It’s that time of year again! We’ve closely examined this year in music and accomplished the nearly impossibly task of picking our Top Five favorites for 2016! We’ve also brought a few of our friends and favorite customers along to mix it up a bit. There were a lot of great albums released this year, and we’ve enjoyed reading all of the fantastic lists and reviews put out by other publications, record stores and media outlets, but we always feel a little bit of pride knowing that our end of year list looks a little different than many others. We think this is because we seek out a variety of people to contribute, and aside from all of us who work here, we see these folks more often than most others. We appreciate their commitment and support as well as the support we see from each and every one of you during the year. This business is all about sharing, so please enjoy reading up on and listening to some of the best albums we discovered this year, and we hope you’ll share your favorites with us.
Please feel free to give us your “Top Five” lists in the comments below. Reviews are welcomed and encouraged…but not necessary.
Dario has been with Stinkweeds for over 10 years now. He’s a local musician, music booker for the Newton, and the main contributor to the Stinkweeds blog. More than anything, he enjoys talking customers’ ears off about music.
“This year was a lesson in meditative listening. The world is a noisy place right now and when given proper attention, music is the perfect respite. The following albums were just a few among many that captured my attention and upon deeper listening, revealed sounds and ideas that serve to quiet the noise and find all the little corners of my brain that experience the wide complicated range of emotions. Perhaps listening to music is practice for all the complexities of dealing with the world around us, and perhaps all that practice is well needed now more than ever.
Under each review, I will include comparable albums that shared similar sounds, emotions and purpose. I hope you find a few that speak to you and your tastes! Happy listening!“
Finding the meditative state in this music was not a difficult task. The process in which this album was recorded could be seen as a meditation in itself. Exploded View is a collaboration between German (UK born) singer, Anika and a group of musicians from Mexico City, acting as a backing band for a run of shows in Mexico. As the story goes, a connection was recognized among the musicians and plans were made to capture this connection in the studio. So they went into a studio and recorded this album completely live, improvised, and with only one take per song. I understand that “improvised” can be a scary word. I am a fan of a well conceived concept, strong with definition and direction, but if all the elements are soluble, you can find real magic in improvisation. I believe the strong elements in this group is a common language of music and taste and a shared sense for subtlety and an empty darkness. When the music shows any semblance of ego, it is a collective ego that makes an angsty growl and sometimes can lock antlers, but respect is always given to the contributing forces. At it’s most sensitive, the music is sparse and lonely, forgetful of a room of six musicians all given equal amplification. Even with an origin story of spontaneity and risk taking, this album sounds as composed and well thought out as any other comparable albums or groups, like Portishead, Can or Broadcast. However, the improvised nature almost takes on a presence as another member. It’s an undefinable element that could not be reproduced or imitated.
Suuns – Hold/Still [Secretly Canadian]
Anohni – Hopelessness [Secretly Canadian]
Heron Oblivion – ST [Sub Pop]
The Party is a narrative of one evening (at a party), told by the cast of characters least likely to want to retell their stories. This is the guy who shows up too early, bums everybody out with their presence and then caps off the evening with some painfully awkward act that everyone wishes never happened. Songs are usually written by or about the victorious; the person who had the confidence to ask for a dance that then leads to a kiss. Even breakup songs imply that, at some point, things were going pretty well. Well, not for our protagonists. These songs go from stories of unwanted confessions of love to contemplative inner monologues, wishing for magical powers to counter act all the horribleness or for a fiery apocalypse that can undo all the painful moments, like a Dues Ex Machina for the un-heroic. But does the pain we look for in our biographical songs always have to start from a place of hopefulness? Do we need that sense that things could go right, to appreciate that sometimes they just go horribly wrong? Like a Charlie Kaufman character, Shauf proves that there can be stark, brilliant, beautiful life in the stories of truly hopeless people. This brilliance and beauty is punctuated by the music on this album, sometimes resembling early 70s soft rockers like Nilsson or an edgier Christopher Cross.There is a sensitive nature to the music that serves to make the songs more believable. The surplus of catchy hooks, memorable choruses all share a shyness and insecurity that can bring out sympathetic side in us all. We can look back fondly on all those awkward memories and feel a little more human, because someone has created a beautiful piece of art made from just those moments.
Whitney – Light Up Upon the Lake [Secretly Canadian]
Steven Steinbrink – Anagrams [Melodic]
Kevin Morby – Singing Saw [Dead Oceans]
This group embodies everything I love about folk music. There are deep roots in tradition with all the chops and pipes to do those traditions the respect they deserve. But, I am no purist. I prefer tradition be bent and skewed through the lens of time. Kacy & Clayton pay obvious tributes to the 60s New York folk revival, with all the youthful playfulness of well fed troubadours. However, the music stems in all other directions from there. Clayton’s guitar playing grabs deep to the old greats like Mississippi John Hurt, pulling up through innovators like John Fahey, Nick Drake and emerges, perhaps unintentionally, with hints of Elliott Smith and the Decemberists. All the while, Kacy’s voice soars with the elegance and clarity of an Emmylou Harris with just enough of that working class inflection, reminiscent of a Gillian Welch. Like a lot of modern jazz, folk can often become too academic and lose it’s homespun nature. This isn’t music that was born in conservatories, performed for kings and queens. “Folk” is people making the best of what they had. Their professors were grandfathers and grandmothers; their peers were cousins and neighbors; their stage was the community around them. Kacy & Clayton sound like two “millennials” that might be just as into indie rock bands as much as traditional folk music, but their direction is clear and mindful of what works best for their talent.
Nathan Bowles – Whole & Cloven [Paradise of Bachelors]
Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life [Mama Bird]
Eric Bachmann & Jon Rauhouse – ST [Telephant]
This is a testament to the importance of the “first track.” Until the Hunter start out with nine minutes of droning, pulsing swirls of sound and the all too familiar whispering vocals of Hope Sandoval, drawing you in in an almost subliminal way, repeating “I miss you…I miss you…I miss you,” as if she’s speaking to the part of our subconscience that remembers what it was like to be truly moved by music. Perhaps unintentionally, this first track sets the gauge and calibrates how one should experience this album. The following songs are not a departure from previous Hope Sandoval projects, including her 90s outfit, Mazzy Star, with all the “bootgaze” twang and low droned out soft tones, but this collaboration with My Blood Valentine drummer Colm O’Ciosoig holds many hidden treats when applied to open ears and a clear head. There’s an added quietness to this album that rejects any jarring solos or shifting parts, at least until absolutely necessary. The threshold for dynamics has been set low, but only to explore the deeper spaces that most in the “rock” idiom might not dare tread. You can get someone’s attention by being loud and dissonant, or you can draw them in by whispering intriguing thoughts that they just wouldn’t want to miss. Nobody does this like Hope Sandoval.
Bonnie Prince Billy & Bitchin’ Bajas – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties [Drag City]
Damien Jurado – Visions of Us on the Land [Secretly Canadian]
Ashley Shadow – ST [Felte]
I often wonder, and perhaps you do too, how some of the music made today would be perceived by musicians and music lovers of the past. I imagine playing an album like Stateless to, say, Miles Davis in the mid to late 60s and watching his jaw drop. However, I can’t help but think that our connections to music are so rooted in ego and environment that the language just wouldn’t translate. Tangents pulls from the jazz and minimalism that might have been familiar in the late 60s, but some of the use of sound and rhythms seem so foreign to even my ears, which are well planted in the 21st century, that I can’t help but think that they might be imperceptible in the context of 50 years ago. There are familiar sounds produced by acoustic and electric instruments. Some of them resemble post-rock bands like Tortoise or even electronic artists like Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, but the use of digital manipulation on the acoustic instruments creates textures that further blur the lines between musician and sound. None of this would be relevant if not for the incredible musicians and composers involved in this project; they are as effective at giving electronic sounds a soul as they are playing their instruments with an almost mechanical accuracy and delicate sense of dynamic that tightens the gap between what is simulated and what is human. Mid 60s Miles Davis was informed by all that he had done and all that was happening around him. He didn’t have electronic dance music; he didn’t have hip hop; hell, he didn’t even have as much “Miles Davis” as we have! This is where the fantasy of music taken out of the context of time starts to fall apart. I react to Tangents because of all the familiar aspects. These draw me in closer, to be surprised and elated by the more unfamiliar parts. This same reaction can’t be expected from someone with less context. This is what I love most about my job. I get a front row seat to watch this parade of ideas constantly pouring in. Not everything grabs my attention, but sometimes I get to hear something new and challenging that then broadens my scope of context. Tangents is this year’s example of this sort of newness. This is the album that can’t help but elicit a sense of curiosity. What is this music? More importantly, what’s next?!
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Ears [Western Vinyl]
Jeff Parker – The New Bread [International Anthem Recording Co.]
LNZNDRF – ST [4AD]
Our fearless founder and owner! With all that she does for this city, she still finds time to be a record store owner and an enthusiastic fan and supporter of music. She continues to be a strong anchor for what Stinkweeds represents.
Never has this music been so important. Pulling from cumbia, mambo, mariachi, Calexico, 60’s rock and even electronic music, Orkesta Mendoza is the sound of Arizona right now. I love the multi-cultural aspects of this record, and while it may make you dance at times, you will still be able to feel the dust, grit, and beauty of Arizona. It’s my home, and I love it.
This album is sorrowful and morose as most Nick Cave records are, but this one has a new degree of personal pain and harrowing isolations. Cave’s 15 year old son fell to his death last year and much of this record is his personal search to find meaning in anything. I listen sparingly to avoid falling into the black hole myself.
Even though he’s not yet 30, Kevin’s voice sounds weary. I love these stark songs and always admire musicians who appreciate that less is more. While this record is somewhat straight forward, there’s a lot of beauty here, but you really need to sit down and listen.
The documentary Miss Sharon Jones! is directed by two-time Oscar Winner Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA, and American Dream) and is a brutally honest look into Jones’ unapologetic disdain for the record labels that overlooked her because of her size and/or age. While this is in no way a “best of” collection, it’s a must have for any Sharon Jones fan. She gives us all hope when we need it most.
This is a collection of outtakes from two of the band’s previous albums, Shriek and Civilian, and I like this better than both of those albums. This isn’t b-sides or anything like that, but instead just new versions of older songs. Shriek saw the band delve into electronics, and this album sort of rescues those songs and reimagines them with guitars as we would have expected. Wye Oak is perhaps the best overlooked band in the last 20 years. And while I’m a fan of the band, and of all kinds of experimentation, Tween really underscores their strengths lie in the expressive guitar playing.
Our knowledgeable and hard working manager! She’s been working at Stinkweeds for half of its life, and has been managing our Camelback store since it opened. Ever wonder how this place stays stocked with awesome titles? She’s the one behind the magic.
“For anyone out there who feels like music has become stale, maybe you haven’t heard enough of it this year? Get off your playlists and your streaming subscriptions, come into the shop or get out to a show and find real live inspiration. This was yet another incredible year for music. How lucky I feel to be in the middle of so much of it!
This is year-end list always tough, and I actually kept a running list of albums that stuck with me or inspired me in some way. Come December however, I am feeling warmed by only the darkest of the bunch. I’m trying my best to round out the list and keep it fresh from other contributors, so here goes…”
Dave Pajo returns after a long and dramatic pause with one of his most intense and important works. Perfectly blending the acoustic moments of his Papa M persona with the intense and angular guitar work of Slint, Highway Songs brings the scope of Pajo and all that he’s survived the past year (suicide attempt and near fatal motorcycle accident), into a beautiful and harrowing album. If none of this sounds familiar to you, please find all of Papa M’s earlier output as well as anything Slint released, Dave Pajo has been a huge influence on all of indie rock.
A sneaky, sly and intense masterpiece this album is; range rock is what I’d call it. From lo-fi acoustic musings to pull-your-hair-out rockers, there is as much muscle as there is tenderness on this album. Adriane Lenker’s vocals are incredible and exude an unreal amount of emotion, which is perfectly juxtaposed by her rhythm tight band. Seeing this band live was one of the more emotional experiences I’ve felt in a bar in a long while. These guys have everything in line, here’s to many more a “masterpiece”.
What a year of loss. Similar to the timing of David Bowie, the sting of loss is even more haunting so soon after the release of an incredible album. Cohen remained prolific and relevant throughout his entire career, especially his last two albums which might be some of my favorite works of his. This is an incredible album in a multitude of ways, there is a piece of reality here for everyone. Most importantly, at 82, he was still a total lady killer.
Fans of Water Liars, your main man has gone solo! This is a plain and simple, beautiful album. It’s dark and tender and often reminds me of Jason Molina. If you’re into sparse finger picking and great song writing, please try this one. Additionally, Justin’s independent spirit is admirable. Not only did he record this album completely all on his own, he’s been out on the road, solo, playing in strangers’ living rooms every night. I suppose a good way to gather song fodder is to spend insane amounts of time alone, driving and doing weird things away from all you know. Hats off to you Justin, can’t wait to catch you on the next go-round.
This list was hard to narrow down but I felt the need to break it up a bit here and round it out with this bundle of goodness. Prine re-visits one of his greatest ideas 17 years later and does a Country co-ed follow-up to his In Spite Of Ourselves classic. His song choices are perfect as is the line-up of ladies accompanying him time (Iris Dement returns, along with Alison Krauss, Holly Williams, Amanda Shires, Lee Ann Womack, and wife Fiona Prine). A wonderful collection of romantic ballads and funny marriage transgressions going awry. Let’s hear it for Prine in his prime, don’t you leave us now!
Super close and important runner-ups:
Andy Shauf – The Party (Anti)
Jeff Parker – New Breed (International Anthem)
C Duncan – The Midnight Sun (Fat Cat)
Heron Oblivion – Self-Titled (Sub Pop)
Anohni – Hopelessness (Secretly Candian)
BadBadNotGood – IV (Innovative Leisure)
Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed LTD)
Jeff has spent more time working at the shop this year but manages to stay busy elsewhere with music related projects – including booking and marketing at The Rebel Lounge and working at shows all around town.
This album, released pretty early in 2016, was the first album I totally fell in love with this year. Aaron Maine and crew ditched the raw recordings and typical band arrangement in favor of synths and more synths. In most cases my passion for a band doesn’t follow that transition, but in the case of Porches, the shift brought their sound to another plane that delivered an extremely tight pop album that I’m not sure could be conveyed as well via the older means.
Angular riffs, lofi production, simple arrangements – these are a few of my favorite things. Featuring Frankie Broyles (formerly a member of Deerhunter), this album is packed with short and sweet garage / post punk tunes from front to back.
This album was my meditative, relaxing go to this year. The album spans from ambient electronic hums to blissed out, smooth, elongated grooves that allow the mind to wander, while at the same time commanding attention to the minute details in arrangements, as well as the multitude of sounds firing off into the atmosphere of the album.
This album is the most well-rounded “indie rock” album I’ve heard in a long time. It wears elements of classic indie bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr proudly on its sleeve, but never loses sight of the band’s unique songwriting ability. There’s too many catchy hooks to keep count, and has some truly slamming riffage for fans of heavy-hitting guitar-driven pop.
As a longtime American Football (and all things Kinsella) fan, I was thrilled to see the band reunite for a string of shows but skeptical about their ability to return to the songwriting vibe and quality of their work from seventeen years prior. With my first full listen to this album I realized I had completely misjudged their efforts – everything any fan loved about the classic album and ep is all here, and it’s refreshing to hear such familiar elements in the form of new material.
Chris Staples – Golden Age [Barsuk]
Dr. Dog – Psychedelic Swamp [ANTI-]
Woods – Sun City Creeps [Woodsist]
Khruangbin – The Universe Smiles Upon You [LateNightTales]
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea Of Noise [Records]
Preoccupations – ST [Jagjaguwar]
Slow Moses – Charity Binge [Jealous Butcher]
Big Thief – Masterpiece [Saddle Creek]
Roar – Impossible Animals [Self-Released]
Diners – Three [Asian Man]
Dominic is the newest addition to the Stinkweeds team. He’s been a longtime friend, musician and fellow music lover, so we figured he should just work here! He’s also one of the best damn recording engineers in this city working at one of the best damn recording studios around (Fivethirteen Recording).
I’ve been a big fan of Stephen for years now – I remember when I moved to Arizona, looking for new bands and artists to listen to, his music stood out and has ever since. Anagrams, however, was a welcomed return of his extraordinarily crafted songs back into my ears after not listening to any of his work for a while. Typical of his song writing, all the songs on this record weave fantastically simple vocal melodies, ripe with deep-introspective-depressive-
I mean, do I even have to? This band isn’t what one might call “prolific,” so when they release anything, you, me, we should all pay attention, and there is a lot to pay attention to on this album. Obviously and above all else, this record sounds absolutely incredible. The production for every single song is remarkable, with the tightly controlled low end, masterfully managed mid range, and treble like you can not even dream of, it is so sonically pleasing it should win a Grammy just for sounding better than everything else. Beyond that, the songs are marvelous. It’s nothing that we couldn’t expect from Tortoise (except for maybe less mallet instruments) but their sound just doesn’t get boring. The use of transferring melody from instrument to instrument, the incessant groove, bass lines that could live in hip-hop tracks, dense synth patches… oh yeah and for the very first time in their career there’s a vocalist, granted only for one song.
Sometimes an album comes along and greets you with a handshake and asks for your name. This album however, brings you a coffee and starts asking you about your recent trip to wherever it was you just took a trip to. From the opening notes on “Liliwaup” to the final moment the saxophone stops playing on “Drunk in Bilbao” this albums feels like a memory. Within all the arrangements on this record, there are familiar movements and melodic structures that are so genuinely original but hide nothing from their influences, which make it so enjoyable to listen to. Speaking of trips, I highly recommend that you sprinkle these songs into a road trip playlist or use it for a stretch of unforgiving monotony – somehow it makes it all seem relevant.
This album was the only thing I listened to in the car for basically the whole month of July. The grooves and vibe of this album are hard to compete with, and the way that they’re produced makes it all the better. It hits with so much grit and dust, the way the rhythms play with our sense of timing and ‘pocket,’ that it makes it almost impossible to turn off. Yet the keys, guitars, and saxophone come off the speakers with so much ease and proficiency that its hard not to slip into your own thoughts and use this album as a personal soundtrack. I might be biased, but this a perfect early morning, coffee to-go, and a little late to work kind of record.
I really wish I wasn’t such a sucker for heartbreak cowboy songs, but I am, and there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s exactly what these two brothers deliver – songs that travel far back to the days of the Grand Ol’ Opry, with ample amounts of major to minor harmonies about the girls who have broken their hearts and left them for another. These songs aren’t reaching for anything more than that and that, in my opinion, is what makes them so lovely. These two are so authentically obsessed with the Everly Brothers (and all the other *fill in the blank* brothers) that it really doesn’t matter that the songs overly cheeseball, or that they probably haven’t “waltzed with their lover” and “rolled in the clovers.” They know what they’re up to and they do it flawlessly. (Pro tip: pull up the song “Spotlight Kisses” after a date with your boo… you’ll figure out the rest.)
Radiation City – Synesthetica
Eric Bachmann – Eric Bachmann
Sam Means – 10 Songs
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailors Guide to Earth
Suuns – Hold/Still
Andy Shauf – The Party
Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
Larry is a long time customer and a frequent “pop-in” for Stinkweeds. He doesn’t need to have a reason to come here! He’s always happy to take suggestions, give suggestions or just kill a few minutes chatting it up with the staff and the customers. Whenever we hear some killer new power pop, punk or rock, we often think “Larry would like this.”
“Thanks again to Stinkweeds for asking me to do this, and for being such a great record store! This years list has a lot of new bands / artists on it. I love that! This year I traveled a lot for work, and during that travel I’ve had lots of time to listen to music. I’m really glad that in a year in which I had a lot of time to listen to music, there was so much great new music available. For example, on my first cut through this list I had 18 albums I could recommend! These are my top albums for 2016.”
This album is everything a rock record should be. The lyrics are a little dangerous and yet completely sincere, even vulnerable. The guitar work is amazing, and yet the melodies, not the hooks or the solos, stick in your head. There’s a wonderful scared, but brash humor that seems almost cute on first listen. On repeat listens it becomes clear that the tone is actually very serious, the humor comes from an intentionally ill-fitting brave face. I think my favorite lyric is: “It’ s more than what you bargained for, but it’s a little less than what you paid for.” But it’s really not fair to pick out just one. The album’s completely laced with gems like this.”
I’m not sure if I love this album because I so enjoyed The Mystery Lights live show. With only one LP out, and them hitting the first song at full speed and very high energy, I was a little skeptical they’d be able to maintain an entire 90 minute set. That’s not an easy trick for a new artist. They had no trouble, in fact they went up two gears during the show.
I picked up their record and while it’s not as hard as their live show, it’s great. While one album does not a great band make, this one band has made a great album. Wick Records is Brooklyn based Daptone Records new indie rock imprint. There’s been a lot of folks interested in what Wick’s got cooking, so this album got a bit of hype before it was even released. I was pleased it lived up to the hype.
I can’t describe this album. I can tell you that not only do I love it, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve shared it with who doesn’t also love it. It’s really a great record. Also the album cover photo is hilarious. You should buy it for that reason too… Oh, you’re still here? Ok fine. It’s a great album for it’s craftsmanship, the way it mixes the elements together. For example, “Real Love” starts out as sounding like it’s going to be a bit of a mellow ironic love song, about how being in a long-term relationship is really hard work, but then the chorus points to something a bit more challenging ahead: “Real love turns your lungs black. Real love is a heart attack.” It’s sung in a bouncy little way, but it’s just so dark; you are left wondering if that’s all they are going to do with it. That’s the craftsmanship; everything about this album is intentional. When they break for the solo after the second bridge, all hell breaks loose. Your left wondering if it’s even the same song, and somehow they bring it back to the bouncy tone they started with. Then you start to realize how the bouncy tone and the dissonant mess of the solo section are a wonderful analogy for the bliss and pain of real love. You realize this just in time to hear the last refrain, which reminds you that real love is a heart attack.
I kind of love Baltimore, Maryland. I say that because Wye Oak is from Baltimore and like many great things that come from Charm City, most people are surprised to learn that. You are likely not surprised to learn that Wye Oak has put out another great record. Further, it’s one of the best albums they’ve ever made (and they’ve made some really great records).
I read somewhere that the name Tween is a reference to the fact that this album’s songs are a collection of songs that they didn’t release while they were moving from the sound they were using on Civilian to the sound they used on Shriek. I had fallen in love with Tween well before I learned that. When I read that, I was struck with how odd it is I like this album even more than both those records, yet it was comprised of songs the band had decided didn’t belong on either. I like to think it was because had a feeling there was an even better, next album lingering in these songs. Then I listened to the album again and decided I didn’t care.
I don’t know if I would have bought this if the album cover wasn’t so great. Lindsay had recommended it and played a track off of it as I was shopping. I thought it sounded interesting so I went and pulled it out of the bin. As soon as I saw the album cover I was in. That’s just how shallow I am. Honestly when I listened to it at home, I was more impressed with the backwards recording on the fourth vinyl side than the songs on the album. I hadn’t listened to the record very closely yet. I remember thinking to myself, “I bet I’m not going to like this album long-term because I love all the little flourishes and packaging so much.” Turns out I was completely wrong about that. Most people correctly peg me for a guitar hook loving rock fan. This is not that kind of record. It’s more of a highly polished indie pop album that favors a layered electronic sound and it’s freaking brilliant. I was, and remain, completely surprised. I love this record so much.
Really all these could be in the top 5, but they are not, so they are here instead:
– Parquet Courts – Human Performance [Rough Trade] (My favorite song of the year “One Man No City” is what The Pretenders “My City Was Gone” would have been like, had it been about a small town instead of a city. This band sounds nothing like the Pretenders.)
– St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Sea of Noise [Records]
– Rogue Wave – Delusions of Grand Fur [Easy Sound Recording Company]
Jesse is our long-time guru of all things eerie, dissonant, experimental, droney, psychedelic or just plain weird. He’s been a long time staple of the experimental music scene in Phoenix. You can witness him in all his strange glory with his band Larkspurs.
Summons the ghosts of the late 60s San Francisco scene i.e. Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother, etc. without once devolving into mimicry. These former members of Espers and Comets On Fire maintain a tenuous symmetry between pastoral serenity and acid rock freak out. Guitars circle like hungry hawks as Meg Baird’s vocals lift back the fog that hangs over the horizon like a velvet curtain.
Heaven buckling under the weight of drone shards that have the texture of unfinished concrete. Eerily beautiful and immersive. Check out his penultimate release, Lifecycle Of A Massive Star, as well.
Tignor is one of the principals in Slow Six. Programmer by day, composer by night. This recording is spacious. The compositions deliberate, filigreed with finely detailed chamber string arrangements. Fans of Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Nico Muhly, Johann Johannsson take note.
For years now, the Norway music scene has been forging a new form of fire music by lashing aggro-rock tropes to a Jazz chassis: Scorch Trio, Bushman’s Revenge, et al. The result is something resembling the Mahavishnu Orchestra dipped in corrosive acid. This recording is, subtly, a tip of the hat to Black Metal adding a frenetic edge to the proceedings. If you’re a fan of electric guitar, Black Stabat Mater is not to be missed. Smokin’.
Amorphous, agitated and more suggestive than expository, the Dead C have been deconstructing rock music for more than a quarter of a century. Improvisatory and intuitive, the Dead C don’t write “songs” per se; they create nebulous sketches smeared in static and murmuring feedback. This double album may just be their definitive statement. The final track gets as close to “standard issue” as they’re ever likely to get – unwrapping the enigma for a brief glimpse of the drive shaft.
Sub Rosa creates a distinctive strain of metal using guitar, bass, drums and a pair of violins. Elements of folk (particularly in the vocal harmonies) and post-rock are also prominent. This, the third recording from this Salt Lake City quintet, is their finest and most varied yet. For fans of Amber Asylum and Amon Duul II in equal measure.
The nature of Kyle’s job at Stateside Presents means he has many reasons to stop by the shop. Whether he’s dropping off tickets for us to sell, putting up posters, or talking business with us, he always makes time to shop around. It’s good to know a manager at some of our favorite venues is up on his music.
Easily my favorite record of the year. The album tells the narrative of singer Jeremy Bolm as he deals with the passing of his mother to cancer. Everything about this record is amazing; they progressed so far into their own and found their niche in a sea of other post-hardcore bands. The songwriting far surpasses any of their other efforts, Jeremy’s foray into clean singing fits the band perfectly, and the blend between him and Julien Baker near the end caps off the record perfectly. Plus in true TA fashion, the artwork is jaw-dropping.
Russ is a former Stinkweeds employee and just one of our absolute favorite people. Although he lives many states away now, we still look to him for his well informed and interesting taste.
“I guess the unintentional theme for this year is “unsettled.” Sorry.“
From one song to the next, this album defies categorization. Electronics, violins, pianos, and occasional vocals create uneasy layers of hope mixed with dread, optimism underlined with cynicism. I don’t know much about this group, but it seems to have more roots in late 70s/early 80s experimental industrial than most anything coming out now. Despite these descriptions, it is actually quite beautiful. Great music for those rainy days when the gravity gets turned off.
I’ve been a little out of the loop on David Eugene Edwards since the first couple of Wovenhand albums, but I’ll take a shot in the dark and say this has got to be his loudest record. The mantra-like guitars and straightforward drums create a monolithic pulpit from which Edwards preaches his unique gospel. There is still plenty here for lapsed 16 Horsepower fans (namely his unmistakable voice), but this is a much more urgent sound. Perhaps the end is near.
“The man looked through the streaming rain rivulets at the neon sign, willing it to flash him some good news other than the cheap rate he was getting on his room. He relit his cigarette and thought of the color of her hair.” Did you like that? Then you’ll love this curated collection of Bohren! They have been soundtracking sleazy heartbreak at 80 bpms for over 20 years now and this curation is a great place to dive in. Rhodes, standup bass, vibraphones, sizzling hi hats, and saxophone create thick, smoky dens where you might bump into David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti having cocktails. Great music for staring at a month old newspaper while thinking about something else.
Thanks to Lindsay for turning me on to these cats, and a couple years after I stopped smirking at their dumb name I actually checked out the new album. I love rock music that has some sort of subliminal nod to the 1950s… I don’t know if it’s the cool factor, the straightforward bass lines, or just the fact that I have a completely fictionalized version of the 50s in my head, but this album makes me want to put on my denim jacket and ride a motorcycle (Triumph, please!). Great hooks, dirty guitars, lots of reverb – it just runs down my checklist of reasons to wear sunglasses inside.
Hope Sandoval has become some sort of timeless secret. She probably was most “famous” back in the nineties with Mazzy Star, but she still floats up to your bedside and leaves an album by your pillow every few years. Her gentle, ageless voice triggers the same part of my brain as the earliest memories of my mother. The unobtrusive, reverb-laden instrumentation is beautiful and mostly serene. Oh yeah, and the drummer from My Bloody Valentine is in the band too. This is great music to slowly fall in love to – I know, I’ve done it a couple of times over the years.
Thor & Friends – S/T [Living Music Duplication]
Pallbearer – Fear & Fury EP [Profound Lore]
Wye Oak – Tween [Merge Records]
Rarely a week goes by that we don’t see Jaymz drop by and pick up a handful of music. He keeps us informed on the best in the world of intriguing pop music. The thinking man’s dance music, if you will.
For fans of: Kendrick Lamar, Isaac Hayes, Oddisee, D’Angelo, Leon Bridges, OutKast
Thinking far outside of the boundaries of the current hip hop template, Anderson .Paak creates an album that’s as inspirationally emotive as it is completely funkadelic. Mastering hip-hop, 60’s soul, funk and R&B change ups on the 16 tracks that make up his second proper full length tightly blend music and movie vignettes with the raspy rhythmic flow of .Paak’s alternating sing, rap and spoken word lyricism. There’s a reason why he’s guested on 30+ songs these last two years – including 2015’s Compton soundtrack, as well as 2016’s Kaytranada, A Tribe Called Quest, Mac Miller and Schoolboy Q albums, and a collaborative album with Knxwledge in late October as NxWorries – it’s because he doesn’t look to compromise, always is about the details, and having already been a drummer he completely understands the metaphorical wave of the beat. That, or he doesn’t sleep.
For fans of: Frank Ocean, Maxwell, James Blake
Having a contemporary R&B record released on a major label in 2016, and only having one guest appearance – Jhene Aiko is featured on the Adrian Younge produced Skipping Stones – is almost unheard of. Usually your first album is half- to multi-stacked of guest appearances, but Gallant’s first album, Ology, allows him the versatility to not only showcase his vocal range, but also his songwriting ability. And about that ability, he has a magical, weightless, soul-shining sound in his voice and a youthful falsetto cracks a tear in my heart and begs me to do a slow dance shuffle. It’s purely ripped from those amazing early to mid-90’s R&B artists that percolated my middle school dance years. Every track on here just slays.
For fans of: LCD Sound System, The Chemical Brothers
I woke up early this year for record store day. Like super early. My buddy, Jesse, thought it would be cool to try and arrive sometime near 5:00 a.m. This meant I had to leave my house sometime after 4:30 a.m. Its still dark out, and I’m sleepy, you know? Needing a booster shot to get me jazzed as I made the trek from my house, to his place, then to Stinkweeds. This was my album of choice.
At about the time I make it to his place, the album drops into a mellow trance-like groove. At near 5:00 in the morning, there was something spiritual in this; especially in the repetition of the way Karl Hyde’s voice continuously read off the lyrics to “Motorhome,” “What don’t lift you, drags you down. Keep away from the darksides.” It’s dark, like super dark, figuratively and literally speaking. At this point I’m now pulling into Jesse’s apartment complex. I text, he’s not ready, so I sat in the parking lot waiting. Track six comes on, so amazingly dance-chill and then running right into track seven’s “Nylon Strung” – the stunning topper to this short album. The whole album had cycled through by the time he finally arrived. I’m awake now. “I Exhale,” the motivational dance floor album opener, started up again. Jesse getting into my truck, smiled and said, “Oh I have this.” Paused and then said, “Let’s get records!”
For fans of: Future Islands
Wild Beasts’ first three albums, Limbo, Panto, Two Dancers, and Smother previously ranked in my top albums of their respective years. Two Dancers was so literally operatic and mind-melting to me that I tried to get the band I was in at the time to switch up their sound and become a cover band of literally only that album. I’m being serious.
Replacing the art pop organics of their first three albums and having grown more accustomed to the shift of some of the synthesized sounds of 2014’s Present Tense, 2016’s Boy King sounds like a totally different band – and that’s refreshing. Distorted synths and compressed drum machine-like rhythms flesh out the complete album. Don’t get me wrong, there are still guitars, vocal operatic sensibilities, and all that talk of masculinity that’s been a staple throughout their career. But the songs have a more seductive retooling that helps incorporate the direct sensual melody of the 10 new songs. Plus the gorgeous album closer “Dreamliner” makes me want to start a new band, just so I can cover this song alone.
For fans of: Tori Amos, This Mortal Coil, Bat for Lashes, Anna Calvi
Woeful, dreamy and fascinating, this is late night winter music at its finest. Written, produced, recorded and mixed by Agnes – and sounding like the wonder that one of those early Tim Burton films emits – this mostly piano and vocal album peppers in occasional cello, violin, mellotron and percussion to create something of a quietly mesmerized beauty. That, and it completely has me wishing for snow.
King – We Are King [King Creative]
For fans of: Everything 90’s.
Part dream pop and part ethereal R&B. For midnight listening or straight chilling.
Justin Yee is a new addition to our Top Five list. He’s rapidly becoming a favorite regular of ours. He’s such an enthusiastic concert goer, that we’ve put his photography skills to work for silverplatter.info, capturing some beautiful moments at some of the best shows in the Valley.
Jason has been shopping at Stinkweeds for about as long as we can remember. It’s always a treat to chat with him, and his tastes seem to fit very well with all of us working here. Always happy to have him contribute to our end of year list.
Thanks for taking the time to read about our favorite albums of 2016! Please share yours with us in a comment below!