The second-to-last Recommended Albums post for 2016 and it’s a dud. Music wise, it’s good as always. I just had nothing interesting to say about them. Now that I’m thinking about it, have I ever had anything interesting to say about anything music-wise? That’s your call. Either way, lots of fun albums here, with Kero Kero Bonito & Crying leading the charge on that. There are also THREE bilingual records featured here, which I thought was a cool little tidbit. As always, hope you find something you like here & also as always, these albums are listed in alphabetical order.
Black Marble – It’s Immaterial (Ghostly)
Dark, gothy 80s worship has never sounded so good. Okay, maybe it has, but it sounds pretty dang good here too. Not really anything unique to say about this album. If you like this kind of music, you’ll definitely like it. If you don’t, then it isn’t for you. Either way, “Woods” is the best song on the record, so check that one out if anything. It’s linked in the album title. Yahoo.
Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gates (Run For Cover)
Somehow not the most fun album on this list, but one of the most dynamic and entertaining by far. Pushing through their chiptune pop rock sound that previously defined them, Crying keep some of their vintage video game electronics on the back burner, but exchange for absolutely righteous pop rock guitar hooks. The band seems so small, but the songs are so huge, almost approaching arena rock size, but it’s clear that these will be performed for small venues and basements. This element makes it even more endearing; that these giants are for the small & forgotten folk to go nuts to, not the lowest common denominator. Just take “A Sudden Gust,” “The Curve,” “Patriot,” and so many more. This is exciting music. You should just enjoy it. Don’t worry about anything else.
Helado Negro – Private Energy (Asthmatic Kitty)
An uplifting set of synth bilingual pop tunes set as meditations on identity. From what I’ve heard, this is Helado Negro’s most fleshed out album to date, featuring full orchestras, instrumental interludes and some of the best hooks they’ve put together. “Young, Latin and Proud” and “It’s My Brown Skin” are obvious highlights that also put forth the albums thesis of loving oneself and others. A really pleasing listen, I found myself going back to this album all month.
Katie Gately – Color (Tri-Angle)
Tri-Angle newcomer Katie Gately builds giant cityscapes of decaying pop music on her debut EP & makes a huge splash in the experimental pop realm. This music is real exciting, with ideas mashing together quickly and quickly pulling apart. Pieces of a coherent song flirt with each other and are ripped from one another. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. Just listen. Do you even care? Do I even care? Don’t break the chain.
Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation (self-released)
Ah yes, here’s the most fun album on the list. The debut LP from London pop group Kero Kero Bonito is a sugar rush from start to finish, ripe with all-star pop hooks that would make the biggest Top 40 songwriters blush. KKB manage to make a perfect cocktail of immediately catchy and unique pop music by taking all the best parts from the hyperactive bubblegum PC Music scene, the cuteness of J-Pop, goofy video game soundtracks and the simplicity of the hottest pop music trends and shaking them up in a glittery container of bliss. There’s not much lyrical depth here, with songs dealing with subjects like hearing a catchy song on the radio, waking up, taking a selfie, talking to your parents, relaxing, graduating and plenty more. Bonito Generation is a colorful bounce house that will lift anyone out of a sour mood into an ignorantly great mood.
Marie Davidson – Adieux Au Dancefloor (Cititrax)
Montreal minimal wave maven Marie Davidson is most well known for her part in DFA duo Essaie Pas, but on Adieux Au Dancefloor she puts herself and her dark synthesizers on the center stage, hypnotizing and charming the audience effortlessly. Repetitive, simple synth passages provide a robotic landscape for Davidson to air her grievances, going with a more spoken word performance style rather than singing, except for the title track. The record is dark and maze like, despite how simple it is in sound. When everything sounds the same, it’s the small changes that make all the difference.
NxWorries – Yes Lawd! (Stones Throw)
Two very important pop visionaries of 2016, Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge, join forces for a second time for Yes Lawd! a messy, psychedelic & essential collection of retro-touched pop tunes for a bleeding populace. Knxwledge comes off more J Dilla than ever here and .Paak comes off more D’Angelo than ever as well. These are both very good things. Songs here are short and there are a lot of them. There’s a good sense of humor permeating through the whole project (see “H.A.N.”). It’s a damn good time. They fit TOO well together.
Sam Evian – Premium (Saddle Creek)
The frontman of one of my favorite NYC bands, Celestial Shore, Sam Evian strikes out on his own for the first time for Saddle Creek records. The result is a collection of smooth, groovy tunes that cram as many ideas and concepts as Celestial Shore have in their songs. “Dark Love” features individual solos by weird keyboards, guitar and saxophone; Evian sings in complete vocoder/talkbox on the slick “Carolina;” and a full orchestra comes to play in “I Need A Man.” It’s an album that’s real chill and easy to listen to, but it rewards the conscious listener with great dividends.
Steve Hauschildt – Strands (Kranky)
Previously of the Ohio-based electronic ambient group Emeralds, Steve Hauschildt forges similar territory here on Strands, an album of slow moving parts coming together to make a strong whole. Songs like “Same River Twice,” “Ketracel” and the title track feature quicker pieces being pushed along by a slow, pressing core, while others feature only large swathes of sound. In all honesty, I have no idea what I’m talking about right now. It’s a great ambient record. You put it on, you zone out. But it’s still engaging. It’s not a snooze-fest. It’s also put out on Kranky, which is perhaps the most solid record label running right now. Just check it out if you’re into that slow slow.
Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth (Mexican Summer)
The only good thing to happen to me the week of writing this was seeing Weyes Blood in a beautiful church. Two days after the country elects a flaming ball of hatred to office and the day of news of Leonard Cohen’s passing, around 250 people crammed into a church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to let Weyes Blood soothe their wounds. Incense was lit, psychedelic projections hypnotically illuminated backstage & the pews were filled and silent as frontwoman Natalie Mering lead the crowd with a trance-like performance and provided a safe space for her fans. It allowed everyone to forget about everything happening outside for just a moment. I saw so many couples leaning into each other, friends hugging, laughing and having a moment together. That performance and this album is really something we need right now to help us get through the turbulent times.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES ::
- American Football – American Football : Didn’t listen to this to be honest, but I’m sure many people never thought this thing would come out. So there ya go.
- Blank Banshee – MEGA : Futuristic nerdy video game music that goes hard. Like a more hip-hop/video game/vaporwave aesthetic Oneohtrix Point Never. Hyper atmospheric and trance-like. Don’t like it as much as their last one, but still preeetty good.
- Cakes Da Killa – Hedonism : Fierce delivery with BARS, Cakes Da Killa’s proper debut LP is everything I wanted to hear from the upcoming MC. And of course plenty of fun, raunchy lines and hip-house beats. Go nuts to this one, bb.
- D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated : 4AD debut from one of the best acts I saw at SXSW 2014. Really well-crafted art pop that ranges a ton of styles and approaches. As far as I know, a one-man band.
- Gurr – In My Head : Fun jangle pop from Germany. Has serious Sundays vibes on it that I absolutely love. “Walnuts” is the hit.
- Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee : Kind of disappointed by this one, but still some solid folk rock. It’s also a double album, so there’s lots to dig into if you like it more than I do.
- The Radio Dept. – Running Out Of Love : Not what I expected, but a pretty decent synth pop record. If you haven’t listened to their previous material, go to that over this.
- Ricky Eat Acid – Talk To You Soon : Terrible Records debut, goes a bit more hard hitting and is more disorganized compared to his previous releases, but still has moments of uncanny bliss I really enjoyed from his 2014 album. There’s also an unexpected Wreck & Reference feature, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album, but is a cool thought.
- Soft Hair – Soft Hair : LA Priest + Connan Mockasin = some otherworldly grooves, dripping sensuality and alien rhythms. A smoldering picture of a gooey, fictional underworld.
- Vulfpeck – The Beautiful Game : Clever Michigan groovy boys lay down some tight grooves.