33s, 45s and MP3s Top 25 Albums of 2016

Despite 2016 being a questionable year in more ways than one, it’s undeniable that it was a glorious year in music. We saw great debut introductions from bands such as Whitney and Big Thief, and we received long awaited releases from our longtime favorites such as Radiohead, Frank Ocean and Leonard Cohen.

For this article, we combined forces and put together a list of our favorite records of 2016.

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25 | Mrs. Magician | Bermuda

Mrs. Magicians sophomore release Bermuda is a collection of 11 1960’s inspired surfy garage rock tracks that fails to disappoint from start to finish. The fuzzy guitars, vintage keyboard licks, sobering hooks, groovy guitar solo’s mixed with singer Jacob Turnbloom’s harrowing vocals make for a hell of a good time.

Hailing from San Diego, Mrs. Magician’s sound exemplifies the West Coast. In “No More Tears,” and “Where’s Shelly?” there is an obvious influence that The Beach Boys would of approve of with use of vocal harmonies, xylophones and poppy synths. Captivating hooks is one of the most prevalent features in Bermuda, in as the repeated high choruses in “Forgiveness,” and “Eyes All Over Town,” make for the perfect sing-alongs.

Bermuda should not be underestimated. It deserves to be turned up with the windows rolled down, so you’ll be in a California summer no matter where you are.

“Every song on ‘Bermuda’ is about being confused and lost,” said Mrs. Magician frontman Jacob Turnbloom. But, if you were only listening to the music, you’d have no idea.

Standout Tracks: “Forgiveness“, “Tear Drops” & “Jessica Slaughter

– Jennifer

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24 | M83 | Junk

I’m not sure why it is that French bands thrive in electronic music, but whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t stop. M83 is in good company alongside fellow French hitmakers such as Justice, Daft Punk, Air, and Télépopmusik. Junk cements M83 as a force to be reckoned with.

Junk feels like you’re living inside a 1980’s video game, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Opening track “Do it, Try it,” is an auto-tune, synthesized dream with a hook that is guaranteed to make even the most reluctant person dance. Junk’s pulsating beats, garish synths and shimmering vocals that hops around the time-space continuum.M83 are the Marty McFly of French electro, bouncing from 1970’s disco to early 1980’s new wave in their own neon Deloreans.

Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, Junk is a standout gem in this years lackluster electronic ballot.

Standout Tracks: “Do it, Try it“, “Walkaway Blues” & “Time Wind

– Jennifer

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23 | Chairlift | Moth

Released early in the year, Moth has remarkable staying power. Its bright brand of pop never grows stale. Leave it alone for a 3 or 4 month period and the album won’t lose any of its shiny pop spice. Instead you’ll find yourself bobbing your head up and down to it’s finely constructed hooks and verses as Caroline Polachek’s voice guides your shoulders into a groovy shimmy. Here’s to hoping that Polachek and instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly reunite soon.

Standout Tracks: “Polymorphing” & “Crying in Public”

– Erick

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22 | Thee Oh Sees | A Weird Exits

How does a band that keep putting out an album every year keep fresh? It’s not like Thee Oh Sees are putting out any music that is new or different. It’s straight pummel rock with some flavoring peculiar to an album. And it’s not like they’re doing 180 degree twists and turns to their music? You hear an album and you go “Oh! That’s an Oh Sees album.” What keeps the Oh Sees fresh is the constant tinkering John Dwyer, the frontman, keeps doing to the band.

A Weird Exits introduces the double drummer lineup that was common in Oh Sees live performances in 2016. That means expect thundering 5 minute psych jams that lose you in Frank Zappa’s tangerine, citric acid dreams.

Standout Tracks: “Jammed Entrance” & “The Axis”

– Erick

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21 | Parquet Courts | Human Performance

A 14-track collection of really damn good songs. Human Performance is that unimpressive boy in class that is unassuming. He keeps to himself, not because he’s particularly shy, but rather because there’s nothing peculiar about the guy. He’s just sort of there. But then you start talking to the guy for whatever reason and you end up finding out that just last year they were backpacking across Europe jumping from hostel to hostel in different countries and that next week they’re planning to skydive out of a Boeing 747. It’s the sort of kid that makes you go, “Huh. Who the fuck are you?”

Standout Tracks: “Human Performance”, “Paraphrased”, “Steady on My Mind”, “One Man, No City” & “Berlin Got Blurry”

If you’d like to read a review of “Human Performance” that I wrote, please click here

– Erick

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20 | Blood Orange | Freetown Sound

2016 has been a difficult year for the world. There was the Pulse nightclub shooting , Brexit, the multiple police involved shootings of young unarmed black men, the loss of David Bowie and Prince, and the successful presidential election of Donald Trump.

What we do need is socially conscious artists to put out music to address these topics. Because at the end of the day, silence is the same as complacency, no?

British singer/songwriter Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange is not one to stay silent. Freetown Sound was released days after Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who negligently drove the van transporting Freddie Gray, was found not guilty. On the same day, police officer Eric Casebolt of Collin County, Texas was not indicted for slamming a black teenage girl to the ground at a pool party, despite the incident being recorded on video.

Freetown Sound reveals a broad view of black culture with it’s use of vocal clips, spoken word poetry and politically fueled lyrics. Anti-police brutality ballad “Hands Up,” stands out along with “Desiree,” which is named after Hyne’s transgendered friend. With sounds reminiscent of Sade, Hynes is an empathetic soul grappling with the unmanageable complexities of life.

Standout Tracks: Hands Up“, “Augustine” &”Best to You

– Jennifer

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19 | Frankie Cosmos | Next Thing

What happens when a 1980’s teen heartthrob and an Academy Award winner have a baby? They make Greta Kline, better known as Frankie Cosmos. The daughter of actors Phoebe Kates and Kevin Kline, Frankie Cosmos musical style is delightfully unexpected.

Frankie Cosmos is low-key indie pop project reminiscent of the charming twee bands before her such as Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebsastian and Au Revoir Simone. Although in recent years twee has recently become a parody of itself engrossed with peter pan collars, Wes Anderson films, and blunt bangs, Frankie Cosmos sound is redefining the scene.

Her greatest talent is her ability to transform short songs into experiences that resemble hours of conversation. Her soft voice can lull you to sleep, and on Next Thing, she takes bedroom pop to the next level. The understated guitars, soft choruses, and sweet lyrics make Next Thing one of the most ambitious records of the year.

Standout Tracks: “Fool“, “On The Lips“, “Too Dark” & “Is It Possible / Sleep Song

– Jennifer

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18 | Danny Brown | Atrocity Exhibition

There’s something off-putting about Brown’s music. Be it the off-beat rhythm in a song like “Rolling Stone,” or his shrilly, high-pitch voice there’s a distance there between listener and music. The distance isn’t because of the listener’s choice, though. Along with the off-beat, quirky characteristics in Brown’s music, there’s also a very enticing and curious pang.

It’s the fluorescent blue light at the bottom of the ocean before a Cheshire cat’s grin of fangs gobbles you up. Atrocity Exhibition brings out the best hardcore and horror qualities that Brown exhibits without a lot of the electro indulgences from Old. Instead, we get a bunch of free jazz and Danny Brown’s erratic rapping over a Madlib-esque style smooth, dusthead sample. All the while, the hardcore features remain. A song like “Ain’t It Funny” sound like a freakshow carnival joint, all the while injecting some fun energy. Like a good Goosebumps book would do to you when you were younger, Atrocity Exhibition hits you will all you want from a Danny Brown joint.

Standout Tracks: “Rolling Stone,” “Really Doe”, “Lost” & “When It Rain”

– Erick

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17 | Anderson .Paak | Malibu

Anderson .Paak is the dictionary example of cool. His smooth old-school transitions, jazzy instrumentation, and with a voice that is audible butter, it’s hard not to thoroughly enjoy Malibu. 

In Malibu, the 30-year-old Oxnard, California native paints scenes from his troublesome past with warm colors. He had a difficult upbringing, with an abusive father and both parent’s having spent time in prison. Malibu is an optimistic outlook combining bright textures and the moody blues.

Malibu features pillowy jazz, gospel-choir harmonies, and contemporary rhythms. It’s the perfect mixture of soul, pop, and it represents many eras of hip-hop.

Standout tracks: The Bird“, “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance“, “Come Down

– Jennifer

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16 | Big Thief | Masterpiece

Folk had a good year in 2016, no better exemplified by Big Thief and their debut album Masterpiece, which in of itself may be an actual masterpiece.

In Masterpiece, the Brooklyn based quartet examines “the process of harnessing pain, loss, and love, while simultaneously letting them go,”(link to the quote) and while that may seem quite heavy, Big Thief handles the topics with such flair that it’s not completely taken in.

Masterpiece opens with “Little Arrows,” singer Adrianne Lenker’s vulnerable voice is accompanied with just a solitary guitar, recorded on something reminiscent of an old cassette machine. By the second song, you hear them blossoming into a force, and the album is consistent with each part of the band, making it whole and complete. By the closing track “Parallels,” the listener has experienced a combination of sweet choruses, understated folky guitars, and masterful storytelling.

Standout Tracks: “Masterpiece“, “Vegas“, “Humans“, “Paul

– Jennifer

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15 | ScHoolboy Q | Blank Face

“THat Part” is the depraved male ego speaking to you. It seeks pleasure first and foremost. It is starved and insatiable. The ego is never satisfied and it is a glutton. Its sustenance is “more, more and MORE!” And “THat Part” is only one bit to the long rap opera that is Blank Face. It’s Martin Scorsese in rap form.

And just like Scorsese explores what drives, motivates and brings down seedy persons, Blank Face gives middle and upper class America a glimpse into the ego of the Californian, black, urban and marginalized male. There’s the desire for more (“THat Part”). There’s the danger and recklessness inherent in chasing a life outside of the ghetto (“Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” “Dope Dealer”). On the surface these songs are superficial. Chasing money and women. For our post-material, liberal world, these pursuits are relics of a couth, uncultured past. Man is now concerned with post-material needs like solving racism or the environment.

But for a person stuck in the ghetto those concerns are bourgeois privileges. A fish left without water wants water first and foremost. The marginalized don’t have time to worry about an environment or starting a family or minimizing our consumption. They’re out to “get theirs” first.

Blank Face draws out in a 17-track epic journey to “get yours.” It does it with hardcore beats (“Ride Out”) and it does it with no concerns for packaging it in a format easily digestible for white, bourgeois propriety. It’s Martin Scorsese exposing the unsatisfied hunger of ego to the world and saying “You see this excess? This is your reality. Now face it.”

Standout Tracks: “THat Part”, “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane”, “Kno Ya Wrong”, “JoHn Muir” & “Tookie Knows II”

– Erick

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14 | Bon Iver | 22, A Million

Musicians nowadays get a bad rap if they change their sound. It’s pretty much the classic catch-22 case of “you’re fucked if you do, you’re fucked if you don’t.” If a band consistently puts out the same kind of music, they are deemed boring or unable to evolve. But when a band puts out something new and with a different sound, they are suddenly “sell-outs” and are abandoning their core fanbase.

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver faced this paradox. His first two records, the now cult classic, For Emma, Forever Ago, and the Grammy winning self-titled Bon Iver, were both critically acclaimed indie folk darlings. In 22, A Million Vernon changes his signature soft sound for a new experimental/electronic aesthetic.

“It might be over soon,” in the opener of 22, A Million, Vernon refers to the feeling he felt when he was trying, and failing, to find himself.  Each track on this album takes you on a beautiful journey of self-discovery and coming to terms with fame and life in the public eye.

With song titles written in code, inscrutable lyrics and eclectic instrumentation, 22, A Million is Bon Iver’s most enigmatic album so far. 22, A Million is not the kind of music made for mass consumption, yet it resonates with so many.

Standout Tracks: 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄“, “8 (Circle)“, “666“, “22 (OVER S∞∞N)

– Jennifer

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13 | Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam Batmanglij | I Had a Dream That You Were Mine

The Walkmen were one of my favorite bands and remain very much so in that position. I got to do a lot of things because of them. Flew to the East Coast for the first time in my life thanks to them. Went back to my birth town for the first time in at least 15 years. Got to check out Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in my life, too. I owe a lot to them and it was crushing to find out your favorite band is on an “indefinite hiatus.” Perhaps there’s no more alleviating feeling, then, than finding out that one of the members from your favorite band is now in the midst of a successful solo career and releasing music on par with that of their former band.

Leithauser partners up with Rostam Batmanglij, formerly from Vampire Weekend, to deliver an album that is musically constructed entirely around Leithauser’s graspy screams and croons. There’s a lot of lightness in the album. Even in its most melancholic moments, such as “In a Black Out,” there’s a bounciness that interpolates itself in the middle of the song so as to remind you that the melancholia here is at a distance. At the root of this album is a couple of friends enjoying themselves bouncing ideas back and forth. The collaboration is felt throughout the album, with Batmanglig’s Vampire Weekend origins bleeding out in songs like “Peaceful Morning.”

It’s good that albums like these exist in a year like 2016. It’s a reminder that shit can be better.

Standout Tracks: “A 1000 Times”“Sick as a Dog”“In a Black Out”“When the Truth Is…”“You Ain’t That Young Kid”“The Morning Stars” & “1959”

If you’d like to read a review of “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine” that I wrote, please click here

– Erick

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12 | Whitney | Light Upon the Lake

When Whitney released “No Woman,” the first single off their debut album A Light Upon the Lake, it was almost too good to be only the first release from a band. And that’s because it’s not their first time around the block.

Whitney is comprised of Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich which have been preparing to release this album since their last band The Smith Westerns broke up in 2014.

Light Upon the Lake features a dreamy mix of wispy guitar playing, faint falsettos, lullaby pianos and bombastic horns. While it touches on subjects of heartbreak, disappointment, alienation, and unresolved yearning, these are songs that will resonate with you.

Light Upon the Lake is one of the best debut records of 2016.

Standout Tracks: No Woman“, “No Matter Where We Go” “Polly” & “Golden Days

– Jennifer

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11 | A Tribe Called Quest | We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

The last two or three years have been pretty damn good for musicians making comebacks. Three years ago Bowie released The Next Day, his first album in well over a decade that nicely set up his seminal swan song Blackstar (stylized as ★). Leonard Cohen had an eerily similar path this year with You Want It Darker. A Tribe Called Quest released their own brilliant comeback album that also serves as a fitting swan song (RIP Phife Dawg). 2016 has been a real shit year.

Familiar with the backpack, jazz rap that litters their albums, Tribe Called Quest fans should instantly recognize the sound. Q-Tip just updated the production to 2016 standards. That isn’t to say that album is anachronistic. A sound that was once so peculiar to the early 90’s isn’t out of place in our schmaltzy, overly-produced post-irony times.

Sure, you can tell that this is a Tribe Called Quest album, but this is a uniquely Tribe Called Quest album in 2016. There’s no boom-bap beats, but there’s plenty of callbacks to familiar faces. Busta Rhymes is prominent throughout this album and makes me wonder why he hasn’t done a comeback of his own. André 3000 continues his trend of two features a year with no solo album anywhere near in sight. The music is out of place with current trends, but it’s not dated. It’s actually quite refreshing.

And that’s an accomplishment in of itself but the album wouldn’t be any current if it weren’t for the sharp lyricism relevant to our current world and politics. Police brutality, Donald Trump, deportation, poverty; all topics found in just one song (“We the People…”). In a year surrounded by white supremacy and black artists response to this, it’s not exactly a mystery that A Tribe Called Quest album would follow down this path. If we are to survive the next four years, it is imperative that art remains challenging the status quo and continues down a progression of improvement and abolition.

Standout Tracks: “The Space Program”, “We the People…”, “Solid Walls of Sound”, “Enough!!” & “Conrad Tokyo”

– Erick

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10 | Kendrick Lamar | untitled unmastered.

untitled unmastered. is essentially just extras from the To Pimp a Butterfly era and even the damn extras are damn good. It’s an 8 track compilation album all in the same sonic style of To Pimp a Butterfly.

It’s got the same free jazz horns and vocal manipulations that have a heavy presence in To Pimp a Butterfly. The horns remain brilliantly phrased. They smartly interject themselves in incredibly precise moments to either complement or contrast Kendrick’s flow. The horns interject themselves in such an improvised, unexpected manner that you’d think you just stepped into the sweaty, hot, fever dream of a 1950’s bop jazz player.

Kendrick’s rhymes are just as sharp. The lyrical themes are familiar to those in To Pimp a Butterfly. Struggles of poverty, struggles of the black community, and where to go from that struggle. If you enjoyed in anyway shape or form To Pimp a Butterfly, then this album is definitely worth getting.

Standout Tracks: “untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.”, “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013.”, “untitled 05 | 09.21.2014.”, “untitled 06 | 06.30.2014.” & “untitled 07 | 2014-2016”

If you’d like to read a review of “untitled unmastered.” that I wrote, please click here.

– Erick

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9 | Leonard Cohen | You Want It Darker

“I am ready, my Lord,” eerily sings Leonard Cohen in the title track to You Want It Darker. What a scarily prescient and aware lyric. That presence of death surrounds the album and Cohen speaks directly to it. The opening, titular track has Cohen confronting death. Confronting the gloomy darkness around him, he boldly announces he’s ready to die. He’s not scared, but will instead takes this as his opportunity for a final hurrah. “Treaty,” the following track, has Cohen speaking with a figure who he has seen “turn water into wine, and wine back to water.” He desires nothing more than peace, for “treaty to sign,” a respite from his anger and feebleness. Along with this peace, he reminisces over love that he has had, and Cohen has had plenty. Fans, women, family.

Wrapping the haunting voice of Cohen is a very spiritual music. Clear production elevates Cohen’s raspy, old voice to a higher place. It is now in your forefront, demanding your attention, where Cohen prays and supplicates in front of a higher calling, Death. The clarity of music represents the clarity of mind present in Cohen. He knows he’s about to die, and that’s ok. Think about being ok with death. That means you are in control of your life, and are now freer than most anyone. Cohen’s spirit has loosened the bars that surround his cage and he’s ready to be liberated.

Much more direct in its swan song, way more direct than Bowie’s at least, Cohen is frail from old age, but not in spirit. His spirit is bold and courageous. His spirit is resolved. He is ready to go.

Leonard Cohen famously joined the Church of Scientology once to chase women. I will miss him. Rest in power, Leonard Cohen.

Standout Tracks“You Want It Darker”“Treaty”“Leaving the Table” & “String Reprise/Treaty”

– Erick

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8 | Car Seat Headrest | Teens of Denial

Car Seat Headrest was one of the most unexpected breakout albums of the year. Car Seat Headrest is the brainchild of 24-year-old Will Toledo, and it is a record that displays  Toledo’s capability of musical maturity beyond his years.

Teens of Denial has an undeniable nostalgic appeal. Reminiscent of Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Sleater-Kinney, Car Seat Headrest’s early ’90s aesthetic is a successful, if not subconscious, homage to these influences.

Full of sad boy narratives, distressed self-loathing, alcohol drenched rants, Toledo’s hysteria is openly displayed. It’s intimate and self-involved at the same time, confessional yet caustic, and stipled  with jokes and pop-geek references, Toledo’s songs can be emotional epics like “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” drunk ragers like “Drugs With Friends” but they all come together to explore what it means to be young and fucked up.

Standout tracks: Fill in the Blank“, “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales“, & “Vincent

– Jennifer

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7 | Mitski | Puberty 2

26-year-old New Yorker Mitski Miyawaki is wrestling with stability. She’s growing up and dealing with what it means to be happy while trying to live up to the standards society has set for her emotionally and romantically

In Puberty 2, Mitski manages to stand out in a genre that is dominated by white heterosexual males. In “Your Best American Girl,” Mitski, a Japanese woman, takes the mantle as the archetype American girl. Her efforts to fit an ideal that wasn’t true to herself fail as she faces the helplessness of being in an interracial relationship, while employing guitar rock and her lover’s unrealistic expectations.

During a press release for Puberty 2 Mitsky proclaims “happiness fucks you,” and in the opening track “Happy” Mitski sings about a boy who brings her cookies, comes inside of her, and bails while she’s in the bathroom. So, it’s pretty accurate to say that happiness does fuck you.

Mitskie’s eclectic voice spans from gasping cries, pop crooning, and ethereal bellowing, her unique sound matched with Puberty 2’s distorted guitar rock, skittering drum machines, and electronic flourishes make for complicated album that’s uniqueness set it apart from everything else that came out this year.

Standout Tracks: Your Best American Girl“, “Happy“, “Thursday Girl” & “Crack Baby

– Jennifer

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6 | Solange | A Seat at the Table

What a beautiful album. It’s so well done. It has beautiful tones and timbres complemented by Solange’s soft voice and powerful songwriting. You hear the soft piano tones in a song like “Weary” or the one in the background in “Rise” and you get lost in their ethereal lightness.

There’s a power to the beauty that Solange has on display in this album. It’s the beauty of black culture and women. A beauty that has historically been ostracized and tossed aside, first for their blackness and then for their womanhood. If white women have historically been second class citizens, then black women were, and very much remain, in a 4th class of empowerment.

The world is not concerned with your existence. There is a beauty that arises from this struggle and this is the beauty that Solange very much takes pride in. “Be weary of your place in the world,” isn’t so much a warning tale for black women, but a notification to be aware of your disadvantage. Understand your position and demand more because you deserve more. Not less.

A world that tries to keep down your beauty isn’t a good world, or even a decent one, it’s a bad one and it’s needs to be abolished. Take a song like “Cranes in the Sky,” majestic, regal, it soars to the heavens. Solange wants to escape the position that the world has placed her in, through no choice of her own mind you, but she now recognizes escapism as a folly. They were only means to run away. You don’t gain anything from this. Instead, you resign yourself to a lower position.

God damnit, this album is beautiful.

Standout Tracks: “Rise”“Weary”“Cranes in the Sky”“Mad”“Don’t Touch My Hair” & “F.U.B.U.”

– Erick

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5 | David Bowie | ★

There’s a moment in Blackstar‘s title track where the song comes crashing down and shatters on itself. It’s around the 3:52 mark where the cymbals come crashing down, the synths pick up the pace, and moments later the horns come in. Bowie relaxes himself into a groove and spitballs his lyrics at faster rate than before. He is “the Black Star,” a group of mass collapsing into itself in its final stage before exploding supernova.

The imagery of mass collapsing into itself is not foreign for Bowie. Cancer is a mass of deteriorating cells collapsing 0n themselves, and cancer is what did Bowie in. Everything points to Bowie being astutely aware of his looming death. Blackstar was released two days prior to his death, shocking the world with news that Bowie had been diagnosed terminally ill 18 months before.

Death is our final endgame, at least physically. There is no more after it. We have reached the end of the board, and we get to reckon with what we have done in our lives. For Bowie, Blackstar is that reckoning. It is fitting that this larger than life person, truly a brilliant, flashing supernova incarnate, would go out with the imagery of collapsing stars and gravitational implosions. So much attraction, be it physical or awe to his star power, only demands deafening and hot fiery white flashes. Blackstar is precisely that. One final whiteflash of light before we go dark.

Standout Tracks: “Blackstar”“Lazarus”“Dollar Days” & “I Can’t Give Everything”

– Erick

 

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4 | Radiohead | A Moon Shaped Pool

Perhaps no other song is more demonstrative of the urgency that a band needed than “Burn the Witch.” I want to take you back to a time in early May when Radiohead had first teased a new album. They dropped little sly hints on their Twitter or on their website suggesting that something was going to drop soon. It was an early Monday morning, around 10:00 in the morning when the “Burn the Witch” video had finally gone up. Long been a mythical song of sorts in the Radiohead fan community, “Burn the Witch” declared that Radiohead was back. It desperately assuaged the fear of a community of hardcore fans that the much divisive King of Limbs was going to be a continuation. Finally, Radiohead was “BACK!” and that it was “good” Radiohead, too!

And then “Daydreaming” happened and it elevated the album to not just only a respectably decent album, but one that has it competing with the band’s best work. Songs like “Daydreaming” or “Present Tense” take claim amongst some of the band’s best tracks and it is precisely songs such as those that take this album to be a top 3 Radiohead album for me.

It’s better than In Rainbows because it dares to be exposed in a way that In Rainbows never did. It’s personal and meant for an individual and albums that dare to be personal are vulnerable albums. To be vulnerable is the maximum artistic expression. It is to reveal yourself to your audience and expose rawness. Rawness can be beautiful and it can be ugly, but it is the most visceral of states. It demands the audience to feel something and deal with these emotions. And that is why A Moon Shaped Pool is so much better than In Rainbows or a The Bends because it demands you to feel loss and emotional toil. It puts you in the shoes of a vulnerable person losing his family and makes you feel this specific type of way and it fucking does its job wonderfully.

Standout Tracks: “Daydreaming”, “Ful Stop”, “The Numbers”“Present Tense” & “True Love Waits”

If you’d like read my full review for “A Moon Shaped Pool,” please click here.

– Erick

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3 | Kanye West | The Life of Pablo

There is no doubt that Kanye West has had a rough year. But, it didn’t start off that way. In February, we were #blessed with the release of West’s self proclaimed gospel album The Life of Pablo.

West’s messy masterpiece is an overwhelming surplus of ideas and an explosion of creativity. It’s sprawling, ambitious, and never truly finished. The Life of Pablo has moments of brilliance, as displayed in “Ultralight Beam,” experiences soul searching in “30 Hours,” yearning introspection in “Real Friends,” pop culture references in “No More Parties in L.A.” self aware humor in “I Love Kanye,” and a combination of all these topics in “Famous,” which is a bizarre reflection of life in the public eye.

West is a maniac genius and his music defies boundaries. And it reminds us that there isn’t a light in the universe without the contradicting balance of uncomfortable darkness.

Standout tracks: Ultralight Beam“, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1“, “Real Friends” & “Wolves

For a critique on “The Life of Pablo” from a leftist perspective, please click here.

– Jennifer

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2 | Angel Olsen | MY WOMAN

“I dare you to understand, what makes me a woman,” 29-year-old singer/songwriter Angel Olsen suggests in a line from the title track of My Woman. With important records from women in 2016 from artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Mitski and Sia. Olsen perfectly points out the availability for her freedom of expression.

Olsen has cemented her place as a musical institution after the release of My Woman. Changing direction from her folksy bare-bones acoustic aesthetic in 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, My Woman features distorted guitars, pillowy soft synths, and upbeat harmonies.

 My Woman is split into two parts: in the first half (act 1) the opening five songs are all poppy rock standards with a clear 1950’s influence. The second half (act 2) are slower powerful ballads. But, what both parts have in common are the heart wrenching lyrical content of unrequited love and relationship troubles.

My Woman is a collection of songs that strongly highlight Olsen’s incredible song writing abilities, all while highlighting her sharp wit. Her delicate voice takes us on a journey from beginning to end. Her relatable pleas alongside the trickling pianos, slinky bass lines, and retro guitars make up for one of the most powerful statements of individuality in 2016.

Standout tracks: “Never Be Mine“,”Shut Up Kiss Me“,”Not Gonna Kill You“, “Those Were the Days” & “Woman

– Erick & Jennifer

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1 | Frank Ocean | Blonde

It was a monumental task to even meet half the expectations for this album. It was strongly teased last year. There had been name changes, including one from a prominent Cure song and album. There was a surprise announcement sometime in August that about an album soon, but by then everyone was already cynical. Why believe that anything was going to happen, even if it was reported by the New York Times? And finally that day came and all we got was Frank Ocean building a shelf and a rather mediocre visual album attached to it. That was the wait?

Nope.

The wait was worth getting Frank Ocean singing in a bee-pitched voice about “bitches wanting Nikes.” We got this seminal work that at first listen was actually very distant. I was unsure how I felt about the album. It was good, but it wasn’t anywhere near as immediate as, say, a channel ORANGE. There was nothing on this like a “Pyramids,” or so I thought.

A song like “Nights” is a monster in the same vein as “Pyramids.” It’s dynamic. There’s at least three changes in tempo, with one change being so stark that I thought for a while that it was a whole ‘nother song. Ocean changes vocal style from a rap into a more traditional singing style and then into a distorted voice repeating the verse from the previous part. It is a song in the same triple-part style as a “Paranoid Android” or a “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

God bless Frank Ocean.

Standout Tracks: “Nikes”, “Ivy”, “Pink + White”, “Nights”, “Pretty Sweet”, “Seigfried” & “Godspeed”

– Erick

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