Saturday, December 31, 2016

The List 2016 - Loring Wirbel

        The List – 2016 – Loring Wirbel

    The stars were uncomfortably aligned to make sure that the year with the most losses of artists was also a year filled with hate, rage, doom, and the realization that the world is not moving slowly to a better place – quite the reverse. It’s not mere hyperbole to wonder if this is the last such list I’ll be putting out. From 2016’s opening days with Bowie, to the sadness in the last Cohen album, many of the best releases this year were defined by grief and angst, appropriately so. Thankfully, the year’s best album from Esperanza Spalding displayed moments of happy, and newcomer bands like Yak, Spray Paint, and Car Seat Headrest gave us hope that there might be more years in which to enjoy music. There was no intent in 2016 to put the saddest songs on top, but we have to play the cards we are dealt.
     It should be no surprise in a year like this that musicians have become explicitly political, but when that trend covers everyone from Beyonce to Drive-By Truckers to J. Cole to Cheap Perfume, you know that they speak for a wide artistic community that will not back down.
     Oh, this trend to add a late-1970s disco sound? If you’re Chairlift and can do it subtly, maybe it’s OK, but the Local Natives or Two-Door Cinema Club overkill? All of you can stop, now. Maybe we’ve moved on slightly from the “Disco sucks” era, but not that far.
     Not as many EPs and special albums this year. Lots of reissues, but a special album must contain enough new material to be considered a release in its own right. Please remember that close to a thousand mainstream and indie albums are released annually, and this 150 or so represent the ones worth hearing.  Sure, there are quality gradients between the top ten and bottom 20, but anything that makes this list is worth your perusal.
    Last year we made a special award to the forward-looking team at Waywords and Meansigns for its efforts to bring James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake to music. The group issued a second reading/singing of the novel in February, so in 2016 we award them the top special album of the year.  If you’ve ever loved or have been confused by James Joyce, you can’t miss this.
      Almost pointless to list farewells this time out, what with close to 50 major musicians leaving us. If you survived 2016, good on ya.

Regular Studio Albums, 2016

1.     Esperanza Spalding, Emily’s D-Evolution – So many releases this year are grim examinations of suicide, apocalypse, or both. Spalding’s dystopian sci-fi album might have bleak undertones, but it’s delivered in bouncy, complex, frenetic bursts that suggest Zappa or Return to Forever. Spalding’s lyricism is only eclipsed by her compositional excellence, or is it the other way around? Nice to be able to call an album close to perfect.
Bonus Edition Handicap: The vinyl is pretty, but get the CD deluxe edition with the most tracks. You’ll want to savor every minute.
2.     Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Skeleton Tree – After careful consideration of the Tragic Three (with Bowie and Cohen), the Bowie arrangements often stand out, but the cohesiveness of compositions pushes Cave to the top. An agonizing tale of grief following the death of Cave’s son, and a work that will last as definitive.
3.     David Bowie, Blackstar – Not just a final album, but one that reaches for a bit of jazz experimentation (let’s not forget Bowie’s work with Lester Bowie and other jazz greats). The fact that the release date was two days before his death reinforces the strange Phil Ochs Rehearsals for Retirement feeling. A perfect exit stage left for the Thin White Duke.
Bonus Edition Handicap: The diecut vinyl packages were so durned pretty, you’ll want one for posterity.
4.     Beyonce, Lemonade – With each succeeding album, Beyonce transitions from discrete pop tunes to literary-visual works more appropriate for Story Project. Lemonade takes us out of the self-obsession of a diva, beginning with a story of betrayal and trust in a specific couple, but ending with visions of empowerment for women in general and Black women in particular.
Bonus Edition Handicap: All physical copies of this album come with a DVD, but you want to make sure to actually watch it, as the visual stories go way beyond similar 2016 DVD efforts by Tindersticks and The Wedding Present.
5.     Case Lang Veirs, s/t – This could easily have been a tossed-off collaboration among three great divas. Instead, Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs offer us well-crafted and memorable pop songs. We can give Laura’s husband Tucker Martine some minor credit for the fine production, but this is primarily the product of three brilliant women whose talents merge perfectly.
6.     Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial – I really don’t care how many people think that angsty teen (now 23) Will Toledo was given a big stage for the first time – they said that about Conor Oberst in early Bright Eyes days, as well. Toledo has come to the table with a fine feast of new tunes, and the band has matured to the point where live shows become exciting, electric demonstrations of indy at its finest.
7.     Neil Young, Peace Trail – Reviews were lukewarm, and the politically sincere lyrics can get clunky on occasion, but this stripped-down acoustic-electric work with Jim Keltner is a mashup of Living With War, Trans, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, and On The Beach. I love Willie Nelson’s sons, but this work moves well beyond Neil’s recent work with Promise of the Real.
8.     Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker – We can all be grateful to Leonard’s son Andy for making sure these final poems received proper arrangements, and that they were shepherded to a release before Leonard died. Some are exquisitely arranged with musicians like violinist David Davidson, and even if a few (like the title track) are over the top, this stands as one of Cohen’s finest works. Some might say it’s his best of the 21st century – I think it should be considered the end of a modern trilogy, concluding Old Ideas and Popular Problems. An exquisite last encore.
9.     J Cole, 4 Your Eyez Only – What a grand leap from 2014 Forest Hills Drive!  Cole has created a concept album written to the child of a friend, a young person bearing witness to the death of a father. What could be unbearably depressing is made easier to swallow through fine trumpets, woodwinds, and strings.
10.                       Cate LeBon, Crab Day – Some day, people will realize that the miraculous Welsh innovator is giving us the women’s interpretation of Captain Beefheart for the 21st century. Until then, existing LeBon fans will just have to keep their lamps trimmed and burning.
11.                       Martha Wainwright, Goodnight City – Every Wainwright album is a wonder for smoky jazz with sexy vocals. But Martha outdoes herself here, conjuring everyone from Kate Bush to Natalie Prass. 12 stunning tracks with nary a weak cut. Maybe that’s why Martha is my favorite Wainwright, with all due respect to her brother Rufus and father Loudon.
12.                       Anohni, Hopelessness – The artist formerly known as Anthony Hegarty offers the first studio work since redefining herself sexually. A turn to more dance excitement might have been anticipated, but Anohni’s radical political sincerity and uncompromising message was a surprise. Given the campaigns she has undertaken worldwide since the album was released, expect Anohni to be on the front lines of many political and cultural battles in the scary days to come.
13.                       Frank Ocean, Blonde/Endless – The array of styles and lyrical directions are as broad as fans hoped for in the “Boys Don’t Cry” days, but what is amazing is that Ocean has addressed the new streaming universe without entering dimensions of denial the way Kanye West did. Instead, Ocean practices both/and in his pop-up stores and promised physical versions of this impressive album.
14.                       Cheap Perfume, Nailed It – Brash feminist lyrics? Check. Bratty 21st-century attitude without a mention of punkers past? Check. Chant-alongs with a sense of humor? Check. Some bands like Beach Slang can spend too much time wishing they were in 1977. Cheap Perfume is too busy redefining punk for the Trump era, with no looking back.
15.                       Tindersticks, The Waiting Room – Stuart Staples and company celebrate their 25th anniversary with an impressive tour de force, reaching for wider styles and moods than they have in a decade.
Bonus Edition Handicap: The DVD with art videos of all the tracks is worth it, maybe more so than what The Wedding Present attempted with Going Going. Some fine music videos.
16.                       Spray Paint, Feel the Clamps – I came late to this party. Spray Paint, a brilliant Austin band, mixes the dissonance of the No New York movement of the late 1970s with the tension of mid-1990s Trumans Water, and the singalong chanting of Parquet Courts. This is their sixth album in three years. A knockout.
17.                       Van Morrison, Keep Me Singing – Given Van’s recent withdrawal to small supper clubs in Ireland where blues covers are the norm, this collection of stellar original compositions was hardly expected. Songs like “Tiburon” are as strong as any Van has offered in 50 years.
18.                       Xanthe Alexis, Time of War – As half of the eclectic gypsy duo Hopeful Heroines, Alexis could craft simmering, slightly scary songs filled with time-signature changes and unusual surprises. For her first solo work, she opts for minimal production and a focus on vocal styles and straightforward statements. Of course it works, we shouldn’t expect less.
19.                       Parquet Courts, Human Performance – Continuing with the winning style that has kept them in the forefront of indy innovation, but adding just a touch of 1966-era garage band music, our pals ensure the fun never stops.
20.                       Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life – There are cynics who have grown tired of our Russian chanteuse who claim that from the opening chords of “Bleeding Heart,” Spektor is getting predictable. I consider this such an improvement from her Cheap Seats album, I’m willing to put it on the top of the Spektor canon.
Bonus Edition Handicap: Get the extended album. The last four “bonus” songs are among the best, it’s puzzling why they weren’t a standard part of the album.
21.                       Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop, Love Letter for Fire – Given Jesca’s history with Dirty Projectors, it was obvious this would not be a typical Iron & Wine album. What wasn’t obvious was how beautifully the two iconoclasts would merge their talents on unusual and unforgettable love songs.
22.                       Solange, A Seat at the Table – This is quite the year, to be graced by knock-out works from two Knowles sisters. Solange relies more on fragments and shorter vignettes than her older sister Beyonce, but many of the songs hold together better than those on Beyonce’s Lemonade. Since these songs deal with social movements and sexual politics, suddenly both Knowles sisters have been thrust into the political vanguard, something few would have guessed.
23.                       Angel Olsen, My Woman – Olsen’s most moving and varied recording yet, at times sounding like a Phil Spector girl-group of the early 1960s, at times like a shaman.
24.                       Lucy Dacus, No Burden – Suggestions of Sharon Van Etten or Laura Marling, but with a stronger, guttier guitar and a clean, honest sound.
25.                       Okkervil River, Away – This is really a Will Sheff solo album, which is perfectly OK, as it is remarkable, stuffed with unusual arrangements.
26.                       The Jayhawks, Paging Mr. Proust – Not just a return to form, but an exceptional new album. Gary Louris brings in Peter Buck and Tucker Martine for production, to make each track shine.
27.                       Shearwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow – Meiburg combines the best of Shearwater’s more recent rocking delivery with the seafaring mysticism of its earlier albums. Transcendent.
28.                       Bettie Serveert, Damaged Good – It’s a damned shame there is only a Benelux release for this album, the equal to Bettie’s finer works like Log 22.  Carol’s voice assumes many identities, and Peter’s guitar arrangements have a minimal urban quality to them. Bettie has struggled to keep its U.S. and European audiences since the mid-1990s, which seems unfair for a band so consistently competent.
29.                       Conor Oberst, Ruminations – Billed as his first true solo album, which seems a misnomer given the status of his Mystic Valley Band albums, this one may be his most quiet and focused work. Miraculous at times, but also frightening in both its sadness and its honesty.
30.                       Dwarfs of East Agouza, Bes – The latest Alan Bishop/Sun City Girls project is Cairo-based, sort of a spinoff of Invisible Hands with extra participation from Sam Shalabi. There is more of a hint of Turkish dubs with some Byrds “Eight Miles High” thrown in.
31.                       P.J. Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project – A mysterious and unsettling album as Harvey goes around the world to chronicle both despair and hope.
32.                       Bon Iver, 22, A Million – Justin Vernon guarantees his relevance by being damned near incomprehensible, a trip-hop work of numerology and puzzles.
33.                       Frightened Rabbit, Painting of a Panic Attack – More great somber Scottish melancholia from Scott and the boys.
34.                       Quilt, Plaza – The Boston foursome go beyond psychedelia to offer some lush musical landscapes, with new wrinkles revealed on repeated listens.
35.                       Drive-By Truckers, American Band – Patterson Hood purges the ghost of former Trucker Jason Isbell once and for all, by crafting a stunning political treatise on police violence and the new populism, all wedded to beautiful tunes.
36.                       Lydia Loveless, Real – Apparently, our queen of tragic country-punk has suffered some of her worst tragedies of late, which makes for great material, though this album doesn’t click quite as much as Somewhere Else. Still, it’s a classic.
37.                       Alicia Keys, Here – Another political/cultural composition in the manner of the Knowles sisters or Kendrick Lamar. This one ranks slightly lower because Keys, for all her audaciousness on stage, pulls punches ever so slightly in the studio.
38.                       Savages, Adore Life – When a radical, situationist British women’s band becomes more self-reflective and positivist, we should give them credit. Credit.
39.                       Borbetomagus, The Eastcote Studio Sessions – At a time when not enough artists are keeping the flames alive for excruciating noise, the Borbetomagus collective continues to believe in saxophone terrorism.
40.                       Lake Street Dive, Side Pony – Rachael Price and friends have evolved from 1940s nostalgia to re-imagined Motown for the 21st century. Their songwriting and arrangements live up to that promise and then some.
41.                       The Joy Formidable, Hitch – There are whispers among longtime fans that Ritzy somehow is going soft, making this album more substantive than crunchy. As usual, fans are wrong, as this is the best JF album of all.
42.                       Lady Gaga, Joanne – What is true for Joy Formidable is equally true for the Divine Miss G. Some fans think her efforts to craft a straightahead rock album constitute a misfire. She dials down the dance floor pyrotechnics, but delivers a solid set of pop tunes as a result.
43.                       The Kills, Ash and Ice – It wasn’t certain for a while The Kills were still a duo, what with all of Alison Mosshart’s side projects. Oh yeah. They’re very much alive.
44.                       Jenny Hval, Blood Bitch – After last year’s feminist art-bratty Apocalypse, Girl , Jenny returns with an ethereal and mystical concept album. A fierce and diverse talent.
45.                       Radiohead, A Moon-Shaped Pool – Thom Yorke detractors need to admit that there are some very exceptional compositions on this album. Radiohead fans need to admit that despite the grandiosity of the packaging, the band is not at its cusp of 10 or 15 years ago.
46.                       Chairlift, Moth – A few misguided fools out there think that Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly were better when they were singing simple songs in Boulder about handstands and strawberries. Polachek has become such an arranger and electronic manipulator, she has turned Moth into a tour de force, particularly in the song “Romeo.” But one wouldn’t want to drift too much closer to disco….
47.                       The Wedding Present, Going Going – It seems as though David Gedge, after a year of wandering the U.S., was aiming for majesty melded with traditional Wedding Present stridency, both in the 70 minutes of moody compositions and the video presentations accompanying the music, but in so doing, WP added instrumental washes some might find superfluous. Still very much worth it.
Bonus Edition Handicap: Even if it’s grandiose packaging, the 2LP + 7” single + CD + DVD is the definitive version to get.
48.                       Jack DeJohnette, In Movement – The most exciting jazz set the legendary ECM label has released in recent years, in which DeJohnette is joined by John Coltrane’s son Ravi on saxophone, and Matthew Garrison on bass. Nothing short of thrilling.
49.                       Blood Orange, Freetown Sound – One of the few anticipated R&B/hip-hop albums of 2016 to more than live up to its billing, full of layers and exciting sounds.
50.                       Eros and the Eschaton, The Weight of Matter – Shoegazer music has been desperately short of flagbearers in recent years, so we’re lucky that Katie Sleeveless and company have picked up that banner and run with it.
51.                       A.J. Connell & Tim Darcy, Too Significant to Ignore – One of Toronto’s oddest electronic musicians teams up with Ought lead singer Tim Darcy for strange and droll musical observations appropriate for your next situationist party.
52.                       Warpaint, Heads Up – Some fans were disappointed that the LA women’s quartet was making a move toward the dance floor, but this album bears every sign that it was a smart move.
53.                       Maria Taylor, In the Next Life – The Alabama songstress who is half of the former duo Azure Ray proves that anguish and depression are not necessary for exquisite songwriting. She’s married with children, living in connubial bliss, yet kicks out songs that gnaw at your heart.
54.                       Weaves, s/t – Toronto’s Weaves is often called out as an Alabama Shakes copy, due in part to the overweening presence of Jasmyn Burke, but the band actually owes more to complex art-punk bands like Pink Section, X-Ray Spex, and Romeo Void. Lots of weird fun.
55.                       OctaGrape, Aura Obelisk – A double album released on the cusp of 2015 and 2016, it features major helpings of Glen Galloway’s wonderful screams, while offering a little more mainstream production than OG’s previous work.
56.                       Mavis Staples, High Note – This might have made the “specials” album for its abundance of cover songs, but Mavis would rather have it considered simply a mainstream big-fun album, and it certainly succeeds in that dimension.
57.                       Mothers, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired – Kristine Leschper certainly has the art-school sensibility about her, which makes her songs interesting, but also carries a little bit of pretension which the band tries very hard to dispel. Still, a nice debut effort.
58.                       Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition – Danny’s yowly, cartoon voice is an acquired taste, but the guest appearances of Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt shows he’s trying to accomplish a lot in this sprawling hip-hop piece that functions as a slightly happier suite of street vignettes than Sweatshirt’s gloomier works.
59.                       Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger – Simon may be talking of hanging it up, but songs like “Wristband” prove he’s still relevant and packs a great sense of humor.
60.                       Deep Sea Diver, Secrets – Jessica Dobson is usually given a quick nod for her session work with Beck and The Shins, but rarely for her own band, which comes to full maturity after two EPs.
Bonus Edition Handicap: The double-LP edition has an extra EP that heightens the experience.
61.                       ESP Ohio, Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean – Odd that Robert Pollard’s duo work with Doug Gillard sounds more like a Guided by Voices record, while the GbV release sounds more like a Pollard solo work (which in fact it is). In any event, both albums have the outstanding pop singles you’d expect, in this case “Weakened by a Logical Mind” more than the two proper singles.
62.                       Dressy Bessy, King-Sized – Tammy Ealom has brought the band back together in cynical, snarly adulthood with plenty of slashing guitars and a more jaded sensibility.
63.           Goat, Requiem – Goat fans tend to be very rabid, and I can appreciate the musical depth and diversity of the neo-hippie orchestral ensemble. It’s good music to fall back on in reverie or at parties, though nothing in “deep listening” categories to make it a Top Ten experience.
64.           Lucinda Williams, Ghosts of Highway 20 – While many albums ended up ahead of this one, it is quite impressive that Williams has released two sprawling, double-disc studio albums in a row, and both of them contain some of the best songs of her career.
65.           Swans, The Glowing Man – This is Michael Gira’s departure album for the latest incarnation of Swans, a two-disc mega-event. The only problem is, the last four albums from Swans have been two-disc mega-events, and we reach the point of exhaustion.
66.           Kristin Hersh, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace – Hersh has become sort of a female Robert Pollard, in that releases under her name or that of Throwing Muses become indistinguishable, all confessional and raw. This album is a particularly dense and sad affair, detailing the dissolution of her marriage, a topic and mood that is typical of 2016.
67.           The Head and The Heart, Signs of Light – Of all the alt-Americana bands out there right now, H&H and Dawes stand at the front of the line, because their crisp pop sensibilities overwhelm the likes of Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, or Lumineers. This album expands into rhythmic pop that leaves their previous work behind.
68.           Sad13, Slugger – Sadie Dupuis is taking a brief hiatus from Speedy Ortiz, but left us with an EP of Speedy and a solo album, full of her characteristic guitar licks.  Her vocal similarities to Liz Phair and Carol Van Dyjk (Bettie Serveert) are even more evident in a solo work, and the album as a whole is tons of fun.
69.           Brian Eno, The Ship – While this was billed as a return to form, resembling the earliest vocal-heavy Eno albums, it actually resembled Another Green World stylistically, but with longer songs. Still a worthy addition to his vast archive of work.
Bonus Edition Handicap: Get the deluxe vinyl. It’s Eno.
70.           Bat for Lashes, The Bride – While this is more mainstream than much of Natasha Khan’s work, she deserves credit for not revisiting her standard weirdness album after album, instead going for a concept album about a marriage gone horribly wrong.
71.           Ariana Grande, Dangerous Woman --  Even taking into account that her songwriting and arranging is a group project, Grande has an innate sense of what makes a great pop song. And with 15 substantial tracks, this album errs on the side of excess, yet without clutter.
72.           Glass Animals, How to Be a Human Being – This British neo-R&B band uses sounds in a manner similar to Yeasayer, melding them with psychedelic vignettes on human archetypes. An intriguing concept album.
73.           White Lung, Paradise – Another fine effort from the neo-new-wave White Lung, though it mystifies me why so many consider this Top Ten material, as WL seem more 70s-derivative than trodding new territory.
74.           The Dead C, Trouble – A four-side sprawling noise composition from the improvisational champions of New Zealand, though their hour-long live set from NYC was more fascinating this year than this unusual studio effort.
75.           Marissa Nadler, Strangers – I’ve been a proponent for the ethereal-voiced folkie since she was an underground favorite of Eclipse Records, though the songs here did not grab me as much as her last two studio albums.
76.           A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – A marvelous eulogy to Phife Dawg, but his absence is also part of the problem. Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad make valiant efforts to remain politically relevant, but the results sometimes sound too minimal, unless guests are present.
77.           Little Green Cars, Ephemera – Dublin’s answer to Chvrches has released a second album as compelling and occasionally heartbreaking as their first. When Faye O’Rourke breaks into “Easier Day”….. sigh.
78.           Deerhoof, The Magic – This was the minimal “recorded in the New Mexico desert” album for Deerhoof, so it should have been high up, but the reality didn’t stick with me as long as the good idea.
79.           Eric Bachmann, s/t – Gee, how did this get so low? Nice to get a straightforward direct-hitting album from Eric after a long hiatus since the last Crooked Fingers outing.
80.           Fursaxa, Immured – It’s wonderful to hear from the ethereal Tara Burke, since it’s been a long time since a Fursaxa experiment has shown up. She hasn’t wavered during the silence.
81.                       Not for Pussies, Under the Sun – The Kidds layer beautiful melodies with strong statements on behalf of the refugee. A moving effort.
82.           Yak, Alas Salvation – Seen as one of the new punk-power-pop promises of the UK, Yak is intriguing, but still needs to expand their sound.
83.           Wire, Nocturnal Koreans – Wire has been releasing a series of albums lately that mean to challenge their 1977-79 heyday. This one is quieter, moodier and shorter than most modern Wire – in fact, almost an EP.
84.           Guided by Voices, Please Be Honest
85.           Robert Pollard, Of Course You Are – Odd that on the eve of launching a new Guided by Voices with Bobby Bare Jr. (and eventually Doug Gillard), Pollard released what are two solo albums, and called one a GbV album. Oh well, what are labels? Good pop songs in both cases.
86.           Iggy Pop, Post-Pop Depression – Teaming up with Josh Homme was the smartest idea Iggy has had in a while. Not only are the songs good, but Iggy intimated this might be his last will and testament. The problem is, there were so many albums this year that really were last wills, this suffers as a result. Probably should have been in Top 30.
87.           Zaimph, Between the Infinite and the Finite – Marcia Bassett is back again, with eerie and stark electronic landscapes.
88.           Phantogram, Three – Yet another ode to the departed in 2016, this is a eulogy to Sarah Barthel’s sister, and a powerful one at that.
89.           Algiers, s/t – An unusual punk-gospel album, quite unlike anything being crafted by anyone these days. A one-shot novelty? Maybe not.
90.           Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – I have to admit to not entirely getting the Simpson craze, as his initial psychedelic country album didn’t seem all that different from the “outlaw” albums of the 1970s. But now that he gives us a concept album of ocean-going imagery, maybe I’ll warm up to what Simpson is doing.
91.           Nada Surf, You Know Who You Are – The band has gotten immensely better with the addition of Doug Gillard on guitar, but Matthew Caws seems to reach to try and achieve the lyricism he had in the late 1990s.
92.           Hinds, Leave Me Alone – An utterly charming trio of sassy teenage girls from Madrid, serving as Spain’s answer to The Runaways.
93.           Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent – There is an intimacy in this album that is initially more compelling than her last Build Me Up From Bones album, but the new one also is missing a certain diversity in arrangement present in her last couple releases. Still, any day with Sarah is a good day.
94.           Kanye West, The Life of Pablo – Brilliant in places, and uneven, partially the result of there being several streaming versions of this album. West is dwelling at the edge of madness, which allows him to come out with some fascinating tracks, but also makes his work fragmented and subject to shattering.
Bonus Edition Handicap: Just because West said this will never come out on CD or LP, one should try to hunt down the double LP bootleg on clear vinyl, if only to flip a middle finger at Mr. West.
95.           The Comet is Coming, Channel the Spirits – A British electronica band gets serious about jazz riffs! Praise be!
96.           Lapsley, Long Way Home – The next British blue-eyed soul wonder, Lapsley takes off from a vector not unlike Duffy, but puts more body in the deep-throated soul.
97.           Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter – I really appreciate Price’s ability to craft a perfect country tune, but when supporters call her the woman who can save country music, I wonder how many of them have heard Lydia Loveless.
98.           The Radio Dept., Running Out of Love – The Swedish duo seemed to attract more attention with 2010’s “Clinging to a Scheme” than this long-overdue follow-up, which seems both fair, since this is more ethereal shoegaze electronica, but also unfair, as its sadness and politics seems to fit the current era to a T.
99.           Sleigh Bells, Jessica Rabbit – In one sense, this is a distillation and a best-of all Sleigh Bells sounds that have gone on before. In another sense, the band almost sounds TOO normal.
100.      Dawes, We’re All Gonna Die – There are many Dawes detractors out there, and yeah, sometimes the band can veer into Killers-style self-parody, but Taylor Goldsmith has enough good ideas to make the band always interesting.
101.      Beth Orton, Kidsticks – There’s a lot of excitement out there that Beth has returned to the partial-electronica sound of mid-1990s albums like Trailer Park.  It’s a great return to form, though sometimes you wonder if the form fits the times.
102.      Davendra Banhart, Ape in Pink Marble – Plenty of worthy tunes, though Banhart seems to have fallen into a formula of X songs sung in Spanish, X dance tunes, etc.
103.      Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Constant Stranger – If you ever wondered whether good solo Southern-influenced songwriters were still around (outside obvious ones like Jason Isbell), here’s your answer. K-S is off to a great start.
104.      Run the Jewels, 3 – Maybe their best full-length outing to date, but I continually feel that there is less to RtJ than meets the eye and ear.
105.      Claypool Lennon Delirium, The Monolith of Phobos – In which Les Claypool and Sean Lennon get together for some raucous psychedelic fun.
106.      School of Seven Bells, SVIIB – Alejandra Deheza assembled a beautiful eulogy to her cohort Ben Curtis after he died of lymphoma. Hard to know how to rank this, but a beautiful, sad work.
107.      Thee Oh Sees, A Weird Exits
108.      Thee Oh Sees, An Odd Entrances – I like the crisper version of Thee Oh Sees myself, and this pair of albums is more in the fuzzier psychedelia dimension, but nevertheless, I still prefer this studio pair to the double-live album the band also released in 2016. You have to admire their prolific pace, at any rate.
109.      Frank Moore, Another Colorado Morning – Some direct, beautiful acoustic songs from Colorado’s warm-hearted Irish tenor.
110.      Pixies, Head Carrier – You already know why Frank Black should annoy you, but this album is actually a lot of fun, just like Indy Cindy was before it.
111.      Lambchop, FLOTUS – You never know what you’re going to get with Kurt and his cohorts, but who would have guessed electronica? An intriguing and utterly different Lambchop album.
112.      Animal Collective, Painting With – Many people were disappointed with an album that sounded like a Beach Boys parody. I appreciate Animal Collective’s ability to laugh at themselves. A silly and enjoyable work.
113.      Yeasayer, Goodbye and Amen – Not a farewell album, but another album chock full of found sounds and cool tunes.
114.      The Monkees, Good Times! – With so many famous indy-era songwriters penning tunes for the three surviving Monkees, I expected this album to be more memorable than it was. Still, hearing new studio work from Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork was a gas.
115.      John Doe, The Westerner – New John Doe work is always a cause for celebration, though he seems to fall into a self-replicating cycle of the lone rockabilly cowboy.
116.      The Struts, Everybody Wants – This is an expanded U.S. release for an album that came out in the UK in 2015. The Struts want to revive the era of mid-70s glam rock, and have got the sassiness down to a T, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like they want to go anywhere new.
117.      Lucius, Good Grief – Lucius is the type of pop act where you either get it and love them, or think their posturing is a little too obvious. I veer toward the latter view, but think they’re still up to interesting efforts.
118.      Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine – There are people who firmly believe that Leithauser has moved on to his best work since leaving The Walkmen and becoming a solo act. I couldn’t say I heard that in his first solo work. Here he collaborates with electronic musician Rostam, and many folks have it in their Top 20. It’s a good album, but I’m not fully convinced.
119.      Jason Alarm, Piling It On – Hints of many other sounds from the “new emo” world, but these folks get bonus points for being from my home town of Grand Ledge. So there.
120.      Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness – Maybe I ought to give this one another try, since it’s the favorite EitS album for many people. Maybe I’m burned out on all-instrumental majestic rock of the Godspeed variety.
121.      Wilco, Shmilco – Wilco should be lauded for releasing such an easygoing yet innovative album, but ultimately, few of the songs stick in your head.
122.      Garbage, Strange Little Birds – Shirley Manson deserves a better ranking for trying to make the reunited Garbage grow. The music is unsettling, which is what Manson does best.
123.      Teenage Fanclub, Home – Softer and more introspective than the Teenage Fanclub of the 1990s, but very cool. The harmonies can bring to mid Jayhawks at times, though Norman Blake’s lyricism can sometimes be a bit twee.
124.      American Football, LP2 – Tim Kinsella’s brother Mike has reunited the band he first put together in 1998, and it’s as if no time has passed since the debut album was released.
125.      Beach Slang, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feeling – This band would be a lot more convincing with its brand of revivalist punk if it wasn’t always referencing 1977. The year is 2016, let’s make the punk fit the times.
126.      Eleanor Friedberger, New Vision – With each solo album, Eleanor of Fiery Furnaces dives deeper into reinventing 1970s West Coast rock. She does it competently, but I’m not sure of her purpose or intent.
127.      Pretenders, Alone – These days, there’s not that much difference between a Pretenders album and a Chrissie Hynde album, but Chrissie really does manage to write relevant new tunes.
128.      The Pop Group, Honeymoon on Mars – Not a bad second outing for the reunited radical dance-punk Pop Group of the 1980s, but I get a bit tired of the anti-capitalist posturing when The Pop Group releases most of their material in overpriced double albums and box sets.
129.      Jim James, Eternally Even – I don’t begrudge James for a shift to trance-dance. My Morning Jacket used to do the same.  But this one seemed to lack a center of gravity – some excellent use of woodwinds and down-tempo tunes, but still….
130.      Esme Patterson, We Were Wild – A former lead singer for Paper Bird offers a more eclectic and rocking mix on her third solo outing, and it’s about time people outside fellow singer-songwriters pay attention.
131.      Bob Mould, Patch the Sky – Many longtime Mould fans will cry foul. I like the album, the songs are often inspired, but it didn’t hold me long.
132.      Preoccupations, s/t – The band formerly known as Viet Cong changed their name due to inappropriate politically-correct pressure. I would have ignored this album as a result, but the new band actually is more interesting than Viet Cong, with a sound something like Interpol.
133.      Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep – It seems unfair that The Rolling Stones can record blues covers and receive accolades (check the Specials section), while Bonnie records her usual fine mix of bluesy covers and originals and gets largely ignored. This is another great Raitt album, but competition is tough this year.
134.      Error Message, Rooby – Glen Galaxy/Galloway of OctaGrape and Trumans Water fame tries some strange electronic noise with Dylan Nyoukis and others assisting. Of course it’s great.
135.      Paper Bird, s/t – This is the band’s first album since losing Esme Patterson, and the reconstituted group remains interesting and odd in all the right ways.
136.      Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book – Chance Bennett should be credited for trying to give 21st-century hip-hop more precision in delivery and more musical depth. The only problem is, in trying to leave street vignettes, Chance sometimes goes for lyrics that are sort of ethereal-vague.
137.      Black Mountain, IV – An interesting addition to the band’s deep psychedelic catalog, though I had trouble finding a point of entry.
138.      Midwest Soul Xchange, New American Century – This is one of those success stories where a couple Wisconsin buskers get together and self-produce an album that turns out to be very decent folk-rock. Now if only others would listen…
139.      Avett Brothers, True Sadness – Even if Avetts are the band everyone loves to hate for the over-infectious singalong styles, there are actually some decent songs of varying tempo and melody here.
140.      Modern Baseball, Holy Ghost – Many people swear by MB as the saviors of modern indy-punk, but I find their music merely pleasant and nice to party with, like a lite version of NRBQ.
141.      Andrew Bird, Are You Serious? – Andrew Bird’s live shows have lost none of their unexpected fire, but somehow his studio efforts of late haven’t carried the weight.
Bonus Edition Handicap: The two-disc version is decent enough, but this year’s songs didn’t pack a lot of punch to begin with.
142.      Field Music, Commontime – I find this band’s work to be interesting in a Glass Animals sort of way, but I wasn’t finding a lot to remember.
143.      BadBadNotGood, IV – A lot of people think this Canadian quartet represents the future of jazz. The mash-ups with hip-hop are interesting, but it seems that BBNG are bringing back the less interesting aspects of jazz-fusion.
144.      Sun Kil Moon & Jesu, s/t – This was actually a cool duo, but I’m getting a little burned out on Mark Kozelek.
145.      John Paul White, Beulah – The nice thing to report is that the other half of The Civil Wars has taken his time to craft some very nice Southern folk-rock songs here. The problem is that he still seems to be blaming his former partner Joy Williams for everything that went wrong with the duo. Face it John, you were the asshole. Your songs would be a lot better if you’d come to that realization.
146.      Local Natives, Sunlit Youth – Everyone thought that the band’s second album was a huge letdown from the debut (which sounded like early Talking Heads). Now, for the third album, we realize the band was trying to transition to an electronic sound recalling Yeasayer or Glass Animals. That’s all well and good, but others do it better. Still fun and worth hearing.
147.      Band of Horses, Why Are You OK? – I always want to give Band of Horses extra chances, since their last album really was quite good after a time spent in mediocrity. This time out, the band tries to sound like Grandaddy, and for BoH, it doesn’t work so well.
148. Wet - Don't You -- An interesting moody dance effort from a new band that is on everyone's "it" list. Still needs to coalesce a bit.
149.      Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – The duo sort of boasted of the disappointment they’d provide, and in a few cases, there were suggestions of genius, but only a few.
150.      Ages and Ages, Something to Ruin – Intriguing in places, and I’m really trying to like this Portland band more than I do.
151.      Jimmy Eat World, Integrity Blues – A few fine songs this time around, though Jimmy always sounds a little too sincere.
152.      Cheap Trick, Bang Zoom Crazy Hello – Yes, Cheap Trick is still doing it without Bun E. Carlos, and sounding just like the old Cheap Trick, but without a lot of the former inspiration.
153.      Violent Femmes, We Can Do Anything – Gordon’s got a real Fugs or Holy Modal Rounders sound going, but it’s trying too hard to maintain novelty.
154.      The 1975, I Like It When… -- In a live setting, Matthew Healy’s overblown histrionics are such fun (if excruciating) to watch, we could almost like The 1975 for the novelty, but in the studio, they overlay tracks with so much unnecessary sounds, it’s like bringing up the worst of progressive arena rock from the year 1975.
155.      The Lumineers, Cleopatra – Some Americana fans would suggest I not include Lumineers as a matter of principle, but there were some intriguing tracks here, far better than the hey-ho stuff. Then again, the band members are such assholes…
156.      Tortoise, The Catastrophist – I am very sad to report that the first Tortoise album in several years had very little to recommend it. I include it in this list for completeness, and because I love the band.
157.      Two-Door Cinema Club, Gameshow – The tunes here are bouncy and infectious, but TDCC made the mistake of moving solidly into a late-1970s disco sound. Some can pull such things off subtly, but this largely does not work.

Special Albums (Live, Compilations, Splits, CD-Rs, MP3, etc.)

1.     Waywords and Meansigns, Musicians Sing James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake,’ Round 2 – What can you say when Neil Campbell, Mike Watt, and many of their friends provide dozens of hours of reading/singing the inscrutable ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ aloud? Plus, there are two complete volumes online for free download – that’s close to 40 hours of crazy-ass Joyce! Visit
2.     Shearwater, Plays David Bowie’s ‘Lodger’ – Of all the Bowie tributes out there, this one has staying power. Meiburg and the band offer a tight, passionate rendition of the last and least known of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy of albums. Both Meiburg and Stu Staples of Tindersticks called Lodger  their favorite Bowie album during 2016. Maybe they’re on to something.
3.     Kendrick Lamar, untitled unmastered – Listening to these fascinating outtakes brings to mind Lou Reed’s old saying about “My shit is worth your diamonds.” You realize Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was no fluke after discovering how good these sessions sound.
4.     Kate Bush, Before the Dawn – Does Bush’s newfound love for Theresa May mean she’s part of the landed gentry? Maybe. Is this compilation from the 2014 Hammersmith shows overblown at times? Probably. But this stunning live set includes the full “Ninth Wave” from 1985, which means it has already proven its worth.
5.     Various Artists, Code Red: An International Compilation to Benefit the ACLU – Bravo to Asheville artists and Verses Records for being early in recognizing the constant struggle musicians will have to undergo as we enter the Dark Ages of Trump.
6.     The Rolling Stones, Blue and Lonesome – Mick learned from his session work with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf that when your credibility is at stake, you can always rely on the blues. These covers are the most interesting and honest thing the Stones have done in years.
7.     Various Artists, Day of the Dead – Putting Matt Berninger in charge of a five-disc Grateful Dead tribute isn’t nearly as ill-suited a task as it sounds. Many great moments, particularly in the adventurous Disc 3.
8.     Kenny White, First Glance/Long List of Priors – This one gets treated in the Specials section because White, pianist for Cheryl Wheeler, Mavis Staples, and other questionable types, went the opposite route from a Kickstarter campaign. He sold demos of his latest studio effort on tour, raising money to put out the proper Long List. The effect is the opposite from a musician who releases demo tapes after the fact. We can follow 13 songs being born, and they are 13 stellar pop tunes.
9.     Barbara Manning, Live at Union Hall, July 3, 2016 – Yes, you heard right, Barbara Manning has taken a break from being a high school teacher, forest ranger, and Long Beach resident to give an acoustic review of her work both as a solo artist, and with San Francisco Seals and Glands of External Secretion. Here’s hoping this is more than a one-off. Barbara has been missed.
10.           Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt, Live at Various/Various Live – If you’ve heard these two precise but maniacal noise-icians collaborate on The Raw and The Cooked, you know how much you need to hear this album. Guaranteed to frighten just about anyone.
11.           Various Artists, Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith – This is actually the second (at least) tribute album for Smith, but features younger artists (as well as old favorites like Lou Barlow and Juliana Hatfield) and unusual arrangements.
12.           Downtown Boys, Live at Market Hotel, NYC, June 24, 2016 – The date was more than four months from the election, but this performance was prescient of the arrival of the Trump era. Stunning saxophone and incendiary lyrics. Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys (a predominantly women-led band) will be one of the first artists to be sent to the camps, the U.S.’s own equivalent to Pussy Riot.
13.           P.S. Eliot, Live at Market Hotel, September 15, 2016
14.           P.S. Eliot, 2007-2011 – Katie and Allison Crutchfield haven’t played too much together since Katie founded Waxahatchee in 2012. But a handful of live dates in the fall launched the retrospective of their work. The live performance, capped by the stunning “Tennessee,” defines P.S. Eliot. More reunion tour dates, please!
15.           Heather Leigh and Peter Brotzman, Ears Are Filled with Wonder  – Is it Brotzman who gives grounding to Heather Leigh, or the other way around? In either event, this is both brave and direct, providing an accessible path to two musicians who often explore the outer limits.
16.           Neil Young, Earth – Neil’s claim that this was going to be some sort of unique soundtrack of animal cries fused with classic Neil Young tunes didn’t exactly work out that way. What this is, is a decent recap of live sets with Promise of the Real, Young’s new band featuring Willie Nelson’s sons. And that’s fine as it stands, though we need to kill the wolf howls.
17.           Mogwai, Atomic – A soundtrack to a BBC special on the beginning of the atomic age, this is Mogwai at its scoring best, creating an eerie backdrop to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
18.           Patti Smith, Horses Live at Electric Lady Studios, Aug. 25, 2015 – Exactly what it purports to be, this was recorded for the 40th anniversary of Horses, featuring all the spoken-word poetry from the liner notes as well as the songs. Excellent arrangements and delivery.
19.           J. Cole, Forest Hills Drive: Live – Slightly overshadowed by his strong new studio work in late 2016, this live set of the 2014 album is worth hearing.
20.           Steve Gunn and Angel Olsen, Live at Pickathon 2014 – Not a collaboration but a split LP, with two excellent sets from two very different but complementary artists.
21.           Joan of Arc, Live at Knitting Factory October 7, 2016 – A preview of the upcoming He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands album, this set finds Tim Kinsella in a very loose and jovial mood, a fascinating live set, with visual artist Melina Ausikaitis providing some intriguing vocals.
22.           Jack White, Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 – Not just an obligatory down-tempo mixing of White’s work, but unreleased White Stripes and solo recordings with plenty of gems contained in two discs.
23.           Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, Colvin and Earle – This is a bit reminiscent of the Lucy Kaplansky/Richard Shindell Pine Hill Project, in that two folkies get together to belt out covers of some of their favorite esoteric Top 40 songs. More than a novelty, downright fun.
24.           The Dead C, Live at First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, Sept. 20, 2016 – Maybe it was the acoustics of the sanctuary (is that the term for Unitarians?), but this recording seemed more dramatic and layered-melodic than their recent Trouble studio album. More reminiscent of Armed Courage, but really a unique work in its own right.
25.           Jeph Jerman, Exploded View – The founder of Hands To and Blowhole gives an intimate performance at Estudio Sonor, thanks to a grant from Foundation for Contemporary Art.
26.           Wye Oak, Tween – An unusual and captivating collection of outtakes from the period between the albums Civilian and Shriek, celebrating the best of the moody-guitar and electronica periods of the Baltimore duo.
27.           Body/Head, No Waves (Live at Big Ear) – I still have to be totally convinced of the Kim Gordon and Bill Nace project, but this is a cool live capture of their particular improv sound.
28.           Gillian Welch, Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg – Since Welch has been keeping mostly quiet these days, except for work with her partner David Rawlings, it’s nice to know this is going to be the first of several compilations – except how many can Welch’s work sustain? I’d be most interested in hearing outtakes from her strange and majestic Time, the Revelator album.
29.           Titus Andronicus, S+@Dium Rock: Five Nights at the Opera – For a band that can swing from Civil War re-enactments in song to full-blown punk-rock operas with hints of Springsteen, Titus Andronicus can kick out a straight-up, no-frills rocker of a live album
30.           Lambchop, Live at Hopscotch Festival, Raleigh, NC, Sept. 8, 2016 – Kurt Wagner previews the music from the FLOTUS with a stripped-down trio featuring the bad jokes of pianist Tony Crow. A fun set.
31.           Ought, Live at Rough Trade, NYC, May 8, 2016 – With Tim Darcy busy with solo work and duo project with A.J. Connell, fans should be happy for any Ought they can get these days, and this is a tight and well-recorded set.
32.           Bill Callahan, Apocalypse Soundtrack – This Black Friday Record Store Day release had a DVD of the documentary movie of Callahan’s “Apocalypse” tour, and an LP of very long outtake songs from that album. Both elements are essential in their own way.
33.           Tom Carter and Loren Connors, untitled – Two half-hour performances of a duo incorporating two of the finest experimental guitarists on the planet.
34.           Cate Le Bon, Live at Islington Assembly Hall, Dec. 14, 2016 – For those that have never seen the Welsh witch, or just don’t get what Crab Day was even about, here’s a fascinating and easy to absorb holiday show from the 21st century’s greatest Cate (apologies to Bush fans, but….)
35.           Norah Jones, Day Breaks – Another of Jones’ eclectic collections of covers, this one featuring the rarely-covered Neil Young song “Don’t Be Denied.”
36.           Gang of Four, Live in the Moment – A nice cross-section of what the 21st century reconstituted Gang of Four is all about.
37.           Bob Dylan, The Real Royal Albert Hall Concert1966/The 1966 Live Recordings – Decisions, decisions.  The double-disc of “real” Albert Hall (the 1998 release being Manchester, UK), or the 36-disc set of all live shows in 1966? That last one might be for insane completeists, granted, but 1966 was the year Dylan really pissed off everyone. And it was the time 50 years ago that was really far more important than the years that followed.
38.           Mexrissey, No Manchester --  Mexico’s notorious Morrissey cover band sings your favorite Moz and Smiths songs – in Spanish, of course.
39.           Bob Mould, Live from Studio X – A nice recap of much of Mould’s work over the last decade.
40.           Spray Paint, Live at Union Pool, June 10, 2016 – This might not be the absolute best bootleg Spray Paint, but fans will want to grab everything the Austin oddballs put out, legit or otherwise.
41.           Sunburned Hand of the Man, Live at Union Pool, March 24, 2016
42.           Sunburned Hand of the Man, Live at Three-Lobed Festival, March 26, 2016 – Ye gods, if Sunburned Hand of the Man have reunited and are soon to grace us with scads of recordings of pure noise and nonsense again, there might be the slightest chance we will survive the next few years.
43.           Shearwater, Live at Mercury Lounge, Feb. 6, 2016
44.           Shearwater, Plays Lodger at Rough Trade, March 15, 2016 – Two fine sets from Meiburg’s merry band, the first encapsulating work from Jet Plane and Oxbow and other recent albums, the Rough Trade set offering a live version of their studio effort to cover David Bowie’s Lodger.
45.           The Microphones, Early Tapes, 2006-2008 – Phil Elverum’s Odds & Sods equivalent, though mostly “odds” in this case.
46.           Alt-J, Live at Red Rocks – A beautiful and overpriced LP/CD/DVD set from Record Store Day, this one is just a little too perfectly mixed and sequenced, squelching some of the spontaneity of Red Rocks.
47.           Thee Oh Sees, Live in San Francisco – This double album is exquisitely packaged, with a good choice of tracks, but the recordings opt for the band’s favorite fuzz-out sound, which is not just lo-fi, but downright smeared out. An album that is much better in theory than practice.
48.           Xiu Xiu, Plays the Music of Twin Peaks – Another “better in theory” release, who better than Xiu Xiu to bring us back to the days of Laura Palmer? Except that most of it is just sort of ethereal yawn.
49.           Bob Dylan, Fallen Angels – When he released his first album of Tin Pan Alley covers, people would say, “Well, OK, it’s Bob.” But a second album? Some of the renditions are cool, but….
50.           Bruce Springsteen, Chapter and Verse – This is sort of a bait and switch. There was to be a new studio album in 2016, but Bruce’s autobiography pushed that out. This should be considered a companion to the book, mostly a best-of collection except for a few pre-1972 songs from Bruce’s New Jersey days.

Singles and EPs

1.     Pussy Riot, “Straight Outta Vagina” – Really, for 2016, was there ever any doubt?
2.     Nice as Fuck, s/t – Jenny Lewis’s newest riot-grrl punk project, just plain fun.
3.     Loudon Wainwright, “I Had a Dream” – As the year of Trump evolved, this song became less ridiculous and more prescient every single day.
4.     Wilkinson James, Abandon – Liz Wilkinson and A.J. Scheiber hit much more focused targets in this lush and often heartbreaking EP, than in their debut full-length album. Liz will inevitably sing one line that describes something in your youth you’d rather bury away.
5.     The Accidentals, Parking Lot – If you’re not already aware of the Traverse City, MI trio that conquered half the world before graduating high school, here’s a great place to start.
6.     Califone, Insect Courage – A quiet, almost folkie brief set from Tim Rutili and the Chicago collective.
7.     Random Detour, s/t  – Barb Doyle turns from folk to brash keyboard-driven rock with her partner Warren Ryd. Auspicious beginnings.
8.     You Never Were, Propeller – Led by Catie Rauhala, YNW manages to be both ethereal and punk at once, with a certain sense of dread in the midst of happy and plenty.
9.     Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion Side B – Don’t laugh. Carly may not have the range of some divas, but she has a perfect grasp of pop sensibilities.
10.                       Susan Cowsill and Mark Lindsay, Love Is Strange – OK, the Cowsills queen and the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders get together to sing eclectic 1960s songs about eclectic love. Any questions?
11.                       Brandi Carlile, Live at KCRW – A nice RSD 12” session in white vinyl for your listening pleasure.
12.                       Casper and the Cookies, Mezzanine – About time the pranksters from Athens, GA showed up again.
13.                       The Feelies, Uncovered – Another RSD covers set, this one preparing us for a proper new Feelies release in 2017.
14.                       Weathered, Alternative Translation – It’s funny how many newer bands are not ashamed to characterize themselves as “the new emo,” but this Minnesota band does itself a disservice by saying that. Weathered is impossible to describe and fascinating.
15.                       Speedy Ortiz, Foiled Again – With Sadie Dupuis off doing her new Sad13 thing, it’s hard to know if the outtakes from Foil Deer represent a refresher during a drought, or may end up being the real death of Speedy Ortiz.
16.                       Waxahatchee, Early Recordings – A brief collection of songs from the Crutchfield canon, representing a brief time between 2011 and 2012 when there was no longer a PS Eliot and only the hint of a Waxahatchee to come.
17.                       William Elliott Whitmore and Esme Patterson, Play Each Other’s Songs – Two worthy artists get a split single on Bloodshot. Whenever Esme’s involved in something, you know it will be good.
18.                       Beck, Wow! – Beck, like Ryan Adams, sort of failed to get that promised 2016 full-length out, but left us with a cute single.
19.                       Low, Not a Word – An interesting single to tide us over until Alan and Mimi hit us up again.
20.                       ESP Ohio, “Lithuanian Bombshells”
21.                       ESP Ohio, “Royal Cyclopean” – Personally, I would have made “Weakened by a Logical Mind” the ESP Ohio 7” single of choice, but what do I know?
22.                       Blonde Redhead, Peel Sessions – An interesting RSD single from 2000, but like so many Blonde Redhead archival tunes these days, ridiculously overpriced.
23.                       Article 15, Born Into War – An angry punk EP perfect for Trump times.
24.                       Mumford and Sons, “There Will Be Time” – As often as people rant on about how much they hate Mumford, I continue to find work of theirs worth having.

25.                       Phantogram, “You Don’t Get Me High Any More” – Outtakes from the 3 album, but worth it for the single artwork.