- 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.
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Buy Crying in Public Amazon
Buy Romeo Amazon
- 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
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- 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
- 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.
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Buy Song for Judee Amazon
Buy Greens of June Amazon
- 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.
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Buy Molecules [Explicit] Amazon
- 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
- 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.
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Buy Your Best American Girl Amazon
Buy Happy Amazon
- 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
- 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.
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Buy Be Apart Amazon
Buy Glow Amazon
- 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.
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Buy Ever South Amazon
Buy Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of DawnAmazon