-based indie quarter Big Thief took me awhile to enjoy.  “Capacity” is bare-bones, intimate and quite intense.  Singer, chief songwriter, and guitarist Adrianne Lenker delivers devastating lyrics often about painful familial memories, death and abuse, but sung in a sweet, very palatable voice.  “Capacity” requires immense concentration to fully appreciate its beauty and depth.  “Mythological Beauty”, the title track, and “Shark Smile” are the album’s biggest highlights.

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    36.  CHRIS STAPLETON- FROM A ROOM VOLUMES 1 & 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nashville neo-outlaw Country hero Chris Stapleton follow up to his wildly successful, multi-million selling debut “Traveller”, is a modest, brief collection- a part 1 of a planned two part set (part 2 is planned to be released later this year)- that is all killer, no filler.  Album highlights include “Up To No Good Livin'”, “Them Stems”, “I Was Wrong” and Willie Nelson cover “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning”, but every single song here is damn good.  Stapleton is a top notch songwriter, an authentic and soulful singer and maybe the very best thing going in all of country music right now.

    **  Since the above review Stapleton did release Volume 2 on 12/1/17.  I like it slightly less than “Volume 1”, but combining the two records delivers a solid one-two punch which contains nearly two handfuls of standout tracks with nary a stinker in the whole lot.  We are lucky to have this man’s talent.

     

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    35.  FATHER JOHN MISTY- PURE COMEDY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Pure Comedy”, Father John Misty’s third album, is seventy-five minutes long and in his most ambitious and grandest statement yet.  Despite an incredibly strong start to the album, that does not make it his most enjoyable.  It lacks the amount of strong songs and musical diversity of his last album “I Love You Honeybear”.  Misty’s hipster persona, usually laden with irony, makes it difficult for the listener to discern his level of sincerity.  While many people find him frustrating; an obviously crazy talented & prolific songwriter with a voice like an angel who just can’t seem to play it straight, I find the persona fresh and interesting.  These are dark times both politically and culturally and Misty is not afraid to point fingers at not only our often ridiculous leaders, but the capitalist system in general as well as himself and his own audience.  The first four songs on “Pure Comedy”- the title track, “Total Entertainment Forever”, “Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution” & “Ballad Of A Dying Man” are all among the best songs he has ever written but “Pure Comedy” can get bogged down by the amount of similar sounding, lengthy ballads- four of the album thirteen songs are over six minutes with two of them going over ten.

     

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    34. THUNDERCAT- DRUNK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third album by hotshot L.A. bassist Thundercat is a free-form, often goofy “day in the life of” album made up of 23 songs, each around two minutes.  The vibe is experimental but also a loose and laid back fusion of soul, funk & jazz with each song flowing right into the next.  Standout tracks include “Friend Zone”, “Show You The Way” (with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald!) and last year’s cut “Them Changes”, which is maybe the best of them all.

     

     

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    33.  MIGOS- CULTURE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Atlanta trap-rappers piggy-back and the success of #1 single “Bad and Boujee” and follow-up smash “T-Shirt” with the best album of their career so far.  Though “Culture” is certainly front-loaded it’s still by far their most consistently good release so far and its unique but more accessible sound should garner the group a ton of new fans.

     

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    32.  JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT- THE NASHVILLE SOUND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After two solo albums (2013’s “Southeastern” and 2015’s “Something More Than Free”) which established Jason Isbell as one of the leading lights of alternative country, Isbell releases his first album with his band the 400 unit since 2011 and his third with the group overall.  The Nashville Sound is less a singer-songwriter album and more of a southern rock album with gritty kick-ass songs like “Cumberland Gap” and “Last Of My Kind” which sound closer to the Drive-By Truckers than Isbell’s more recent solo output.  Though “The Nashville Sound” has a few missteps great songs like the ones mentioned above, along with “If We Were Vampires” and “White Man’s World” make it another worthy listen for Isbell’s ever-growing fanbase.

     

     

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    31.  CHARLOTTES GAINSBOURG-REST

     

     

     

    Charlotte, the daughter of legendary French pop star and auteur Serge Gainsbourg, lost her half sister in 2013 to a tragic accident.  Her last album “IRM” dealt with her own fears of sickness and mortality.  “Rest” is about coming to grips with loss while figuring out how to move forward with your life without being consumed by tragedy.  Gainsbourg is able to switch from quiet, depressing ballads like “Kate” and “Rest” to celebratory, dance tracks like “Deadly Valentine” and “Sylvia Says” mirroring the album’s main theme of resiliency.

     

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2017: 30-21

    30MOUNT KIMBIE- LOVE WHAT SURVIVES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third full-length release (it’s my first) by electronic music duo Mount Kimbie, who have apparently raised the bar by becoming much more song-oriented on “Love What Survives”.   Featuring celebrated indie guest vocalists including James Blake, Micachu & King Krule, Kimbie takes a leap from IDM into more traditional indie-rock territory.  Krule, who has his own heavily anticipated album out in mid-October, particularly stands out on “Blue Train Lines”, my favorite track on the album.  Mount Kimbie’s sound tow’s the line between propulsive Krautrock of group’s like Can & Faust, gloomy post-punk of Joy Division & early Cure and livelier energetic synth music of later New Order.

     

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    29. DIRTY PROJECTORS- DIRTY PROJECTORS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Dave Longstreth continues his Dirty Projectors project, with a break-up record about former bandmate Amber Coffman.  Longstreth is very musical but esoteric with offbeat rhythms and arrangements prominent throughout the album, and his unmistakably distinct high-pitched vocals make the Dirty Projectors “not for everybody”.  My guess is that “Dirty Projectors” will prove to be a grower but early standout tracks include “Up In Hudson”, “Keep Your Name” and “Little Bubble”.

     

     

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    28. ZOLA JESUS- OKOVI

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sixth album by Zola Jesus is the first I’ve heard that I would consider all all out winner, despite a number of amazing individual moments released over the past decade.  Zola Jesus is Zika Danilova, an amazingly talented, opera-trained vocalist, whose soaring vocals give goth pop perhaps its first torch singer.  Lyrically “Okovi” deals with depression, cancer diagnosis & the suicide or attempted suicide of several of Danilova’s friends, but despite the dark themes, her gorgeous music sounds life-affirming rather than bummed out.  “Exhumed”, “Soak” and “Siphon” are my favorite tracks here but all of “Okovi” is a worthwhile listen.  Hopefully Zola Jesus’s profile will increase with this record.  They deserve it.

     

     

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    27. JULIE BYRNE- NOT EVEN HAPPINESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sophomore album by NYC transplant Julie Byrne is a beautiful and serene mixture of folk and new age music.  It’s over in just over thirty minutes and feels even shorter- there are no weak moments.

     

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    26.  MOUNT EERIE- A CROW LOOKED AT ME

     

     

    “A Crow Looked At Me” is 2017’s “Benji” or “Carrie and Lowell”- a beautifully written, deep and incredibly thought provoking album that is nonetheless devastatingly sad and too depressing for many.  Phil Elverum recently lost the love of his life, wife and mother to his one year old child, to cancer and “A Crow Looked At Me” is a celebration of her memory but also how her death and her spirit envelopes his world as he has to pick up the pieces and go on living.  That his wife died at just 35 and his child is not even old enough to truly ever remember her makes it all the more tragic.  But there can be deep beauty found in sadness.

     

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    25. LAURA MARLING- SEMPER FEMINA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sixth album by London based singer-songwriter Laura Marling concentrates on femininity and the complex relationships between women. Still only twenty-five, Marling is a true “old soul”, crafting music which could have easily been made at any time in the last forty five years. After 2015’s more rock-oriented, excellent “Short Movie”, “Semper Feminine” is more of a throwback to Marling’s earlier, more acoustic based work. Standout tracks include “The Valley” and “Wild Once” but the entire album is a great listen.

     

     

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    24.WAXAHATCHEE- OUT IN THE STORM

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by Philadelphia band led by singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield, shows the group continuing to grow and get better with each release.  Each of their albums is examines the bad breakup of a relationship from a unique angle.  “Out In The Storm” is the first to look at the relationship from the perspective of having truly moved on.  Crutchfield’s lyrics are incisive and poetic, while Waxahatchee’s sharp indie power pop is a joy to hear.

     

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    23.THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- WHITEOUT CONDITIONS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Seventh album by Canadian indie-rock super group is their first without group eccentric Dan Bejar who couldn’t record due to scheduling conflicts with his other group Destroyer.  Bejar’s presence is missed as he is often responsible for some of the group’s best and most stylistically diverse songs.  But likely due to his absence “Whiteout Conditions” is one of the band’s most focused pure power pop albums yet.  As usual the NP’s are led by chief singer & songwriter AC Newman but Neko Case is now given more shine on lead vocals.  The title track and “High Ticket Attractions” are early favorites.

     

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    22.FUTURE ISLANDS- THE FAR FIELD

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Far Field” is Future Islands fifth album but first since the band’s popularity increased exponentially due to hit single “Seasons” from 2014’s “Singles”.  There may not be a single track on “The Far Field” as amazing as “Seasons” but the album as a whole is a more consistently rewarding effort.  Future Islands is a three pieces band driven by Peter Hook-style bass riffs, passionate, heart on its sleeve vocals, robotic drums and no guitar.  Lead singles “Ran” and “Cave” as well as the gorgeous “Through The Roses” all standout but there is not a weak track in the bunch.

     

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    21. PERFUME GENIUS- NO SHAPE

     
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “No Shape” is the fourth album by confrontational & groundbreaking gay artist Mike Hadreas as Perfume Genius and is an ode to and a celebration of his love and relationship with longtime boyfriend and musical collaborator Alan Wyffles.  Hadreas’s music can be beautiful, heartbreaking, provocative, defiant and bold- sometimes all at once.  “No Shape” is his most consistently rewarding set of songs yet with lead single “Slip Away” being the most obvious highlight.

     

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2017: 20-11

     

    20.  SPOON- HOT THOUGHTS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2014’s “They Want My Soul” was in my opinion one of the best albums of indie-rock institution Spoon’s twenty year career. “Hot Thoughts” may not be quite on its level but there is hardly shame in that Spoon has simply never made a bad, or even average album. Though Spoon certainly has its dedicated fan-base they somehow always manage to fly under the radar even though they are truly one of the best rock bands of their era. Like Real Estate above, Spoon has developed its own sound and stays in that lane while tweaking the formula up just enough to make “Hot Thoughts” different from the rest of their albums. Lead vocalist and song-writer Britt Daniel is also a genius in the studio and adds production flourishes- bleeps, loops, skronks and eerie strings or synths that add spice to his catchy and reliably consistent songwriting. “Can I Sit Next To You”, the title track and “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” are songs surely to be added to the great Spoon song canon at the very least.

     

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    19. KELELA- TAKE ME APART

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Take Me Apart” is Kelela’s long awaited debut after a series of stunning EP’s.  Kelela makes innovative, futuristic pop music, danceable and sex-focused, but more akin to early Bjork, FKA Twigs and the xx than current club music.  Her music is patient, sultry & sensual, increasingly rewarding upon repeated listenings.  Lead single “Frontline” is a standout track, but “Take Me Apart” is consistently pleasurable from beginning to end.

     

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    18. MAC-DEMARCO- THIS OLD DOG

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third full-length album “This Old Dog” shows talented millennial slacker-hero Mac DeMarco’s leap into relative maturity, as DeMarco delves into his family history with a loving, but struggling single mother and a mostly absent father with substance abuse issues.  DeMarco’s woozy, chilled-out, mostly acoustic sound remains in place and tracks like “On The Level” and “This Old Dog” are up there right among his best material.  Long-time fans will not be disappointed and DeMarco’s lyrical growth is a welcome sign.

     

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    17. SAMPHA- PROCESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut LP by frequent featuring vocalist (Solange, Drake, Kanye, Frank Ocean) Sampha is filled with meditative soul ballads sung in his gorgeous falsetto.  It’s a beautiful, but fairly downbeat album concerned with processing grief and self-discovery.  It’s one of the year’s best albums so far.

     

     

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    16. TYLER, THE CREATOR- FLOWER BOY


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Color me surprised that the often offensive, always provocative rabble rouser, Tyler The Creator released his least offensive (by far) and best album with his fourth solo album “Flower Boy”. Production on past albums was normally in your face and aggressive, while on “Flower Boy” it’s gentle, beautiful and slow moving;  mellow jazz & soul samples are often used to color in the grooves.  Talented collaborators including Frank Ocean, Syd, Estelle & Pharrell Williams all contribute to “Flower Boy”.  It’s the biggest switch in sound of a recent artist that I can think of while possibly even being a coming out of the closet statement by Tyler, who previously has been justly accused of homophobic rants.  “Flower Boy” is a ton to dissect from a talented and often misunderstood young artist making his first major full-length album statement.  “Who Dat Boy” and “911/Mr. Lonely” are two standout tracks but the whole thing is a very strong listen.

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    15. FEVER RAY- PLUNGE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Plunge” is only the second album by Fever Ray, a solo project of Karen Dreijer, one half of Swedish experimental electronic duo The Knife.  While certainly maintaining an experimental vibe, Fever Ray tends to be more accessible than The Knife and “Plunge” does not disappoint, delivering some of its best and catchiest tracks yet including “This Country”, “To The Moon And Back” and “IDK About You”.  Yet these tracks belie the remainder of the album which tends to be more dissonant and atonal.  As always, Dreijer is unapologetically liberal, attacking the western world’s current hyper capitalism and descent into conservatism.  She is ultra-focused on sex, and the more overt the sex the more political she sounds.  Sex as freedom!

     

    BUY Plunge [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    14. JAY Z – 4 44

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Many didn’t feel like Jay-Z had this one in him.  One of the most talented rappers of all-time and arguably the longest career ever of sustained greatness, most thought of him as done after the fat, rich & happy artists failure of 2013’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail”, but 4:44 is not only great, it’s probably Jay’s best since “The Black Album”.  Many are reading “4:44” as a response to his wife Beyonce’s excellent “Lemonade”, or at the very least as an apology for his own marital shortcomings.  Whether it is or not, Jay-Z is certainly at his most emotional and introspective, allowing a real window into his soul.  “Smile”, “The Story of O.J.” and the awesome hit title cut are among the many highlights.

     

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    13. RUN THE JEWELS- RTJ 3

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The most exciting duo in rap right now drop a free mixtape on Christmas day and continue their winning streak with this third self titled album release.  Their political anger is understandably ramped up, but so is their joy- two guys celebrating a true friendship and partnership who are in the zone playing off of each other.  And the production is A-one as usual.

     

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    12. THE NATIONAL- SLEEP WELL BEAST

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Seventh album by gloomy Brooklyn dads, The National, is to my ears their best since “Boxer”.  The National rock harder here on a few tracks than usual giving “Beast” an energy and urgency not quite there on their still very good last few prior releases.  “Day I Die”, “Turtleneck” and “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness” are the louder cuts and are all standouts in the band’s increasingly vast catalog.  The album’s sonic variety allows mellower tracks like “Carin At The Liquor Store”, “Dark Side of The Gym” and “Guilty Party” to stand out more as well.  It’s great to see a band over a decade in, well steeped in middle age not running short on ideas and still making some of the best music of their career.

     

    Buy Sleep Well Beast Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    11. VINCE STAPLES- BIG FISH THEORY


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Big Fish Theory” is the second full-length (to go along with two standout EP’s) album for the Long Beach, California based rapper, further cementing Staples status as one of the young shining lights of modern hip hop.  Like Kendrick Lamar, Staples is a great pure rapper who also has lots to say- he is a fearless voice in calling out societal hypocrisies and racial strife.  On “Big Fish” he marries his intellectual raps to club music beats, which are specially indebted to late eighties/early nineties Chicago & Detroit House and Techno music.  Early highlights include lead track “Crab In A Bucket” and Kendrick Lamar featuring “Yeah Right”, but I’m excited to dig into this album further.

     

    BUY Big Fish Theory [Explicit]AMAZON



  • Top 50 Albums of 2017- 10-1

    10.  JULIEN BAKER- TURN OUT THE LIGHTS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Julien Baker is a Tennessee born, young, ultra-talented indie singer-songwriter who sounds much older and wiser than her twenty two years. Baker delivers powerful, raw and authentic vocals with spare accompaniment usually consisting of piano and electric or acoustic guitar all played by Baker herself.  She asks philosophical questions about depressions, God and her place and purpose in the universe.  “Turn Out The Lights”, Baker’s second album immediately captures your attention, but continues to get better with each listen.  There are no weak tracks, but the title cut is my favorite along with “Happy To Be Here”, “Appointments” and “Sour Breath”, but this is the type of album where your favorite song could change often over time and “Turn Out The Lights” could be destined to reach future classic status.

     

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    9. THE XX- I SEE YOU

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd album and first since 2012’s “Coexist” is both an improvement on that record and a step forward for the band.  While maintaining the group’s signature smooth, sultry sound the xx incorporates elements from dj Jamie xx’s solo career and uses samples for the first time.

    BUY I See You AMAZON
     

     

     

     

     

     

    8.  THE WAR ON DRUGS- A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album find Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs really settling into a groove after 2014’s incredibly well received “Lost In The Dream”.  With a sound and production deeply indebted to mid eighties Boomer-rock (think “Avalon”-era Roxy Music, mid eighties-Dire Straits, late-eighties Springsteen with less nasally Dylan-esque vocals) TWOD is able to remind listeners of that throwback era, while maintaining its own singular, recognizable sound.  Led by frontman/songwriter and guitarist Adam Granduciel, the group’s big, busy sound is machine-line in its precision offering a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Though tracks like “Pain”, “Holding On” and the 11 minute plus “Thinking Of A Place” do stand out, “A Deeper Understanding” is best listened to as a whole- it’s a album that allows you to get lost inside of it.

     

     

     

    BUY A Deeper Understanding AMAZON
     

     

     

     

     

    7. SZA- CTRL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Major label debut album from New Jersey based alternative R&B singer, SZA, is a surprise hit with tracks like “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” even crossing over to radio.  SZA’s lyrics are bold, frank and sometimes self-effacing- she is equally tough on herself as she is on bad ,ale behavior.  Her music sticks out as unique among her contemporary R&B peers as she often draws her sound from indie-rock as she does pop & soul.  Her Top Dawg label mates Travis Scott, Isaiah Rashad and especially Kendrick Lamar are all welcome featuring artist on this very smart & promising album.

    BUY Ctrl [Explicit] AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    6.  KAMASI WASHINGTON- THE HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Harmony Of Difference” is the 30 minute EP follow-up to South Central Los Angeles Jazz Saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s three disc, three hour debut “The Epic”.  Washington, a leading light of today’s jazz who often collaborates with like-minded musicians outside of jazz like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus & Thundercat, writes five concise thematic pieces that are combined into one lengthy fourteen minute suite called “Truth”, which is possibly one of 2017’s greatest recordings.  There is not a misstep one the EP, which may somehow better his audacious debut.  If you are looking for a good entry point to current jazz, Washington is a great place to start.  He takes the traditions of the hard bop masters, particularly John Coltrane, and expands it into current R&B and Hip Hop, enriching and enhancing both genres.

     

    BUY Harmony of DifferenceAMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    5.  ST. VINCENT- MASSEDUCTION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fifth full-length album by singer-songwriter & wunderkind guitarist Annie Clark (As St. Vincent) is one of 2017’s best albums.  Like two of her heroes, David Byrne & David Bowie, Clark is never content to rest on her laurels, stretching her writing and musical chops to yet again create an album unique to her discography.  Thematically, “Masseduction” deals with heartbreak, leaving and distance.  It’s already been called St. Vincent’s most pop-oriented album.  This may be true as far as song accessibility but none of it sounds remotely like any current pop dominating the radio.  “New York”, “Los Ageless”, “Pills” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny” are early faves.

     

    BUY Masseduction [Explicit]AMAZON
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    4.  SLOWDIVE- SLOWDIVE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nineties shoegaze band’s first album in twenty-two years and it’s one of 2017’s best albums, continuing the welcome streak of Gen-X bands (Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, Sleater-Kinney) delivering great reunion albums up there with their best work.  “Slowdive” is exacting and fussed over, but strikingly beautiful and at eight songs there is not even an average one in the bunch.  Whether pure pop, like album standout “Sugar For The Pill”, or more dissonant and swirling like “Star Rover” Slowdive deliver continuous ear candy- this album is a true triumph and makes me eager to go back and listen to the band’s original output.

     

    BUY Slowdive AMAZON
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3.  LORDE- MELODRAMA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Twenty year old, precociously talented Lorde follows up her wildly successful debut album (2013’s “Pure Heroine”) with “Melodrama”, which is five times better than her pretty great debut- an album which simultaneously shows major music growth, is a cohesive artistic statement and contains a collection of amazing songs and singles.  It’s the best pure pop album of 2017 and one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.  Thematically “Melodrama” concerns the trials and tribulations of teenage life on the precipice of your adulthood.  It’s a concept that’s been explored before for sure but Lorde’s expert writing makes the songs fee lived-in, authentic and autobiographical.  The highlights are many- lead single “Green Light”, “The Louvre”, “Homemade Dynamite”, “Supercut” and album closer “Perfect Places”.  It’s the type of album that could be generating hits for several years.  Is Lorde the voice of her generation?

     

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    2.  LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- AMERICAN DREAM

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    First album in over six years is another absolute winner for James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem, adding even more to a catalog that as consistently great as any band of this millennium.  As usual, Murphy synchronizes driving synth pop and club music, gloomy post-punk and the early oughts dance-punk sound that he helped revolutionize into a sound often familiar but still uniquely his own.  Bowie, Talking Heads, New Order, Suicide, Brian Eno are all major influences.  “American Dream” focuses on the aging process, self-reflection and the search for meaning and idealism, particularly in Trump’s America.  It is certainly among the best albums released this year and tracks “Tonite” and “Call The Police” are among the best songs in the group’s arsenal to date.

     

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    1KENDRICK LAMAR- DAMN

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Kendrick Lamar has now, by 2017, taken over Kanye West as the most exciting artist in modern music. Lamar’s influence drives not only hip hop culture but music in general.  After 2015’s world conquering, heavily jazz & funk influenced “To Pimp A Butterfly”, Lamar with “Damn” brings the focus back towards pure rap, but “Damn” is as singular and unique as any of Lamar’s previous output.  It sounds far more focused that the sprawling and densely packaged “Butterfly” and though fifty-five minutes long it seems much shorter.  Lead single “Humble” managed to go all the way to #1- a huge crossover radio hit; it did so without compromises.  The best artists set the standard and make the societal infrastructure change for them.  “DNA”, “Fear”, XXX (featuring U2!!!!) and last track- the amazing “Duckworth” are all some of the best cuts of not only Lamar’s career but of 2017 in general.  “Damn” will likely be on the short list of 2017’s best albums when all is said and done.

    BUY DAMN. [Explicit] AMAZON



  • Featured Image Top 50 Albums of 2016: 50-41

    1. CHAIRLIFT- MOTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Moth” turned out to be this under-appreciated synth duo’s last album as they recently broke up at the end of 2016. After working with the likes of Beyonce, Chairlift amps up the pop and R&B elements of the band. Caroline Polachek’s breath-taking vocals are the main focus, giving the hooky songs an added zest. Though “Moth” contains a few duds the handful of highlights make the album a very worthy listen, including should have been hit “Romeo”, “Ch-Ching”, “Show U Off” and the beautiful “Crying In Public”. I doubt this is the last we have heard from either Polachek or partner Patrick Wimberly as each has too much talent to remain dormant for long. Regardless with the duo’s three albums they have already left behind a consistently good body of work.

     

    Buy Moth Amazon

    Buy Crying in Public Amazon

    Buy Romeo Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. NONAME- TELEFONE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Noname is a Chicago rapper and poet who has been featured prominently on recent Chance the Rapper releases as well as a number of other leading lights in the Chicago rap scene. She brings to mind a new generation’s Jill Scott- her vocals and music are patient, mellow and joyous, even when discussing her community’s strife. Her cadence is as much spoken word poetry as rap- her tone hopeful and optimistic while being keenly observational and realistic. “Telefone” was released as a free mixtape and is a very promising debut from a unique artist.

     

     

    *Album not available via Amazon. Stream at https://soundcloud.com/noname/sets/telefone

    Diddy Bop   Yesterday

     

     

     

     

    1. YOUNG THUG- JEFFERY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Jeffery” was the third and best mixtape released in 2016 by Thug, one of rap’s most prolific and eccentric personalities. The front cover of the album is Thug in a gown. The ten tracks on the album are named after idols or influencers of Thug but lyrically seemingly have zero connection to said people. Though Thug wants “Jeffery” to be a pivot away from his prior sound & image (he is now embarrassed by the name Young Thug), his distinct rapping and overall sound remain in place. But “Jeffery” is a tighter and frankly better full-length album than we have heard from him prior. There are no bad tracks and several real bangers including “Kanye West”, “Wyclef Jean” and the big hit single collaboration with Travis Scott “Pick Up The Phone”.

     

    Buy Jeffery [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy pick up the phone [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Kanye West (feat. Wyclef Jean) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. CASE/LANG/VEIRS- CASE/LANG/VEIRS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Case/Lang/Veirs is a supergroup album that actually works. The trio formed three years ago in Portland, Oregon- Lang & Veirs live there while Neko Case collaborates with them from her home in Vermont. Though KD Lang is certainly the biggest star of the three, and Laura Veirs the least well known, all three share in the spotlight equally and each brings her unique talent to the table. The overall result is a brilliantly sung, beautiful folk rock album that can be played start to finish but the songs don’t blend together as more than a few stand out as memorable compositions all quite different from the other- “Atomic Number”, “Greens Of June”, “The Best Kept Secret”, which sounds the most like a Neko Case solo track, and the wonderful “Song For Judee” being a few of the best.

     

    Buy case/lang/veirs Amazon

    Buy Song for Judee Amazon

    Buy Greens of June Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. AESOP ROCK- THE IMPOSSIBLE KID

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Impossible Kid” is another remarkably consistent album from Minnesota rapper Aesop Rock, who has been plying at his trade since the late nineties. Because of the plethora of high profile releases in 2016 in rap and music in general “The Impossible Kid” is in danger of fading away and being quickly forgotten but that would be a shame. As per usual Aesop is wordy and confessional, detail driven and as far away from mainstream radio rap as you can get. Therefore he is certainly not for everyone but any longtime fans surely won’t be disappointed by this effort, any for those disappointed with much of modern rap, who are looking for something heady and thought-provoking with sick, outside of the box beat “The Impossible Kid” is a great place to start.

     

    Buy The Impossible Kid [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Rings Amazon

    Buy Molecules [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. METALLICA- HARDWIRED… TO SELF-DESTRUCT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Metallica is perhaps the most celebrated Heavy Metal band of all time and their first non-collaborative album in eight years, “Hard Wired To Self-Destruct) is being billed as both their best album since their original eighties and early nineties hey day, and a return to roots. While I did enjoy 2008’s “Death Magnetic” I do think that “Hard-Wired” is a few steps above it in quality, mostly because the songs are more distinct and frankly better. It’s still a far cry from masterpieces like “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning” and its comparison to the speed metal thrash of debut “Kill ‘Em All” I find to be a bit off. While the playing is certainly heavy here, the sound is far more modern than on “Kill ‘Em All”, the solos shorter and tighter and without the feeling of youthful reckless abandon found on that debut. Yet this new album should please longtime fans and is a true step in the right direction for a group which has made many missteps and has often even lacked goodwill over much of the last two decades.

     

    Buy Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (Deluxe) Amazon

    Buy Hardwired [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Now That We’re Dead Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MITSKI- PUBERTY 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Puberty 2” is the justifiably heralded fourth album, by Japanese born, Brooklyn based Mitski Miyawaki. It’s a cleverly titled nod to delayed adolescence which so many young people go through now difficultly navigating through love and life in the big city. Mitski is equally a singer songwriter and a punk rocker. It’s a short album which never gets boring- all but one track is under four minutes with three of them under two. The music is anxious and tense while the lyrics are clever and forthright. “Your Best American Girl” is the true standout and one of the better indie-rock songs of the year but there is much else to love as well.

     

     

    Buy Puberty 2 Amazon

    Buy Your Best American Girl Amazon

    Buy Happy Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MARGO PRICE- MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Margo Price is yet another case of what seemed to be an overnight success who in reality has been plying at her trade mostly unsuccessfully for over a decade. Her fortunes recently turned as she was signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records on the strength of her rollicking live performances in Nashville. Price is a throwback, old school country honky-tonk singer in the vein of Loretta Lynn and with a crack band prone to rock n’ roll rave-ups. But in an era with a plethora of young talented female country singers she still stands out. She has quite a back-story as well, which includes a brief stink in jail and losing a young child. Six minute opening track “Hands Of Time”, to my ears the highlight of the whole record, goes through her whole life story and is a challenging and bold move, which really pays off. “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” is a consistently fun listen all the way through and a hell of a debut. Other great tracks include “Hurtin (On The Bottle)” and “Four Years Of Chances.”

     

     

    Buy Midwest Farmer’s Daughter Amazon

    Buy Hands of Time Amazon

    Buy Four Years of Chances Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. PORCHES- POOL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Porches are an alias of indie singer/songwriter Aaron Maine, a frequent collaborator of Frankie Cosmos. Frankie appears here throughout the album making Porches feel like a duo. “Pool” is the second album release of Porches and is a homemade, downbeat indie electronic record whose easiest comparison is to early Beach House or Majical Cloudz. Despite the inward looking lyrics and sad sounding vocals many of the tracks have enough bounce to get your head bobbing if not actually get you up on the dance floor. And it keeps the album from ever getting depressing. “Be Apart” is the true standout but every track on “Pool” is solid.

     

    Buy Pool Amazon

    Buy Be Apart Amazon

    Buy Glow Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS- AMERICAN BAND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Incredibly “American Band” is the 12th proper studio album by the Drive-By Truckers, who at this point can be considered a southern rock institution. It’s also their best release since 2008’s “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” as well as the band’s most politically targeted album in well over a decade. Rather than allowing for three singers and songwriters, as on many of their recent albums “American Band” features just Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley the group’s founding and most prominent members, making the release a tighter and more consistent effort. Drive-By Truckers take on many of the country’s biggest current debates from a thoughtful and often liberal but always southern perspective and are a welcome and frankly needed voice. Four tracks stand out to me above the rest- two at the beginning of the album – tracks 2 & 3 “Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn” and “Surrender Under Protest” and two others towards the end “Ever South” and “What It Means” and not to say the other tracks are lacking, but if the DBT’s could come up with a whole album equal to those four they may just come up with their best album yet. Even if not, the band is showing no signs of slowing down.

     

    Buy American Band Amazon

    Buy Ever South Amazon

    Buy Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of DawnAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 40-31

    1. WEYES BLOOD- FRONT ROW SEAT TO EARTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by psychedelic folk singer/songwriter AKA Natalie Mering truly sounds out of time. Lyrically she speaks to modern concerns but the sound of the record is pure throwback. The nine tracks are all over four minutes except the last one further giving the album a “classic albums era” feel. Every track is a slow moving ballad, most of them with grandiose arrangements with a light rock feel. It’s mellow but sophisticated and rarely sparse. Best tracks are “Used To Be”, “Do You Need My Love” and “Seven Words”. Mering has already recorded and released an EP with Ariel Pink as well s providing multiple vocals on his last full album release. She also started out in experimental noise-rock bands like Jackie-O Motherfucker. With this kind of dynamism it will be interesting to see what a musical chameleon like her will offer next.

     

    Buy Front Row Seat To Earth Amazon

    Buy Used to Be Amazon

    Buy Seven Words Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. WHITE LUNG- PARADISE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Paradise”, the fourth studio album by Vancouver feminist punk band White Lung show the band moving in an increasingly song oriented directions while not losing any of the fury that made them great in the first place. “Hungry”, “Below” and “Kiss Me When I Bleed” especially are the group’s most pop oriented and best efforts to date. The hooks are stronger, the playing more dynamic and even if it’s still difficult to picture White Lung anywhere near mainstream radio, it’s a pleasure to find the band moving forward rather than standing still. And their voice is necessary in these troubled times.

     

    Buy Paradise Amazon

    Buy Hungry Amazon

    Buy Below Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. KEVIN MORBY- SINGING SAW

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd solo album by former member of indie band Woods is a throwback to the late sixties/early seventies singer songwriter era- he is particularly influenced by the Band. Morby’s rich, deep vocals and gently strummed acoustic guitar sound dominate the album, which unfolds in an unhurried, relaxed manner. Well place horn licks add texture and occasional surprise. “I Have Been To The Mountain” and “Destroyer” are the two best cuts but “Singing Saw” is enjoyable throughout.

     

    Buy Singing Saw Amazon

    Buy I Have Been to the Mountain Amazon

    Buy Destroyer Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. HAMILTON LEITHAUSER/ROSTAM- I HEARD A DREAM THAT YOU WERE MINE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Low-key release by frontman of the Walkmen (Leithauser) and one of the true creative forces in Vampire Weekend (Rostam) shows the two to be a great fit. Leithauser’s distinct vocals are the only thing really recognizable here from either musician’s past history. Doo-wop vocals and twinkling piano licks that bring to mind the crooner era are prominent on this release giving the album and out of time feel. Rostam has a knack for surprising and unique production while still finding the hook while Leithauser vocals are flexible enough to fit an array of different styles while always being totally recognizable. My bet is this pairing will stick and they will deliver more great albums in the future.

     

    Buy I Had A Dream That You Were Mine Amazon

    Buy A 1000 Times Amazon

    Buy Sick as a Dog Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DVSN- SEPT. 5

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album from mysterious, Drake supported R&B balladeers. Dvsn offer lustful, carnal slow-jams- all sex but no actual curse words. The group dropped the great “The Line” and “Too Deep” late in 2014 and received tons of buzz in their wake. Not all of the songs on “Sept. 5th” are up to the quality of those two but a few may even be better including “Try/Effortless” and especially “Hallucinations”, one of my 2016 personal favorites. “Sept. 5th” is very modern sounding but with little hip hop influence. It’s similar to the Weeknd but without as much excess. While not a perfect album there are enough close to perfect songs here to make dvsn very worth watching in the future.

     

    Buy Sept 5th [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Hallucinations Amazon

    Buy Too Deep Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ESPERANZA SPALDING- EMILY’S D+EVOLUTION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Emily’s D+Evolution”, Grammy award winning bassist and vocalist’s fifth album is her first that finds her moving in a rock direction. Spalding is primarily known as a jazz player, though she has previously fused jazz with R&B. Though both jazz & R&B are still in the mix here, progressive electric guitar riffs are most prominent showing Spalding as an artist not content to rest on her laurels. It sounds like a heavier version of one of Joni Mitchell’s mid seventies jazz-infused albums like “Hejira”, but in reverse. The vocals, instrumentation and lyrics are rich, affecting, unique and deeply weird. There is a lot to unpack here but it’s a worthwhile listen and Esperanza Spalding is a unique talent.

     

    Buy Emily’s D+Evolution (Deluxe Edition) Amazon

    Buy Earth To Heaven Amazon

    Buy Judas Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. SCHOOLBOY Q- BLANK FACE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by L.A. Black Hippy crew member Schoolboy Q is an overly long album with too many throwaway cuts, but mixed with moments of gangsta rap brilliance. Get this man an editor! “That Part” has all the makings of a crossover hit and other tracks like “Str8 Ballin’”, “Neva Change” & “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” are some of Q’s best tracks yet but there is just no reason for this album to be over 70 minutes long. Unlike fellow Black Hippy Kendrick Lamar’s recent forays into funk & jazz, Q doubles down on a classic gangsta rap sound while being unpredictable enough to keep the genre moving forward rather than offering a mere throwback. But let’s hope his next album is a little tighter because Q has the talent, charisma and individuality to deliver a true classic.

     

    Buy Blank Face LP [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy THat Part [feat. Kanye West] [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Str8 Ballin [Explicit] Amazon]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS- SKELETON TREE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 was not light with albums examining death and “Skeleton Tree” is another great one, unfortunately released in the aftermath of Nick Cave’s fifteen year old son’s sudden death from falling off a cliff while hiking in the summer of ’16. Cave’s entire career, which began in the very late seventies with the Australian post-punk band The Birthday Party, has been an exploration of the dark sides of the human conditions on “Skeleton Tree”, Cave brings a deeper pain from his own awful experience but with it a beauty and compassion of equal depth. While much of the album was written and recorded before the tragedy the entirety of it feels informed by Cave’s loss. It’s another blue ribbon in Cave’s late career winning streak and songs like “I Need You”, “Rings Of Saturn” and “Jesus Alone” feel destined to become part of Cave’s pantheon of his best songs.

     

    Buy Skeleton Tree Amazon

    Buy Rings of Saturn Amazon

    Buy Jesus Alone Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. KVELERTAK- NATTESFERD

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Norwegian Metal band’s third album and follow up to 2013’s great “Meir” may even better its predecessor. Kvelertak combines many of the best aspects of Heavy Metal- the technical precision & progrock tendencies of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, Van Halen-style guitar licks and the power and attitude of punk & hardcore with screamed vocals all sung in Norwegian. If lyrics are your thing (and you don’t know Norwegian!) they can be a tough sell at first but if you can get past the language barrier Kvelertak are a total blast. Over half of the tracks top out at over five minutes with the longest being nine but the riffs don’t let up for a second.

     

    Buy Nattesferd Amazon

    Buy Nattesferd Amazon

    Buy Svartmesse Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. STURGILL SIMPSON- A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd album by retro outlaw country singer, Sturgill Simpson, further shows that he will continue to follow his own muse rather than sticking to any established template. “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”, Simpson’s major label debut, actually shows him turning increasingly away from traditional country music and toward folk rock, blues & especially early seventies soul music. It’s an old school progressive concept album- a letter to his unborn son with many words of advice in how to become a man. While the entire album is enjoyable about half of it stands well above the other half- “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)”, “Keep It Between The Lines”, Nirvana cover “In Bloom”, “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)” and “Call To Arms” are all classics and if he was able to keep up this quality for the entire album it would be in the top ten. Still a great effort.

     

    Buy A Sailor’s Guide to Earth Amazon

    Buy Keep It Between The Lines Amazon

    Buy Brace For Impact (Live A Little) Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 30-21

    1. SAVAGES- ADORE LIFE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Follow up to 2013’s great debut “Silence Yourself”, “Adore Life” is a subtler, mellower album which may not hit you in the gut and punch you in the face like the debut, but does cement Savages status as one of the best indie rock bands going. Lead single “The Answer”, released in very late 2015 rocks the hardest and is most like the debut. Whereas “Silence Yourself” primarily dealt with feminist politics, “Adore Life” looks inward- its main focus is love and relationships, exemplified in the slow-burner “Adore”. “When In Love” and “Surrender” are two other highlights on the album. It may take a little time to warm to this album but by taking a bit of a left turn Savages is both able to shrug off their influences a bit (Joy Division, Siouxsie & the Banshees) and show that they aren’t a flash in the pan.

     

    Buy Adore Life [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy The Answer Amazon

    Buy Adore Amazon

     

     

     

    1. LEONARD COHEN- YOU WANT IT DARKER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 was just ruthless regarding the amount of musical legends we lost and Leonard Cohen was one of the big ones. That Cohen was able to live until 82 softens the blow but his departure is still felt deeply. “You Want It Darker” ends his prolific late in the life run of stellar albums beginning with 2012’s “Old Ideas” and it’s both by far the best of the three and up there with the mightiest albums of his entire career. “You Want It Darker” stares at Cohen’s own death straight in the eyes while remarking on a lifetime of triumphs, anger, regret and redemption- poetically confronting himself, his God and his past lovers with biting wit, humor and insight. Outside of Bob Dylan, Cohen is one of music’s truly best lyricists. We were lucky to have him and lucky that he was able to give us one last great album before leaving us for good.

     

    Buy You Want It Darker Amazon

    Buy You Want It Darker Amazon

    Buy Treaty Amazon

     

     

     

    1. STEVE GUNN- EYES ON THE LINES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though Brooklyn singer/songwriter and badass guitarist Steve Gunn has been making albums since before the turn of our new decade, he was a totally new and very welcome voice to me in 2016. “Eyes On The Lines” is his debut album on Matador, a much more prominent indie label, so my guess is that I’m not alone. “Eyes On The Lines” features expert guitar playing and rocks consistently well but does so in a meandering, casual way. It’s a free flowing jam oriented record, but without any unnecessary noodling. It’s a welcome rock respite in a year mostly dominated by R&B and rap music. The album is high quality throughout and if I have any criticism at all it’s that songs don’t really stand out above the others. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s a throwback sound without any completely obvious influences. Throw it on and just go!

     

     

     

    Buy Eyes On The Lines Amazon

    Buy Ancient Jules Amazon

    Buy Heavy Sails Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ANGEL OLSEN- MY WOMAN

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Angel Olsen blew up a bit, at least on an indie-rock level, on her last album “Burn Your Fire No Witness” making “My Woman” a heavily anticipated album last year and it did not disappoint. One of Olsen’s greatest strengths is her ability to transform her voice to bit catchy, up tempo tracks, punk rock rave-ups and lonely, spare ballads in equal measure. Acoustic folk rock, meditative synth music, and crunching rock licks live side by side here giving the listener a great variety to choose from. The catchiest and best number here is “Shut Up Kiss Me”. But the jazzy “Those Were The Days”, the eight minute sprawl of “Sister”, “Intern” and “Give It Up” shine as well. I’ve noticed “My Woman” hitting a ton of top ten lists and I’m wondering if in time I like it even more.

     

     

    Buy MY WOMAN Amazon

    Buy Shut Up Kiss Me Amazon

    Buy Intern Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MAXWELL- blackSUMMERS’night

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A prequel to 2009’s “BLACKsummers’night”, Maxwell’s new release seems designed to confused consumers. But if you are a true fan it probably matters little. Maxwell, one of neo-soul’s originators twenty years ago is hardly a prolific artist as this is only his fifth proper album but his consistently high quality efforts make up for the lack of quantity. Maxwell sings sophisticated, lovelorn R&B for adults like a male Sade his music is sexy and sultry but rarely caters to prevailing musical trends. There is almost zero hip hope influence to be found here and instead it’s a musical fusion of jazz, soul & funk. Lead single “Lake By the Ocean” is also the standout but there is plenty else to like including “1990x”, “Gods” and “Fingers Crossed”. Even If Maxwell waits another six or seven years before his next release we can rest assure that it will still be great as his brand of R&B never seems to go out of style.

     

    Buy blackSUMMERS’night Amazon

    Buy Lake By the Ocean Amazon

    Buy Gods Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. YG- STILL BRAZY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Still Brazy” is the sequel to Compton rapper YG’s pretty great 2014 debut “My Krazy Life”, and continues his winning streak in carrying the classic G-Funk sound originated by Dr. Dre forward. Standout single “Twist My Fingaz” released in the middle of 2015 is one of the best things here but there are many highlights scattered throughout the album. “Why You Always Hatin’?” is this past year’s hit single, “Who Shot Me?” is a first person account of the murder attempt which left YG in the hospital last June, and YG saved two of “Brazy’s” best moments to end the album with “Blacks & Browns” and “Police Get Away With Murder” showing that YG, like N.W.A. before him, can be equal parts nihilistic and socially conscious, with a descriptive eye for great detail. And FDT (Fuck Donald Trump) is destined to be an anthem for many of us for a long time. It may not be the subtlest piece of writing but good for YG for speaking out early, even before Trump won the Republic primary.

     

    Buy Still Brazy (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Twist My Fingaz [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy FDT [feat. Nipsey Hussle] [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. JOEY PURP- iii DROPS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “iii Drops” is a slept on mixtape released during a very strong year for rap music and unfortunately getting a bit lost in the mix. Purp is a Chicago rapper and member of Chance the Rapper’s Savemoney crew and comes off as both its most boastful and street tough member. Though far less spiritual and optimistic than Chance, despite his very real portrayal of inner city life and his occasion to launch into sexual filthiness, Purp never fails to come off as intelligent with a social conscience, like a Midwestern version of Schoolboy Q. The album starts out as an absolute monster with five of the six first tracks being total bangers, driven by energetic soul & funk samples recalling DJ Premier-style production. Though it fizzles a bit toward the end, “iii Drops” is still one of the better rap albums of 2016 and he is a welcome newer voice in the scene.

     

    * Album not available via Amazon Stream at http://consequenceofsound.net/2016/05/stream-joey-purps-new-mixtape-iiidrops/

    Morning Sex     Money & Bitches

     

     

     

     

    1. BON IVER- 22, A MILLION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “22, A Million” is Bon Iver’s third album and its first in five years; showing a band who refuses to rest on its laurels; changing its sound almost drastically with every album release, a pioneer in pushing music forward and massive influence on music in general. “22, A Million” is the group’s weirdest album and has been the toughest for me to grab onto, but using “22 (Over Soon)” as a starting point- one of 2016’s most beautiful and best songs, leads me to think that I may love this album in time more than I do currently. Justin Vernon’s aching falsetto vocals are here, but gone is the acoustic outré folk sound of Bon Iver’s past. The band’s sound is now driven by warped electronic glitch beats, which disorient the listener much like Radiohead’s “Kid A” did nearly two decades ago. “Kid A” has been considered a modern classic for so long that it is hard to remember how controversial the album was to many longtime Radiohead fans when the album was originally released. It will be fascinating to see if Bon Iver’s “22, A Million”, and to be fair they a less well known band than Radiohead, goes a similar route in the future.

     

    Buy 22, A Million Amazon

    Buy 22 (Over Soon) Amazon

    Buy 1000000 Million Amazon

     

     

     

    1. GOJIRA- MAGMA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This past year I was finally turned on to French avant-metal band Gojira with their sixth album “Magma”. Though I don’t know the group’s earlier material apparently “Magma” is the group’s most personal and accessible release yet. It’s the most excited I’ve been about discovering a “new” metal band since Baroness or maybe even Mastodon. The band is equal parts technical and ferocious but on “Magma” they streamline their sound to deliver tight, catchy songs rather than the sprawling prog found on their earlier albums. The band, featuring two Duplantier brothers, suffered the loss of their mother during the recording sessions which probably is the reason the songs are focused lyrically more on personal anguish and away from the political content of past releases. There is still plenty of stunning technical virtuosity and unusual time signatures to keep longtime fans from crying sell out but tracks like “Stranded”, “Only Pain” and “Silvera” are tight enough for mainstream hard rock radio. The group has already been nominated for a 2017 Grammy but it is still not big enough. Maybe it’s only a matter of time until a crossover happens.

     

    Buy Magma Amazon

    Buy Stranded Amazon

    Buy Silvera Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. DINOSAUR JR.- GIVE ME A GLIMPSE OF WHAT YER NOT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At this point, Dinosaur Jr.’s second run of albums- from 2007’s “Beyond” up through last year’s “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not” actually eclipses the influential band’s initial mid 80’s to mid 90’s run of albums in quality- and it isn’t even really close. Dinosaur Jr. was one of indie rock’s leading lights in heavy guitar rock and was one of the direct antecedents in grunge’s world takeover. Along with other bands like Mission Of Burma & Sleater-Kinney, Dinosaur Jr. proves that middle age doesn’t have to mean stale and with “Give A Glimpse” the group proves they’re as vital as ever. It’s even one of the best albums since their reformation and it’s almost unfair how little fanfare the group receives for it. Maybe it’s because the group only applies minor tweaks to their sound with each release its sound can be overly familiar but if you are already a fan of the group you owe it to yourself to check this out. The best tracks are “Lost All Day”, Goin Down”, “Tiny” and “I Walk For Miles” with J Mascis’s signature whining vocals and shredding guitar solos in perfect form. But the biggest difference is that bassist and second vocalist Lou Barlow does much more with his signature two cuts per album- both “Love Is…” and “Left/Right” are two of the best songs he has ever provided to the group, giving “Give Me A Glimpse” the most consistent feel of all of the group’s later albums.

     

     

    Buy Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not Amazon

    Buy Lost All Day Amazon

    Buy Goin Down Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 20-11

    1. KENDRICK LAMAR- UNTITLED UNMASTERED

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Untitled Unmastered” is essentially a b-sides release from 2015’s critically consensus album of the year “To Pimp A Butterfly”. Lamar issued the album without advance notice seventeen days after his Grammy Awards performance and didn’t even bother naming any of the songs. Some of the tracks has been part of Lamar’s late night tv or Grammy performances throughout 2015 and exemplifies how high of a level Lamar is working at, that he could come up with a collection of vault throwaways this quality that it can stand on its own. “Untitled Unmastered” is actually much more rap-oriented than “TPAB” which gratifies many of his fans disappointed at the former album’s turn away from rap and toward soul, funk & jazz. However, the songs do fit in with “TPAB’s” overall themes of anti-materialism, societal ills, faith and survival when the odds are stacked against you. Kendrick Lamar is simply one of the best and most important musical artists alive today and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

     

     

     

    Buy untitled unmastered. [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy untitled 03 | 05.28.2013. [Explicit]

    Buy untitled 08 | 09.06.2014. [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. THE RANGE- POTENTIAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Potential” is the second album release from Brooklyn-based producer James Hinton. Hinton’s trick is that he samples vocal samples from amateur musicians all over You Tube, taking various spoken word or rap hooks from the songs and creating electronic pop songs around the basic sample. The samples are often British voices, especially taken from Grime and Jungle music, which gives the album a rave-like feel. No one or two songs stand too tall above the rest and “Potential” is remarkably consistent with a seemless flow from one track to the next.

     

    Buy Potential Amazon

    Buy Five Four Amazon

    Buy Copper Wire Amazon

     

     

     

    1. JAMES BLAKE- THE COLOUR IN ANYTHING

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The one problem I have with “The Colour In Anything” is it’s just too damn long. If the track listing were narrowed down this album would have had a shot at my top ten. This is mellow, rainy day music of a deep beauty. Musically the album is rooted in both electronic music (of the non-dance variety) and R&B and lyrically it’s all about heartbreak. Tracks like “Radio Silence”, Love Me In Whatever Way”, “I Need A Forest Fire” & especially “Modern Soul”- one of his best songs yet, prove that now three albums deep, James Blake’s blue-eyed British, electronic sad soul is here to stay.

     

    Buy The Colour In Anything Amazon

    Buy Modern Soul Amazon

    Buy Love Me In Whatever Way Amazon

     

     

     

    1. ANOHNI- HOPELESSNESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Hopelessness” is Anohni’s first album since adopting her new persona and gender (she was previously known as Antony Hegarty) and she maintains the heartbreaking beauty and sadness of her previous incarnation, but adds a more electronic beat driven musical landscape to go along with a righteous anger at the state of the world. Whereas before she looked more inward and revealed personal truths, “Hopelessness” is outwardly focused striking out against our state of perpetual war and drone bombing of innocents as well as our look the other way approach to climate change and global warming. She warns against our massive surveillance state as well as the patriarchal state of hyper and violent masculinity which seems to have led to so many of our world’s largest problems. “Hopelessness” is the most depressing album I heard in 2016 but is never boring and outside of her dance music vocal collaborations (as Antony) with Hercules and Love Affair, it’s the most musically dynamic album she’s ever made.

     

     

    Buy Hopelessness Amazon

    Buy Marrow Amazon

    Buy 4 Degrees Amazon 

     

     

     

     

    1. KAYTRANADA- 99.9%

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Kaytranada is Kevin Celestin, a DJ and producer from Montreal who has been popping up as a remixer on soundcloud and hip hop and dance albums throughout this decade. “99.9%” is his excellent full-length debut, a wonderful cohesive blend of hip-hop, soul, funk and electronic dance music featuring pure instrumental tracks alongside guest rappers like Vic Mensa and Anderson Paak. Only four of the album’s fifteen tracks don’t feature a guest, but neither his samples or his featuring guest spots ever come off as obvious or catering to the mainstream. “Glowed Up” featuring 2016’s MVP Anderson Paak is the most celebrated track on the album but my favorite is “Bus Ride” which appears toward the front of the album and once it starts “99.9%’s” momentum never let up.

     

     

    Buy 99.9% [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Bus Ride Amazon

    Buy Glowed Up [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

    1. DANNY BROWN- ATROCITY EXHIBITION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Eccentric Detroit rapper Danny Brown’s voice is an acquired taste. But he’s also one of the best and most original pure rappers as well. Brown takes many of his ideas and beats from outside of rap (Atrocity Exhibition is an old Joy Division song). The themes of the album are extremely dark- Brown portrays himself as often paranoid and hopeless, but he has a witty and even hilarious way of describing even his bleakest moments. Though Brown’s fourth album, “Atrocity Exhibition” really can be considered the third part of a trilogy (beginning with “XXX” and continuing with “Old”), each album really stands on its own both thematically and sonically. “Ain’t It Funny”, “Pneumonia”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”, & “When It Rain” are some of the many highlights but the real standout is posse cut “Really Doe” featuring rap heavy hitters Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt.

     

    Buy Atrocity Exhibition [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Really Doe (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Tell Me What I Don’t Know [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

    1. KANYE WEST- THE LIFE OF PABLO

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Life Of Pablo” is a total mess. The rollout was a mess. The album can be very inconsistent and some of it just isn’t up to West’s incredibly high musical standard he has achieved over the past decade plus. Love him or hate him, and most people at this point seem to hate him; or at the least are extremely frustrated by him, to deny that he is one of modern music’s great innovators is to either hate rap or to close your ears and be in denial yourself. The album can be off-putting with cringe worthy lyrics and pointless skits, but almost two handfuls of great songs make “The Life Of Pablo” yes another must listen to add to his oeuvre. Key cuts include Kendrick Lamar collab “No More Parties In L.A.”, gospel track and Chance the Rapper led “Ultralight Beam”, “Waves”, “Real Friends” and new single “Fade”.

     

     

     

    Buy The Life Of Pablo [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy No More Parties In LA [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Real Friends [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. WHITNEY- LIGHT UPON THE LAKE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Light Upon The Lake” is the debut album from duo Max Kakacek (formerly guitarist in The Smith Westerns) and Julien Uhrlich (drummer in Unknown Mortal Orchestra). Though released to little fanfare last spring it’s one of the most consistently rewarding albums of the year. Whitney mines the folk rock template, coming off as a mellower Girls or a happier Real Estate. Whitney has no large message, but every song on the album is flawlessly constructed and totally enjoyable, with Ehrlich’s off kilter vocals being the only possible hard sell.

     

    Buy Light Upon the Lake Amazon

    Buy No Woman Amazon

    Buy Golden Days Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. BLOOD ORANGE- FREETOWN SOUND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Blood Orange is singer/songwriter & composer Dev Hynes & “Freetown Sound” is his third and best album. Like many of the few past year’s best albums it’s a reflection of race and gender in our changing society. Hynes traces his own roots, which start in Sierra Leone, Africa. The album runs 17 tracks deep and can be a lot to wade through. It’s more consistent than his last album “Cupid Deluxe” but lacks as many obvious standout tracks. Upon subsequent listens highlights begin to emerge like “Best To You”, Debbie Harry collaboration “EVP”, the prescient “Hands Up”, “Chance” and “Augustine”.

     

     

    Buy Freetown Sound [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Best to You Amazon

    Buy E.V.P. Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. PARQUET COURTS- HUMAN PERFORMANCE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Human Performance, Brooklyn’s Parquet Court’s 3rd proper album, likely would have shined brighter in a lesser music year. I feel like despite its greatness it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the vast array of releases this year. “Human Performance” is both the group’s tightest and most hook-filled album to date and they lose none of their original slapdash charm in the process. The band alternates between terse, furious punk blasts (Outside), Velvet Underground style extended jams (One Man One City), jangle pop (Keep It Even and Human Performance) and punchy singles ready fare like “Dust” and “Berlin Got Blurry”. If it weren’t for Car Seat Headrest, Parquet Courts would be carrying the banner for indie rock album of the year. Don’t sleep on them!

     

     

    Buy Human Performance Amazon

    Buy Berlin Got Blurry Amazon

    Buy Dust Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 10-1

    1. CHANCE THE RAPPER- COLORING BOOK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Chance the Rapper is one of the most likable and generous rappers around and with “Coloring Book” he has delivered his third free mixtape as a solo artist (in addition to another great one as part of Donnie Trumpet last year). “Coloring Book” feels rooting in gospel nearly as much as hip hop – a both spiritually uplifting and fun album released during what for so many has been an extremely dark time in American history. Featuring guest artists a plenty, including Kanye, Future, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Anderson Paak, Ty Dolla $ign and gospel star Kirk Franklin, it seems nearly everyone wants to work with Chance, who is slowly becoming one of the best and most respected rappers in the game. “Coloring Book” is a blast from start ti finish with tracks like “Blessing”, “No Problem”, “All Night”, “Angels” and “Summer Friends” shining brightest.

     

     

     

    Buy Coloring Book [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy BlessingsBlessing Amazon 

    Buy No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. RIHANNA- ANTI

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rihanna, one of Pop & R&B’s biggest stars as well as maybe its best singles maker over the past decade has never been taken seriously as an album artist. That changes with the release of “Anti”, her eighth album, last winter in early 2016. After a long build-up to the album, the eventual release actually felt both botched and underwhelming. Her three excellent singles from 2015 were nowhere to be found and its one week of Tidal exclusivity meant that many people were unable to even hear it right away. Though composed as a front to back album, there was no obvious concept and apart from the wildly successful “Work” featuring Drake and the excellent “Kiss It Better” there were no obvious singles. Instead “Anti” features Rihanna letting loose as an artists, more than ever before. And giving even fewer fucks. Looking inward rather than toward the dance floor. Though I heard parts of “Anti” shortly after it came out, it was actually the last album I bought in 2016 and I played it constantly during the year’s last weeks. Like Beyonce’s recent albums, “Anti” should give Rihanna added gravitas. An already badass singer and artists, she has now made the lap into the stratosphere.

     

     

     

    Buy Anti (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Kiss It Better [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Higher [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. SOLANGE- A SEAT AT THE TABLE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 is the year that Solange Knowles really has jumped out of the shadow of her big sister Beyonce. Though best sisters make feminist, soulful genre pushing R&B, while Beyonce is one of the world’s biggest stars, Solange is making music with absolutely no concessions to airplay or radio. That is not to say there aren’t hooks here – particularly on the brilliant “Cranes In The Sky”, one of the best tracks of the year. But “Seat At The Table” is primarily rooting in grief and pain, a pro-black album dissertation on the frustration and anger of being black in America- particularly a black woman. She realizes that her place of privilege allows her a forum to speak out on the injustices done to her community and she runs with it. “Seat At The Table” rarely rises above mid-tempo. Like last year’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, “Seat At The Table” is best listened and absorbed as a whole and already feels like a historically significant modern day soul classic- an album capturing the zeitgeist of this crazy and unsettling time period.

     

    Buy A Seat at the Table [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Cranes in the Sky Amazon

    Buy F.U.B.U. [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. CAR SEAT HEADREST- TEENS OF DENIAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Teens Of Denial” arrives one year after Car Seat Headrest’s breakthrough “Teens Of Style” in 2015. But “Style” was a compilation of 11 homemade albums of Will Toledo, the founder, frontman and creative force behind Car Seat. “Denial” is the group’s real proper album debut. As good as “Style” was “Denial” is a gigantic leap forward and moves Car Seat Headrest to the front of the pack as one of the leading modern lights of indie rock. This is anthemic rock music made in the style of Pavement and Guided By Voices- with hooks galore but without the sheen necessary for rock radio. The album is a seventy minute long concept album about a guy named Joe struggling with common issues found between late adolescence and early adulthood. It’s one of the few “double albums” where nearly every moment seems necessary and the highlights are many beginning with the stellar and rockin’ opening track “Fill In The Blank”. The singalong “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, “Vincent” and “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”. “Teens Of Denial” is both fresh and familiar sound and its existence proves that indie rock is far from over despite many current think pieces implying the opposite.

     

    Buy Teens Of Denial [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Fill in the Blank Amazon

    Buy Fill in the Blank Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. FRANK OCEAN- BLONDE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Frank Ocean’s follow-up album to 2012’s wildly successful “Channel Orange” was four years in the making when Orange decided to do a complete about face and release two albums within several weeks of each other- the first “Endless” was an all visual album that completed his contract with his record label and the second “Blonde” was self released as an Apple exclusive. Ocean, already a fairly outré artist for the world of R&B, delivers even less hooks on “Blonde” than he did on “Channel Orange”. Some of the songs have over a five-minute running time and nearly all are spare, featuring just Ocean’s voice accompanied by a guitar or a keyboard. Ocean is such a talent though that the songs begin to reveal themselves on multiple listens and despite an annoying skit featuring Ocean’s mom near beginning of the album and several shorter tracks in the album’s middle that threaten to weigh down the album’s flow, “Blonde” works exceptionally well as a whole. “Blonde” features stellar lyricism- great storytelling done in a clever, unique way that also relates to the heaviest political and societal issues of today. Its instrumentation and its music though rooting in R&B is not bound to one genre. Ocean is one of a few young artists pushing the boundaries of music forward into the future. In addition to “Nights” and “Self Control”, check out “Ivy”, “Pink + White” and “White Ferrari”. All are among the great tracks of 2016 and will likely just get better with time.

     

     

     

    Buy Blonde [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Nights [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Ivy [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DAVID BOWIE- BLACK STAR

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Released at the dawn of 2016, “Black Star” both paved the way for an incredible year of releases by so many of music’s superstars and portended Bowie’s unfortunate death only a mere days after its release. Though Bowie kept his impending death a secret to all but his closest family members, he designed the album as a farewell to the world and while this certainly gives “Black Star” added gravitas, with or without Bowie dying, “Black Star” is likely his best album since at least 1980’s “Scary Monsters”. But Bowie never stopped creating challenging music up until the end and “Black Star” is an incredible way to cap off one of the most brilliant careers in rock and roll history. The album is only seven tracks long and begins with the amazing ten minute prog-jazz title track. There is not a wasted moment among them and album and career ender “I Can’t Give Everything Away” serves Bowie as a perfect self-epitaph.

     

     

    Buy Blackstar [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Girl Loves Me [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Blackstar Amazon

     

     

     

    1. RADIOHEAD- A MOON SHAPED POOL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “A Moon Shaped Pool” can be considered a comeback record after 2011’s lukewarm “King Of Limbs”. Radiohead is certainly one of modern music’s consistency great acts and “Pool” doesn’t disappoint. While lacking the bombast and importance of prior albums such as “OK Computer”, “The Bends” or “Kid A”, “Pool” may just contain Radiohead’s most consistently beautiful set of songs. Two of the best are “Burn The Witch” and heartbreaking ballad “True Love Waits” have been part of the group’s repertoire for years, finally granting these longtime fan favorites a proper commercial release. But this is anything but a b-sides collection. Each song on the album flows perfectly into the next with both the group’s hard rock and electronic elements turned down often in favor of spare piano, strings and especially acoustic guitar. As usual Radiohead comments on our modern political and societal landscape and its outlook is hardly optimistic. As good as A Moon Shaped Pool” already is, I bet in time it will only grow in stature and comes in as a breath of fresh air to many who thought Radiohead might be creatively on their way out the door.

     

    Buy A Moon Shaped Pool Amazon

    Buy Burn the Witch Amazon

    Buy Decks Dark Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ANDERSON PAAK- MALIBU

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Malibu”, released way back in early January of 2016, was one of the first great albums of the year. Paak received his breakthrough on Dr. Dre’s “Compton” album in 2015 and in a year laden with awesome superstar releases his star has shined brightest among the newcomers. “Malibu” combines smooth soul, hard funk, rap and elements from rock and describes his own hardscrabble roots in southern California rising from underground obscurity to burgeoning fame. While over an hour long, which is a real risk from such a relatively unknown artist, “Malibu” is a remarkably consistent album boasting twelve of fifteen tracks that I gave five stars and without one dud in the whole bunch. Highlights are almost too plentiful to narrow down but “Celebrate”, “Am I Wrong”, “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance”, “Come Down” and “The Season/Carry Me” are a handful of the best. In addition to “Malibu” Paak released another very good album “Yes Lawd” as part of duo NxWorries and contributed excellent songs to standout 2016 albums from Kaytranada, A Tribe Called Quest, Schoolboy Q, Snakehips & Mac Miller, among others. Paak can easily be considered one of music’s 2016 MVP’s. If you don’t know him yet check him out.

     

    Buy Malibu [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Celebrate [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Come Down [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- WE GOT IT FROM HERE…THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “We Got It From Here…” is a great comeback record after nearly twenty years since their last album, as well as a posthumous release after the early 2016 death of founding member Phife Dog due to complications from diabetes. That “We Got It From Here…” exists at all is a true gift to longtime fans but I doubt even the most optimistic of us thought Tribe could make an album this good after so much time out of the game. The group got back at Phife’s insistence, knowing his time here on Earth was short. He worked diligently to get the album done and it ranks up there with the group’s best work and shows that Tribe was a missing force in modern hip hop. The production on the record, done by the group’s most prominent member Q-Tip, blends hard bop jazz samples, dub reggae and little recognized samples from old electro & pop songs while bringing to mind the music of Tribe’s early 90’s golden age, also sounds totally fresh and singular in rap’s modern climate.   Tribe brings in Busta Rhymes on multiple tracks and gives founding member Jairobi an expanded role, while inviting in rap & music superstars like Jack White, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson Paak & Andre 3000 to guest on the tracks. Amazingly each guest contributes his own greatness to the overall brilliant whole rather than making “We Got It From Here…” the mess it could have been. This is the best rap album in a year filled with great ones.

     

     

     

    Buy We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy We The People…. [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Ego [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. BEYONCE- LEMONADE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Lemonade” is the sixth and best solo album by Beyonce, who by now has cemented her stature as one of the best and most important pop stars in music history. Beyonce dominated the zeitgeist of 2016 releasing a surprise video of “Formation”, the last and one of the best tracks off of “Lemonade”, one week ahead of her dazzling Super Bowl performance of the same track. While “Formation” addresses the black sisterhood and the spate of police brutality done to people of color, “Lemonade” as a whole, another surprise-release audio/visual album in April, tells the story of marital infidelity- demanding contrition from her husband while asserting her own power and excellence. By telling her story in her own way, she circumvents the gossip columns. Though “Lemonade” was one of the best selling albums of 2016 and contains a number of hits, she never caters to pop radio but makes radio come to her. “Lemonade” has some of the best songs of the year, including the above “Formation”, as well as “Freedom”, “Sorry”, “Hold Up”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, “All Night” and “Daddy Lessons”, which has enough of a country bent to it that she performed it with the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards. “Lemonade” is an instant classic and the best album released in a year chock full of them.

    Buy Lemonade [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Freedom Amazon

    Buy Formation [Explicit] Amazon