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2016 Year End Best Of

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2016 was a great year for music. I mean, it was tragic with the loss of David Bowie, Prince, and so many other great musicians, darkly tragic, but there was a lot of really great music made in 2016, so there was a lot to listen to in and around the general year-long time of mourning.


This was a strong year for albums, the strongest in a long time. In fact, all 10 of the records that I list below would have been Album of The Year, hands down, had they been released a year or two ago. Every single one of them is a deep, complex, classic record that I anticipate exploring for a while to come. Most years I cannot say that.

  1. Complekt by Landing. A band I have loved for a long time put out their best work to date. This is an album that soars to great ambient depths and also rocks out pretty hard and floats lightly in dreampop. Complekt is all things to all people.

  2. Heads Up by Warpaint. Warpaint continue to surprise, impress, and delight. Their third full-length is a sparse, groovy, dub album.

  3. Minor Victories by Minor Victories. Yeah, sure, this is a Supergroup (Mogwai + Slowdive + Editors) and as such you would expect something good to come out of the collaboration. But groups are often not simply the sum of their parts, or, to put it another way, great musicians can sometimes produce mediocre work when they collaborate. There has to be some chemistry, something more than just the simple addition of people in the studio. And that happens here. This is simply stunning. I wonder if we will ever hear more from this collaboration.

  4. Thank You For Your Service, We Got It From Here by A Tribe Called Quest. At Thanksgiving 2015, my sister, a hip-hop fan, and one of her friends who had joined us for dinner raised a toast to Phife Dawg, and mentioned that they heard he was working on a new Tribe record when he died. I toasted and scoffed then, but rumors kept coming. And then, miracle of miracles, on the Friday before my birthday this year there was a new Tribe album. And, by all that is holy, it is excellent. Well, excellent in that 1990s jazzy, sample heavy hip-hop kind of way. This record feels like they just picked up where they let off. As a fan from way back when (I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1992), I am very pleased and excited.

  5. Blackstar by David Bowie. I am not the world’s biggest David Bowie fan but, to be honest, his catalog is so deep and vast that it is hard for me to get a handle on it. That said, I have never heard a David Bowie album that I did not find at least one gem on. I liked his previous release from 2013, so I was curious to see what this one was all about. And of course, it was sold out everywhere that first weekend after its release, and then he passed away. I remember sitting on my couch reading the news on Facebook and getting up to play Five Years while thinking, "It’ll take me forever to get a copy now!" And it did. But it was worth it. This is a complex album, all over the place, but with some really beautiful tunes. A last gift from a great performer. Not to be missed.

  6. Tween by Wye Oak. So this is technically an outtakes collection and not an album. I discuss the controversy in my review. Either way, this is a great record and I love it.

  7. Odonis Odonis by Odonis Odonis. This was a promo that was sent to us and which Brendan assigned to me. I have never heard of this band before, but their industrial noisy dance rock was just what I needed during the long hot summer.

  8. Stranger Things by Yuck. This came out in the winter and was the soundtrack to my winter and spring. A fun, lively, pop record.

  9. The Wilderness by Explosions in the Sky. Explosions in the Sky are doing such interesting things in post-rock these days. This is a very deep record with many layers to explore. And really beautiful too. In a different year, this would have been the album of the year. The first time i listened to this, i thought, "Album of the year!" The fact that it is so far down on this list shows how great 2016 was for records.

  10. Dealing With the Weird by Fucko. The second promo on this list, Fucko are an angry punk trio, grinding at their instruments and wailing away. This is a very fun record, and even though it is last on this list, it is still very much worth hearing.
  1. June by Film School. Is this a reunion of sorts, or simply a one off final release from the band? I guess we will have to wait to find out, but it is a stunning little EP of Film School doing what they do.

  2. Third Sight by Landing. 2016 was also a year with two major Landing releases! Third Sight is a dreamy, spacey ambient record.

  3. EP 1 by Past Life. The debut EP by this band finds them doing rock and doing it well.

  4. Analog Creatures by Immersion. A Colin Newman project, on PostLibyan’s end of the year list? I am sure that you are shocked, but this is a lovely ambient disc.

  5. Companion by Braids. A beautiful little electronic EP from this Canadian dreampop band. They sound lovely here.

  6. Air Frais by Dessin Bizarre. Beautiful ambient electronica from Russia.

  7. Going Out by Strange Relations. Classic indie rock done well.

  8. Blind Spot by Lush. A farewell gift from the band, and well done at that.

  9. Drool Sucker by No Joy. Three songs of fuzzy, noisy pop.

  10. Faye by Faye. Charlotte trio makes catchy indie rock.

Late entry here. Nine Inch Nails released Not the Actual Events on the Friday before Christmas this year. Wow, a dark EP from Trent Reznor? Actually, i think his last few albums were pretty upbeat, so this is a surprise of sorts. Deep and dark and really pretty. I need more time to absorb this, but it is not to be missed.

  1. Paisley by Shilpa Ray. Ms, Ray gives tribute to Prince in a beautiful cover.

  2. Is And Always Was Daniel Johnston's Delay Pedal by Tape Deck Mountain. Noise rockers Tape Deck Mountain pay tribute to Daniel Johnston.

  3. Out Is In by Lea Porcelain. Debut record by a mysterious German act. This shows a lot of promise.

  4. Can You Feel My Love? b/w Lifeline by Walleater. This British band makes classic grunge, and they do it well. This is two quality tunes from the lads.

I did not go to as many concerts in 2016 as I have in other years. In fact, I went to 13 of them, and here they are listed in order of preference.

  1. The Cure on 24 June. Despite being a Cure fan for a long time, I had never seen them. So I dragged my girlfriend to Lakewood in oppressive heat and spent a ton of money (tickets + parking + overpriced awful food + overpriced drinks) to see them. And The Cure delivered, opening with Plainsong and Pictures of You and then playing for three hours. It was as perfect of a Cure show as I could have hoped for.

  2. Yuck w/ Sunflower Bean on 12 March. I wanted to catch Brits Yuck as they passed through town on their way to SxSW, but opened Sunflower Bean was fun as well. Both bands put on great sets.

  3. Low on 4 Feb. No opener, just Low for about two hours. They have been doing this for so long that their slowcore is lush, precise, and beautiful.

  4. Bob Mould on 11 Nov. Bob toured with John Wurster (drummer in Superchunk) and Jason Narducy (touring bassist in Superchunk), so this was almost a Superchunk show. But it was all Bob, his guitar loud as heck and his voice a slurring growl. He played a lot of Sugar that night, and it was a great show.

  5. Algiers on 9 April. They played after a movie featuring Atlanta bands from 10 years ago, and they played new material. I like what they were doing there, and hope to hear something new from them in 2017.

  6. Fishbone with Baby Baby on 15 June. Fishbone! Dance! Ska! Hells yeah!

  7. Album Leaf with Sister Crayon on 12 Sep. We got there when Sister Crayon were playing the dubstep of their second record live. My (deadhead) girlfriend was not impressed, but The Album Leaf played a delightful set of proggish ambient post-rock to a crowd of about 50. Glad they played their hearts out even though Terminal West was mostly empty.

  8. The Jesus and Mary Chain on 14 Dec. I have loved the work of the Reid brothers for a long time, so their presence was enough to get me to experience the weirdness that is Masquerade in Underground Atlanta. (Seriously, they have three clubs in an abandoned mall in a kind of empty portion of downtown. Weird.) This was a fun set where, despite a slight illness, I bounced like a fool.

  9. Field Mouse on 23 Nov. The day before Thanksgiving i dragged my girlfriend to The EARL to see pop act Field Mouse. The band has expanded in the years since I have last seen them, and I like what the added keyboardist brings to their live sound. Very fun.

  10. Modern English w/ eNTERTAINME.nt on 27 May. A gathering of Old Goths at The EARL. This was a lot of fun.

  11. Triathalon on 11 April. They played late, in a club that runs late, after a few mediocre bands, and I had a meeting early the next morning. Still, I am glad I went, as they translated their work to the stage rather well.

  12. Polica on 20 April. Chicagoan synth pop. This was a fun show.

  13. Waking Astronomer on 5 Feb. Waking Astronomer went from interesting electro / post-rock to a dubstep act. Their rhythms are no so weird that I had a hard time following them in concert. Meh.
  I am not a movie fan. Plus the girlfriend has small ones who aren’t really interested in most movies. The end result: I rarely watch movies. But I am a serious Trekkie, and she is a Star Wars fan, so there were two movies that dragged us to the cinema this year. In my mind, Star Trek: Beyond was better than Rogue One, but that is because I am more into the ST mythos than the SW one. I bet she would say the opposite, but in each case, it is only a slight difference. Both were great movies set in these franchises that we have been with for years. I guess there were other movies that happened, ones not in established sci-fi worlds that I am very familiar with. Whatever.  
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