It’s that time of year for us to count down each of our top ten favorite albums of 2016. Check out Malcolm’s list below!
10. Mars Red Sky – Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)
Coming from a dark ritual performed in the middle of a swamp at night, Swamp Black Metal rockers Mars Red Sky’s third album truly matches its title. After three albums, they have finally achieved at this time, their magnum opus. Combining the styles of early Black Sabbath, and stoner rock, MRS play track after track with long guitar riffs that will leave you standing flabbergasted and awestruck as you follow along for the ride as they sing about death, sorrow, anger, all wrapped up in an apocalyptic, sonic playground covered bow. From the very first track, you’re transported into a stoner doom haven, lost to the time passing by as you rock out for the next 45 minutes of your life.
9. Elysia Crampton – Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City
It has not been since experimental electronic artist Sun Araw’s 2010 album Deep Cover have I experienced an electronic album that it felt like I was listening to the future of a genre. Elysia Crampton’s Demon City is an electronic album that pushes the boundaries of the genre, and rather than fall under the weight of its ideals, this album is truly a strange and magnificent work of art. Covering a wide variety of genres to the point where it would be truly simple to explain her sound as progressive electronic music, Crampton utilizes a varying amount of samples, naturalistic themes, spiritual evocations, and fantastical and macabre imagery with her work to create an experience that will leave you dancing, scratching your head, and asking for more as you delve into the vast and dangerous landscape that is Demon City.
8. Ka – Honor Killed the Samurai
A man of few words, Brooklyn rapper Ka is an artist who struggles with duality. He’s a man of honor, and respect, who spends his days battling his ideals as he lives out his days thinking of how the lifestyle he wants, is not the one that goes best with his ideals. Like the honorable samurai, honor is something lost in the modern life, and it eventually led to their death. Ka’s production is simplistic, but powerful, as he revels in samples from Samurai films and instrumentals full of chimes, guitar plucks, and synthesizers, Ka delivers a truly personal and inner focusing album that invokes not only thoughts about the trap lifestyle, but also of a man who is dealing with the idea of being an honest man in a dishonest world.
7. Ette - Homemade Lemonade
Like a breath of fresh air, Scottish artist Carla Easton and partner Joe Kane bring us one of the catchiest, poppiest filled albums of the year. Full of memorable hooks and catchy tunes that will leave quite the impression in your head for days to come. Utilizing a variety of styles such as electronic music, a bit of hip hop, disco, and rock, Easton proves that her musical chops have a grand number of influences, and she isn’t afraid to touch on any of them. From the catchy synths and piano tunes of the title track you’re hooked, and from there the duo lays down the law of pop to come. It’s going to be hard to find a catchier album than this.
6. Noname - Telefone
With a flow as smooth as silk, and a low voice that graciously delivers hard hitting and intelligent verses, Chicago rapper Fatimah Warner dropped one of the most thought provoking and interesting hip hop works this year. Bordering more on a side of poetry rather than just straight rap, Warner works on making her presence known as she spits knowledgeable, multi syllabic, and highly personally metaphorical rhymes that will at first leave you scratching your head trying to formulate her creative thought process before it clicks and you realize the gravity of her music much like early indie rapper MF Doom. Truly an artist, Noname is a name that looks like it’ll soon be on the rise.
5. Japanese Breakfast - Psychopomp
Psychopomp: (in Greek mythology) a guide of souls to the place of the dead. Over an extended period of time the last two years, Little Big League singer Michelle Zauner returned home to Philadelphia to work on, and remaster, some of her older tracks and working on some solo material. She did not expect to have to deal with the death of her mother. Rather than let the the thought of despair overwhelm and take over the work, Zauner creates a hypnotically addictive pop rock album that covers a wide variety of subjects circling around loss. Whether it be from love, to money, to a loss of self, a roundup of insecurities, or even tackling the heavy question of death itself, Nauner soars through the material with synths, and riffs galore.
4. Bür Gür - Have you lost your faith in god?
Listening to Bür Gür is like enjoying a deliciously refreshing snow-cone, and the beauty of nature on a hot day at a beach resort in Hawaii while you and your friend are tripping on acid and reminiscing about how the world can be a cold, painful, and depressing rock floating out in space with no meaning for a person’s life, but you guys are sitting here enjoying the moment anyways. Singing over a mixture of hip hop samples and drums, beach island style music, cut up vocals, and a load of effects, SoCal musician duo Corbin Clarke and Makan Neganbahm transport us to a beautifully picturesque world with a dark undertone (“We are all on the road to the place where our souls will rest forever, or maybe not, maybe this is it, maybe God is dead, and we’ll all die alone” sung under the bubblegum pop-hop song “If I was a Child” come to mind) that is truly something magical to listen to.
3. Pinkshinyultrablast - Grandfeathered
Take a pinch of the grandiose of a band like M83, throw in a dash of the sound of Deafheaven, add a little spoonful of glitter to throw on top, and you’ll get something close to the second album from Russia’s shoegazing powerhouses Pinkshinyultrablast. Like a bolt of lightning, their music strikes loud, fast, and leaves you rooted in place, trying to comprehend the power that just flashed before your eyes. P-SUB deliver hard hitting guitar riffs and bombastic drums all wrapped up in a shoegaze flavored package. Through the heavy carnage of the music, however, comes the angelic voice of lead singer Lyubov Soloveva acting as a valkyrie that carries you to safety, leaving you breathless from the beauty.
2. Zeroh - Tinnitus
Zeroh, the croaking, experimental rapper/producer from LA, has never been one to shy away from the weird and crazy. He’s built his style of rapping over unconventional beats that range from sample filled hip hop beats (Gun Metal) that can sometimes border on almost abstract with no actual rhythm (Nindo), to dark, experimental electronic wastelands full of scratches, screams, and incredibly filtered noise (My Beautiful New Age Nightmare). Along for the ride, Zeroh delivers strings of syllables and phrases that show off his incredible wordplay and his ever changing flow that can go from quick, rapid fire delivery of philosophical ideas and about the danger of the mind and how it can influence and change your life, for the better, but possibly the worse. A true testament to hip hop and an album that transcends genres, this is definitely one to check out for those who like experimental rap at its best and possibly weirdest.
1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
From light came darkness, and from that darkness rose Nick Cave. Acting as a guide to the wasteland called life, Nick Cave takes us on a journey through the wasteland, candlelight in hand, choir in the background as he brings us to his own dystopian hell. Following in the death of his young son, the spirit of death haunts over the album, creating an ethereally quiet silence that permeates down to your soul, and leaves a dark, impressionable chill as Cave speaks in his hushed and harsh voice of tales of mermaids, dead bodies, blood stained rivers, and the end of the world. Continuing from the simple style of their previous work, Push the Sky Away, Skeleton Tree is an album that contains few big moments, instead choosing to focus on a minimalistic musical style that lets Cave belt out when necessary as he reads from his black, leather bible, reading verse after verse. Truly a prophet of darkness, Cave and the Bad Seeds are a band that will stand the test of time as one of the darkest and most hauntingly beautiful bands to grace this blessed rock that Cave calls both Hell, and Home.