It’s that time of year for us to count down each of our top ten favorite albums of 2016. Check out Christian’s list below!
10. Noname - Telefone
This is a soulful, beautiful mixtape with some of the best verses from this year. Many people have heard of Noname because of her work with Chance the Rapper, but Telefone makes it clear that she’s forging her own path.
9. Friend Prices - It Is What It Is, It’s Whatever
I included this short EP on my Top 10 Releases of 2016 (So Far) list and it’s still around. It’s still an EP that I find myself revisiting over and over. The songs are short and simple but poignant and meaningful. My only complaint is that I don’t think that this band is going to be putting out anymore material.
But hey, quit while you’re ahead, right?
8. Direct Hit! - Wasted Mind
Another record from my So Far list. I still have a hard time explaining what this record is and what it sounds like. Direct Hit is known for their catchy, fast, punk with a pop fringe songs that are also conceptual and at times, goofy.
This record takes all of those aspects of their songwriting and puts them together in an almost inconceivable way. But that’s not to say that they’ve stagnated either, there is more experimentation on this record than ever before but they maintain what made Direct Hit so appealing in the first place. Pop, punk, drug imagery, clever lyrics, you have to listen to this.
7. Basement - Promise Everything
Basement’s progression as a band is culminated in this record. I think most people’s entry point to Basement was in 2011 with I Wish I Could Stay Here, a solid indie-punk release. When Colourmeinkindness came out in 2012, it was very obvious that the band was on a path to changing their sound. In 2014, after a short hiatus, Further Sky came out. That EP further cemented Basement as an indie act, but wasn’t incredibly accomplished. Promise Everything in opposition is incredibly accomplished. Grabbing onto 90’s indie sound and injecting some aspects of their earlier work as well, Basement put out their best record yet.
6. Denzel Curry - Imperial
Because of being lumped in with the likes of Kodak Black and 21 Savage in the XXL Freshman Freestyles this year, a lot of people seem to have written Denzel Curry off as just another mumble-rap superstar, those people are 100% wrong. Denzel Curry has bars for days, he comes through with a vengeance on Imperial. This is some of the most truly aggressive rap in the past FEW years. But he’s not only abrasive, there are some tracks on Imperial where it really feels like Curry is wearing his heart of his sleeve. Denzel Curry is all the passion that has been missing from hip-hop over the course of the past year.
5. Aesop Rock - The Impossible Kid
I dare anyone to find a more clever, more lyrical, more interesting or more intricate hip-hop record this year. If this was a hip-hop record of the year list, this would be number 1. Aesop Rock really opens up on his personal life on this record, which only makes him a better MC. The beats are grimy and crisp, nothing is out of place and there’s no filler, Aesop Rock captures the listener’s attention with pure skill and cleverness.
This record has the serious, but also the humorous, something that Aesop had stepped away from for a bit. The Impossible Kid has something new every time you approach it.
4. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry.
Rosenstock takes a step away from himself a bit with Worry., which is refreshing. He takes a break from himself to gaze at the culture around him and provide commentary on what he observes. This isn’t to say that there aren’t personal songs or songs where Rosenstock talks about himself exclusively, but it takes on a different face here as opposed to his previous record We Cool? Rosenstock takes shots at capitalism, gentrification, corporations, and racism here and manages to still write catchy songs and experiment with styles. There are hints of ska, punk, indie rock, shoegaze and power-pop on Worry. all of which Jeff Rosenstock (and his band mates) perform incredibly.
It would seem that Rosenstock has no boundaries when it comes to stylistic decisions. Worry. is also a record that can be listened too in any situation really; whether you want to listen to it while you’re working, driving home, just absorbing the record itself, it makes sense in all of those contexts. Worry. is one of the best forwardly political albums of the year and that’s because of the personal spin that a lot of these songs have.
3. Joyce Manor - Cody
I wrote a review of Cody back in October when it came out. I stand by what I said about it then and I think I even respect this effort more now after two months. Cody ended up being a record that really meant a lot ot me. Instead of just enjoying it because it’s a fun listen or it’s well-written, it really pulled at my heartstrings. I found myself relating to the writing on this record even in the places where it’s less serious, I saw myself. It’s really hard to explain, but the tone of this record is just something I feel in my gut.
2. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
Coloring Book is one of those records that I listen to every week. I said in my So Far list, that I loved how every song felt like a new idea and as the year has progressed and is soon to come to an end, I find myself loving that even more. Just the dynamic between “Same Drugs” and “Mixtape” is incredible.
Like I mentioned with Jeff Rosenstock above, Chance doesn’t seem to have any limits when it comes to styles. He is clearly passionate about many different forms of music. You could call this record neo-gospel, hip-hop, R&B and trap all at the same time and not be wrong about any of them. Chance is just Chance, that’s what so great about his releases. He doesn’t try to emulate old school styles or new styles, he just does what he does. Coloring Book definitely has a different vibe than Acid Rap, but it’s just as accomplished. Chance clearly has a large view of music, he believes it can impact but also be fun and entertaining. These songs are huge, they’re full bodied, no stone is left unturned with Coloring Book.
1. Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost
Holy Ghost was the most important record of 2016 for me. Much like Cody, but even more so, it appealed to me on an emotional level. The honesty of these lyrics, the tone of the record hit me really hard, because I identified with them so easily. There’s a level of apathy, of discontent, on Holy Ghost that is so honest and not romanticized that it’s hard to explain to someone who has never felt that way. The feeling of doing very well but longing for something else (“Mass”), the idea of having to tell yourself that waking up everyday is important (“Everyday”), being agitated and angry (“Coding These to Lukens”), being selfish (“What If…”), and grappling with the fact that you are important and people care about you (“Just Another Face”).
It took me a while to understand the dynamic of splitting the songwriting and vocals equally in half for Holy Ghost between Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens and I could be totally off in why those chose to do that. But what I got from it is that two people can feel differently about certain things but their emotions are related to one another. The two sides of the record are two different perspectives based around similar themes. It gives the listener more perspectives to consider, and to possibly relate too.
Ultimately, Holy Ghost made me more understanding of my own feelings and my own ideas. It seemed like a reflection of myself on some level. I think everyone is grateful for records, or just songs, like that. It’s comforting to know that someone else is thinking about things the way you do or experiencing similar situations. This record has a kind of ending theme, of acknowledging your own discontent and accounting for it in the future, moving forward from it but remembering it. And I think that’s something that people have a hard time with. There’s such a rush to leave the past in the past and forget it, but what Holy Ghost says to me and what I think is that it’s important to remember everything. Especially when those things are your own emotions or feelings; it’s hard to deal with those things sometimes, but at the end of the day, it’s beneficial to know where you’ve been, how you’ve felt and where you ended up.