The 100 Best Albums of 2016, Part 2: 80-61

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#80:  Thee Oh Sees – An Odd Entrances

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The companion album to A Weird Exits is also a fascinating album in it’s own right.  It’s lighter, arier, and except for “Unwrap The Fiend, Part 1,” devoid of the hard-hitting bounce that later Thee Oh Sees albums have come to be structured with.  Another look into John Dwyer’s increasingly kaleidoscopic head.

#79:  Mykki Blanco – Mykki

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Michael Quattlebaum, Jr. is the queer community’s foot-in-the-door to the mainstream hip hop world.  His Mykki Blanco character began life as a teen-girl YouTube channel before taking on a life of its own as a fully-formed activist/performance-art piece.  Mykki Blanco’s debut LP, simply titled Mykki, is a hard-hitting collection of modern hip-hop themes filtered through Mykki’s influences:  Lil’ Kim, Rihanna, GG Allin, Bruce LaBruce, and the riot grrrl movement.

#78:  Case/Lang/Veirs – case/lang/veirs

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A supergroup born in Portland, case/lang/veirs came about after Canada’s k.d. lang moved to the city and met Neko Case and Laura Veirs.  For American indie heads, Case is the draw, with her solo and New Pornographers pedigree, but Lang and Veirs end up contributing the best parts after all.  Part dusky Americana and part bittersweet indie, the album sounds like old books smell.

#77:  Tim Heidecker – In Glendale

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Tim Heidecker – of Tim & Eric fame – sets out to skewer 1970s singer-songwriter tropes and the woes of suburban mediocrity and ends up crafting something honestly emotionally affecting.  Maybe it’s the seeming earnestness with which he approaches his absurdly banal subject matter or the ease with which he seems to take the concept of killing people and turns it into a slick metaphor for having an emptiness in your life where someone used to belong.  Maybe it’s his usual uneasy humour – either way, it works because it knows it shouldn’t and does so anyway.

#76:  Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

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I’ve said this before, but:  Death Grips are less a musical act and more of a piece of performance art satirizing the modern music industry, or, more accurately, a trio of post-modern noise terrorists.  After the hyped-out hoopla surrounding Jenny Death, the last half of their last album, they claimed that they were done and they’d never record again.  Of course this wasn’t true and of course they would continue putting out music that is as much experimental art-punk noise as it is edgy hip hop. That’s where the satirical part comes in – everyone knew it was a wink-and-nod job from the get-go, and everyone played along because that’s what you do.  Who said irony was dead?  Bottomless Pit is not the group’s “best” album (if you can ascribe a ranking to any of their albums) but it is definitely the logical next Death Grips album, and “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” is definitely in the top five best Death Grips tracks.

#75:  Mitski – Puberty 2

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There’s something almost off-putting about Mitski Miawaki’s voice as it seems to deadpan across an intoxicating blend of electronic and indie rock influences.  When she ramps up to soaring, however, there are very few that can match her in the indie world.  She comes across much like St. Vincent, if Annie Clark dropped the guitar wizardry in favour of reveling in lush textures.

#74:  White Lung – Paradise

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Who said riot grrl was dead?  Oh, no one?  No one said that?  Anyway, White Lung is a strong entry into the canon of righteous women who breathe fire and live punk rock.  More straightforward (and therefore less hardcore) than 2014’s Deep Fantasy – “Hungry” could be a radio track ferchrissakes – it nonetheless functions as one hell of a punch in the nose to the capitalist patriarchy we all find ourselves mired in.

#73:  Vince Staples – Prima Donna

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There is officially no stopping Vince Staples.  Even in a format as short as this twenty-minute EP he dominates rappers with albums four times as long.  He’s an artist who knows exactly what his sound is, and how to get it – and it’s utterly riveting listening to him get it, again and again.

#72:  PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

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PJ Harvey – perhaps the greatest living holdover of the 1990s – spent her last album examining the weighty idea that perhaps England’s greatest days were finally behind her.  Five years later she crossed the Atlantic and swapped macro-examinations for micro; The Hope Six Demolition Project is a collection of songs about the HOPE VI American government project that looks to refurbish run-down urban housing projects, if by “refurbish” you mean “gentrify and kick out anyone that can no longer afford to stay.”  You can tell how on-the-mark she was with the single “The Community of Hope”, inspired by a trip to the south side Washington D.C., when several prominent city politicians complained that it put them in a bad light.  In her review of the album, Pitchfork’s Laura Snapes asked “By pointing out the problems in these three communities, but proposing no solutions, is she (Harvey) just as responsible for their desertion as the global powers that came before her?” No, Laura, and furthermore that’s the sort of inane question that shows why people have trouble taking P4K seriously anymore.  Is pointing out problems exactly like domestic economic imperialism?  I guess, if you’re a faux-progressive searching for something “important” to say.

#71:  Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

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In which the former Community star and current Atlanta mastermind thankfully ditches straight rapping (which he’s not particularly good at) for a horny love letter to Seventies psychedelic funk which is, as it turns out, something he is good at.  While it seems at it’s heart to be a straight tribute to his parent’s record collection, it’s such a good tribute that it’s hard not to grin ear-to-ear when you listen to it.

#70:  YG – Still Brazy

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In a hip-hop world consumed with Kanye, Drake, J. Cole, Young Thug, Frank Ocean, Future, and every other singer-first-rapper-second out there, it’s a weird breath of fresh hear to hear some honest, no-foolin’ L.A. gangsta rap.  YG is hard af and “Who Shot Me” is a menacing track the likes of which haven’t been heard since Snoop was 18.  Also, it has to be said, YEAH YEAH FUCK DONALD TRUMP.

#69:  Plague Vendor – Bloodsweat

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Visceral, go-for-the-throat garage rock with a singer who isn’t afraid to go absurd in his search for rock ‘n’ roll hedonism.  The guitarist has figured out how to turn his instrument into a switchblade as well, so he’s no slouch either.

#68:  Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On The Land

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Desert folk best played at night, all reverb and stars and surreal imagery.  A little bit Neil Young and a little bit Bill Callahan, it’s a road trip through the mind as filtered through the lens of that old, weird America.

#67:  Future – EVOL

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Future keeps pushing trap forward, even when he revels in the kind of absurdity that he trades in on “In Her Mouth” or “Xanax Family”.  Part of it is solid, consistent flow, and the other part is the production of Metro Boomin and Southside, who keep things menacing, edgy, and focused on the bass.

#66:  Rihanna – Anti

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Rihanna has spent her considerably successful career putting out singles, and then albums that collect those singles and pad the remainder with forgettable filler.  Anti is the first honest-to-god cohesive album she’s ever done, and it’s exceedingly compelling to listen to her sidestep crass commercial concerns to do something artistic.  Is it perfect?  Hell no.  It’s fascinating to listen to, though, and the song quality is there – even the ballads are a little messy and raw.

#65:  NZCA/Lines – Infinite Summer

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A chill bit of lite-IDM/post-disco that is also a concept album.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a dance concept album before – heady conceptual stuff is usually in the realm of overwrought rock pretentiousness, after all – but the theme works hand-in-glove with the album.  In the future, the sun has expanded to the point where there are no more seasons, only the infinite summer of the title.  Half the world is in ruins, while in the other half life still holds on.  Everyone is going to die a horrible death eventually, but for now the only thing that can be left to do is party hearty (because it’s a disco album, come on).  Party they do – in cool, smooth fashion, without fever or hysteria.

#64:  Ulver – ATGCLVLSSCAP

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Written and recorded through improvisations on a tour designed specifically for the purpose, ATGCLVLSSCAP stretches and distorts the boundaries between what we conceive of as “live album” and “studio album”.  Ulver creates something here that is one and the same, and at the same time neither.  The result is an album that is moody, atmospheric, foreboding, and primal.  I said this in my review of the album earlier this year, but it bears repeating:  Forget Explosions In The Sky – this is post-rock.

#63:  Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

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Cymbals Eat Guitars have been the also-ran of indie rock for their past three (excellent) albums, consistently being great but never achieving the name of, say, an Arcade Fire or a Titus Andronicus.  Pretty Years is their best effort yet, so look for it to be largely ignored once again, despite the adoption of some Springsteen motifs and a keen eye for appreciating the dreary parts of life.

#62:  SubRosa – For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages

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A textured, layered, and utterly crushing doom metal album centered on one of the best novels ever written, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.  The dynamics on this record alone are worth the price of admission.

#61:  The Drones – Feelin’ Kinda Free

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A remarkably ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll album, heavy on the bass frequencies and possessed of a weird, stoned anger that belies the slacker ethos of its songwriting.  Oddly mainstream-sounding, it’s as though Cage The Elephant took research chemicals, shorted out their guitarist’s patch cord, and stopped being so goddamn complacent.

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-01

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