Albums of the Year – 2016 – Part 2

Let’s get right into 12-7, shall we?


12. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

This band had me at “I’m so sick of, fill in the blank”.  This sounds like just the type of thing to cleanse the lacquer sheen off of pop music.  It’s the Ramones if they had written songs over 3 minutes long and The Hold Steady of they were 20 years younger.  It’s Pavement if they would have ever considered sampling The Cars.  Will Toledo’s Napoleon Dynamite vibe is grating at times but it’s also what makes the band stick out.  The album is hugely familiar but completely unique on its own terms.  They’ve pulled off a huge feat here.  The test will be to see if they can do it again.


11. Steve Mason – Meet the Humans

This is the weakest of the once-Beta Band front man’s solo albums.  It’s very conventional in song structure and is almost void of the dread of his previous two works.  In doing so, he’s traded some of the raw emotion and weirdness of his earlier works for melody.  Some days this works in your headphones and others, not so much.  Even still, it’s got some great melodies.  Try to listen to “Water Bored” and not get that “Cause you can break it, ooh” refrain stuck in your head.


10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

When this first came out I called it “A Moon Shaped Poo”.  I couldn’t find a way into the record.  It was like “Burn the Witch” happened and then the whole thing just disappeared.  Which it still does to some extent unless you are listening to it with a large tumbler of bourbon in one hand and the lyrics in the other.  It’s an album to focus on.  If you don’t you might not hear it at all.


9. John Cale – M:Fans

A reworking of his 1982 album “Music for a New Society”, “M:Fans” is harrowing in a whole other way.  Where his 80’s album was the sound of someone in the throes of addiction and in a downward spiral, the “M:Fans” album is one of the artist retelling a story that happened ages ago.  Some events are out of order, others are mis-remembered but the story is still a gripping one.  For Cale to be putting out work of this quality, with this kind of edge at 75 is heroic.  One of the most under-rated artists of our time.


8. Miike Snow – III

I don’t know why this album did not get more notice this year.  Maybe Miike Snow have jumped the shark and having them on this list blows my cred worse than including Sting.  If so, it’s a shame because they’ve delivered an absolutely delightful autobahn record here.  It’s synthy, dancy and has a real melodic punch. Not a stinker on this one. May even be better than their first two – of which I both loved.


7. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger

Another music legend delivers another excellent album.  “Stranger to Stranger” is the lighthearted cousin to “So Beautiful or So What” from a couple years back.  It is an album focused on sound with Simon using all sorts of weird instruments to great effect.  From the opener “Werewolf” to the closer “Horace and Pete” the album teases you in with sound and keeps you there with the lyrics and the stories Simon tells.  Simon, also 75, is exploring like a man a quarter of his age and executing like a pro.

Part One Here

Part Three Here

Album of My Year: The Walkmen – “Heaven”

Walkmen HeavenIt’s pretty obvious that I’m getting old and lazy.  I used to post immense lists of albums at the end of the year.  In fact, in years past on another blog, I posted one review a day in the lead up to New Year’s Day.  This year, I’m only posting about one album as my album of the year with brief mention of another album that after weeks of going back and forth about, took second place.  Yes, the album of my year is The Walkmen’s Heaven.

This is an album made by dads and for dads, it seems.  The band just capped its 10th year of existence and this release is the first to see all of the members as married fathers.  There’s a sort of resignation on this album – almost a sense of surrender.  While previous releases saw them raging against old lovers and musing about traveling to far-flung destinations, Heaven finds them taking stock of family and themselves ten years into the game.

There’s a portion of fatherhood and married life that they explore in-depth on this record.  It’s the portion that realizes and accepts the imperfections of family life and actually embraces them as part of the intrinsic beauty of the institution.  Expectations and hopes are dashed by real life but the band celebrates this disappointment with pride in having actually set up the opportunities in the first place.  It’s an incredibly complex sentiment to capture in words in a blog post which makes it all the more impressive that The Walkmen managed to do it over two sides of a record.  Throw in the fact that the albums sounds like it might have been made in 1950’s Sun Studios and you’ve got a real winner.

If you’re a dad or a mom or anyone with a family give it a spin.  If you’re a dad, pour yourself a nice glass of brown liquor and give it a listen after everyone else has gone to bed.  You’ll see what I mean.

Honorable Mention:  It was a tough to choose between Heaven and Bob Mould’s Silver Age.   20 years after forming Sugar, this album captures Mould at arguably the best of his career.  It’s distorted and melodic with lyrics as biting as ever.  During the tail end of 2012, this has been the album to start my mornings on the trip to work.  By the time I get there I’ve been fully amped.