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 Post subject: Albums of the Year: 2016
PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 12:46 pm 
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We've done these before, let's do one again.

What did you think was the best music released in 2016?

My Ten Favorite Albums of the Year (In alphabetical order) are...

The Avalanches – Wildflower: The previous (and only) Avalanches album was released waaaay back in 2000 and was inarguably one of the most influential of the decade, so there were a lot of expectations to live up to with this sophomore effort. It largely does this work, even if the album isn’t as consistent as their now classic outing. “Frankie Sinatra” and “Subway” are two standout tracks, and the sequencing/layering of samples throughout will make your head spin in all the right ways.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million: Vernon and company put together an album that is what I imagine digital decay must sound like. By offering a fascinating glitchy electronic riff on their typically more ethereal harmonies and a deliberately stunted approach to their standard swelling instrumentation, this album felt both familiar and fresh.

David Bowie – Blackstar: Even if you can put aside the fact of Bowie’s death shortly after this album’s release and even if you had no idea that he wrote and recorded it as a kind of final reflection on life whilst staring down death, it would still be one of the more intriguing records of a storied career. It is marked, importantly, by a production style that from track to track somehow manages to draw your attention to everything you might have ever loved about a Bowie song all at once – the jazzy sax bits, the sonic ambient bits, the haunting vocals, the punchy poppy percussion bits, the anthemic rock bits, the lyrical playfulness. Some of the best tracks (“Lazarus”, “Blackstar”) manage to bring a lot of these together in a single expression, and the result can be hypnotic. Had I put this list together in ranked order, this one would have been a strong contender for the top spot.

Carseat Headrest – Teens of Denial: Every year I seem to find some album that makes me really want to check out an artist’s back catalog, and this was that album for me this year. There’s a lot of raw “garage” style production on “Teens of Denial” that remind me of some of the best underground/indie rock albums that I love from the 1980s/1990s, yet its lyrical themes and musical sensibilities very much reside in the here and now. I have no idea if this band is any good live, but the album sells me on the idea that they probably would be great to see in a packed and sweaty room in a small club in a college town.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book: I know this one has gained a lot of acclaim, and with its star-studded roster and its playfulness with a range of styles it is easy to see why it has quickly become one of the year’s critical darlings. I certainly think there’s enough going on here to warrant its inclusion on the list (“Blessings,” “No Problem”, “Angels,” “All Night”) but there’s also a lot that – for me – felt like bloat (“How Great”, “Luke Jam”). Ultimately, the album strikes me as inconsistent enough to be a near-miss for this list yet full of enough interesting, masterful song creation that to leave it off altogether would be a crime. I will say this about the album: compared to even many other records on this list, this one benefits from a quality listening experience (good speakers, nice headphones, etc.) more than most.

Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker: As if one great album meditating on death (and released shortly before its creator died) wasn’t enough this year, Cohen gives Bowie a good run for the money in that particularly morbid category. Unlike with Bowie’s record, I really can’t separate this one from Cohen’s passing: something about the intimacy present in the texture of his vocals, the sparseness of the production, and the oft-apocalyptic lyrics sometimes make it sound like you can literally hear him fading away, at moments kicking and screaming and at moments with whatever a “resigned dignity” might sound like.

Angel Olsen - My Woman: This is one of those albums that I’d not have sought out on my own, but I started seeing it pop up across enough “best of the year” lists over the past month or so that I decided to give it a spin – and then another, then another, then another, etc. This is a great rock n’ roll record that blends both pop sensibility and Floydian-esque space-age noodling/atmospheric rock in a way that is especially compelling. Put that combo together with Olsen’s vocal range and some occasional lo-fi intensity, and you end up with a special record that sounds like a kind of tour-de-force of the past decade or so of whatever a moniker like “indie rock” has come to mean.

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3: If there’s any duo in hip hop that has a better flow between them right now, I’ve not yet heard them. This album is full of the same kind of “stand up and pay attention” display of clever and competing wordplay draped over indelibly well-crafted beats and prudent sampling that defined the first two RTJ releases. Here everything just sounds tighter and somehow even more immediate than in their previous outings: each song serves as an intense meditation on a particular idea, often offering both political critique and encouragement of agitation towards further engagement with the injustices of the world. There are a few tracks that are just typical RTJ-style fun, too. This was a very nice way to end the year.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool: For more than twenty years now I’ve considered Radiohead one of three or four bands that regularly vie for the title of my own “favorite band,” and this album is a very solid argument that they deserve – for the time being – that top spot. “A Moon Shaped Pool” is unquestionably their best album since 2007 (“In Rainbows”) and, arguably, their best since 2000 (“Kid A”). What’s surprising, in a way, is how straightforward and relatively low-key this album is compared to both some of their more recent outings and to the more wide-ranging stuff that makes up much of my own year-end list. What sells me on this album is the way that each track really feels a piece of a whole: there’s a considered sequence of music here wherein each track seems to feed into and off of one another, the production showcases each band member’s specific (and well-refined) artistic strengths throughout, and like the best Radiohead albums it begs repeated listening to unpack it all. I think there’s a kind of shared production philosophy between this album and Bowie’s “Blackstar”, which is probably why they are my favorite two records this year. (Or maybe I just have a thing for old British dudes.)

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service: A recurring theme across the this list is some artist releasing poignant and/or evolutionary work many, many years since they last put out a record. Tribe hasn’t put out anything that I’ve paid attention to in almost 25 years, and I had (wrongfully) assumed that they’d just parted ways and/or slipped into some realm of mediocrity over the past few decades. Nope: they were incubating this amazing statement. Just as they always did, Tribe sounds both young and wise at the same time. Here their years of experience serve to add some gravity to their perspective and some inventiveness to their production that only comes from having spent through decades listening, writing, and performing. Like the Chance record above, this one features a ton of guest spots; unlike on that record they rarely feel gimmicky or shoehorned - everything fits together and seems considered, slowly worked and refined, and intriguingly nuanced. Its funky, jazzy, poppy, trippy and fun – easily one of the nicest surprises of a year.

Honorable Mentions:
I liked these a little less than the ones above, but they were still excellent records in their own right: Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitiled Unmastered”, Explosions in the Sky’s “The Wilderness”, Aphex Twin’s “Cheetah EP” and Wilco’s “Schmilco”.

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OLD THREADS:

2015 - ??
2014 - viewtopic.php?p=943905#p943905
2013 - viewtopic.php?p=835569#p835569
2012 - viewtopic.php?f=15&t=41138

I'm sure there are others...

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 Post subject: Re: Albums of the Year: 2016
PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 5:37 pm 
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1. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...
2. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
3. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
4. Weezer - (White Album)
5. Anderson Paak - Malibu
6. Sonic Youth - Spinhead Sessions
7. Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman
8. Heliocentrics - From The Deep
9. v/a - Suicide Squad soundtrack
10. Deftones - Gore

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 Post subject: Re: Albums of the Year: 2016
PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:43 pm 
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1. Tribe
2. Tribe
3. Tribe
and
4. Tribe

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 Post subject: Re: Albums of the Year: 2016
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 9:50 am 
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related:

2016 jazz short list

Another year gone. Like last year I've compiled my short list of favorite jazz albums from 2017. There was actually a lot of interesting stuff this year. And I listened to plenty of it. But my short list (which like last year will not be any set number like Top 10 or Dozen or whatever, nor will it be ranked in any numbered order) is made up of the very top tier albums that I feel like totally encapsulated the year in jazz for me. These are the albums that I just kept coming back to, and that I feel like ones that I'll continue to revisit post-2016.


The Bad Plus - It's Hard
Part of the what I love so much about The Bad Plus is that they have been doing these sorts of concept albums. Whether it was an album featuring a vocalist on For All I Care, or their own take on The Rite Of Spring, or teaming up with Joshua Redman last year, the band really seems to approach albums as an album. It's Hard is completely a covers album. And I thought it was fantastic. Part of that is the choice of covers which strikes even closer to my own personal mixtape than For All I Care (which I also love) did. Their take on "Time After Time" and "The Beautiful Ones" are stunning. And any jazz album that can tackle the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Johnny Cash with the same enthusiasm is commendable.

Nels Cline - Lovers
I've been a fan of Nels Cline since the late 90's. I still kick myself for losing the CD version of Rise Pumpkin Rise that I got back when MP3.com still sold you CD's. I've heard lots and lots of Nels Cline albums over the last twenty years. And somehow Lovers feels to me like a grand statement. It is an achingly gorgeous accomplishment. An album with a cast of countless performers that manages to master the art of restraint. I'm thrilled that Blue Note took notice and released this thing to the masses. Cline has always deserved a bigger audience than he had. And this one feels like pure proof of that.

Miles Davis - Miles Ahead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Davis purists probably hate this album, right? I mean, how can you really make any kind of 'best of' from Davis' work? You can't. And the audacity in releasing a bunch of edits of the original songs! And how you gonna end this with new tracks by Robert Glasper? The truth is these are all valid complaints, and yet part of what makes this project so interesting to me. Glasper also released an album of Davis reinterpretations this year as well. And y'know what? I found myself coming back to THIS weird album far more. Somehow, hearing these abridged versions of originals mixed with the re-enacted dialogue and the new tributes... it all has a very odd juxtaposition that is equally jarring and fascinating.

Heliocentrics - From The Deep
Man, I love this band. From The Deep is actually a collection of outtakes from (seemingly) their whole career. I guess they've been around for about a decade now, come to think of it. So this is maybe a celebration record. The thing is, for nineteen tracks that span a decade, it sure sounds cohesive. This is classic Heliocentrics spacey funk jazz. All of these tracks dance around the three minute, feeling like old dusty singles. This is serious head-nodding music. I know that I'm not ranking the records here, but this would have to be my jazz album of the year. I certainly listened to it more in 2016 than any other record on this list.

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Evolution
The first Dr. Lonnie Smith album to grace Blue Note since 1970 is a total victory lap. Here Smith is surrounded by a rather large cast of supporting players both old and new. The result is an awesomely layered soup of funk and jazz that is absolutely uplifting in nature. It also has an amazingly organic feel as if the entire thing was recorded in one amorphis jam session. This is really fantastic stuff, and definitely my favorite Dr. Lonnie Smith albums that I've heard.

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 Post subject: Re: Albums of the Year: 2016
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:28 am 
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I'm not super good about remembering which albums came out in a year. But two that come to mind are:

Alicia Keys - Here
More just super good music, well written, definitely has more of an edge to it than her previous albums. Also gotta love the message in her music, definitely want my girls listening to this as they grow up.
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Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
I feel like they just get better and better. This is a great album and just has this kind of kinetic, driving feeling that I love, we're being driven off a cliff, but that's ok, we're with Radiohead.
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EDIT: Should we start an 2015 album of the year thread? Kinda bummed there isn't one. #felldownonthejob

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