Back for Part Two? Well you’ve come to the right place. The following are Jackson and Sassy Pants’ favorite tunes of the year.
So much good music, we had to switch the format to two-hours this week (Sorry Sound Opinions) to fit more in (narrowing down is hard). Keep in mind that none of these songs/albums are in any particular order, but are just tracks we were diggin’ this year.
Thee Oh Sees – Plastic Plant – A Weird Exits
This favorite of the year comes with a dash of bias – I have been a fan of all things Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer, and Castleface Records for quite some time. Thee (get it?) new band line-up- which includes two drummers – brings a lot of intensity to the group’s sound, but at the same time, an increase in synth lines and grandiose song structure makes this one of the most ambitious albums Thee Oh Sees have released in quite some time.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Gamma Knife – Nonagon Infinity
Prolific Australian psych-rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – who came out with three albums in 2015 and they plan on releasing five in 2017. Nonagon Infinity, much like most of their other releases, is a concept record. All of the songs flow into one-another (even when shuffled) and the album can – in theory – be played for infinity. All seven members (yes seven) of the band, bring their own individuality to record and be honest not many things sound cooler than Australian psych-krautrock with a healthy dose of ripping harmonica that goes on for infinity.
Twin Peaks – Butterfly – Down In Heaven
The follow-up to 2014’s Wild Onion finds these Chicago garage-rockers taking some notes from The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. Cleaner recordings, lyrics that evoke a good-old-fashioned rock ‘n roll and a simpler time for many – “When the Zombies started singing about the season, you know your daddy got up to dance”.
Mild High Club – Kokopeli – Skiptracing
Alex Brettin, the brainchild of Mild High Club, released Skiptracing in 2016 as a somewhat-follow-up to 2015 Timeline, and the two albums have some similarities and some differences. The catchy, jangly, songs that sound good under the influence are still there, but this time around, on the sophomore attempt, there seemed to be more meat behind the arrangements, song structures, and emotional chords struck. Don’t get it? Give it a few more listens and you will.
Thee Commons – Chico Che – Loteria Tribal
The east-LA based Burger Records dudes bring a lot to the table. They’re reminiscent of Peru’s Los Saicos (They even do a cover of Demolicion sometimes), but some will hear Central/South American Chicha, and they dub themselves as psychedelic-cumbia-punk. Loteria Tribal blends all of these cool sounds (Horns, loud guitars and drums, ripping bass, english/spanish vocals, songs about vampires) together and makes for a great complete package.
Frankie Cosmos – Embody – Next Thing
Greta Kline released Next thing, an intimate collection of short, sweet and introspective tracks, earlier in 2016 (April to be exact). I personally found the was-this-recorded-in-a-bedroom-or-was-it -just-meant-to-sound-that-way tracks on Next Thing very refreshing. After initial and further listening it sounds as if Greta is singing the songs directly to you as if you’re sitting on an isolated couch at a party.
Benji Hughes – Freaky Feedback Blues – Songs in the Key of Animals
Charlotte, North Carolina-based artist Benji Hughes knows how to how to have a good time and he showed us that on Songs in the Key of Animals, his first major release since 2014. Freaky Feedback Blues finds Hughes supported with a juicy bass line, oh-so-subtle keys, and some great call-and-response moments in the chorus with a few back-up singers that I can only assume are wearing a lot of glitter.
Futurebirds – Olive Garden Daydream # 47
***I listened to this song 19 times in one day*** Although Olive Garden Daydream #47 started out as a track Futurebirds only played live – not making an appearance on their Portico I EP that was released earlier this year – it formed into one of my favorite tracks from 2016 as well as favorite Futurebirds track. This version was recorded live at Audiotree in Chicago.
Natural Child – NSA Blues – Okey Dokey
Who knew mass-government surveillance could sound so good. NSA Blues is a little jab at everybody’s favorite privacy and online stalkers. Lines like “We’ve seen all your cats – We know when you’re jerkin’ off” are both funny and creepy. Plenty of other great tracks on Okey Dokey, but NSA Blues stands out for it’s clever lyrics and theme.
A Tribe Called Quest (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – Conrad Tokyo – We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
A Tribe Called Quest, I’m sure you knew it would be on the list. We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is a great album – it harkens back to Tribe’s past and there is something about hearing Phife Dawg posthumously that feels right. There’s politically-charged anthems, tracks about a range of different social issues, songs that are just riffing between the members, but no matter what category you would place the songs on his album – they’re all very well done, nicely arranged and produced.
Kanye West – Feedback – Life of Pablo
Say what you want about Kanye (There’s a lot of things to say – good and bad), but you have to admit that the process behind the release, track listing, artwork, lyrics, name of the album, release date of the album (This list could go on forever) was constantly changing, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me. A constantly evolving album project (maybe the future of music?) Almost nothing remained the same past the point the the train pulled into the station (remember when it was titled SWISH??). I enjoyed Life of Pablo and I enjoy Kanye, and I don’t really care if you do or don’t – Maybe that’s just the Ye in me?
Lucius – Born Again Teen – Good Grief
I’m not a fan of most of the music Lucius has released – BUT – “Oh wow, this song sure is catchy”, I told myself after first hearing Born Again Teen. I think it’s the pacing of the track, it constantly jumps between a motorik drum machine, then this crazy dial-up modem-sounding voice modulation – there’s some industrial synths here and there, and just around the corner there is a great vocal performance. I may not like most of Lucius’ repertoire, but they got me with this one.
Iggy Pop – Gardenia – Post Pop Depression
Iggy Pop, he’s back, baby. Post-Pop Depression sees him paired up with Josh Homme and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age as well as Matt Helders of The Arctic Monkeys. The album was recorded in secrecy, and it wasn’t until Gardenia was released as the album’s first single that the album was revealed. This rhythm section kills it in this track, and Iggy is just floating over the top delivering lyrics like spoken word poetry. Sure it’s a little slower than the Stooges, but it still rocks.
Omni – Afterlife – Deluxe
A bunch of Exes make up Atlanta-based post-punk band Omni – Guitarist Frankie Broyles (ex-Deerhunter member), Bass/Vocalist Philip Frobos and Billy Mitchell (ex-Carnivore members) channel their inner DEVO and Television on Deluxe. Released on Trouble in Mind Records, other highlights on the record include Siam and Wire.
Cool Ghouls – Animal Races – Animal Races
This groovy track from San Francisco-based Cool Ghouls cemented a spot in my best of list back when the album came out in August. This album sees the band cleaning up their formerly garage-leaning tendencies (don’t worry they’re no completely gone) into an almost CAN/NEU(ish) Krautrock instrumental vibe with floating neo-psychedelic vocals floating over the top. There’s a metaphor somewhere about how animal races are significant to our lives, but I’m too locked in the groove to think about it more.
Sassy Pants’ Picks:
Dr. Dog – Dead Record Player – The Psychedelic Swamp
Released near the beginning of the year (February) the latest from Dr. Dog did not disappoint. This throwback to the sound the band had on albums like Easy Beat, sees the original band lineup in the recording notes.
The Frights – Tungs – You Are Going To Hate This
This album seemingly came out of nowhere – When it arrived at Marfa Public Radio in a plain, cardboard package with a sticker on the front of a woman’s head being kicked off by a horse, we had no idea what to expect. What we got was a collection of fun tracks with clever lyrics and good instrumentation. A favorite of both Sassy Pants and Jackson.
Porches – Car – Pool
Aaron Maine, the guy in charge of the Porches project, released this sophomore album back in February on Domino Records. A mix of post-punk dreariness and pop structure sounds strange, but it works well on Pool. The homespun is due in part to to the album being recorded at Maine’s apartment in Brooklyn.
Woods – City Sun Eater in the River of Light – Sun City Creeps
Sun City Creeps was one of the first singles released off of what was to become the ninth album released by Woods on the Woodsist label. On the album the band added some new sounds to their normal psych-folk delivery – including some African Jazz instrumentation – which makes for some good sounding ear-candy.
Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – Teens of Denial
A lot of folks were really looking forward to this album from Will Toledo – who started Car Seat Headrest as a small solo project in 2010. NPR First Listen even claimed the track Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales would be an instant indie rock classic. Well they weren’t wrong. All of the tracks on Teens of Denial are straight up and sometimes painfully honest with lyrics that will make you feel good, then sad, then happy, and then confused. We’re looking forward to what Toledo will continue to release.
Whitney – No Woman – Light Upon The Lake
Whitney is the project of former Smith Westerns guitarist Max Kakacek and former Unknown Mortal Orchestra drummer Julien Ehrlich. Their debut album Light Upon The Lake is collection of songs that are soulful, creative, and sometimes on the shorter side. No woman starts nice and soft, but then sees a nice mix of instrumentation which continues to grow and grow and grow throughout the track. First the bass line gets louder, then the electric guitar, then BOOM! Beautiful string and horn arrangements for a nice cherry on top
Heron Oblivion – Oriar – Heron Oblivion
Psych-rock supergroup Heron Oblivion broke out on the scene this year with their dark and swirling self-titled debut album. Former members of Comets on Fire, Espers, and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound make up this quartet. Heron Oblivion’s Sub Pop backed creation is a refreshing dive into stoner rock with just enough psych guitar to balance it all out.
Hinds – Chili Town – Leave Me Alone
So much is to be said about Madrid-based garage-pop band Hinds. They’re fun, essentially a reincarnation of Thee Headcoatees, full of energy, and their songs just make you happy. Leave Me Alone is the long-awaited full length debut from Hinds, and it’s a blast to listen to. The band has such high energy (especially live) that they can make even the grumpiest of grumps smile and maybe even dance.
Drugdealer (ft. Weyes Blood) – Were You Saying Something? – The End of Comedy
Compared to the other projects of Michael Collins (Run DMT, Salvia Plath, Silk Rhodes) Drugdealer is a little different. Full of Psychedelic-pop vibes and appearances that range from Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering to Ariel Pink, The End of Comedy is one of the most focused projects released by Collins.
Jim James – Hide in Plain Sight – Eternally Even
I still think it’s kind of weird to think of Jim James (Yim Yames) as a solo artist and not performing exclusively with My Morning Jacket. His sophomore solo album Eternally Even did not disappoint and was a great follow up to 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. A stream of psych-forward tracks makes you stop and wonder every track, am I listening to MMJ or JJ(YY)? But that’s not a bad thing.
Weyes Blood – Seven Words – Front Row Seat To Earth
Natalie Mering, the singer/songwriter/producer/brains-of-the-operation behind Weyes Blood returns with her fourth full-length album to date. Taking inspirations from misty 60s and 70s hits, Front Row Seat to Earth is a great front-to-back listen if you need to chill out and relax.
Nico Yaryan – You Belong to Me – What a Tease
An album inspired by a long distance relationship, Nico Yaryan’s What a Tease off Partisan Records sees Yaryan playing most of the instruments in the recordings, adding a level of intimacy to most of the track-listing. You belong to me has a great soulful piano line throughout and continues to crescendo to the end.
Earl Sweatshirt – Wind in My Sails – Wind in My Sails
This track was not on an album or an EP, but rather was released solely on Earl Sweatshirt’s Soundcloud account. It’s not really a follow up to his last major release – 2015’s I Don’t Like sh**, I Don’t Go Outside – but it does follow follow a similar path as other releases by the former Odd Future collaborating member.
Mutual Benefit – Skipping Stones – Skip a Sinking Stone
A Collection of soft, mellow tracks – Skip a Sinking Stone is front man Jordan Lee’s tour of his adopted home, New York City.
Some wonderful orchestral arrangements and simple, relaxing track placement make this album ideal for either cold weather or stressful situations.
Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore – No Burden
Released back in February, this is one of those albums that really had some staying power. Dacus’ music is loaded with personality and that is pretty evident in I Don’t Want to Be Funny Anymore – the lead single from the album.