Essays

2016’s Albums Of Note, Part Four

good-records

I don’t like “best-of” lists, and I think they’re just…dumb. Short-sighted. I mean, really, how can one possibly quantify a year’s worth of artistic accomplishments and releases numerically, with just a handful of releases? It just seems so silly. That being said, an end of the year review isn’t necessarily a bad idea; in fact, I’m all in favor of taking a few minutes and reviewing what was right about the year.  It’s in that spirit that we spend this next week taking a look at just a handful of what I personally feel to have been some of the year’s highlights, split up over the next five days, and presented alphabetically, because what I feel to have been “best” might not be yours, as art is completely subjective, and, well…I just happen to like these records that just happened to have been released in 2016.

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scanniScanner/Anni Hogan: Scanni:  The collaboration between pianist and composer Anni Hogan and electronica mastermind Scanner proved to be one of the more satisfying projects of the year. Utilizing guest vocalists, the songs on Scanni are delicate numbers that range from electronica (“Once Upon”), spoken word (“Golden Light”), jazz (“Mine Was Full Of Tears,” “With You In My Life”) downbeat (“Alone,” “Careless”), pop (“Future”), and new wave (“A Life Well Lived”). One might think that a record with such a diverse arrange of styles and vocalists would feel a bit buffet-like, but that’s the delightful part about Scanni; it’s a surprisingly cohesive record, a distinctively fresh sound all its own. Hopefully the duo will come together in the next year and deliver another album of gorgeous, beautiful songs. (Strike Force Entertainment/Cherry Red)

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sviibSchool of Seven Bells: SVIIB:  Three years ago today, our friend Benjamin Curtis, one half of the duo School of Seven Bells, lost his battle with cancer. A loss too soon; a talent, silenced. But he didn’t allow his disease to stop him from making music; he kept making it until the end. After his passing, his creative partner Alejandra Deheza gathered friends and family together to finish up his work, and SVIIB is the result of that. Considering the circumstances of the album’s creation, one could rightly assume that sadness and melancholy would overshadow the music, but SVIIB is surprisingly upbeat, its songs catchy, groove-laden pop that belies the melancholy backstory. If anything, SVIIB is a testament carpe diem, to enjoy life and love and the ones around you, and the power of positivity and love. That SVIIB is Curtis’s final release is tragic; that it is his finest release is a testament to perseverance in the face of the harsh nature of life. (Vagrant Records)

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sophiaSophia: As We Make Our Way (Unknown Harbors): It’s been seven years since Robin Proper-Sheppard’s project Sophia released an album, but the wait was worth it. As We Make Our Way is the most intricate and focused Sophia release to date; the melancholy that defined the band’s earlier releases is still there, but Proper-Sheppard has tempered it with some more upbeat fare; numbers like “The Drifter” and “Blame” harken back to the band’s earlier work, while “St. Tropez/The Hustle” and “You Say It’s Alright” are rockers with a groove rarely heard on Sophia records. Even more traditionally Sophia-like numbers such as “Resisting” and “Don’t Ask” have a fuller, slicker production that makes them sound positively radio-friendly. All in all, a welcome return from one of our favorite musicians. (The Flower Shop Recordings)

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sunflowerbeanSunflower Bean: Human Ceremony: We eagerly awaited the debut album of Sunflower Bean, a young trio from Brooklyn who impressed us with a handful of digital releases. Fronted by Julia Cumming, their music belies their relatively young age, as they come up with music that’s a wonderful hybrid of dream-pop, new wave, and alternative rock. While their contemporaries were channeling Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine, Cumming and band have devised a style that’s reminiscent of The Sundays and Lush. Thankfully, they don’t get too lost in rote imitation; Cumming sings with a gentle yet assertive croon that reminds of Harriet Wheeler, and songs like “Easier Said,” “Human Ceremony,” and “Creation Myth” have a lovely, slightly melancholic jangle that are lovely to behold. Yet they can do loud and hard, too, as heard on “I Was Home” and “Wall Watcher.” Though a bit brief, Human Ceremony is a promising debut, and one that rightly got the world’s attention. (Fat Possum)

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sveinssonKjartan SveinssonDer Klang Der Offenbarung Des Göttlichen: When Kjartan Sveinsson left Sigur Rós in 2013, he did so to pursue his own music. Three years later, he has released his debut, and it is as one would expect. Der Klang Der Offenbarung Des Göttlichen is traditional classical; with four parts, the piece sounds exactly what you’d expect from Sveinsson. Dark, moody, foreboding, and yet majestic and moving, the piece is orchestral ambience–with a hint of Opera–and demonstrates just how much of a role Sveinsson played in helping  Sigur Rós develop its sound. (Society of Sound)

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