I thought this would be the year I gave up on music, but I was wrong. I depended on music more than ever this year. For all the shit life throws at you there’s always a song to make you feel better. I want to thank the 13 artists listed below for getting me through this tumultuous year.
And now an open letter to 2016:
You can go do something to yourself that I can’t write on here because my parents might read this.
Even though you sucked, you put out some of the best rock n roll albums that I can remember in a very long time. You also gave me the most beautiful follow up to Channel Orange that I could have imagined. Oh! and Chance The Rapper; you gave us more of that guy. We all need more Chance in our life.
- Blonde – Frank Ocean
- Ruminations – Conor Oberst
- The Life of Pablo – Kanye West
- Cardinal – Pinegrove
- A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
- Goodness – The Hotelier
- 22, A Million – Bon Iver
- Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest
- Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
- A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings – Beach Slang
- Schmilco – Wilco
- The White Album – Weezer
- Introducing Karl Blau – Karl Blau
I’ve read lots of reviews that have tried to categorize this album as alt-country and emo, which are two genres that don’t seem to go together at first thought. But if you go back to Omaha, Nebraska in the early two thousands Saddle Creek was doing just that. Bands like Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley were emo(ish) bands that had very distinct country influences. Pinegrove fits that narrative perfectly. It’s rock music that makes you feel mixed with a few banjo riffs and a country draw. I can even hear early Wilco and Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams.
“Every outcome’s such a comedown” is the refrain of Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall on the opening track, “Old Friends”, off their excellent new album Cardinal. With lines like that one and “I should call my parents when I think of them; I should tell my friends when I love them” this song had me hooked from the beginning. It’s a sad and sentimental song; two of my favorite themes wrapped up into one song.
Other stand out tracks on the album include, “Size of The Moon”, “Aphasia”, and the bookend to “Old Friends”, “New Friends”. Next to “Old Friends”, “Size of The Moon” is the other stand out track. It’s a break up song that starts soft and builds to fuzzy guitars.
If I were to pick an early favorite for album of the year this would top my list. It sounds like all my favorite records, but at the same time feels fresh and inventive.
As far as hip releases in 2016 go they don’t get much better than Chance the Rapper’s third album, Coloring Book (4th, if you count Surf). I’ve heard lots of critics call it a hip hop gospel album and I’ll echo that critique. I’ve never felt so spiritually up lifted listening to a rap album. There’s gospel choirs throughout but it’s much more than a gospel album; it’s an album about friendship, love, family, and staying true to yourself. Chance is only 23 but his words are wise beyond his age. He’s preaching and I’m affirming his words from the congregation with a strong, AMEN!
The album starts with “All We Got” (my personal favorite song on the album) a bombastic ode to family and most importantly music. The chorus (sung by Kanye) chants the refrain, “Music is all we got, so we might as well give it all we got”. For music lovers (I’m not talking about your casual music appreciator; I mean people who live and breathe music) this mantra will send chills through your entire body.
Each song is a carefully crafted ride through the south side of Chicago. “Summer Friends” in an ode to summer relationships that come and go, hard work, and family ties. “Same Drugs” which seems to also be a parallel of the movie Hook is about growing up and changing. On “Angels” Chance raps about cleaning up the streets and how hopeful he is about violence ending in his city.
Chance The Rapper, along with rappers like Kendrick Lamar, is the voice of a generation who wants peace and change for their race and for their communities. This is an album about hope for a better future and it’s damn fun to listen to as well.