Staff Picks: Favorite 2016 Release
Although 2016 has been a gloomy year music wise (it can’t be over quick enough really), there definitely were some bright sparks in there! A lot of great music was released, and to end the year on a positive note, we’ve picked our favorites. These were the releases that got us through the year, what was your favorite 2016 release?
This was a tough one, but I have to go with Lambchop’s “Flotus”. Both a well-polished addition to the already excellent Lambchop discography AND further proof that Kurt Warner is master of the evolution of his own sound, I kept coming back for more, time and time again.
– Josh, Community Support Manager
I’m seeming like a broken record here probably, but Neurosis – “Fires Within Fires” is the 2016 release I’ve listened to the most.
– Jason, Lead Developer
Kaytranada - “99.9%”. 2016 was a divisive year. Never before have I had such a sense of “us vs them” in the world. So I guess it makes sense that I’m drawn most to an album that, in my mind, did the best job of sidestepping genre lines and bridging communities together. If it’s got a beat, it’s on here: electronic, funk, jazz, R&B, disco, soul, boogie, pop, hip hop…the list goes on. Transcending all of those monikers is the track “Lite Spots”, the most forward-thinking song of 2016, with a music video guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Each time it sounds like the song has settled into its place, it takes off again in another direction. I don’t know how to define a song like that, but I don’t care. Every time I hear it, like the rest of the album, I’m comforted knowing there are visionaries out there who refuse to see a world defined by borders, and instead see unexplored opportunity within diversity.
– David, Community Support Lead
Lots of great music came out this year, despite what popular belief may dictate. One of the standouts for me has been the Exploded View LP. A mostly improvised set of atmospheric, noisy, and otherwise experimental post-punk that sounds way more relevant than you’d expect from that description. This one’s been on heavy rotation on my stereo, and in my headphones, this year.
– Mark, Front-End Developer
It was good to see the success of this Rush Hour release, which is a compilation of Surinamese artists: “Surinam Funk Force” is a fun Disco, Boogie, Funk record to listen to!
– Claire, Managing Director of Operations
The Veils - “Total Depravity”. I’m actually still a little undecided on my Album of the Year, but remember listening to this several times after it came out. Love how they teamed up with El-P as the producer, getting out of their comfort zone. Also love the dark sad and macabre vibe of the cover art.
– Yoram, Community Support
Iggy Pop, Josh Homme, Dean Fertita and Matt Helders: What’s not to love? “Post Pop Depression” has a sultry, sexy energy about it. Just hearing the intro to “Gardenia”, which I believe was the first song that was revealed, made my heart skip a beat. And it still does, after playing it all year. That recording session in Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree National Park must have been epic. I’m still a bit bummed about missing out on the concert in Amsterdam this year. I was so excited to have tickets, but forgot I was going to be away on holiday on that date (luxury problem, I know!). After listening to “Post Pop Depression – Live At The Royal Albert Hall“, I am sure I missed out on a brilliant show!
– Lilian, Content Marketing Specialist
Ricardo Villalobos - “Detroit Heroes EP”. I’ve been a long-time fan of Villalobos, however his last couple of EPs were a bit too noodle-y for me. He’s been making crumbly dance tracks that fall apart for a couple of decades now, but when he’s on his game, he’s untouchable. This EP contains everything I like about his productions. Side A has a nice slide guitar that reminds me of sitting around a campfire after leaving a party. Side B has pulsating electronics and a rhythm that slowly disintegrates over time.
– Andy, Developer
Star Creature is one of my fav labels- I’m so close to having their complete catalog. The amount of releases they are cranking out are really impressive. “Sugar High” by Saucy Lady and T Groove really gets me moving.
– Liz, Community Manager
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - “I Had A Dream That You Were Mine”. A collaborative album between The Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser and erstwhile Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij. I have been a huge fan of The Walkmen in no small part because of Hamilton Leithauser’s voice and feel like Vampire Weekend kinda gets a bad rap due to their ubiquity. A really lovely eclectic album that even has some great doo-wop bits in it. Highly recommended.
– Jon F., Product Owner
I hadn’t heard about Becky Sui Zhen or her alter ego Susan before I picked up “Secretly Susan”. I just liked the cover. Thankfully, there is more to the album than that! The music is so chill – great to start the day with or listen before calling it a night. The best part is the lyrics, which focus on Susan’s efforts to shape her identity on social media. Turns out there’s so much more to this release than just the funny picture on the packaging!
– Tasha, Community Support Lead
The logical, calculated part of my brain is trying to tell me that there were a lot of great albums from new (or at least new-ish) artists this year; that there were creators taking advantage of fresh access to the spotlight with work of value, and that one of those acts deserves the nod here. And there certainly were such artists, and they certainly do deserve some recognition. But in a year that seemed to defy logic at every turn, I’m going with my gut. And no album brought a more visceral response than “Blackstar“. Is my emotional attachment to David Bowie coloring my judgment here? Oh, undeniably. The album stands on its own as one of Bowie’s greats, though. It also shows that he continued to push himself, even up ’til the very end. It’s one hell of a listen. It’s one hell of a statement. It’s one hell of a goodbye.
– Tom, Community Support
I consider selecting one release or one show or one anything from a 12 months period pretty hard so my picks are always gonna be more than one. I feel both Oranssi Pazuzu – “Värähtelijä” and Hills (2) - “Uncollected Sound” are very awesome albums, even if I am not sure if “Uncollected Sound” is considered an album. Their style and special sound both obviously different mean something to me and takes me back to their amazing shows in Roadburn. Very recently I got into Sarathy Korwar - “Day To Day” which I consider an awesome discovery of 2016 as well. But indeed Санн О))) - “Нежить” is my favourite (or one of them), since it transports me to another place and time when I put my headphones on to this. I get very lost into their sound… always.
– Esther, Community Support
My pick is PJ Harvey’s “The Hope Six Demolition Project”. Much like ‘Let England Shake’, this album is a thoroughly researched, evocative collection of songs that feels like more than the sum of its parts. I miss some of the raw grittiness of some of her earlier albums, like “Rid of Me“, but there’s still hints of it in songs like ‘The Wheel’ and ’The Ministry of Defence’. Having said that, it’s amazing to see Harvey’s evolution as an artist. Each album is distinctly different – the way she even adapts her voice to match the style of the album brings a whole other dimension to her albums and body of work. It’ll be interesting to see which direction she goes in next. Whatever it is, I’m in.
– Jess, Search Engine Marketer
Antoine Diligent’s “Futurisms” album has been on repeat since Halloween. I’ve been listening to this guy make music since 2003 and am constantly impressed by how his sound evolves and what he is able to accomplish in his apartment, this latest reinvention is no exception.
– Ron, Director of Marketing
I can’t help myself! Triángulo De Amor Bizarro are my favorite Spanish band and and their fourth record is so amazing and full of hits… I truly think this has been the international release this year (Jessy Lanza and Frank Ocean, forgive me). So yeah, let’s go for that, “Salve Discordia” is the most powerful statement by a band that is writing the history of contemporary rock in Spain. Navigating through their lyrics is my favorite hobby and Rafa’s drumming is insane at this point. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, don’t miss it!
– Javi, Community Support
I hate to be that guy, but it’s going to have to be a tie for me between House of Dad – “House of Dad” and Leon Vynehall – “Rojus. While I think that House of Dad might be an objectively more interesting record, seeing Leon Vynehall DJ here in Austin this year led me to see house music in a light I had never seen before. Leon Vynehall is the embodiment of underground house music, but is approachable enough for the pedestrian listener to get his/her groove on. House of Dad is a whole different situation. This record is an emotional roller coaster. One minute you’re listening to some stripped back ambient tracks with field recordings of plumbing equipment, and the next minute you’re dancing your ass off to some deep cuts. It’s fascinating to me how a producer can express such disparate emotions on a single record, and it can be difficult to put into words.
– Morgan, Systems Engineer
This list wouldn’t be complete if someone didn’t mention Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”. I love that this album manages to feel cohesive while blending together pop, reggae, country, hip hop, and soul. Also the fact that Beyoncé made such a deeply personal album, while collaborating with artists like Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, and other great musicians is equally impressive. For those of you that are too anti-pop music to give this album a chance, I say, “middle fingers up!”
– Kirsten, Product Owner
Soichi Terada / SEKITOVA Feat. Chisato Moritaka - “Hyamikao / Foetus Traum”. A split between two Japanese producers, house mainstay Soichi Terada and relative newcomer SEKITOVA, both collaborating with vocalist Chisato Moritaka. Moritaka is a fantastic, versatile singer, and the two artists use her voice to very different effect in their songs. Terada chops and cuts her syllables to the even granularity of a vocaloid, while still allowing her humanity to shine through, all over his characteristic, punchy synth hits. SEKITOVA’s track, meanwhile, approaches dub techno in its minimalism and hushed momentum; Moritaka brings her voice down to a whisper, only occasionally punctuating the lush thrum building throughout the track. But while SEKITOVA’s track is lovely, Terada’s track was really the show-stealer for me. In a year determined to convince me of the futility of good vibes, Terada’s were too strong a counter-argument to ignore, and I’m grateful for that.
– Toby, Developer
A Tribe Called Quest - “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” ATCQ is hands down my favorite music artist ever. To say I was excited for their first new album in 18 years is an understatement. The fact that the album is dope really puts the bow on it. As a Tribe super-fan, I couldn’t have asked for more or better.
– Aaron, Community Engagement Specialist