Contrary to every other list covering country music, Shine On Rainy Day is the best record out of Nashville. Probably the most under-appreciated this year. There’s absolutely no reason Brent Cobb isn’t being lifted up like Stugrill, Kacey, Stapleton, and Margo. This is the warmest of records, and small in the biggest of ways. Stunning songs, like a redneck Paul Simon.
A celebratory and hopeful record spinning in 2016, against all odds: Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book. The season-closing SNL performances capped it off with an unfuckwithable exclimation point. Music forward, confident as hell, serious as hell, and fun as hell!
The Growlers record City Club is a Strokes album you wish existed, soaked in Southern California. This time, they’re produced by Julian Casablancas, which turns out to be a huge win, but the songs are goddamn strong on their own. Hooky as can be, with swagger like few rock and rollers can muster just now. This made me go back and check out albums I’ve missed from the The G’s over the years, and they’re all totally good right back to the debut! These guys seem to exist on an island their own, full of happy boys and girls!
Rihanna is an artist I’ve paid attention to 0% of the time over the past 10 years, but Anti grabbed onto me toward the end of the year, and I’ve been on it constantly for the past several weeks. I had not heard, seen, or understood anything about the release of this record, the delays, her back catalog, etc. I had heard a few singles over the years and that’s it, so zero context. I was/am shocked that this is pop music. “Kiss It Better”, “Never Ending”, and “Love on the Brain” are racking up endless plays, but I love the whole thing (save that track with Drake, which I think blows). Without a doubt the most sexually charged music in my life now, and maybe ever. The artwork for the LP is also insanely good.
Hiss Golden Messenger: Duh, of course, perfect record, got two Hiss tattoos this year, blah blah blah, Heart Like A Levee, best live rock band going, just getting started, etc etc etc. Most anyone who knows me has heard me ramble on about this album, but lots of people still to convert. I recommend the title track as your starting point, and then lucky you: It’s five or so more full-lengths with several singles and EPs for you to dig into, all great!
Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial feels like an internet-kid version of Modest Mouse, or maybe someone else’s Pavement or GBV. Is this kid under 27? “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”, “1937 Skatepark”, “Drugs With Friends”, and fucking “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” have all ripped my guts out countless times alone in my kitchen. Alone in my kitchen with guitars!
Catfish and the Bottlemen made 11 songs all about girls, and thinking/doing almost all the wrong shit. Everything this dude sings is tripped up and backward from a rational, adult perspective. Perfect for teenagers and 20-somethings, and apparently me, too. The Ride sits in that big-radio rock slot on my list; touchstones for me are of the Killers and Oasis variety.
Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw reminds me of Europe. Like his previous album, this one soundtracked overseas travel: airplanes crossing oceans, long walks thru empty late-night streets in London, sad times mostly. Kevin nailed his thing here perfectly, another weighty entry in the catalog under his own name.
The brainiest of my picks this year is a record Nap Eyes named Thought Rock Fish Scale. This was the first great album of 2016 for me, and I’ve come back to it over and over throughout the year. The story is that this one, like their last debut, was recorded live with no over-dubs, punch-ins, or trickery. It’s alive, dark, confessional, and weird. Love it.
Bon Iver’s 22, A Million has to be the record I listened to most this year. In particular, “Creeks” and “Million” played back-to-back loud as fuck worked like mantras for me at various points along the way. This record is a very specific moment in time. Curious to see how it’s gonna age; the emotional content and production might burn too bright to hold on in terms of forever and ever. But for right now, it’s perfect.
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