BEST OF 2016
In this solo debut, Australian multi-instrumentalist Carla Dal Forno creates an atmosphere. The album resides between ambient, folk, electronic, and post-punk.
Layers upon layers of instruments and natural sounds combined with full yet ghostly vocals form a soundtrack to describe a gloomy day at home, a quiet night’s drive on an empty highway, or a dark walk through fresh snow. Each track feels gentle and intense at the same time, begging for a second or third listen in order to grasp the whole thing.
FFO: GROUPER, CAETHUA, SEA OLEENA, YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS
While they were active, The Dancing Cigarettes never had their own full-length release. However, this June, local Bloomington record label Magnetic South brought us “Dance Dogs Dance” - a collection of recordings ranging from 1979-1983. Since it is a compilation, this record doesn’t exactly fit together in a sensical way, but that’s part of the charm of The Dancing Cigarettes.
Featuring 6 multi-intrumentalist members, the music ranges from sounding referential of Suburban Lawns, to something that Belle and Sebastian could have ripped off, then to deadpan recitations on top of haunting guitars like Suicide. Overall, the album captures the carefree mood, experimental qualities, and undeniable talent of this new/no wave group.
FFO: DEVO, NEO BOYS, SUBURBAN LAWNS
Maryjane Dunphe from punk band Vexx, brings powerful and passionate vocals on top of dark dance beats. With David Jaques on bass, the synth driven duo from Olympia, Washington recently released this 7” as a follow up to their self-titled first album. An industrial touch is added to these two tracks, with the same longing feeling and danceable beats as the CC Dust S/T.
The first time I heard CC Dust was when I saw their video for Never Going to Die, released earlier this year. I loved Maryjane’s dance moves in that video - New Ways makes me want to dance the same way!
FFO: Q4U, XEX, LOS MICROWAVES, FUTURISK
In this new single, "Vision" Chicago based solo artist Fee Lion expresses complex emotions through a synthpop dance tune. By adding tight drum beats and ooey-gooey synth melodies to her already mesmerizing vocals, she creates an ethereal world that will make you swing your arms and spin in circles.
FFO: GRIMES, LADYTRON, MISS KITTIN
I’ve loved Pharmakon since the first time I heard “Abandon” back in 2014, and I was so excited when I heard that Margaret Chardiet was releasing an album with a new band. Together with members of Hank Wood and The Hammerheads, Crazy Spirit, and Anasazi - something totally different, and more accessible, has been created. Chardiet plays a twangy lead guitar while Walker Behl tones down his vocal performance from that of Crazy Spirit.
With almost every member switching instruments from their main projects, each track on this album makes you feel stuck somewhere between singing western country songs and swaying along in a grimy punk basement.
FFO: TOTAL CONTROL, INSTITUTE, ANGELS OF LIGHT
Re-released on Sister Polygon records, this self titled EP by DC trio Flasher landed them among Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands of 2016. This album took a few listens to really grow on me, but each song fits together so
beautifully I can’t stop listening now. Flasher features Taylor Mulitz from Priests, another band on Sister Polygon.
The combination of nearly spoken vocals on some tracks, catchy riffs, drawn out guitar lines, and the complimentary harmonies by all three members makes for an album that’s somehow reminiscent of both post-punk band Total Control and british trio Shopping.
FFO: SHOPPING, TOTAL CONTROl, WAREHOUSE, POSTURE, WILDHONEY
I stumbled upon Ginger Bear’s bandcamp while searching for instrumental songs to talk over during our radio show. Inspired by the November supermoon, this song captures the anticipation and captivation I felt that night. I am impressed with Ginger Bear’s ability to create such hypnotic music so quickly. They have been on a roll of releasing several singles and albums each month.
FFO: CUT COPY, DIRTY PROJECTORS
When I discovered that Harmony Tividad, a member of the Los Angeles duo Girlpool, has a bandcamp for her solo work, I downloaded “Robust” before I even pressed play. I knew it was something worth checking out, and I had nothing to lose since it’s free.
Harmony’s sound is refreshingly different from Girlpool’s. In short lo-fi pop lullabies, Harmony experiments with audio recordings
of her mom talking, vocal filters, and mumbling and humming rather than articulating lyrics. In only ten minutes, “Robust” carried me to a place where time moved slower and my head felt clearer.
FFO: GIRLPOOL, COLEEN GREEN, CHERRY GLAZERR
On their first album, “Leave Me Alone”, four ladies from Madrid called Hinds created an incredibly cohesive sound while making each song memorable. With up to three of them singing simultaneously, the lyrics and emotion become very powerful. They also released music videos for the songs “Easy”, “Warts”, and “Bamboo”, a zine about friendship and thievery in collaboration with artist Laurina Paperina, and a fun game on their website this year!
FFO: HABIBI, SHANNON AND THE CLAMS
Another incredible release from one of my favorite record labels, Sacred Bones, based in NYC.
As a co-producer, Jenny Hval created something so beautiful and feminine, but in a deep, dark, and intense way. The album ranges from “In The Red”, which feels reminicent of Pharmakon’s Bestial Burden, all the way to
vocals throughout which have been compared to dream pop queen
Lana Del Ray.
FFO: CIRCUIT DES YEUX, NAOMI ELIZABETH, JULIA HOLTER, EARLY GRIMES
Cold Fear is the first single from Moon Duo’s upcoming two-part
album, Occult Architecture Vol. 1, out February 3, 2017. With Ripley Johnson on guitar and Sanae Yamada playing keyboards and synths, this two piece has already put out three full length LPs. Drum machine beats rising from fuzzy drones create a dark and dreamy track that leaves me unsure if I want to dance or just float into the night sky.
FFO: MALARIA!, ANGELS OF LIGHT, CICCONE YOUTH, SUICIDE
Gymnastics, by D.C. solo artist Eva Moolchan, was recently reissued on Merge Records. The album is fast, you can listen to the whole thing on your way to work, and catchy, it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sneaks also released a music video for Tough Luck from Gymnastics that was animated by Jamie Wolfe.
FFO: YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS, ESG, BONA DISH
Whether you want to dance or just relax, La Femme’s latest album, “Mystere” is a great choice. Particularly because I can’t understand French, I am able to become completely absorbed in the sounds rather than the lyrical meaning. Like their previous albums, the songs in “Mystere” transition seamlessly between one another, allowing you to tune out and let the music sway you in and out of focus.
FFO: LADYTRON, ADULT., DIRTY PROJECTORS, THE KNIFE
Lala Lala, a three-piece band from Chicago, plays hard on their first full length album, Sleepyhead. The album
intertwines upbeat chants with slow, flowing tunes. The lyrics explore topics such as getting over your ex, mortality, and coming to terms with oneself. After listening to it on repeat, the album brought me into a get-shit-done headspace.
FFO: PALEHOUND, ADULT MOM, BLEACHED, CHERRY GLAZERR
In 2013, Chicago artist Noname was featured on a mixtape by Chance the Rapper. Three years later, her long-awaited solo album was released.
“Telefone” is a ten track album featuring a variety of collaborations. Listening to the songs feels like Noname is talking to a close friend telling stories about her days and experiences. Topics range from police violence to imagined narratives from others perspectives.
In an interview with The Fader, Noname said she was inspired by Nina Simone and Toni Morrison. She even used a sample of Nina Simone in one of her songs. Noname’s verses are poetic and tough on top of dreamy beats.
FFO: JAMILA WOODS, ERYKAH BADU, SNEAKS
As her third studio album, Solange created an entire masterpiece - complete with interludes and numerous collaborations with other artists. A Seat At The Table feels like a more sophisticated and grown up version of Solange’s previous albums. Lyrically Solange addresses many issues facing black men and women today. The songs will make you want to sing and sway, then maybe cry a little bit.
FFO: DEVONTE HYNES/BLOOD ORANGE, NIA ANDREWS, KELLY ROWLAND, JANELLE MONAE
As a huge fan of Santigold’s debut album “Santogold”, listening to “99¢” for the first time excited and worried me. Released eight years after
“Santogold”, I was afraid her sound might have changed in a way that I wouldn’t like. However, after the
first two tracks, it was clear to
me that Santigold has changed in
a positive way. When I listen to
“99¢” I hear more confidence and
passion behind Santi’s vocals than in her previous albums. The song “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” targets our society’s obsessive self-absorbtion and promotion and in order to further express that message, santigold released and interactive music video where the viewer becomes the star of the video.
FFO: LYKKE LI, HAIM, M.I.A.
One of my all time favorite bands, The XX, released this single that will be on their new album I See You, out on
January 13th, 2017. In this track they sample the 1981 song “I Can’t Go for That” by Hall and Oates. They also released the music video for On Hold after their Saturday Night Live gig on November 19th, 2016.
FFO: METRONOMY, RAE SPOON, LYYKE LI, PHANTOGRAM