As is tradition, we ask Programming Committee members, staff, and bands what their Top 10 albums, shows or musical moments were in the past year. Lists come in through the month (so keep peeking back in), but here’s what we have so far! Playlist featuring selections from the lists below is at the bottom of the post your listening pleasure.
- Shellac – Live @Regency Ballroom || Been on the docket for a long time. They delivered. Someone excessively filming this show on their phone almost ruined the vibe for me, but their performance prevailed.
- Rakta – III || Exploring otherworldly boundaries within a classic genre.
- Neurosis – Fires Within Fires || “30 years of strength and vision” is a good statement about this band. So consistent in quality after all these years.
- Feels – s/t || “Small Talk” might be my favorite song this year.
- Private Room – Forever and Ever || Lost their singer and carried on as a 3 piece under a new moniker. Like before, but perhaps a bit weirder and opened up to more experimenting in structure due to no frontman.
- VHS – Gift of Life || Solid in writing and sound. Very happy that one of the songs made it on to a Thrasher video. Album ends so beautifully with the song “Constant Hiss.”
- Protomartyr – Live @Holland Project || Best sounding band I’ve ever seen there. “Best sounding rack tom I’ve ever heard live.” -MoreGain
- Toys That Kill “Sentimental Ward” || Makes me feel sentimental about the San Pedro music scene.
- Tony Molina – Confront the Truth || A display of musicianship that far exceeds what’s expected of a punk musician. Tony mixes his influences of short/fast power violence songs and the instrumental prowess of artists like Santana and The Beatles to make this a completely original and beautiful release. Description sounds very bizarre, but you’ll get the idea once you hear it.
- Colin Newman – A to Z || This is a reissued release from 36 years ago. This is the dude from the band Wire. Upon listening, it sounds exactly like a classic Wire album. Very cool to discover a whole catalogue of an artists you never knew existed. Reissued along with two other albums I haven’t gotten around to listening to yet.
Really loved the albums:
- Frank ocean – blonde
- Kanye – the life of Pablo
- blood orange – Freetown sound
- Mac Miller – the divine feminine
- Bon iver – 22 a million
- the weeknd – star boy
- Homeshake – midnight snack
- and the Beverly laurel single by tame impala that released this summer
All the albums have special memories and moments in my life attached to them, especially blonde which came out at the perfect time in my opinion
Fave shows: definitely Lil Traffic shows lol, so much fun such a cool crowd every time and so much energy. Also really loved the 90s Dance Party it was just a really fun time, always love a dance party and Djing them is so much fun. Loved Audacity it was like my 4th time seeing them, love them and hope to see them again soon!! Also really liked the Carseat Headrest show.
Fave moments are probably all the times I got to DJ at holland or anywhere else!! Always such a blast.
2016: Sometimes Pop Music is just really, really good.
Top 10 Albums (1-10 from top to bottom)
- Blonde – Frank Ocean
- Hopelessness – Anohni
- A Seat at the Table – Solange
- Lemonade – Beyoncé
- We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest
- The Life of Pablo – Kanye West
- Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
- Blackstar – David Bowie
- Anti – Rihanna
- My Woman – Angel Olsen
Top Videos (top to bottom)
- Lemonade – Beyoncé -duh
- Nikes/Endless – Frank Ocean
- Gosh – Jamie XX
- Lazarus – David Bowie
- One Night – Lil Yachty
- Cranes in the Sky – Solange
- Drone Bomb Me – Anohni
- Everybody Wants To Love You – Japanese Breakfast
- Daydreaming – Radiohead
- Pneumonia – Danny Brown
Broccoli – Big Baby D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty
Shut Up Kiss Me – Angel Olsen
Aphex Twin – CIRKLON3 [ Колхозная mix ] Fade/Famous – Kanye West
- “Lemonade” – Beyonce
- “Coloring Book” – Chance the Rapper
- “Blonde” – Frank Ocean
- “Telefone” – Noname
- “A Seat at the Table” – Solange
- “HEAVN” – Jamila Woods
- “Yes Lawd!” – NxWorries
- “We got it from Here… Thank you 4 Your service” – A Tribe Called Quest
- “A Good Night in the Ghetto” – Kamiyah
- “Freetown Sound” – Blood Orange
10: Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper / Life Of Pablo – Kayne West (tie)
9: Gore – Deftones
8: Freetown Sound – Blood Orange
7: Teen Suicide – It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot/Bonus EP
6: Porches – Pool
5: Nails – You’ll Never Be One Of Us
4: Blond – Frank Ocean
3: Pixie Queen – Anthony Green
2: When You Walk A Long Distance You’re Tired – Mothers
1: Cardinal – Pinegrove
Romantic – Mannequin Pussy
Kendrink Lemar – Untitled Unmastered
These Streets – Out Of Time
Death Drips – Bottomless Pit
Angel Olsen – My Woman
This is definitely not all-encompassing or a “Best Of” but, here’s ten extremely good albums released this year that I’ve listened to a lot / are an attempt to capture how 2016 has felt for me. Alphabetically!
1. Anxiety – Anxiety
2. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Side B
3. Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
4. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
5. Pity Sex – White Hot Moon
6. Self Defense Family – Colicky / Superior / The Power Does Not Work In The Presence Of Nonbelievers (3 separate EPs that I’m just gonna pretend were 1 album for the sake of this list)
7. Summer Cannibals – Full Of It
8. Tancred – Out of the Garden
9. The Body – No One Deserves Happiness
10. Witch Hats – Deliverance
**a special shout-out to the fight that broke out behind me at PJ Harvey, and the fight that broke out in front of me at Morrissey. Two crucial 2016 moments for me that I will never forget. ❤
- Frank Ocean – “Blonde”
- Car Seat Headrest – “Teens of Denial”
- Florist – “The Birds Outside Sang”
- Mitski – “Puberty 2”
- Angel Olsen “My Woman”
- P.S. Elliot “2007-2011”
- Me Oh My Mirror – Current Joys
- The Garden @ the holland project
- Told Slant “Going By”
- Ian Sweet – “Shapeshifter”
- Angel Olson – My Woman
- Frank Ocean – Blonde
- Mykki Blanco – Mykki
- Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
- Deakin – Sleep Cycle
- Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
- Holy Fuck – Congrats
- Head Wound City – A New Wave of Violence
- Marching Church – Telling Like It Is
- Jesu, Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
-Babyfather – BFF
-21 Savage, Metro Boomin – Savage Mode
-Lil Yachty – Lil Boat
- “Lemonade” by Beyoncé
- “Anti” by Rihanna
- “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” by A Tribe Called Quest
- “Changes” by Charles Bradley
- “Coloring Book” by Chance The Rapper
- “Malibu” by Anderson .Paak
- “Blonde” by Frank Ocean
- “A Seat At the Table ” by Solange
- “Blank Face” by Schoolboy Q
- “Black Star” by David Bowie
- Dan Sartain – Century Plaza (Listened to this all the time for the first few months of the year. I love the album despite it sounding so different from Dan Sartain’s previous releases! Super haunting, sounds like a ride in a UFO, and leaves the taste of great coffee in my mouth. Essential Track: Feigning Ignorance)
- Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone (Amazing, amazing project from Internet genius/creator/computer programmer Neil Cicierega! I have been anticipating this album since the release of his last album View Monster in 2008! Spirit Phone is bouncy, dark, morbidly humorous, and leaves me in happy tears. The album was released via live stream at midnight on February 29th — that night was ecstatic. Essential Track: Touch-Tone Telephone)
- Death Grips – Bottomless Pit (“Very Shallow Listening” Essential Track: BB Poison)
- Morrissey at the GSR – (My fifth time seeing Moz live, first time seeing him in Reno. We started waiting in line at 10am and ended up being close enough to the stage to hand Morrissey the letters we had written for him. <3)
- The Garden at Holland – (Wow wow wow! This may have been the best and most wild show I have ever been to. The Garden possessed the most erratic stage presence which brought tons of energy to the unfortunately small crowd. Loved every bit of it.)
- Harry and the Potters at Slim’s in San Francisco – (Seeing the pioneers of Wizard Rock perform was one of the most emotional experiences of my short life. Paul and Joe, the brothers that make up the band, put on an incredibly energetic show. It was as humorous, terrifying, angsty, and hilarious as the Harry Potter books themselves.)
- Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Listened to this album repeatedly over the year and ended up finding a signed copy at Rough Trade in London. Essential Track: Paraphrased)
- Nobunny at Holland (No need to describe this one — it’s a Nobunny show!)
- City Wolves – Drive ur car… (Essential Track: Restless)
- They Might Be Giants – Phone Power (They Might Be Giants always puts something amazing together. Phone Power is the last installment of songs from TMBG’s 2015 Dial-A-Song service. Essential Track: I am Alone)
Honorable Mentions: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Cave, The I.L.Y’s – Scum With Boundaries, Skepta – Konnichiwa
- Lemon Demon // Spirit Phone
- Morrissey at the GSR
- City Wolves // Drive ur car straight into the lake. That’s what I would do if I were u
- Protomartyr at Holland
- Descendents // Hypercaffium Spazzinate
- The Garden at Holland
- Nobunny at Holland
- Death Grips // Bottomless Pit
- Skepta // Konnichiwa
- Parquet Courts // Human Performance
Here’s my top five albums and top five shows of the year in no particular order, just the greatest things in music for me this year.
Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Barrow Wight – Kings in Sauron’s Service
Khemmis – Hunted
Miserable – Uncontrollable
Urfaust – Empty Space Meditation
Miserable, Surly, Lil Traffic, Baby Dog @ Holland Project
Shannon and the Clams, Gazebos, Dead Segals @ Holland Project
Hell, Amarok, Aseethe @ Monstros Pizza in Chico
Machine Girl, Tea Haze, y:midnight2612, Fox Figure @ Black Rock Drive-In
Halloween Show @ Holland Project
- Not to Disappear – Daughter. I got to see Daughter live this year, and they’re one of those bands that sound better in real life. It was honestly such a surreal experience.
- Untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar. For me this album(?)/ compilation was like a afterword or conclusion of To Pimp a Butterfly, super low key but still amazing.
- Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper. This album will always take me back to Summer of 2016, and only gets better the more you listen to it. Coloring Book reminds us of our blessings, it’s uplifting and motivating, and overall just an RICH collection of songs. 10/10 MUST LISTEN
- A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead. I love a good stop motion animation, and the music vid for Burn the Witch was just that. My fav song has got to be Glass Eyes, the build up is just so beautiful, it gives me chills every time. This album will always be one of my go to’s!
- Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest. This album came out just after Will played at Holland! There’s something really sad and angsty about this album that is relatable and makes me feel nostalgic.
- Puberty 2- Mitski. I feel comforted knowing that Mitski is out there. As one of the few Asian females in the music industry, she represents a lot of the struggles I can relate to that I haven’t heard or seen represented anywhere else. Her music always feels very organic and authentic. There’s something about Puberty 2 that I can’t pin down; through her songs you can hear her struggling to figure things out, because she hasn’t figured things out and she isn’t trying to pretend like she has. You can hear the conflict between what she feels, what she is expected to feel, and what she wants to feel. Puberty 2 embodies her everyday struggles to be happy, and she’s vulnerable and honest. It’s so different than the way many other artists present themselves. Ahh okay anyways listen to Puberty 2 it’s great.
- Blonde- Frank Ocean. Finally!!! This was such a good summer album. Frank Ocean is such a summer album guy. Blonde was sort of plain the first time I listened to it; the songs were hard to distinguish from one another, but I was also distracted and driving when I first heard it. Blonde was one of those albums that just hits you, though, just one day when you’re listening again and then suddenly a wave of peach colored enlightenment washes over you and you’re a changed person. The songs in Blonde work together to create this feeling, and you have to work for it. It is such a well crafted album that I don’t think I could listen to the songs individually outside the context of the album. Worth the year wait!
- The Bible 2- AJJ. AJJ will always have a special place in my heart!! Seeing and meeting them live totally changed my understanding of them as a band. Sometimes you meet bands and your romanticized version of them is shattered but with AJJ, I felt like they were such humble, down to earth people. I can’t say The Bible 2 will ever outdo Knife Man for me but I really appreciate the fluidity in their sound and how they aren’t afraid to explore different styles.
- About that- Surly. My good friend Erin Miller!!! She has come such a long way and I feel like a Proud Mom. Highly! Recommend!
- Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this album when I first heard it. It was so different than what he used to make. Some songs felt out of place and disjointed, but the more I have listened to it, the more I fall in love with it. This album is definitely more thoughtful, vulnerable, and explorative.
1- Protomartyr – Born to Be Wine (song)
2- Parquet Courts – Human Performance
3- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
4- Preoccupations – Preoccupations
5- Swans – The Glowing Man
6- People With Bodies – you know, the one they haven’t released yet
7- Rob Ford Explorer – fuckboi EP
8- Slow Hollows – Romantic
9- Creative Adult – Fear of Life
- Kanye West – Life of Pablo
- Frank Ocean – Blonde
- Angel Olsen – My Woman
- Beyonce – Lemonade
- Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
- Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave
- Creative Adult – Fear of Life
- Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
- Mannequin Pussy – Romantic
- Young Thug – JEFFERY
- Western Addiction – I’m not the man I thought I’d Be EP
- Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me
- Peach Kelli Pop – Halloween Mask EP
- Together Pangea – The Phage EP
- LA Witch – Drive Your Car
- Guantanamo Baywatch – Darling… It’s Too Late
- The Growlers – City Club
- Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here… Thank you for your service
- The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend
- Jacuzzi Boys – Happy Damage
- A Tribe Called Quest- ‘We Got It From Here…”
- Childish Gambino- “Awaken, My Love!”
- Frank Ocean- “Blonde”
- Anderson Paak- “Malibu”
- Drake- “Views”
- De La Soul- “and the Anonymous Nobody”
- Chance the Rapper- “Coloring Book”
- Common “Black America Again”
- Dumbfounded “We Might Die”
- The Weeknd “Starboy”
- Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
- Angel Olsen – My Woman
- Beyonce – Lemonade
- Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
- Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
- Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love
- Big Star – Complete Third
- Mitski – Puberty 2
- Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
- Bon Iver – 22 Million
- and one A++++ book – Springsteen’s Memoir: Born to Run
Honorable Mentions: Mykki Blanco, Solange, GOAT, Nick Cave, Frank Ocean
In memoriam <3: Essential Leonard Cohen (for listening) and I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons (for reading) / The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (Five Years on repeat) or Blackstar / Purple Rain (Let’s Go Crazy on repeat) / 100 Days/100 Nights or Give the People What They Want / Tribe Called Quest MTV Unplugged (1991) / anything featuring Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson – albums, duets, YouTube vids
Local shout outs: Surly, Blackstallion
- FREE 6LACK- 6LACK
- DEXTER THE ROBOT – FAMOUS DEX
- AWAKEN, MY LOVE! – CHILDISH GAMBINO
- LIL UZI VERT VS. THE WORLD – LIL UZI VERT
- COZY TAPES – ASAP MOB
- INDICA – INDICA
- 31 BELOW – ICY DAVE
- HOWL YOUTH – KESARE
- WAKING AT DAWN – ROY WOODS
- VEGA INTL. NIGHT SCHOOL – NEON INDIAN
(in no particular order):
- Baby Dog EP – I love Chris Monzon, everything he does is pure, pure gold, including and especially this EP. He has talent coming out his ears.
- King Woman at Holland – I met one of the most inspiring and supportive women I have ever known, Kristina Esfandiari. We’ve been friends ever since and I’m endlessly grateful to Holland for creating the space for us to have met.
- zolpidem by Blackstallion – This album is INCREDIBLE. Not only is it very musically sound, but lyrically it’s out of this world.
- Puberty 2 by Mitski – Too many feelings
- Blond(e) by Frank Ocean – WORTH THE WAIT
- People With Bodies EP – I listened to this for like a month straight when it first came out because it’s so… good! I took this tape with me to the East Coast so I could have a piece of home. I broke it.
- Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper – THIS ALBUM IS EVERYTHING
- Sculpture Club, 20xx, Murderdream, Amoeba – WOW, what a stacked bill this was! This show was right as Summer was winding down, it was so beautiful and perfect. So many good friends and good vibes.
- Tangerine, Neighbors, Basha – ANOTHER great night filled with incredible sets. I remember going to Park Place afterwards and hanging out with Neighbors until some freaky early hour in the morning, completely entranced by Red Hot Nickel Ball youtube videos.
- Foster Body – Seeing Foster Body was the beginning of so many wonderful friendships with the good folks in Salt Lake City. The atmosphere that this band created was so genuine and beautiful, it was one of those shows that remind you why you love music so much. It’s so important to have shows like that where you feel it in every part of you.
Top Ten Albums of 2K16 in Alphabetical Order
- Autolux – “Pussy’s Dead” || Another album of super chill psychedelic future rock from this LA somewhat-super group (with hands down one of the best drummers on the planet.) More inspired than their previous effort, with plenty of the angular turns and loos tracking around the edges they’re known for, the only drag about a new Autolux album is they only seem to drop about every 6 years.
- Bad Future – “Bad Future” || Blistering rock ‘n fucking roll from this new group of Seattle weirdos. Definite Wipers vibes here, a little Jehu, even, dare I say it, a dusting of Nirvana, so, you know…right up my alley.
- David Bowie – “Blackstar” || What can I say about this record that everyone else hasn’t said 100 times already. Another masterwork by the greatest of all time. RIP.
- Iggy Pop – “Post Pop Depression” || This was my sleeper hit of 2016, in that I didn’t expect I was going to like it as much as I did. Easily the best thing old James Osterberg has done in years. Imagine Iggy doing his best Bowie impersonation and being backed by Queens of the Stone Age (because that’s exactly what it is.) Bonus points for also being my 3-year-old son’s favorite album of the year.
- Planes Mistaken for Stars – “Prey” || One of the most underrated rock bands of the 2000s came out of retirement with what I think is their best work to date, a brooding, dark monster of a rock record that at times slithers and at times stomps. Few bands can express anguish and emptiness while still kicking ass like PMFS. I’m glad they’re back.
- Radiohead – “A Moon Shaped Pool” || I had a long conversation with a couple of friends about whether or not Radiohead is still relevant in 2016. I argued they are and exhibit A is this record. On the surface, it does what a lot of their other records do, gorgeous string arrangements, skittering rhythms, paranoid lyrics, piles of guitar effects, delicate piano work, but never have they been able to marry all past influences together in a seamless work like here. It’s also (and this is just speculation on my part) amazing to think of as a last artifact. It has a feel of finality to it that, when taken in context of their entire catalog, to me, makes perfect sense.
- Savages – “Adore Life” || Dark, passionate post punk executed flawlessly. Their first record sold me, and this one confirms that Savages are the real deal.
- Thee Oh Sees – “A Weird Exits” || They’re fantastically consistent and prolific to a fault; it’s been increasingly hard to keep up with what these weirdos are doing. All I can say is, as someone who kind of has Thee Oh Sees fatigue, this album made a huge impression on me that they haven’t done since the Warm Slime/Castlemania era. For a band that can easily be described as garagey krautrock, this is one of the most krautrocky records they’ve done.
- A Tribe Called Quest – “We’ve got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” || I’m willing to call this the best album of the year. A strangely prophetic (given it was recorded long before the election) socially conscious hip-hop record with lights-out production, jam-packed with awesome samples, and boasting every MC on their A-game. We didn’t deserve a new Tribe record, but what we got was a masterpiece. If you listen to nothing else on this list, make it this record. We need it now more than ever.
- VHS – “Gift of Life” || Another “no shit Sherlock” addition to this list: tight buds playing phased-out, angular rock music. Jawsh has been one of my favorite songwriters for years, and Morgan one of my favorite guitar players. Seriously, if you are into the agitated guitar music of the 90s underground, there is nothing to not like about this record.
CHELSIE ROSE KERN
In no particular order of importance:
- and the Anonymous Nobody… – De La Soul, released on my bday no less
- Lemonade visual album – Beyoncé
- My Woman – Angel Olson
- The Life of Pablo – Kanye West, Ultralight Beam :heart:
- Puberty 2 – Mitski, Happy music vid is v wonderful
- Freetown Sound – Blood Orange
- The Colour in Anything – James Blake
- Trans Day of Revenge – G.L.O.S.S.
- You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen, RIP King
- Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour concert in San Jose with some of my best beds this May. It was the first stadium show I’ve been to since I was a yüng bb, and the production was insane. I cried the entire time. Not sure exactly where the wave emotions came from; the female psyche; past heartbreaks; the empowering spirit of her album as a whole? Idk, but it was phenomenal.
PEOPLE WITH BODIES
1. David Dondero live at the Hemlock Tavern (San Fransisco, CA 10/22) – “You know that guy that Dick Cheney shot in the face? Yeah, he owned the building the recording studio was in and it kept suspiciously catching on fire.” – (paraphrase Dave Dondero)
2. Aloizio live at Casa Do Mancha (São Paulo, Brazil 06/09) – Casa Do Mancha is a Holland-sized room in São Paulo that sells homemade booze. Later, we ended up at a stadium show by the band Kaiser Chiefs, and our friend Marcelo Florentino turned to us and said “It’s no Aloizio at Casa Do Mancha…”
3. Acid Mothers Temple @ Studio on 4th (Reno, NV 3/17) – Such a spontaneous & surreal happening. There was a theremin player where a lead singer usually stands on stage. He looked like a wizard. One of the guitarists would kick his gain up all the way and hold his guitar in the air by the whammy bar, creating a terrifying banshee wail. After the show my friend Julian said he saw that and thought “God, I love electric guitar!”
4. Sound of passing bees – woods near Portola, CA – They created a doppler effect going in many different directions, it was a sort of low buzz that pervaded my senses. For a minute I had no idea what was happening. Then I realized it was the sound of bees. I got stung by a bee this year.
5. “The Revenant” Soundtrack – We walked around the desert all day in the cold and saw a big owl fly across the horizon. That night it was snowing a little and we went to see the Revenant. It’s a really beautiful sounding film, and I remember being hit over and over again with the seemingly late low string swells. The soundtrack creates such a huge sense of cold, open space.
6. That Basement Show On Keysone Ave. – Local Girls, City Wolves, Rick Springsteen, Basha + a bunch other rad bands (Reno, NV 08/13) – It was really sweaty in there. When City Wolves played, I flew into a big metal sink and I remember the big “clang” noise it made. Local Girls played their first show and we immediately fell in love.
7. Winnemucca Lake silence. January 01/09 – I saw so many loud shows this year (Some that appear on this list) that I got tinnitus. I’ll always remember how quiet it was out on Winnemucca Lake that afternoon.
8. A Mulher Do Fin Do Mundo – Elza Soares – Elza is a septuagenarian Samba icon who put out an experimental punk record — I cannot stress enough how cool of an album this is.
9. Husky Boys, Fringe Class, Taste Buds @ Fort Ryland. (Rainy sunday in March) – “The best show nobody ever saw.” – Husky Boy
10. Up is the Down is the + Surly + Roo @ Holland Project (December) – Surly performed with Todd on the drums and everything was so tight. Erin is such a natural on the stage. Up Is The Down Is The played some killer, smooth new stuff. And Roo sounded great and (as always) played with a ton of heart.
Honorable mentions: Thick Business + Everyone is Dirty @ Treefort showcase (The Saint) + Miner Threat at Holland Halloween show, Decurso Drama S/T EP, The Witch Soundtrack.
- Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Essential Track: Not What I Needed) || Car Seat Headrest delivered one of the best indie rock albums of the decade with Teens of Denial (imo). Will Toledo’s ability to convey just what it’s like to be a 20-something in 2016 runs through so clearly and he does it in such a skillful way, with atypical song structures that are still catchy as hell and pack so much into them. That coupled with his show at Holland made CSH one of my favorite artists period and I cannot wait to see where he goes from here.
- City Wolves – Drive ur car… (Essential Track: Restless) || My friends in college say i’m borderline obsessed with City Wolves, given that I’ve played 3 of their songs on my radio show this semester and wear their shirts constantly, but it’s not without warrant. They are just such a great band. Their sound is something much much better than what you would expect from a small-time local band and they really have something special going on. That coupled with their shows always being some of my favorites and the whole band being really really really great guys just makes this album even more quintessential for me.
- The Avalanches – Wildflower (Essential Track: Because I’m Me) || I didnt find out about the Avalanches until late junior year so my wait on this album wasn’t as long as others have waited, but Wildflower was a very very solid followup to their beloved album Since I Left You. While this was less sample based than SILY, the tracks still held their own and provided a really upbeat and fun soundtrack to both my summer and probably many other summers as well.
- Death Grips – Bottomless Pit (Essential Track: Giving Bad People Good Ideas) || THE BOYS ARE BACK. My favorite boy band Death Grips just blew me away with Bottomless Pit. Opening up the album with a ferocious track that was one of my favorite tracks of the year, Death Grips kept up their signature sound of noisy industrial punk rap but still found a way to reign some things in and make some tracks more accessible (Eh, Trash). However, this didnt completely detract from their wildness as some of MC Ride’s most insane verses ever were present on this record.
- Mitski – Puberty 2 (Essential Track: Your Best American Girl) || This record came out at a perfect time for me, a time when I was going through some personal struggles with friends and life in general, and just absolutely captured everything that I wanted a record to capture. This album deals with heartbreak, identity, loss, and more in a very compelling way. Mitski, similar to CSH, is a brilliant lyricist and songwriter and knows how to capture the emotions of 20-somethings today and convey it powerfully, whether with the somber closer A Burning Hill or with the empowering Your Best American Girl.
- Savages – Adore Life (Essential Track: Adore) || Jehnny Beth, the frontwoman of Savages, is in my opinion one of the most empowering and powerful women in punk music today and this record reaffirmed that. Her and the rest of the band absolutely blew me away with this record. With their previous record Silence Yourself, the band talked about dealing with heartbreak, loss, and personal strife. With Adore Life, the band does a complete 180 and talks about love, life, and victory. Also got the chance to see them in Sacramento over the summer and seeing them perform these tracks live with such a beautiful ferocity was beyond memorable.
- Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us (Essential Track: Violence is Forever) || Nails has always been one of my favorite hardcore bands and for good reason. They take hardcore, make it faster, louder, and more intense than any other band out there. And while their two previous records had always been regarded as some of the most intense hardcore today, this record cranked up the intensity of their previous two records even more than I thought was humanly possible. The best description of this record I could find is to liken it to eating a bowl of cereal, except instead of cereal it’s broken glass and instead of milk it’s bleach. This album is punishing and sonically violent, and upon finishing it, I was feeling grateful to be alive.
- Jesus Piece – Summer ’16 Promo (Essential Track: Greed) || Jesus Piece is probably my favorite band that I discovered this year, which was a little bit before they came to perform at Holland in June. These guys take the spirit and intensity of 80s beatdown hardcore and take it to a whole ‘nother level. This tape, which is only two tracks and an interlude, is really really really well executed and quite terrifying but still very good. Excited to see what more comes of these guys.
- Mannequin Pussy – Romantic (Essential Track: Kiss) || Mannequin Pussy, in my opinion, are the most diverse band to emerge this year and their album Romantic proves that. There are noisy punk tracks that border on the line of hardcore, happy lo-fi jangle pop tracks, and everything in between. Overall just a solid album that quenched my thirst for both lo-fi rock and punk and metal all at the same time.
- The Hotelier – Goodness (Essential Track: End of Reel) || The Hotelier’s last record Home, Like No Place is There, is one of my favorite albums of all time and following that up would have been damn near impossible. However, they did about as good a job as they could with Goodness. The Hotelier proved with Goodness that they arent just an emo-revival band. They are a rock band that can put out a pretty damn good rock record.
Head Wound City – A New Wave of Violence; Kanye West – The Life of Pablo; Jeff Rosenstock – Worry; Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition; The Body/Full of Hell – You Will Ache Like I Ache
And a quick note about the Bay Area music scene: There were some AMAZING records put out by the Bay Area music scene this year, including ones by Plush, Creative Adult, Miserable, Chasms, Super Unison, and many more. Those records all fought with the other records on my list for a spot but I realized it would probably be better to just include a footnote about it. Check them out and support them as much as you can, along with the Bay Area scene in general which has had a pretty rough ending to the year and could use all the help and love we can give.
Preludes Original Cast Recording – Dave Malloy
Favorite Songs: Your Day, The First Symphony, The Prelude, Loop
I will endlessly recommend Dave Malloy and all of the music he writes. Preludes is a look into the mind of Sergei Rachmaninoff and the insanity of feeling like you can never top yourself. Dave Malloy is a literal genius and everything he makes is so creative and relatable and avant garde while retaining musical relevancy.
It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot – Teen Suicide
FS: Living Proof, Beauty, America, Violets, Long Way Down
This band is one of my favorites ever, and this album didn’t disappoint at all. The new influences present on this album are incredibly satisfying and the various production qualities keep the whole 26 songs interesting. The song The Big Joyous Celebration is more of an aesthetic than a song and i think that’s such a cool concept. The soundscapes they venture into on this album are essential listening.
Bottomless Pit – Death Grips
FS: Warping, Ring A Bell, Giving Bad People Good Ideas
The perfect culmination of everything they’ve done so far as a band. Aggressive, hard hitting, and catchy.
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers
FS: Copper Mines, It Hurts Until It Doesn’t, Lockjaw
The production and dynamics on this record are endlessly satisfying, the songwriting is unique and I love Kristines voice all over this album.
O tempora! O mores! – Foxtails
FS: Timeline, I’m A Sociopath, Welcome To Hawaii
Holy shit. Empty Beds was on a screamo compilation earlier this year with this band and the first time i heard Timeline i knew I had fallen in love with this band. This hits hard as fuck but also has this incredibly nice dark jazz feel.
Tepeu – Q’uq’umatz
FS: Creation, Only The Sky Existed, Tepeu
This album is progressive insanity. Its based off of the mayan bible and blends progressive metal with mayan folk.
Always Already – La Luna
FS: Undreaming, Father Time, Withdrawal of Consent
Fem-led screamo bands are literally my favorite thing ever. A different side of the genre than Foxtails, was also on the same compilation, their melodic ideas and execution are fucking insane.
The Glowing Man – Swans
FS: Cloud of Unknowing, People Like Us, The Glowing Man
Taking everything i love about them (noisiness, jammyness, production) and making it even better than before.
IV – BADBADNOTGOOD
FS: Time Moves Slowly, IV, Confessions Pt. II
I loooove the addition of vocals on this album, this also has their most classic feel and its a nice change of feel.
Ides – La Bella
FS: Subaltern, Wellspring, Harbinger
Fast political progressive jazz skramz. So. Good. It is a dream to play with them, they’re incredibly active politically and it inspires a lot of what I want to do with Empty Beds actually.
HAUNTER – H A U N T E R (formerly You Always Knew Me Last Week)
FS: Haunted, Depressed, Reflect
Some of the sickest drumming i’ve ever heard and I loooove how this release is produced, so clean and expressive. Amazing.
**New to me/Honorable mention/special moments artistically: Ghost Quartet /// Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 – Dave Malloy,Hamilton – Lin-Manuel Miranda, s/t – Baby Dog, SKIN and City Wolves split and helping put that together and the release show was so sick ugh, SKIN and Desnudos en Coma split, Doubt – King Woman, WESTCOASTPWERMINCEGOREGRINDVIOLENCE – Illicit Trade, Drive ur car straight into the lake, that’s what I would do if i were u /// Dance Track – City Wolves, Demo /// Cassette – ADHDOD, Dissociation – The Dillinger Escape Plan, Incommunicado – Impurities, Avant Garage – Gladiators Eat Fire (and playing with them at wildflower before that venue ended), Everything TWIABP did this year, The Diviners put on by NVHS theatre, Malvolio; or What You Will: A Transgender Story by Bruka theatre (seriously changed my life), SKIN’s returning show, absolutely amazing and exciting, Seeing Death Grips LIVE OH MY GOOOD, Playing with Young Deathwish, Putting out tapes for Empty Beds, Blinded Youth, Æsh, and Rob Ford Explorer, Dude I hella played with 68 and Listener this year (although the SKIN and Blinded Youth sets fucking destroyed ours, god.), Mastering Tajdæ’s album and finally meeting her and having her old band Æsh play at Ryland.