2016 Was The Worst, But Here’s Some Good Albums
2016 has had its ups and downs, to say the least. Besides the tragic anxiety-fest that is the United States presidential election process in the age of social media, we also lost some of the most highly-praised and culturally significant artists of the 20th century; among those lost were David Bowie and Prince, two of the most prolific and experimental artists of an age defined by willingness to experiment. Just in the last month, we saw the passing of Leonard Cohen and Greg Lake, one of whom released some of his best work in decades mere weeks before his death.
This year doesn’t have to be all bad news, though. Despite the steady trickle (and occasional downpour) of horrible, optimism-challenging headlines our species has inundated itself with for the past sixteen months, we still managed to put out some pretty great albums in 2016 – probably as a coping mechanism, if I had to guess. Here’s some of my personal favorites, in no particular order.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Since their formation in Melbourne, Australia in 2010, psych-rock septet King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have released eight studio albums, and plan on releasing five more in 2017. The self-imposed time crunch in their recording schedule would likely be detrimental to the finished product for most recording artists today, but the frenetic energy present on their records so far shows that they might just work best under constraints. The band’s last effort, Paper Mache Dream Balloon, was the band’s first as an all-acoustic outfit, and the sound fit them like a glove. 2016’s Nonagon Infinity further showcases their talent as psychedelic musicians, adding the restriction that the LP must work as one continuous piece of music, and be able to play in a loop seamlessly, with the last song leading perfectly into the first. If you want off-the-wall energetic vocals and instrumentation that seems like it was engineered in a lab with the purpose of getting you moving, check this one out. I realize I said these were in no particular order, but this record is my favorite of the year.
Jank – Versace Summer
Released in the summer of 2016, and the second of two albums released by Jank this year, Versace Summer is just a fun listen, plain and simple. While it may veer off into pop-punk territory more often than some might prefer, this LP has something for everyone; opening up the album is a power-pop anthem about a substance known to the band as the “Grim Reefer,” and as a closer we have the title track, a testament to the merits of sleeping all day and making garlic bread with your significant other. The guitar work and drumming is very reminiscent of Tiny Moving Parts and Wavves, so if you’d like to hear what those groups sounded like with a bit more of a FIDLAR touch, check out Jank. It pains me to report that they have apparently broken up as of October, but their scant output shall not go unnoticed.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
Nobody captures the sound of controlled chaos better than The Dillinger Escape Plan, who released their final studio album in 2016 after almost twenty years of producing some of the best math rock of their generation. While previous successes like Ire Works and One of Us Is the Killer may yet live to outshine Dissociation in the annals of pop culture history, that doesn’t mean we should forget how impressive the band’s final effort was, bringing more ideas to the table than any of the band’s prior releases and executing them as only a band of their technical caliber could.
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Chance the Rapper isn’t on my list of rappers that I consistently keep up to date on. I wasn’t overly impressed by Acid Rap, his previous claim to fame, but with the release of Coloring Book I am officially aboard the Chance hype train. With a life-affirming philosophy and ever-escalating instrumentation that never ceases to impress, Coloring Book is one of the strongest albums of the year simply based on its ability to make its audience smile in a year where those are in surprisingly short supply. And hey, at least there’s a decent Kanye feature in there somewhere, and those probably aren’t getting any more frequent any time soon.