Ok so May really spoiled us with a surplus of really good, memorable albums. I couldn’t choose just ten so here are 23. I’ll be brief I swear. Sort of. I hope you enjoy and maybe discover something new or revisit something you missed. Thanks for reading!
ANOHNI – Hopelessness – Secretly Canadian
ANOHNI, FKA Antony (& The Johnsons) has made her most direct, unflinching statement yet with Hopelessness. Overflowingly relevant and political, sometimes the lyrics get too literal for me, taking me outside of the musical enjoyment zone and into one of serious commentary – a place I am not known to inhabit. Thankfully, there aren’t many moments on here that make me want to stop listening. With assisted production from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Hopelessness is gorgeous, heartbreaking, invigorating and empowering.
Big Thief – Masterpiece – Saddle Creek
A balanced, straightforward folk rock album with all the right elements to poise them to be the next huge indie rock stars. Nice amounts of slower, more acoustic songs and louder, electric-fronted jams. Great songwriting, appropriate energy flow throughout the album. The title track is also one of the best from this year. So yeah, get into this, before they ~~blowup~~.
Braids – Companion EP – Arbutus
Canadian synth pop group Braids made one of my favorite records of last year with Deep In The Iris, and now they’ve followed that up with a quick EP that fits well stylistically with their last one and whets my appetite for some pop music of the electronic-leaning, expertly arranged variety.
Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial – Matador
As of May 2016, the indie rock posterboy savior. Car Seat Headrest has arrived to save indie rock, everyone. Personally I don’t get the massive amounts of hype flooding in, but I definitely like this album quite a bit. It has some highlights across its giant length and I can see it only growing in my mind from here. Also an interpolation of Dido. Let’s go.
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book – Apple Music/self-released
Although I’m not totally sold on Acid Rap, Chance has really hooked me in with Coloring Book, which is currently my go-to good vibes summer record. It’s lighthearted with a heavy message, puts listeners light on their feet while allowing some people to go hard. Also, 2 Chainz & Lil Yachty’s verses. That’s it.
Chris Cohen – As If Apart – Captured Tracks
My favorite type of singer songwriters are those that are able to take an ordinary sound and make it into an extraordinary one. Chris Cohen does this spectacularly on As If Apart, choosing timbres and aesthetics to transform familiar territory into that of fantasy and mysticism. I’m not sure on the specifics on how he does it, but the proof is in the pudding. Damn why did I say that?
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit – Harvest/Third Worlds
I honestly thought I was off the Death Grips train after The Powers That B. I had grown, matured, gotten past all the gore of the group. Nothing from the band could surprise and shock me anymore. But holy hell, I fell down this figurative bottomless pit of the Death Grips fandom once again. This is undoubtedly my most beloved album of theirs since The Money Store, which it most resembles as well. The hooks are memorable, the songs are… gripping… and damn – it’s just really, really good.
Gold Panda – Good Luck And Do Your Best – City Slang
Albums like these are why I will never be a professional music writer. All I can muster about this album is how it makes me feel, yknow? It’s a very feely album. Tons of great textures and moving beats. Stuff like this is made for being on the go: walking to the store, taking the train to work, driving to the beach. It’s meant for going. Something to enhance the world around you as you experience it, which I think is pretty cool.
Holy Fuck – Congrats – Innovative Leisure
One of the best albums of the year, hands down. It’s ripe with bombast and nuance – it’s not just all “holy fuck!” It’s definitely a bit of that, but there are some more sensitive and groovy moments as well. But boy, I’ve been listening to this since January and I’m real glad more people can appreciate it now.
Jessy Lanza – Oh No – Hyperdub
If you wanna talk about grooves, this album has plenty of all shapes and sizes. Lots of 80s pop tropes, footwork twitches, general house tomfoolery, YMO-style synth noodling; but most of all, there are some ~~good vibes~~ on here. Parts of it remind me of what I wanted Grimes’ new album to sound like. Some of the vocals aren’t super on point, but the spirit is there in full, so that makes up for all of it.
Julianna Barwick – Will – Dead Oceans
This one didn’t quite reach my expectations set by 2013’s ridiculously good Nepenthe, but Julianna Barwick still remains one of my favorite artists out there. Her voice is downright otherworldly and what she does with it is pure sonic wizardry. The hypnotic “Nebula” and smoldering “Same” are some of her best career moments yet, easily notching this record high up in my favorites of the year so far.
Kaytranada – 99.9% – XL Recordings
Montreal beatmaker Kaytranada puts on a clinic of how to perfectly use guest vocalists with his debut full length for XL Recordings, 99.9%. Where some electronic albums enlist guests to bolster hype around the album, but fail to maintain the balance of keeping the guests voices unique while also assimilating them into the overall sound of the album, 99.9% maintains a continuous identity and lets the stars shine alongside Kaytranada’s beats. Flume needs to take notes on this.
LUH – Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing – Mute
New project of previous WU LYF singer Ellery James Roberts and Dutch artist Ebony Hoorn is a futuristic collection of massive love songs, made by lovers for lovers at the dawn of the apocalypse. It’s scope and conviction is undeniable, with euphoric highs and chilling lows coming on almost every track. It quite simply sounds like nothing else out right now. I suggest that you grip this pronto.
Maria Usbeck – Amparo – Cascine
Filling the crater-sized hole that Taken By Trees’ 2012 album Other Worlds left in my tropical dream pop taste zone, Maria Usbeck’s Amparo is a luxurious ride through Caribbean islands and her Latin American heritage, all draped with a soothing, dreamy sheen. The crater is now full of salt water, tropical islands and refreshing breezes. I’m sure if I didn’t get easily seasick, I’d hop on the first boat I see next and listen to this for the entire day.
Marissa Nadler – Strangers – Sacred Bones
For some reason when I listened to this album it reminded me of the 1955 film The Night Of The Hunter, a black & white, gorgeous thriller that was an inspiration to many directors thanks to its innovative use of lighting and film noir style. This album is devoid of color, but is as vibrant as the rest of them. Nadler’s somber vocals cast shadows across the serene acoustic backdrops, creating interesting scenarios for the songs to occupy.
Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone – Mom+Pop
Beautiful, orchestral folk that just makes me feel all nice inside. I listened to this while laying outside in the shade on a really nice day and it was an incredible pairing. Just take it easy, friend. Sit down, take a deep breath, and let it all go. This album is what you need for that.
Olga Bell – Tempo – One Little Indian
Current Dirty Projectors member Olga Bell has made an album that’s pretty silly at times, but hey, the best moments on the dancefloor are mostly the silly ones. Tempo is an electronic-heavy album that has an emphasis on danceable, groovy electronic beats with Bell singing more with them rather than over them. There are plenty of different influences from the electronic dance music realm that come into play here, but nothing seems played out; everything here is ultra-fresh and very Olga Bell. Have some fun with this one!
Perturbator – The Uncanny Valley – Blood Music
Anyone who’s played the game Hotline Miami is probably familiar with French synthwave maestro Perturbator, but for those who aren’t, let me give you a quick rundown of his agenda. Perturbator’s music will make you feel like you’re in a car going unreasonable speeds down a highway at night. You’ll likely feel unsafe even if you’re listening & going only 30mph or even if you’re just at your desk. It’s hyper-blasted, retro-doused synth music, set for straight-to-VHS horror movies. It’ll make your blood boil and your self-perceived coolness skyrocket.
Radiohead – A Moon-Shaped Pool – XL Recordings
Woah cool, this band. A Pool Of Moon Pies has some really beautiful moments that I really wasn’t expecting from a Radiohead in 2016. The way that the pianos melt on tracks like “Daydreaming,” “Glass Eyes” and “The Numbers” is great, and holy shit, “True Love Waits.” Sure, it ain’t their best by a long shot, but it’s still better than most records from this year. It succeeds in its simplicity, but still shocks and awes with grandiose, but somehow still underhanded arrangement techniques. Will I remember it by the year’s end? Probably. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I hope you did too.
Skepta – Konnichiwa – Boy Better Know
The new album from the fiery UK rapper Skepta is his first with his newly widened US audience, thanks to co-signs from Drake and Kanye, among others. It’s probably my favorite hip hop release of the year, with a great variety of different instrumentals, which is definitely refreshing among the rough grime styles.
Tim Heidecker – In Glendale – Rado
Yes, Tim Heidecker of Tim And Eric made a legit, 70s-style singer songwriter album and as silly as it is, it’s actually pretty enjoyable. It’s produced and put out by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, so he put his signature folk rock touch on everything and Heidecker’s humor in the songwriting works TOO well in the setting. Not really up for another album, but if I’m in the mood, it really hits the spot.
Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven – Grand Jury
Where Twin Peaks’ last album was the never-ending party, Down In Heaven is the comedown. Drives with windows down in the morning, savory brunches, checking all your social media accounts in bed and camping out on a picnic blanket next to a lake. Even though the never-ending party may be alluring, but the comedown is necessary. It’s tons of fun and still has elements of party, but just isn’t as hard as the last one.
Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla – Cascine
Everyone’s favorite Kiwi dream poppers have finally released their debut full-length and it’s glorious, as expected. After two EPs, I was hugely excited for this and boy howdy does it deliver. Cascine continuously proves themselves as the go-to spot for the absolute best dream pop in the world. Continue listening to this record label, please.