Music is an incredibly important part of my life, and I bet more than a few of you would say the same. We live in a special time where technology has caused arts and culture to evolve like never before. Music, in particular, is acting like it was just bitten by a radioactive spider. Unexpected genres are being hybridized in strange cybercultures, instruments are constantly being reinvented and, in general, the future of music technology looks both appetizing and alienating. Yet with all this radical transformation, music is still rooted in the timeless language of melody, harmony and rhythm that remain ever familiar to our ears.
I try to frequently remind myself how great it is to be experiencing this culmination of technology and art. I also encourage you all to try to take full notice of the musical evolution in your personal life. I know I have become enamored with the new music that soundtracked my life this past year; giving depth and intimacy to all my traveling adventures, my homework routines, my lazy weekends, and my emotional extremes. So in a grateful retrospection I want to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite songs and albums released in 2016, that helped make my year so sonically satisfying!
OVERALL FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2016
*Guy Andrews – Our Spaces*
You might recognize a theme of the emotive experimental as we go through this list and Guy Andrews has earned his place at the top for capturing those elements perfectly. In his debut LP, he uses live instrumentation in between swelling analog and soft synths, not being afraid to drench it all in lush textures of distortion.
*Ash Koosha – | AKA |*
Taking experimentation to the fringe, Ash Koosha, is both an audio and visual artist, having even performed an entire set in virtual reality for Boiler Room in September. This album is a technological fury that proves even the most contorted compositions are capable of maintaining the obvious threads of passionate expression.
FAVORITE VOCAL+ELECTRONIC ALBUMS
*Samaris – Black Lights*
Icelandic Vocals, Clarinet, and a range of electronic dance subgenres. Umm, yeah Samaris rocks.
*Rituals of Mine – Devoted*
Previously known as Sister Crayon, Rituals of Mine impressed the Treefort crowd with passionate singing and subtle synth work over a live drummer that kicks out some seriously smooth west-coast influenced rhythms.
*Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos*
A masterful storyteller and lyricist exposing the darkness and desensitization of modern life while aiming blame away from the individual and focusing on a tone of understanding and compassion. Don’t you dare miss Kate Tempest at Treefort this year.
*Clipping – Splendor and Misery*
Performing in the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton didn’t stop Diggs from finishing a massive album with the hardware-centric noise-rap experiment, Clipping. This album explores the fringe of lyricism. and Iit’s hard not to bounce between feeling uncomfortable, impressed, introspective, and randomly gangster throughout the experience that is Splendor and Misery.
Easily recognizable as a voice that could only be from Iceland, Jófríður performs as the lead singer of the previously mentioned Samaris, but is also consistently active with 3 other quality projects. She fronts the aesthetically dark electronic outfit, Gangly; teams up with her twin sister in the lo-fi duo, Pascal Pinon; and then has a catchy solo project, JFDR.
Johanna Warren has a voice that sweetly stings a crowd into silent attention. You can feel the weight of purpose in each sung lyric. For the release of her latest album she created her own label, Spirit House, that has the specific intention to “elevate femme and nonbinary voices as a counterweight to the patriarchal mainstream.”
FAVORITE SONGS FOR FEELS
*From Indian Lakes – Blank Tapes*
Sometimes you don’t have a choice what songs get stuck haunting your ears in endless repetition. From Indian Lakes did that to me with these simple yet poetic lyrics washed in a comfy reverb.
*Rioux – Unfamiliar Cloud*
Intelligent rhythm and melody build impressively, but Rioux caught my fascination with these ethereal vocals in Unfamiliar Cloud.
BEST TRIPPY BUT PRETTY SONG
*FLANCH – Purgatory4u (ft. J.W.J & Sirius Blvck)*
Probably one of my most WTF finds of 2016. This song is heavy experimental that somehow soothes with a unique combination of vocals. I can’t help but think that FLANCH summoned some serious Sufjan Stevens vibes for this track.
FAVORITE DJ LUBRICANT
*Monty – Late Biscuit*
Monty injects his killer hip-hop grooves into some dangerously acidic halftime. Listen with extreme caution.