This was a tough year to do this. The emergence of Spotify in my daily life has made it more difficult for the whole album experience. Only through sheer will and might was it possible to create a top 5 like never before (I base this on nothing).
Arbouretum – Song of the Rose
This is a back to basics rock band that relies heavily on the vocals of their lead singer Dave Heumann. While listening to this entire album I envision Dave standing on a mountain top with his long wind blowing in the wind bellowing these beautiful medieval lyrics. This type of music is such a rarity now. Straight forward guitar chords and drum beats that wrap themselves around the lead singer of the band. I could see this album coming out in the late 70’s and being the opening band for a Deep Purple concert. It’s a refreshing take on a style of music that has nearly been long forgotten. Slow grooves (Dead Meadow’esque) rock the rest of the album after Fall From an Eyrie which is the highlight of the album. All in all it’s a wonderful rock and roll album that will have you giving a double take at the year that it actually came out.
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
It’s difficult for me to even rank this album. When a band comes out with maybe the album of the decade (Lost in the Dream) how do you follow that up? Their approach for this record is simple. It’s basically a spin off of the song “Under the Pressure” from the aforementioned album. Each song is a wonderful medley of a mumbling Adam Grunduciel that is kind of a mix of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Bryan Adams. The vibe of the band is still phenomenal, and their live show is even better. This album is the kind of background music that you can throw and every person that experienced Woodstock or wanted to experience Woodstock will be head-bobbing asking who this band is. There is absolutely no question about it – this is a throw back to blue collar 80’s rock and roll. One thing is certain they have perfected the chill vibe – putting you at ease like a bed-time story – followed with a 3 minute guitar solo. Pain is the song to hear – enjoy.
Real Estate – In Mind
Why mess with something that works so beautifully? Real Estate does not go off of the tracks often. The gorgeous beach vibe chords meshed with a flowing soft voice – that has been their bread and butter since day one. Their main function to you is to make you feel like life is going to be good to you. There is not a care in the world when any Real Estate album. As mentioned in years their sound feels like you cleaning up your house after a wonderful house party the next day. Sun is shining, birds are chirping, and you are slightly fighting dehydration. This album has kind of stuck with me since it’s release. I wasn’t overly impressed at the beginning, but as with nearly every one of their previous records it begins to imprint itself onto your soul. The modern day Beach Boys wouldn’t be a stretch here. Darling is the song to focus on here.
L.A. Witch – Self Titled
This band came out of nowhere. Three early twenties women that have a sound that is so bloody cool. Like a Tarantino movie if it was made into music. Their lead singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez is an absolute presence in every regard. Whether it be her garage rock style of guitar playing or her Janis Joplin type of raspy singing. The band revolves around her completely. There isn’t an album that I’ve played more this year. Each week I would wait for another single from the album to come out and be amazed when it was just as good as the previous. There isn’t any other way to put this – there isn’t a cooler band out there in the world than these three ladies. Drive Your Car is the single that really gets this thing going.
Beach Fossils – Somersault
Well, this was an unexpected surprise. The boys from Beach Fossils were at one time Real Estate lite. They have grown into an absolute powerhouse of a band with the adding melody and multiple instruments. They have always had a nice vibe to them. An easy- to-listen to approach. This album still has those components. What it adds is more depth to the band. Giving them a sustainability they may not have had before. Flowing vocals, beautiful acoustics, and percussion’s that play with a sense of urgency that I had not heard previously. This could be the start of something great if they are able to keep the momentum of this album going. Looking forward to what’s next. Be Nothing and Sugar are the best two songs of the album.
Preoccupations is a throw-back album to the industrial era of music. They settle right in between the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Growling vocals, moody baselines, and matching drums and guitar strokes makes this album memorable and unique. 2016 wasn’t a great year for music in my personal opinion. But when this album kind of fell into my lap while looking into old Echo and the Bunnymen records. Preoccupations don’t make any apologies for the type of music that they have released. They aren’t looking for that one single that will make them relevant. The best song on the album is a 12 minute marathon of multiple layered dimensions of every style of industrial that has been acknowledged. There is something about this album that I can’t put my finger on that I love which is why I love it. Nick Cave meets Echo and the Bunnymen at a Wolf Parade concert. Memory is the best song on the album. This record isn’t a juggernaut, but it’s solid all the way through.
David Bowie – Blackstar
It’s obvious that the death of David Bowie will be felt all over the music scene. But the amazing thing about Bowie is that he didn’t fade away. He created a masterpiece of music while fighting off cancer. This album is completely different from multiple Bowie eras. It doesn’t have a lot of that 80’s feel. It doesn’t have the early rock feel. It also doesn’t have that space feel from the early 90’s. Blackstar is its own entity – sounding nothing like what he has released previously. Bowie used horns, saxophones, piano, computers, and of course the usual instruments. Every sound of this record is a well thought out feeling. There are two stand out singles on this record – Blackstar and Lazarus. Of all of the fantastic people that passed away in 2016 David Bowie is the one that affected me the most. If you just go through his catalogue of music you will find something new nearly every time. Fantastic artist and a beautiful final album.
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
I had zero expectations for this album. I already had it pegged as a super aggressive no talent millennial that was looking for a hook to get that one single noticed and become famous from there. I was flat out wrong. This mid-20’s Asian man named Will Toledo can play the fu**ing guitar. If you miss Dinosaur Jr. and Stephen Malkmus have a listen to this album. It’s raw, it’s emotional, and the best thing about it is it doesn’t sell out. This album vomits all over your Drake sweater and doesn’t apologize for it. Vincent and Destroyed by Hippie Powers are the two stand out tracks on this album. Top to bottom though it’s a thrashing good time. This might be the live show that I look most forward to when he decides to come back to Toronto. Refreshing as a glass of Hi-C when you were 13 years old. Music is in good hands if Car Seat Headrest becomes popular.
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead is the best band on the planet currently. They continue to show this each and every time that they release an album. A Moon Shaped Pool is no different. There is just something about this band. They know exactly the feel of the album that is required to stay relevant and fantastic. Try to describe this band to anybody that listens to another not quite as respected genre of music – oh let’s just say country for the heck of it. They will not understand what the big deal is with Radiohead. You will be left shaking your head to yourself at the end of the conversation. The vibe, the feel, the sounds, the instruments – everything is mathematically calculated similar to a casino sound for your brain to enjoy and to accept that this band is a unique group that may never be duplicated. Burn the Witch is the best song on the album, but there are quite a few 5 star singles. Does this record get to the areas of greatness such as the Bends and In Rainbows – I don’t think so, but it was still the best record of the year up until the last month when…
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here
It must have been a few months ago when I heard that this album was going to be released. I decided to go back and listen to their catalogue. Why can’t rap sound like this again? There are actual instruments in this record. There is fluid vocal stream from each member of the band. Samples that are relevant to the feel of the song. There is absolutely no question that this is the best rap album for 2016. But, then there’s the fact of being the best album of the year. This masterpiece has everything. Top to bottom listening capability. Head bobbing and extremely intelligent lyrics. Fluid motion that is required for a top notch rap album. I miss this sound being played on my iPod. There are multiple fantastic singles on We Got It From Here. I am not sure that I can even attempt to pick one out. Number 1 without even a question. If you can beat a Radiohead album out on Hosehead’s Top 5 albums you have done something right. You should be proud of yourselves gentlemen.
In light of the mediocre popularity of my top 5 albums of the year. I have decided to make my top 3 albums for the first half of the year. There has been an awful lot of great music that has been put in front of me over the past six months. It’s been difficult for me to narrow it down to just three, but my job is a tough one as an underpaid writer that feels the need to contribute to society in his own useless way.
3 – Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear
There is something about this album that is difficult to put your finger on. This isn’t your usual singer with an acoustic guitar. His lyrics are not vague. He is able to make light of situations that drive people crazy. All of this with an all so soothing voice. The album is dynamite from the first beat. Father John has an intoxicating way to get inside of the deep layer of your emotional being. This is not an easy listening record even though it should be. It forces you to pay attention to each song from start to finish. Some records are great background music, this is not one of them. You will lose the crowd with his constant melody, and distinct lyrics. Misty is able to hit certain notes that you do not expect him to hit. There are also a couple of heavier areas of the record. Two of the songs have a bit of an unexpected guitar solo. I am very excited to see what he is going to do next. Singles to download: Strange Encounter, The Ideal Husband, and True Affection
2 – Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
I am not afraid to say this. I didn’t like Age of Adz. It was well reviewed, I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it’s my high expectations of Sufjan. Knowing how good Illinoise was. Just wanting him to go back to the well for more pure gold. Well, here it is. An absolute masterpiece. From top to bottom this record shines. The mood is set right from the first track on. Every single sound that is on this record has been thought out. It flows beautifully in and out of a dream land that only Sufjan can navigate. You can envision Sufjan making this album. Marking down points of each song when a certain types of sound are required. Carrie and Lowell might be his best work yet. Illinoise had a few songs that were sent in as filler. This album has nothing of the sort from top to bottom it is perfect. It seems like one of those albums that I will continually come back to. One thing that Sufjan has gone away from is circus noises in this album. Sticking to simplicity. Quiet sounds and the ability to adjust his own voice to the tone of the song. Beautiful album that may actually make it to the top of my list by the end of the year. Singles to download: Death With Dignity, Should Have Known Better, and All of me Wants All of You. Sorry no live performance that is good quality.
1 – Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges and Claws
Envision sitting by a camp fire. Sipping on a beverage. Watching and listening to what you believe might be the most comforting, and angelic music that you have ever heard. Being lifted off by a giant Jose Gonzalez cloud to a glorious place that must have been created by Neil Young or Cat Stevens or maybe a combination of both. There are points of Vestiges and Claws that I think to myself “How did this man think of these graceful noises.” It is pure genius. To think of notes that had never been created before. But make them sound like you could never live without them again. Gonzalez has a way to distribute his voice. It’s a very soothing and unassuming voice, but creates a sense of urgency. His effortless guitar work and his delicate voice work in unison impeccably. This album is perfect. It takes absolutely no work to get into. You can put this on in front of any crowd, and you will have zero complaints. It’s the album of the year as of today, and I would be shocked if any single human being would be able to take Jose Gonzalez off of the mantle for album of the year of 2015. Singles to download: With the Ink of the Ghost, Leaf Off – The Cave, What Will, Every Age