Due to the sheer amount of high-quality albums released lately, I’d say 2016 is becoming a great year for music. Because of this, I felt the need to compile some of my favorite albums from this summer that hopefully you’ll enjoy too.
We’re starting with my personal album of the year, “Teens of Denial” by Car Seat Headrest. This is the best indie rock album you will hear this year, bar none.
The frontman and general mastermind of the group, Will Toledo, is one of the best if not ‘the best’ active songwriter in music right now. He strikes a great balance between his classic rock and indie rock influences to bring 11 great songs in a row with unique ideas in each. (Listen to “Teens of Denial” on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/1Y9QGIA)
The album’s second track, “Vincent” is one of the best songs of the year thanks to its building intro, desperate lyrics, and fast paced ending, all bolstered by Toledo’s vocal performance. It hits the perfect mix of dryness and forcefulness seen throughout the 10 other amazing tracks.
The second album I want to talk about is “Freetown Sound” by Blood Orange, the pseudonym of Dev Hynes, a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and producer from England who now hails from New York City. With this album, Hynes brings together not only his best tracks yet, but also his most important.
Similar to Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly,” “Freetown Sound” is the music culmination of the last few years of his life. Some of the lyrical themes of the album involve racism, heartbreak, jealousy, doubt, drug addiction, and more.
However, despite the heavy themes, Hynes is able to bring it all together thanks to his masterful songwriting and knack for production, creating one of the best pop/R&B albums you’ll hear this year. (Listen to “Freetown Sound” on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/293Lrrr)
Next is an album by Australian group The Avalanches, “Wildflower,” which was 16 years in the making and the follow-up to the group’s classic debut, “Since I Left You.” I will say, the wait was totally worth it as not only does the group bring together a great, cohesive art in line with their debut, it’s different enough to not stand in the shadows of that album.
Of course, it is different enough from that debut for a multitude of reasons, the biggest of which is features. “Wildflower” has a lot of them, mixing in a massive amount of samples with the guest features, treating both as the same at certain times. This is especially noticeable with the track “If I Was A Folkstar” which features Toro Y Moi. His vocals are fit in perfectly, almost sounding like one of the samples itself.
Along with other credited names, including Danny Brown, MF DOOM, Biz Markie, Father John Misty, and Kevin Parker (of Tame Impala), The Avalanches do not only beat the sophomore slump, but also forge a new musical path for the group. (Listen to “Wildflower” on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2b68UFS)
Last, but not least, and one of the most devastating listens of 2016, “Puberty 2” by Mitski. Mixing together punk and indie rock, with a hint of DIY and pop, Mitski is able to put together great songs with brilliantly written lyrics that show the struggle of mental illness and trying to fit in despite it.
A great example of this would be the album’s intro, “Happy”, which views happiness as not a feeling, but a person. Happy is someone that Mitski desperately wants to stay, but knows his visit is short-lived and his leave abrupt, and there’s nothing you can do about it, much like the feeling itself.
As someone who also has his struggles with mental health, Mitski makes me feel not alone. He reminds me that there is someone out there too who feels the same as I do. He describes these emotions in ways that most people can’t, which only makes the song feel more genuine.
This feeling I have about Mitski’s songs are best described in an interview with the New York Times, “It’s like I’m sending out messages in bottles, but very picky and stubborn and selfish in that I only want the right person to receive it. I want to connect, but I also want to be left alone.” (Listen to “Puberty 2” on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/1UeVxTB)
Overall, 2016 has been a very exciting year for music so far with even more exciting releases coming soon, including Bon Iver, Danny Brown, Beck, Green Day, and maybe even Kanye West (if he actually drops his forthcoming “Turbo Grafx 16” later this year).