As you can tell, I haven’t quite been sticking to my schedule nearly as well as I’d hoped. I’d blame it on the procrastination or the Day Job or the election or whatever, but it really has been a bunch of things. I started writing this one up last night after doing much of our Christmas wrapping, but had to stop short so I could get working on my editing. I’m hoping in the new year I’ll be a little more on the ball, yeah?
Well hey, here we go with Part 2 of my favorite albums of 2016, and Q2 was filled with a hell of a lot of great albums that I’m still playing heavily months later. Enjoy!
Cheap Trick, Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, released 1 April. Thought I’d start off this one with an unexpected surprise — I’ve been a longtime Cheap Trick fan [I’m talking “Surrender” era here, so that means I AM OLD] so I was quite pleased to hear that they had a new album out this year. This isn’t the poppy CT from the late 80s, mind you. This is the crunchier, rockier CT from the late 70s – early 80s. One of my favorites of the year.
M83, Junk, released 8 April. Where 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was the sound of 70s LA glitz and 80s cinematic vistas, Junk seems to take the idea of the one goofy track from that album (you know, that one about turning into frogs) and expands on it. The end result sounds like a mix between 80s kids shows on PBS and theme songs to Love Boat episodes. And yet somehow it works without being cloying or embarrassing. Even if the album cover does look like a Happy Meal box.
Lush, Blind Spot EP, released 15 April. One of the best shoegazey bands of the 90s returns after twenty years for a tour and a new EP, and it was well worth the wait. It’s just as lovely and shimmery as their previous records. Yet another constant play during my writing sessions.
Wire, Nocturnal Koreans, released 22 April. Essentially a mini-album of leftovers from the sessions for their previous album (2015’s self-titled), but nonetheless there’s not a wasted track here. They’ve settled quite nicely into their current iteration as an indie-rock band with a sparse yet powerful sound.
RWBY Vol 3 soundtrack, released 3 May. I found this online animation series quite by accident back in 2014 (I think I saw the Vol 1 soundtrack on eMusic as an endcap suggestion), and I quite enjoy it. The soundtracks are great as well, very Paramore-ish and a lot of fun to listen to during my writing sessions.
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool, released 8 May. “Doot doot OH HEY we have a new album out. Here you go.” And the fans trip all over themselves downloading and liveblogging it! Heh. Seriously, though, it’s a great album. Haunting, gorgeous, tense, and dreamy. Another writing session soundtrack!
Nothing, Tired of Tomorrow, released 13 May. I do likes me some crunchy alternative metal, especially if it’s as melodic as Nothing is. I’d never heard of this band before hearing this album streamed on NPR.com, and within two songs I definitely had that HOLY CRAP I NEED THIS response. And once this was out, I quickly downloaded it along with the rest of their available albums and singles, because I loved it that much. One of my top ten albums of the year.
Mark Pritchard, Under the Sun, released 13 May. On the other end of the spectrum we have some lovely quiet ambient electronic from one of its best producers (and one half of Global Communication, whose 76:13 I still listen to on a regular basis while writing). The album feels haunted at times — kind of hinting at being alone on a desolate world, come to think of it — but it also has its moments of light humor (“Hi-Red” sounds a bit like Mark playing with the settings on his keyboard more than anything else) to balance it out.
Beth Orton, Kidsticks, released 27 May. Beth is one of those ‘off in her own universe’ songwriters, but without the weirdness that sometimes derails Tori and Bjork. Her music has also retained that not-quite-electronic sound that she captured so well back on 1996’s Trailer Park, letting it sound both natural and ambient at the same time.
Garbage, Strange Little Birds, released 10 June. Probably my favorite album of theirs after their self-titled debut back in 1995. There’s some great guitar crunch going on here, and Shirley Manson can still belt it out effortlessly. One of my top ten favorites of the year.
The Shelters, The Shelters, released 10 June. As my sister said to me, ‘Dig that Rickenbacker sound!’ These guys picked up where Jet left off some time ago with the Swinging London-influenced sound, and I couldn’t be happier. That this was released on Capitol makes absolute sense; they would have fit in quite nicely next to the Beatles as a great 60s guitar combo.
The Temper Trap, Thick As Thieves, released 10 June. This band has grown to be one of those ‘I haven’t heard it yet but I’ll definitely download it’ bands of mine, and their newest has not let me down. The title track is in my top ten favorite songs of the year as well.
DJ Shadow, The Mountain Will Fall, released 24 June. The always amazing DJ Shadow brings forth an album that features less samples and a lot more hard sounds, giving his already experimental vibe a grittier edge. I’ve been putting this one on during my writing sessions when I need an angrier vibe. [The above track is NSFW lyrically, but they sure do fit the video, given the present political atmosphere.]
Coming soon, Part 3, in which we check out some excellent late summer tunage!