*blows dust off website*
There we go.
The suckfest colloquially known as 2016 has finally come to an end and I thought I’d at least try to reflect back on it positively by sharing my favorite albums from the year and a recollection of some memories I have of the top 10.
Lists make me sweat. I joined some more well-informed local musicheads in creating a list of our top albums released in 2016 and reached out no less than three times to the guy organizing it about my levels of anxiety going into this endeavor while also having to personally deal with the fact that blink-182 would more than likely end up on my final list.
The first five came easily. The next five more uneasily. The last five were like pulling teeth. More than anything, having to create a list like this taught me my music-listening habits could use some adjustments. Once I get into an album, it goes on heavy rotation for an extended period of time when I should really try dipping my toe into a bunch all at once.
…but we’ll start that in 2017. Save for a couple, these are generally the albums I listened/cried/sang to most this year and luckily I was able to see a handful of the bands live.
1 – Bon Iver – 22, A Million
My last.fm account says I listened to tracks from this album 279 times since its release at the end of September, which I think is an understatement but OK whatever. There are too many memories and feels attached to this album for me to have it in any other spot, plus the fact that it’s wildly wonderful. I was wearing a dang poncho watching the band perform the album live in its entirety for the first time, I walked to a mural at a particular time on a certain day with a bunch of strangers while we waited for … something to happen which was just the album playing on a boombox and some newspapers featuring art inspired by the track titles, and even came upon another mural when I was wandering Seattle a couple of months ago. Dammit, JV, I can’t quit you and don’t plan on trying to either.
2 – Conor Oberst – Ruminations
By now I can’t recount how many times I’ve seen Bright Eyes/Conor/Desaparecidos live but this time at the Clown Lounge of the Turf Club in St. Paul a few months ago was definitely the closest view I’ve had at one of his shows. I don’t think I even realized when he broke out the harmonica that this is the sound his new solo album would have, then got a little worried when I did realize it. But according to my last.fm I listened to tracks from this one 101 times so clearly it caught on. It’s sad and simple – vocals backed by piano, guitar, harmonica – and some of his best songwriting in my opinion. It cuts me to my cold little core with every listen but in an oddly comforting way I’ve come to experience with most of his music.
3 – Explosions in the Sky – Wilderness
My habit of falling asleep to instrumental music started a few years ago and thankfully grew from leaving my laptop open next to me playing iTunes to streaming through a Sonos speaker like an adult. My most-listened to band to lull me to sleep is EITS which may sound like a dis but really it’s the highest compliment in my book. The only bad part is when you’re, like, pretty buzzed then the music you fall asleep to every night is being played really loudly in front of you but it still acts as a lullaby so you desperately try to keep your eyes open even though it’s all so beautiful and your Pavlovian response is to succumb. All of that aside, great album!
4 – American Football – American Football (LP2)
Nope, never thought there’d be another album from these guys. I came across their first one, which was released in ’99, as a freshman at UW-Eau Claire when my pastime was trawling through album torrent sites (sorry mom) and downloading whatever sounded interesting or familiar from friends’ recommendations. It was one that helped define my taste a bit more and opened up my world up more to early ’90s emo. The new album is like an extension of the same sound despite an unfortunate stretch of time in between. I am glad it exists.
5 – Lucy Dacus – No Burden
Most of the openers at shows I go to serve as background music to catching up with my friends and the anticipation of waiting for the headliner. When I went to see Car Seat Headrest at the Cedar Cultural Center a few months ago I didn’t expect to be wooed so much by Lucy, who played first. She seemed young but smart as hell as far I could tell from the lyrics I was catching and felt pangs in my chest that only usually happen from songs I had previously connections to. It’s been so refreshing to come across music from women who can speak to experiences from a similar point of view and be able to deeply relate. She’s considerably younger than I am but far more well-spoken and I can’t wait to see what else she’s capable of.
6 – Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Another young musician that makes me feel as though I’ve contributed nothing to this world we share. I’d listened to this one a couple times through before going to the show, but experiencing it live got me to solely listen to it for the entire day afterward while at work. Sometimes it takes that for an album to “click” for me and this was one of them. The lyrics are thoughtful, the music is catchy and the band is extremely talented.
7 – Lucius – Good Grief
More badass women creating stellar material. I warmed up to this one after a few listens and seeing them perform certain tracks live is an absolute dream. They have a talent in writing songs that figuratively bring you to your knees and re-think every relationship decision you’ve ever made then bring you back up again with a dancier tune or one that allows you to belt out the chorus without giving it a second thought of who’s watching or listening (see: “Gone Insane”).
8 – Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
Another woman who I’m grateful exists because of dummies like me who can’t express themselves/their thoughts elegantly or concisely (hence why this post is already more than 1,000 words) enough to put into lyrics. Most of the albums in this list had singles played ad nauseam on local radio to the point where I’d skip those particular songs on a listen-through – except “Shut Up Kiss Me.” The video is also pretty great and I could watch Angel with her tinseled-hair on a loop and be content.
9 – The Thermals – We Disappear
I was fortunate enough to be in Portland earlier this year when The Thermals were having their hometown show at The Wonder Ballroom which reminded me of a mix between the Cedar and the Turf and the Varsity, if you can imagine. The crowd was hyped and I was already so into the album I didn’t mind the shoving, jumping, dancing or sweating and sang along to as much as I could and attempted to take as many photos as I could, too, because – hello – me. This is one that instantly puts me in a great mood and I crank as loud as possible on my way back to Minneapolis from work.
10 – LNZNDRF – LNZNDRF
Knowing two members of The National were involved with this project initially drew me in and then the music kept me there. I’ll always correlate “Beneath the Black Sea” with the Eaux Claires 2016 trailer and remember watching their set there in the rain. I’d often put this on while writing at work or add it to my Sonos queue to listen to while I fall asleep, too. If this is a one-off album project then I’d be all right with it and am happy it was put out into the universe.
11 – Parquet Courts – Human Experience
12 – A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here … Thank You 4 Your service
13 – Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
14 – blink-182 – California (told you)
15 – Communist Daughter – The Cracks That Built the Wall
In case you’re intrigued to listen to my favorite couple of tracks from each of these albums, look no further: