By Jaran Chance
10: Jeff Rosenstock – Worry
Jeff Rosenstock’s solo career is undeniably at its strongest with the release of his fourth studio album Worry. Rosenstock’s solo effort has already garnered critical acclaim through his 2015 release “We Cool?” and just one year later he is right back at it.
In the face of the 2016 election, Rosenstock’s anxieties and outrage accumulate into the lyrical explosion that is Worry. In 37 minutes of relentless politically charged rock, Rosenstock comments on as many things he sees wrong with the world as he can cram into 17 tracks. All of this comes together to display what Rosenstock worries about in an incredibly cohesive grand work of energetic punk rock.
9: Andy Shauf – The Party
Andy Shauf is a mysterious and reserved Canadian singer-songwriter whose name took a sharp rise in popularity this year. After touring with The Lumineers and finding popularity on Canadian radio, Shauf locked himself in the studio with his instruments, and after personally doing almost all the studio instrumentation, The Party was born.
Shauf’s style of songwriting is hauntingly emotional and uplifting all at once. The Party is a chronicle of the types of people who attend parties. Shauf manages in his songwriting to fabricate these fictional stories in ways that command the listeners’ attention and demand to be taken seriously. To go along with the album’s ingenious story-telling, each song is laden with beautiful melodies. Without a doubt Andy Shauf will take the world by surprise in the years to come; don’t just put this album on a list somewhere and neglect to listen.
8: Frank Ocean – Blond
After four years of silence and confusion, Frank Ocean took 2016 by force and held the world’s attention for the entire month of August into September. Ocean’s follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange miraculously lives up to and exceeds the four years of anticipation and excitement. Blond is the sound of confusion in the blinding spotlight; juggling thoughts of sexuality, unwanted attention, and the past. Though Ocean under constant building pressure, rather than crumbling, excels and thrives.
The beauty of this album is that after four years of rabid fans berating him for more music, Ocean simply made the music he wanted to make. Some fans were understandably thrown aback by this, but after time spent with Blond, the world has given it the same love they gave to Channel Orange. Ocean’s Blond is an introspective trip through themes of identity and inner conflict. The ballad of the millennial.
7: Lvl Up – Return To Love
Lvl Up are definitely the most exciting breakout act of 2016, finding their way from almost complete anonymity on their past two albums to #15 on The Rolling Stone’s top 50 list. That rank is well deserved as this album marks a refreshing reinvention of their sound.
The sound on this album explores driving rock anthems, twangy western guitar parts and everything between. The vocals are contributed by different band members for each song which is a particularly interesting dynamic of their sound. At times the lead guitarist will sing, then the bassist, then the rhythm guitarist. The themes and sounds explored on this album successfully pair together to form quite possibly the most unique and worthwhile indie rock endeavor of 2016.
6: White Lung – Paradise
White lung are Vancouver punk rockers that have been steadily fermenting and maturing in their sound in the past 10 years of touring. Their fourth studio album, Paradise, is an explorative punk rock album in the sense that the band took the familiar and made it unfamiliar. The album still has blistering driving guitar parts, and ferocious shouted lyrics, but at the same time, something about the sound is mysterious and enticing.
The hectic-distorted guitar work and haunting echoing vocals on Paradise help to make a new, cultured and distinct sound for White Lung. Paradise, clocking in at just under half an hour, is exactly the poignant lyrical assault your ears need to celebrate 2016’s closing.
5: Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Death Grips once again swing hard and strong on Bottomless Pit, bringing their iconic, rabid and relentless form of experimental rap/punk rock to the table for another taste.
Bottomless Pit sees the band revisiting some familiar sounds and at times experimenting in completely unknown territory. “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” has got to be one of the strangest introductory tracks of 2016.
The album contains hectic and jarring instrumentals on tracks like “Spikes” while tracks like “Trash” have incredibly simple beats. All facets of this album, however, manage to bring the same provocative energy and make it work.
4: The Weeknd – Starboy
As the music video for this album’s title-track Starboy depicts, Abel Tesfaye sees the release of this album as a stark transition in his music career. In reality, not much has changed with the sound but there are some rather interesting collaborations on this album with the likes of Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar, etc.
There is speculation that the meaning behind the music videos for this album is that he has surrendered himself to the music industry and is sent down as a star to communicate for them in a twisted Ziggy Stardust manner. There is no way to truly know the meaning behind The Weeknd and his work, but perhaps there is more to Tesfaye than drugs, partying and girls.
This 18 track, one-hour eight-minute love song to drugs, alcohol, and material possessions definitely wanes in intrigue at times. The first half of the album is a lot stronger than the finish, but it is strong enough to keep me coming back, again and again, wanting more. Many have grown tired of the “misunderstood pop-star abusing drugs” cliché that The Weeknd frequents but the sound on this album is still fresh and delivers some of Tesfaye’s best work at times.
3: Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales
Crying’s debut album, Beyond the Fleeting Gales, is everything it sounds like and more. It’s a heartfelt tribute to the fantastical themes dwindling in modern rock. In the same speech, Crying exhale a refreshing breeze of joyful creativity.
The influence of classic rock acts like Rush and Van Halen are prevalent but not in any way a hindrance to the creativity that Crying channels. The poetic, extravagant diction and imagery of Beyond the Fleeting Gales, however, does not represent the underlying message of optimism.
This album’s culmination of whacky synthesizer, fanciful uplifting lyrics, and shredding guitar riffs Anderson. a shameless rock ballad of optimism.
2: Microwave – Much Love
Microwave are a diverse, Atlanta-based four-piece rock band signed to Side One Dummy Records. (Jeff Rosenstock, Pup) Their sophomore release, Much Love, is the ballad of crusty touring rock musicians done right.
The introductory track “Roaches” is a mellow and melodic hymn preaching pity for cockroaches. This surely gives an accurate image of the content in store for the listener. However Much Love most definitely does not get stuck on bummed out lyrics or mellow and melodic instrumentals. The album is constantly shifting in sound from rock and roll jams to heart-wrenching refrains comparable to those of fellow Georgia-based act Manchester Orchestra.
Overall, Much Love with its crisp track transitions, goofy melancholy cover art, and ear-worm melodies is well worth the 34 minutes it asks for.
1: Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Smiles are contagious, and Chance’s Coloring Book is a great big shining grin in musical form. Chance channels his gushing love perfectly through this 14-song gospel rap mixtape.
If it is not blatantly apparent from his grinning face on the cover art, Chance is happy, and he wants other people to be happy. For his party of a recording session, he pulled together a diverse band of friends and contemporary artists including, Kanye West, Lil Yachty, Noname and Lil Wayne.
The opening track “All We Got,” excellently expresses the message of Chance’s work in 2016. In everything he does, Chance preaches unity. Whether he’s attending an open mic with Chicago youth, organizing massive music festivals or reclaiming thousands of scalped tickets, Chance is simply trying to spread the wealth of happiness that his body encompasses.
The simple fact that music preaching togetherness and optimism can succeed so wildly in such a daunting world comes as a shining beacon of hope. This may not be his strongest work or the most talented rapping ever done, but it is an earthquake of a statement in the year 2016.