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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Off Topic: My Favorite Music of 2016

My Favorite Albums of 2016

1. David Bowie - Blackstar
Bowie passed away earlier this year and left fans with one of the most interesting albums of his career. Is it jazz? Is it art-rock? Avant-garde? Experimental? Who knows? Who cares? This was easily my favorite album of the year and one that got better every time I listened. Sounds like how I imagine Radiohead would sound 2040.

2. Karl Blau - Introducing Karl Blau
Karl Blau is a DIY songwriter and producer from the Northwest who has been dabbling in all sorts of genres since the mid-90's. On "Introducing Karl Blau", he tackles an eclectic set of both classic and somewhat forgotten country songs by artists such as Waylon Jennings, Don Gibson, Townes Van Zandt, and more. The arrangements, production and Karl's deep baritone voice on this record very quickly made me a fan for life.

3. Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exists
This is the 2nd year in a row that I've had an Oh Sees album in my top 3 but these guys just keep getting better every year. This was the first of 2 new studio albums that they put out this year and is full of long trippy spaced-out kraut-garage rock jams. The group also features a dual drummer lineup on this album which makes these songs sound even more explosive.

4. Beyonce - Lemonade
I never thought I'd have a Beyonce album on my top 10 but this is a really solid and diverse pop album! The songs on Lemonade range from country to raging rockers to sad soul ballads plus there's a lot of interesting collaborations (Jack White, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar). I wouldn't say she excels at the rock or country tunes as much but they do add to the overall vibe of the record and show off her wide-ranging vocal talents. I was surprised upon listening to find out she can be pretty damn funny at times too.

5. The I Don't Cares - Wild Stab
For some reason, this one seemed to go under the radar this year (even for big Replacements fans)! The I Don't Cares is a duo featuring Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) and Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies/Lemonheads). Wild Stab is great, tossed off, rough-around-the-edges, garagey-bubblegum rock FUN and if you're a Westerberg fan - you need to own this!

6. Allen Toussaint - American Tunes
I just started getting into Allen Touissant this past year and can't believe I waited so long. For those that don't know, Allen was a legenday New Orleans pianist, producer, and songwriter who penned some of the greatest r&b songs of the 60s ("Mother-in-Law", "Fortune Teller", "I Like it Like That", "Working in a Coal Mine" and on and on). He passed away in 2015 but recorded this beautiful album before he died. "American Tunes"  is comprised of mostly instrumental jazz songs played alone on piano. Real perfect, loungey, early-Sunday mornin' tunes played by a true master.

7. The Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome
While trying to record a new album of original material, The Rolling Stones decided they needed to spend a few days having fun and jamming out. By recording some blues covers, it was a way for them to get comfortable in their new recording space before diving into new songs. Three days later during playbacks of these jam sessions, the band thought "Hey, we should just release this instead?". Blue and Lonesome sums up that 3 days of "jamming" and has a raw energy that I haven't heard on a Stones album since the 70's. Surprisingly even at age 73, Mick Jagger's voice and harp-playing have never sounded better!

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
In a year full of really sad and dark (but great) albums, "Skeleton Tree" was by far the saddest. Cave's 15-year old son died in a cliff fall towards the end of these recording sessions and this record seems to carry his ghost with it. At times, this album can be a tough listen and seems to drift along in a droney, experimental, stream-of-conciousness way but once you get to the end ("Distant Sky" in particular) - it all makes sense.

9. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Not my favorite Radiohead album but not my least favorite either. A Moon Shaped Pool is another great sad, mellow, and meditative album, Lots of nice strings on here as well!

10. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Life
This was a really nice progression from his previous 2 albums as he added some country soul and Muscle Shoals-style horns into the mix. A Sailor's Guide to Life was written by Sturgill for his son and is a song-cycle meant to be listened to in one sitting. Features a countrified version of "In Bloom" by Nirvana plus some even stronger originals.

11. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
One of my favorite indie rock groups of the last 5 years, the group added some new sounds and textures to their arty-post-punk.

12. Czarface - A Fistful of Peril
Hip-hop duo of Inspectah Deck from the Wu Tang Clan, and 7L & Esoteric. Fun hip hop with a comic book-inspired theme

Honorable Mentions
Peter Wolf - A Cure for Loneliness
Dennis Brennan - Into this World
Grant-Lee Phillips - The Narrows
Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20
Anderson Paak - Malibu

Wilco - Schmilco

A few albums that might have made the list but I only just discovered them recently:
The Cactus Blossoms - You're Dreaming
A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it From Here
Alex Cameron - Jumping the Shark
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan - Everything Sacred
The Lemon Twigs - Do Hollywood

My Favorite Reissues
Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker Deluxe Version
Big Star - Complete Third

My Favorite EPs of 2016
Todd Terje and the Olsens - The Big Cover-Up
Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered

My Favorite Songs of 2016

Favorite Concerts
1. Willie Nelson @ ACL Fest 10/9
2. Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe at The Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX 3/6
3. Yonatan Gat @ The 29th Street Ballroom, Austin, TX 3/15
4. Radiohead @ ACL Fest 10/7
5. Kendrick Lamar @ ACL Fest 10/8
6. Die Antwood @ ACL Fest 10/7
7. Andra Day @ ACL Fest 10/8
8. Sturgill Simpson @ ACL Live Moody Theater, Austin, TX 5/5
9. Old Crow Medicine Show/Margo Price @ Stubbs BBQ, Austin, TX 6/17
10. Thee Oh Sees/Abjects/La Luz/Bleached/Amplified Heat@ Hotel Vegas, Austin, TX 3/16
11. Wussy/Werewolf Academy @ 29th Street Ballroom, Austin, TX 6/11
12. Protomartyr and Spray Paint @ Sidewinder, Austin, TX 2/26

Favorite New Music Discoveries (pre-2016)
Eagles of Death Metal - "Zipper Down" (2015)
Various - "Ork Records: New York, New York" (2015)
Allen Toussaint - Songbook" (2013)
Alex Chilton - "Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy" (1999)
Richard Buckner - "Bloomed" (1994)
Public Enemy - "Fear of a Black Planet" (1990)
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - "Blood and Chocolate" (1986)
Philip Glass - "Glassworks" (1982)
Black Flag - "Everything Went Black" (1983)
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - "Imperial Bedroom" (1982)
Various - "DIY: The Boston Scene 1975-1983" (1993)
Alex Chilton - "Like Flies on Sherbert" (1979)
The Dead Boys - "Young, Loud, and Snotty" (1977)
AC/DC - "Let There Be Rock" (1977)
Iggy Pop and the Stooges - "Metallic KO" (1976)
Mott the Hoople - "The Hoople" (1974)
Ron Wood - "I've Got My Own Album to Do" (1974)
Neu! - Neu! 2 (1973)
Mott the Hoople - "Mott" (1973)
Hawkwind - "Space Ritual" (1973)
Donny Hathaway - "Live" (1972)
Dr. John - "Dr. John's Gumbo" (1972)
Faust - "Faust/So Far" (1971/1972)
Hawkwind - "In Search of Space" (1971)
Sir Douglas Quintet - "The Mono Singles 1968-1972"
The Move - "Message from the Country" (1971)
Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers (1971)
The Move - "Shazam" (1970)
The Velvet Underground - "The Complete Matrix Tapes" (2015)
Them - "The Complete Them" (1964-1967/2015)
Roger Miller - "King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller"
Various - "The R&B Box: 30 Years of Rhythm and Blues" (1994)
Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode: His Complete 50's Chess Recordings", "You Never Can Tell: His Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966", and "Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings 1969-1974"
Eddie Cochran - "Something Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits of Eddie Cochran" (1998)
The Everly Brothers - "Heartaches and Harmonies" (1994)

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