Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Top Albums of 2016

This is the Top 10 Albums of the Year list I put together for 2016 as a volunteer for CHIRP Radio...

CHIRP Radio Best of 2016
Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2016. Our next list is from DJ and Blog Manager Clarence Ewing.

Lately I’ve been thinking about alternate realities. If the musings of some very smart people are to be believed, different outcomes from every event you or I or we experience get played out in an endless number of universes. At this moment in time there are other existences where Cubs fans once again have to Wait ‘TIll Next Year, where great artists I just assumed would always be around still grace us with their presence, if only for a little longer, where people across the world gleefully toast the coming new year as they shake their heads and chuckle “Can you believe the Americans almost voted that a__hole into office? What were they thinking?”

The idea of what might have been ended up being the unconscious theme of my Top 10 albums list for this year. The 10 albums I chose are not just among the best 2016 had to offer but also, in their own way, they represent different worlds resulting from different decisions made individually and collectively…

#1   Saturday Night Fever by Gate (MIE Music)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Gate Saturday Night FeverThis album feels more like 2016...OUR 2016...than any other I’ve heard this year. It exquisitely captures how the thinnest veneer of vapid, mindless entertainment easily gives way to the corrosion, dread, and horror underneath. In another reality, this is still in my Top Ten, but its meaning isn’t so all-encompassing and real.
#2   Awaawaa by Woo (Palto Flats)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Woo AwaawaaAn alternate reality where record companies overtook pharmaceutical manufacturers as the go-to method to get relief through mind-altering experiences. This album was originally produced in the 1970s, but its other-worldly, trippy-calmative effects make it ahead of its time even today.
#3   Wildflower by The Avalanches (Modular)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Avalanches WildflowerAn alternate reality where the idea of tuning in and dropping out for the heck of it is just fine, where hour-long trips along psychic pathways generated by loops and samples is the best mini-vacation money can buy. It took a while to get album #2 out, but it was soooooo worth it.

#4   I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City by Andre Williams (Bloodshot)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Andre Williams I Wanna Go Back to Detroit CityI Wanna Go Back to Detroit City An alternate reality where the place the masses turn to for worldly wisdom isn’t the stock market or the pundits, but people who have lived rough, full lives and have the talent to turn it into art. Thank God for the Blues.
#5   IV by BADBADNOTGOOD (Beat)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

BADBADNOTGOOD IVAn alternate reality where where one’s ability to collaborate and create is valued higher than one’s ability to yell and lie. BADBADNOTGOOD might be the best backing band working right now.
#6   We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest (Epic)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

A Tribe Called Quest We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your ServiceAn alternate reality where corporate CEOs have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet while genius musicians are handed millions of dollars to regularly produce output without having to worry about things like ticket sales and booking gigs, because you have to pay for quality, right? Tribe might have gone on extended hiatus as far as making records goes, but the game never left them. This one goes right on the shelf next to Midnight Marauders and The Low End Theory as examples of what Hip-Hop can do in the right hands.
#7   It's a World of Love and Hope by The Flat Five (Bloodshot)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Flat Five It's a World of Love and HopeAn alternate reality where Rock ‘N Roll never replaced Jazz as America’s Pop music but the attitude and outlook of Punk still needed a voice, where stories of rage, frustration, and angst are delivered with gorgeous harmonies and impeccable musicianship.
#8   A Sailor's Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson (Atlantic)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Sturgill Simpson A Sailor's Guide to EarthAn alternate reality where Country music didn’t devolve into vapid Pop with cowboy boots and musicians embraced Gram Parsons’ vision of Cosmic American Music, taking cues and ideas from across genres and singing their songs not just with a twang but also some genuine Soul.
#9   Dissociation by The Dillinger Escape Plan (Sumerian)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Dillinger Escape Plan DissociationAn alternate reality where the only way to get people to listen to you express your disgust with whatever’s bugging you is to be really, really good at playing music.
#10   Deluxe by Omni (Trouble in Mind)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Omni DeluxeAn alternate reality where the big record companies never consolidated and got absorbed by conglomerates, where the movie Hi Fidelity was never released and didn’t plant the stereotype of Alternative music as the domain of creeps and losers, where the Alternative/Independent ethos set up by R.E.M. and The Replacements became the standard for others to shoot for.
Honorable Mentions
10 more albums that stood out for me this year:

Animal Collective - Painting With
Arbeit Schickert Schneider - ASS
Beth Orton - Kidsticks
Camera - Phantom of Liberty
Death Grips - Bottomless Pit
FURR - FURR EP
Tortoise - The Catastrophist
Tyvek - Origin of What
Virus - Memento Collider
Wye Oak - Tween

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