Best Records of 2016 and a Rad Playlist

Whew, 2016. This year of musical loss has been a one where complex records have connected most with me. On the theme of death, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker and Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree were the most prophetic. Sometimes they were a little too sad for me, so I return to them in small doses.

At the top of the year I loved Gallant’s great debut, and the rest of it continued with interesting alternative R&B/Pop releases from Rihanna to Frank Ocean. The production on records from Beyoncé, Radiohead, and Bon Iver fascinated me. It seemed perfect for Radiohead to bring out the sonically mature album that A Moon Shaped Pool is, and I reconnected with my once favourite band again on it. My record of the year is Bon Iver’s 22, A Million with its’ intimate tone and constant unraveling. It has a puzzling sense of timing and I kept returning to it, the one album that always had me putting the volume up, no matter how loud it was (I actually just want to inhale this record).

The genre-bending D.D Dumbo doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. It’s organic, wise beyond it’s years and Australian. Pop music is again moving towards a more alternative space where it challenges the boundaries of genre… Except for the good Rock, which went back to basics this year with flame-bearers Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus and Margaret Glaspy. I was fortunate to see Lucy Dacus live and her debut No Burden is a calculated statement of captivating stories, live and on the record. Shrug Rock is now definitely a movement and dammit, it sounds great! Car Seat Headrest’s Teens Of Denial is one of the most badass statement-making Rock ‘n Rolling albums of the decade. Angel Olsen made a deft move from a shy singer-songwriter to time-traveling rocker and LVL UP made the most infectiously noisy lo-fi Indie Rock record. Beyonce, the titan of Pop that she is, used all the genres in her album and got away with it because LEMONADE is a masterpiece.

At the most difficult times I returned to simpler, singer-songwriter records. Chris Staples put out the most reassuring lyrical album with gentle storytelling and humour. whilst Pinegrove’s confessional debut Cardinal is a sing-along record that is as relevant playing in the background when entertaining as it is if you’re crying into your whiskey. Don’t judge me.

There are releases that just didn’t make the top spots or that I need more time with: Mitski, Kyle Craft,Michael Kiwanuka, Wilco, A Tribe Called Quest, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Frank Ocean, Big Theif and Solange.

1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial

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3. D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

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4. Lucy Dacus – No Burden

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5. Pinegrove – Cardinal

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6. Beyoncé – LEMONADE

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7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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8. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

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9. Chris Staples – Golden Age

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10. LVL UP – Return to Love

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I also made two playlists this year of Best Of tracks, or the best of what I’m listening to. You can listen to the first playlist in the previous blog post. The latest playlist is the 2016 Best Songs of the Second Half-Year, which is below. It’s 30 tracks/2 hours of the best songs I’ve found from June/July till now, available on Tidal, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play and Spotify; and as a best effort (not all tracks) on YouTube, Deezer and Soundcloud.

Looking on the bright side of 2017, I’m thinking of how much great new protest music there will be coming out of the States…

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Best Music Of 2014 (a little more, a little less)

There are so many firsts for this year. This is the first year that I’ve felt really overwhelmed with the amount of albums I didn’t get a chance to listen to. This is the first year with a with a toddler in the house. This is the first year I’m posting a Best Songs playlist (see the end of the post), and in some respects I feel like I had more time for songs than for albums.

So with that introduction, the 2014 albums that went from a blossoming romance to lifelong partners are:

1. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

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2. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

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3. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

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These albums got under my skin. Ryan Adams was
the incredible soundtrack to my first trip to the US (where I also saw him live). Angel Olsen’s beautiful voice held my hand while I made some difficult decisions this year. The War On Drugs was my constant companion through my most challenging professional, and most rewarding personal year. I bought all these albums on vinyl.

All the runner-up lovers, in no particular order

  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Hozier – Hozier
  • Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
  • Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
  • Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
  • Weezer – Everything Will Be All Right in the End
  • Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

The nice albums that just didn’t stick

  • Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • Rosanne Cash – River & the Thread
  • Jack White – Lazaretto
  • Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

Albums that went over my head

  • St. Vincent – St. Vincent
  • FKA Twigs – LP1
  • Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
  • Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  • The Black Keys – Turn Blue

Albums I still need to listen to. Some of these may have made THE list, but…toddler

  • Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  • Swans – To Be Kind
  • Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  • Luluc – Passerby
  • Rodrigo Amarante – Cavalo
  • The Antlers – Familiars
  • Tweedy – Sukierae
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  • Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
  • Alvvays – Alvvays
  • Thurston Moore – The Best Day
  • Ty Segall – Manipulator
  • Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
  • Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  • Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
  • Mogwai – Rave Tapes
  • Eagulls – Eagulls
  • Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar
  • The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
  • Damien Jurado – Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son
  • Foxygen – …And Star Power
  • The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends

For the rest, here’s my Best Songs of 2014 playlist

I leave you with a 2 hour playlist of my Top 30 Tracks. Technically a Top 29, because GRMLN’s “Of Nothing” isn’t available on YouTube (yes, this is still happening). You can however listen to it on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/carparkrecords/07-of-nothing

A last final note…

The Decemberists snuck in two tracks this year from their forthcoming album (January 2015). I thought it was a little unfair to include it into the top tracks because they’ve just come along, but yeah, this is my new crush…