by Jamie at attractive variance
With yesterday’s post, I started the countdown of my favorite 50 records from last year, with today seeing the conclusion of the final 25. Looking over the two days, I’m amazed at the fact that very little separates the two days, with a wealth of wonderful records coming in 2016.
My Top 5 is unranked, and instead merely listed alphabetically, per usual.
25. G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge EP
As the world continues to wait for the ‘it’ band at the moments full length debut, G.L.O.S.S. decided to wet everyones appetites and hold us over by releasing the supercharged Trans Day of Revenge EP. Like the best of riot grrl, G.L.O.S.S. is ready to flip the record industry on its head and if this EP is any indication, I think the already unrealistic expectations probably aren’t even high enough.
24. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Key
Upon losing his son to a freak accident, Nick Cave and Co. poured themselves into the catharsis of a new record. The results are clear; it’s a tremendous testament to honest heartbreak and loss, and while it certainly isn’t the easiest thing to always listen to, it’s clearly a work of genius.
23. Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Easily the most under the radar release of a (former [I say this as there is no reason for this record to be so neglected upon release]) heavyweight, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not packs all the trademark Dinosaur Jr. spastic fuzz in easily their best record in 20 years. This guitar virtuoso isn’t nearly done, and rock is all the better for it.
22. Lennon Claypool Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
21. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
20. Purson – Desire’s Magic Theater
Psychedelic rock is a sub-genre that has continued to flourish outside it’s mid to late 60’s heyday. This trio show the range that the subsequent decades have afforded us; Purson’s Desire’s Magic Theater take us in heavy and meanderingly arty avenues, while Thee Oh Sees offer up another wonderful blast of garage psych fury. The last one, Monolith of Phobos is a dynamic offering from the newest rock supergroup. Highlights abound on all three records.
19. Lush – Blind Spot EP
Shoegaze continues to be a flourishing sub-genre in rock, so it’s great to see most of the originators getting back in the swing of things. After triumphant returns to the stage in the last few years by several of the titans (RIDE, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver and not to mention the entry here, Lush), it’s an even more wonderful breakthrough when they start recording new music that is as fresh as the tunes of 25 years ago.
18. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
With the help of a few friends (Josh Homme and Arctic Monkey’s drummer Matt Helders), Iggy Pop has once again resurrected himself. In a year where Bowie did the same this only seems fitting of course, but then that doesn’t even begin to explain some of the thrills on this record; ‘Gardenia’ is one of his career’s greatest singles and the bass rumble on ‘Sunday’ throbs.
17. the Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood
4AD’s the Lemon Twigs pack a lot of ideas about pop’s past into the genre-bending work, and, almost remarkably, pull it all off. From Glam pomp, to dance hall kitsch nearly nothing is left on the cutting room floor. At times it sounds like a delirious mess of pure decadence, but further listens provide enough clues that that was the point; pop has never been about showing restraint.
16. Swans – The Glowing Man
Swans complete their epic three album cycle; The Seer (2012), To Be Kind (2014) and this new one all represent a dedication to primal intensity and artistic transcendence in the long form. It sometimes isn’t totally fair to measure anything against Swans in a year they unleash one of these (because they really are that grand, everything seems pale in comparison), but that they don’t top the year speaks to the depth of quality elsewhere.
15. Soviet Soviet – Endless
14. Omni – Deluxe
Noisy Post-Punk sounds are in great hands, as evident on these two records; Deluxe is the bubbly, Joy Division/Gang of Four approach to the sound, while Soviet Soviet is more in line with a Magazine type full throttled guitar assault. Each is a new beast too, of course, picking up enough new twists to not sound like mere revival acts.
13. Carseat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Using a well-worn template set up by Guided By Voices and Pavement, Will Toledo has shed most of his influence (while still lovingly embracing them) on this ragged, magisterial new LP. Elevated ideas about pop abound as Teens of Denial packs as many ideas in one record as a lot of bands pack in an entire career.
12. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
While it’s true I didn’t like the new PJ Harvey as much as her last one (2011’s Let England Shake) that’s only because that might’ve been my favorite record of its year. In other words, she oscillates between ‘very good’ and ‘very great’, and this new one—that recounts ruminations on areas torn apart by war—is a welcome addition to her magnificent discography.
11. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
You could almost argue that my favorite hip hop record of this year was also perhaps my favorite punk record, as Death Grips are always trending towards the fine line of aggressive song craft where the two genres meet. On Bottomless Pit, their talents for tunes shine through the throbbing intensity which amounts to their most memorably musical release yet.
10. Mothers – When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
A mournful, hazy dream of a record, it also can warm up on repeated listens to be quite a charming piece of pop too. I wouldn’t doubt that it could end up being near the top if I return to these 50 in a year or more.
9. David Bowie – Blackstar
David Bowie saved one of his best characters for last: David Bowie in Death. Foreshadowing his ultimate ending with such elegiac majesty and grace, it’s a record that’d fit in fine with his trio of late 70’s masterpieces, and he wasn’t done there as the new No Plan EP (2017) is terrific too. RIP.
8. Suede – Night Thoughts
Upon hearing news of Suede’s return several years ago I waited with nervous trepidation. Here was a band so tied to the era they so helped define I feared for a slightly diminished set of returns. But, Suede is as good as ever (2013’s Bloodsports was great too), with barely any signs that they were away. Plus, the time away has added subtle touches of maturity, as Night Thoughts is their most elegant offering yet.
7. Ringo Deathstarr – Pure Mood
Outside of A Place to Bury Strangers, Austin Texas’ Ringo Deathstarr might just be the most thrilling torchbearers of noisy shoegaze we have going now. Several thrilling standout tracks highlight their third masterpiece in a row.
6. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony
With a cover clearly meant to evoke Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan’s genre-bending 1965 work, the Sunflower Bean are making a real gamble that their newest would be up the task. Blending full-throttled rockers (‘Wall Watcher’) with bristling pop (‘Human Ceremony’), and nearly everything in-between, Sunflower Bean has made the most enjoyable piece of art I heard this year. Just tremendous.
The Top 5
the Body – No One Deserves Happiness
Heaviness isn’t usually this startlingly beautiful, but on the preceding Body releases their fusion of goth/new wave textures have pointed a way for accessibility within the plodding drone. No One Deserves Happiness is their most focused, complete work yet, pulsing like a club record from hell, chock full of scraping, scathing guitar lines. On ‘Shelter Is Illusory’ or ‘Two Snakes’ there is a through line of feedback, and pulsing dance beats urging us to dance over the rubble. The ethereal voices offer the light out, but no one takes it when you’re having this great a time.
Cobalt – Slow Forever
Easily the densest record I loved this year, with layer upon layer of slamming intensity making way for areas of genuine art. Rarely do we get metal records nearly topping year end lists, but I can’t think of a record this year that succeeding in as many styles and textures and Cobalt’s newest effort. A marathon to get through (thankfully) and a feast for the senses.
the Gotobeds – Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic
I’ve long thought that Gang of Four, for their initial 3 or 4 album run in the late 70’s/early 80’s was one of the greatest rock bands the form has ever known, and that their (relatively) reproducible sound should serve as something of a template for bands going forward. Until a few years ago this was virtually never the case, as outside their original era bands that loved them (Nirvana and, say, Red Hot Chilli Peppers are/were well known huge fans) their style was barely noticeable. That’s all changed the last decade or so of course, including the actual Gang of Four coming back (2011’s Content remains one of my favorite records), and I can’t think of a band better carrying their torch than the magnificent Gotobeds. On their newest, tunes speak and squawk and when things do get slowed down, like on ‘Rope’, it only magnifies the intensity.
Savages – Adore Life
On Adore Life, Savages continue their rise to the mantle of perhaps the World’s Greatest Rock Band. If you don’t want to fuss about with such ideas—who does really?—just bask in the tremendousness of the tunes; guitars swirl and feedback (Gemma Thompson creates a guitar orchestra here with some of this multi-tracking) as the bass drives and pulses everything together (Ayse Hassan is one of the most interesting bassists going for my tastes), in complete lockstep with Fay Milton’s drums. Jehnny Beth gets to pick over what’s left of the carcass, and the post-punk offerings are abundant.
Slaves – Take Control
In a top 5 where each record is intense in its own way, it’d be something of note to say Take Control, the second album from English punk-duo Slaves might just take the cake in the department. It’s an intensity that only a righteous political band from the UK could muster, ‘Spit it Out’ the albums lead track, shows that we’re in the presence of a band ready to take the throne from their political inspired forefathers. Check the calendar, are we sure it’s not 1979? (the Beastie Boy’s Mike D even lends a hand to the dirge bass driven ‘Consume Or Be Consumed’).