2016, am I right? It was a particularly weird one.
Every year, somewhere between January and December, we forget about the multitude and massive amount of music we are lucky enough to receive. And somewhere in between Game of Thrones episodes and various Netflix shows, we manage to listen to it.
David Bowie, Ty Segall, Chairlift, Rihanna, Massive Attack, Bloc Party, Dream Theatre, Sia, Simple Plan, Wolfmother (Lolmother), Matt Corby, Redfoo, The Last Shadow Puppets, Adele, Madonna all released album this year. And these are just a few. But the impossible task is to pick the 5 best so I am going to list my favourites, and why I think at this point in December, stand at the peak of a mountain CD’s in my car. I do still use cd’s. The top 5, in no particular order, are:
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
We get used to negativity and showmanship in hip hop. We have been fed shit ‘on the come up’ songs year after year with new rappers claiming to “change the game” and “be the next big thing”. While these nothings were telling us all to view them as the future, Chance was being delivered to us from heaven, in a humble pair of overalls, a great set of morals, sometimes uncomfortably religious lyrics and a raspy voice. Releasing every single one of his tracks for free, anyone can listen to Chance, anywhere in the world (pending research into China’s firewall) and enjoy his music. This alone has endeared him greatly to his fans. Coloring Book is the latest expression of Chance’s generosity and brilliance. Coloring Book is a beautiful and expressive form of hip hop gospel that breathes new light into the relationship between religion and hip hop whilst adding that feel good time to popular music we all really need.
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
You love him or you hate him. I love him. Kanye West exists in a world that is Kanye-centric and where the sun rises on Kanye’s left and sets on which ever side he decides. The emotional cracks that have always been present in surprisingly paranoid and brutally honest lyrics are in full fruition (listen to ‘Real Friends’). The album is a beautiful mix of what Kanye can’t do, and that’s decided on just one thing, and what he can do, which is move forward. The album contains modern and old school hip hop whilst maintaining generic RnB-pop and avant-garde sounds all in the same breath. Tracks like ‘Wolves’ exhibit Kanye’s unique ability to really push other artists involved in collaboration with him. ‘Ultralight Beams’, is probably the most powerful opening track on a hip hop album in years, blasting you with a trademark gospel choir, fantastic features (Chance the Rapper, yes please) heavy bass and auto tune. Gospel themes run amok throughout the album, praising “the lord” and most importantly Kanye himself. Every listen of the album provides you with a new angle or new favourite song. It’s diversity puts The Life of Pablo right at the top of most lists this year. Kanye is the opposite to the aforementioned Chance the Rapper, but his ego is what makes him great. Worth a listen if somehow you haven’t managed to yet.
Deerhoof – The Magic
“Yum Yum Yum” were my actual thoughts when I heard Deerhoof are back. Releasing their 17th studio album, the first since 2014, they haven’t missed a beat. The drums are as punchy as ever, the guitar erratic, the vocals angelic and catchy. Standout tracks include the noisy ‘Kafe Mania!’, ‘Criminals of the Dream’ and ‘Nurse Me.’ The entire album seems perfectly curated into the chaos Deerhoof fans expect. If you are open to having different musical experiences, this album takes you on an uncomfortable ride with people who are seemingly comfortable within their own little musical trip. We just have to sit back and watch the genius unravel. Notable tracks that haven’t been mentioned in this beautiful expression of noise-pop, ‘Learning to Apologize Effectively’, ‘Acceptance Speech’ and ‘Plastic Thrills’.
King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
King Gizz have managed to continuously churn out great albums. The band exists with varying degrees of Krautrock submerged in Psych rock paint, and yet within such “confines” maintain a strong sense of who they are as a band. Nonagon Infinity starts hard. ‘Robot Stop’, seems as though it has already been playing for 10 minutes by the time the track was started recording. Hit song ‘Gamma Knife’ is in there soon enough to back up the signature distorted vocals over melody-following guitar whilst the harmonica howls in the background. This loud and powerful album is yet another proof that King Gizzard are on their way to etching their name into overseas markets and will easily make the transition from cult band to genre powerhouse. Notable tracks on this megalith of loud-OzKraut-psych-rock are ‘Gamma Knife’, ‘Wah Wah’, and ‘Evil Death Roll’.
Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon
Awkward, this was released last year. I didn’t listen to it until I went through a devastating break up but really this album meant so much to me. In between crying fits and constantly going over what I had done to deserve such pain (lol I know) Jesso Jr. provided direct and beautiful breaks. Two meters tall and hunched over a piano the gentle giant is able to articulate every emotion you will feel, ever. I think that this should be a staple in everyone’s rotations every year. Some songs are reminiscent of the Beatles, others the gentle nature of Paul Simon. Sounding like a 70’s crooner, Tobias has gently floated through the music ether creating a haze of smoke, hypnotising all who listen. Goon is one of my favourite albums of all time. Notable tracks are, ‘How Could You Babe?’, ‘Can We Still Be Friends?’, ‘Hollywood’, and ‘Leaving LA’.
Editor’s note: this 2015 sneak-in is technically against the rules but because the author suffered it gladdened our hearts. Ergo, we will allow it.
Allan Kingdom – Northern Lights
Unlucky to actually miss out on a spot in the top 5, this album is reminiscent of Kid Cudi’s earlier stuff. But with the path paved for younger hip hop artists these day to be a bit more explorational and experimental with sounds, it’s a bit more evolved. It’s also because the beats were in part a slice of the genius that is Plain Pat, famous for many things including producing for early and late Cudi. Allan Kingdom features on Yeezy’s album and will soon enough start circulating on festivals and features alike.
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Listen to it. It’s a great time. And shows that hip-hop is growing in diversity and although it’s becoming harder to stick out with such skilled and diverse artists emerging, it’s still so possible. Soul-Rap-Jazz-Hop-Pop isn’t really a genre, and this album doesn’t really conform to any either, but beautifully captures Californian life. This is a new wave of Artist that makes what he wants and does it really well.
Wings – Discography
Yes, Paul McCartney’s band from the ’70s. If you haven’t given them a go, you’re missing out on finding out what happened to the melodic genius behind most of The Beatle’s work. I started to listen to them this year after I realised that I knew nothing of arguably the biggest Beatle’s work between Abbey Road and that terrible song with Kanye.
Hideous Sun Demon – Industry Connections
This Perth band also barely missed out on a top 5 spot. The Industry Connections LP is a great reflection of the strength of music coming out of Perth. It’s an example of what type of sound you produce when you’re influences are the Beach Boys and Bikini Kill.
The Shantymen – Paddy Doyle’s Boots
Upon playing Assassins Creed: Black Flag too late one evening, my housemate and I inexplicably started craving sea shanties. Well luckily he’s weird and comes from Geraldton in WA where his uncle sings in a Sea Shanty band. Enter the Shantymen.
5 “Meh” Albums aka “not for me”
Drake – Views
Yeah cool Drake. We get it. It’s hard to be up to your neck in money and have women around you all day and night. Next.
Beyoncé – Lemonade
This album’s mediocrity is only exceeded by the evangelical hype her legions of hypnotised fans gave, and still give, the album. If anything, this album proved the necessity for Solange; mirroring the cultural shifts that we go through in celebrity families, the ‘Kim K to Kendall J’ way. Yonce is moving closer and closer into FKA Twigs’ territory .
Frank Ocean – Blond
This album was too easy to write off from the beginning. Relying on too much patience, nostalgia toward the character he is and fans yearning for his voice, Frank really misfired.
Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
A lot of people feature this in top album lists. I think this album (like Frank’s above) relies on the fandom and romance surrounding the artist, eroding the artist’s necessity to produce actual good music and virtually guaranteeing positive responses. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the lyrics and delivery. Maybe I’m not ready for it. Maybe I don’t get this one. Maybe it is actually shit. Who knows? But this one is for the moment in the “not for me” category.
Flume – Skin
Australia’s obsession with shit music continues to be pedalled by Triple J. Skin is the album equivalent of “the same old shit, different smell” that we are used to by Australian bands who could fart into a microphone and Triple J would still give it multiple rotations a day. It just keeps going this Flume thing doesn’t it?