It’s that time of year when all of your favorite blogs & sites are releasing their best albums lists. As we all can agree, the only thing that kept us sane in the tumultuous 2016 were the amazing jams coming through your speakers.
Keeping up with our tradition, Josh hands over the year’s end duties to some of our featured artists to get their perspectives on this year’s best music. This way you get to know your next favorite artist better by finding out what new music they appreciated in 2016, but also get an informed opinion from songwriters and performers alike.
We asked our artists to share their Top Albums of 2016, from well-known to underground acts, and from pop to alternative tracks. Did your picks make their lists? Read on to find out the indie consensus, in the 3rd Annual Albums According To Artists.
We called LAA “this year’s best kept indie secret” in our last Alt Rising Act feature of the year, so naturally we wanted to know what Jay Joslyn has been listening to in 2016 to make such amazing alt-infused indie rock. We really expect great things for LAA in the next year and hope to cover the project’s inevitable rise. Here are Jay’s Top 3 album picks of 2016, composed of acts that you might have missed–hidden gems that are highly appropriate coming from a hidden gem of an artist himself.
Cardinal by Pinegrove: Amazing blend of alt country and riddled with Emo undertones. Unlike a lot of music I have heard lately, beautiful and honest lyrics.
Valuables by Enemies: Really sad that Enemies have decided to break up, but I’m very grateful that they produced a final effort as a farewell. Very different than what they have produced in the past but it still carries a dynamic energy.
Krill (Self-Titled) by Krill: Also very, very sad that Krill has decided to break up. This EP is captivating and gives a lot of insight to their mindset. Always so honest and sonically interesting. Really hope they continue to produce music in some capacity.
Mariam gave us “passionate atmospheric soulpop” this year, and her picks for best albums really reflect the contextual soundscape of her artistry, with attention to effortless and invigorating textures in R&B, dynamic and fierce pop, and world-infused production. Mariam combines qualities of each album in her sound, which ultimately adds up for a great mix that sounds as refreshing as each of these albums. Here Mariam describes why these records inspired her this year.
A Seat At The Table by Solange: This is my number one album, because I think it is such a creative piece that looked into today’s culture and the things that were happening in the world at a perfect time. It’s been awhile since I have been able to let a whole album play, I love the lyrics and the amazing beats, it’s hard to pick a favourite track as it is solid from start to finish; very inspiring, very intentional and well executed.
Long Live The Angels by Emeli Sande: This one grew on me, but I love the creativity and her sound. For obvious reasons, I am loving the interlude vibe (which I did in my own EP) which creates great breathing space in the album. This album is so atmospheric and just feels like the perfect escapism–a great come back.
The Island by Shakka: I have been following Shakka for ages. I love his energy when he performs and in his music. This EP is such a vibe, his style is so unique, and this EP is definitely a head banger from the first track ‘I love the way.’ He has been such a consistent artist on the underground so it’s great he is getting some props; he is great British artist.
CHORD are working on their 3rd album to follow up Ode To Scarlet, released this time last year. I’m sure we can expect “folk sentimentality, winding indie-pop construction, with rock reminiscent of aughts-era alternativism” in their forthcoming record. These guys’ picks cover some great UK acts that accomplish an impressive collections of tracks in their release. As CHORD explains, “our lifelong quest persists in finding artists that can produce an album where every track is as great as the next and… more common than not, it’s usually an independent band / artist that can pull this off.”
Closer EP by Cape Cub: Probably our favorite discovery this year. Cape Cub has yet to produce a full album yet, but their EP offerings to date, Closer and 6am, have got us hooked as we wait in baited breath for a full release. If you’re reading this Chad, we’d love to collaborate!
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy by Brightly: Charlie Gleason has done it again with Brightly‘s fourth album release. This guy really knows how to make awesome music, blending acoustics, electro and vocoders seamlessly – not to mention his silky voice. We really dig his innovative and interactive song video experiments too.
Keeping the Peace by Arthur Beatrice: From the name you might imagine this is an independent male artist, until you hit play and get engulfed by the gorgeous female voice of Ella Girardot. The cool thing about this quartet is that all four of them can and want to sing, so they like to swap lead vocals around depending on what sounds right for each particular track. “Keeping the Peace” is this UK based band’ s debut album and we just can’t stop listening to it, in anticipation of their next album “Working Out.”
As you may know, being based in Southern California makes us have a certain love for Los Angeles based acts. One of our favorites is Sympathetic Frequencies, with their “soulful and sympathetic indie rock” that “quilts together charming, covetous, and soaring vocals with alluringly revolving instrumentals, complete with a confident driving beat.” We’ve only covered them a few times in special features such as an Anniversary Mixtape and last year’s Albums According To Artists list, but we’re confident that in 2017 we can officially induct them as Alt Rising Acts with the new music they have on the horizon. Here frontman Trevor O’Neill tells us why these albums made his Top 3 list.
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead: I know this is probably an obvious one, but damn. This record shook me. It’s so dark but also strangely hopeful, a balancing act that only Radiohead can pull off this well. The arrangements feel so effortless, but the complexity reveals itself more and more with each listen. This is just an amazing record.
Blonde by Frank Ocean: We are all big fans of Frank Ocean and this record only further solidified our love of his work. The use of guitar on this record is so interesting and exciting. It simultaneously provides harmony, melody, and rhythm in a way you don’t often hear in popular music while remaining subtle and understated. Plus that Andre verse in “Solo” makes me want to cry every time I hear it.
Boy King by Wild Beasts: I fell in love with this band when our drummer, Brian, sent me the song “Wanderlust” off of their previous record Present Tense. He discovered them when his old band, Super Humanoids, opened for them a while back. I immediately dove into their catalog and love it all. It took me a second to get on board with this one as it’s a bit more pop and dance oriented than their past work, but after seeing them play it live a couple months back, I’m all in. This band just creates such a wonderful, dark, otherworldly space with their music and it’s become one of my favorite places to be.
The Good Wives had a great year with the “guitar-centric cathartic experience” they gave us in Robot Island, and we’re glad we played such a small role in its release. We announced and previewed their album back in the early summer, and now they’ve been named on a few “Best of 2016” lists for their incredible debut record. We’ll always be extremely grateful to them, as they provided us with our fantastic theme song from the Stage Presence podcast: Keep It Coming. We hope we can keep our collaborations coming, since their gracious personalities match their captivating music. The guys told me that being invited back each year for this feature is “one of the highlights of being in this band,” and we’re glad we can count on them time and again! Here’s their extensive list of 2016 favorites.
Shane (Guitar/Bass/Backing Vocals): Psychedelic Swamp by Dr. Dog, Hot Candy by Smokey Brights, and Life in the Dark by The Felice Brothers.
Nic (Guitar/Bass): Nic spent all year listening to God Shuffled His Feet by Crash Test Dummies.
The Violent Sleep of Reason by Meshuggah: Meshuggah has always made people feel bad as musicians, so to drive that point further, they decided to track this album live.
Maximalism by Amaranthe: This band has always been the musical equivalent of an action movie. This time they channel a trip to Vegas and the spirit of Disney into metal while maintaining self awareness. The drummer said ‘hi’ to me in a cellphone video.
Lust & Loathing by The Unguided: The best collection of songs from the band solidifies their eccentricities for fantasy artwork and parodying their own song titles.
Jake (Vocals/Guitar/Bass): I can’t narrow down from these four records to pick a favorite, so I don’t know how to cut down to three and have decided to cheat and list four records. These four are the albums that resonated most with me this year. I spent significant time with each, and think all four are real accomplishments. Great year of new music, though.
The Life of Pablo by Kanye West, Blonde by Frank Ocean, Lemonade by Beyonce, and Freetown Sound by Blood Orange.
One of our most entertaining interviews of the year came from Seattle’s Lando. The “infectious psych-infused indie rock outfit” shared their vibing Among Their Clouds EP earlier this year, and you may have also heard lead singer Ryan Bedard featured in this year’s Macklemore album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. Quite a breakout year for the trio, and we hope to keep having them back on IndieBeat in the new year. Another thing this group also does right is succinctly and personally write about their favorite albums, as displayed in their Alt Rising Acts Q&A. Each member of Lando displays their talent by sharing their top album of 2016 below.
Landon: A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead – I don’t really have anything profound to say about the album, it just had more of what I love about Radiohead. I heard influences from Thom’s work with Atoms for Peace, who are also great, and I was glad to see that come through in this album. “Decks Dark” is probably in my top 3 favorite Radiohead songs ever, I really dug that track and the atmosphere of everything going on. I consider the album to be the product of masters of the craft.
Jake: Every Now and Then by Jagwar Ma – I loved their freshman effort Howlin and had a blast hanging with these dudes in San Fran and at Bumbershoot this year. They are some of the most down to earth, rad guys I’ve met. Their sophomore album is more of the same, yet still refreshingly new. It’s dancey, it’s psychedelic, and it’s catchy. I’m a huge fan of Jono Ma’s synth work.
Ryan:Awaken My Love by Childish Gambino – I love me some of that falsetto. Although some tracks on this album fall short, the ones the get it right, get it so right they are easy to overlook. I really hope to see Childish Gambino continue in this direction.
We believe in every artist we work with, but we only continually work with artists if we truly like them. With that in mind, we must really like Captiva and their “signature attention to rhythmic [rock] funk.” In the year and a half we’ve known them, they’ve been frequent guests to the blog. Frankly it’s because they’re talented, popular and charismatic. They would not have the awards and credits if they weren’t: SXSW, Consequence of Sound coverage, a Daytrotter session, TV appearances, festival slots, you name it. They take the music seriously but not themselves, which cannot be said about many bands. We’re very excited about their upcoming release, which I talked to drummer Hank Wiedel about in our Stage Presence interview earlier in the year. I’m sure we’ll keep collaborating with Captiva in 2017, since we know they’ll keep rapidly rising. Check out their diverse Top 5 albums picks:
Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard & The Lizard WizardHome of the Strange by Young The GiantThe Life of Pablo by Kanye WestA Sailor’s Guide To Earth by Sturgill SimpsonRedneck Shit by Wheeler Walker Jr.
One of the thrills of featuring artists on the site is watching their growth with each release. We’ve been lucky to see SunGhosts get the critical and popular attention they deserve, with the release of their self-titled full length earlier this year. These energetic guys are always producing great music, but their debut record really proves their attention to detail in songwriting, asserting that rock is not dead with their dynamic, driving sound. We had a great conversation with the guys in our New Music Showcase episode of Stage Presence, which you can stream here to find out more about their new album. We’re always glad to have these down-to-earth fan-favorites back on the site, and we hope to cover more of their rise in 2017. Each of the four guys share their Top 3 albums of 2016 below, spanning a wide range of rock albums that really reveals a lot of the sonic influences that the SunGhosts record evokes.
Nik Olas (Vocals, Guitar): Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Future, Present, Past by The Strokes, and The Getaway by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Jared Steingold (Bass): Transcendence by Devin Townsend Project, Magma by Gojira, and Periphery 3: Select Difficulty.
Arminio “Crocodile” Rivero (Guitar): You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen, Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest.
Louie Estopiñan (Drums): Gore by Deftones, A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, and The Madness of Many by Animals as Leaders.
Thanks once again to all of our artists for making it another great year full of indie + alternative music. Most of our favorite albums of the year came from the incredible indie acts we’ve covered, such as the artists above, Depressica, Haathi and many, many more.
For more Best Of 2016 albums, we recommend our friends over at indiexmusic‘s all- encompassing and well thought out AOTY list.
We can’t wait to share more amazing and innovative music with you in the new year. Be sure to check in with us in 2017 to find out more about your next favorite artists. Happy Holidays from all of us here at IndieBeat.