WSUM’s Top Albums of 2016

 

What a year… sure, we are leaving 2016 behind… but at least we get to keep some of its treasures.

 

It’s about time WSUM announces its favorite music creations:

Our station is always a platform for sharing the array of incredible new music releases.  Now that the year is over, WSUM asked its staff and DJ’s to submit their top 10 albums of the 2016.  From many compiled ranks, the station was able to calculate its ultimate list.

We find our list to be an accurate summary of the music that perked our ears, engaged us in debate, pushed us to dance and filled our airwaves.

But first, here are WSUM’s honorable mentioned:

 

 YG – Still Brazy

 Angel Olsen –  My Woman 

 B Boys – No Worries No Mind

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

Tacocat – Lost Time

Kaytranada – 99.9%

The 1975 –  I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

 Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch

Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp

Beyonce – Lemonade

 

If we listed all of our beloved albums, trust us, the list would extend few miles long. So we are making it easier for you…

Who made WSUM’s Top 10 ?  Let’s find out….

10 (1/2) .  Mitski  – Puberty 2

 10 (2/2). Kayne West – Life of Pablo

9.  Death Grips – Bottomless Pit 

8.  Porches – Pool

7. Diiv – Is The Is Are

6. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool 

5. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

 

4. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

3. Car Seat Headrest –  Teens of Denial 

2. Frank Ocean – Blonde

and… TAAA DAAAA……

1. David Bowie – Blackstar

 

Here’s what some of our DJ’s & Staff had to say about their “#1’s”…

 

Jordan Zamansky (DJ) –  Florist – The Birds Outside Sang

Florist’s The Birds Outside Sang is an emotionally exhausting work by Brooklyn-based artist Emily Sprague. Through its half-hour length, the record deals with innocence, melancholy, and mortality, which is a large focal point due to Sprague’s being a victim of a cycling accident in 2013 that left her in a neck brace and without the use of her left arm. Influences include her Brooklyn contemporaries, such as Frankie Cosmos and Yours Are the Only Ears, and also Phil Elverum of The Microphones and Mount Eerie. The often distorted production evokes a sense of urgency, which is juxtaposed against lyrics that note and appreciate the mundane. While the songwriting and arrangements are often minimalistic, as Sprague composed most of the album on the keyboard while her arm was in the process of healing, the record is painfully honest and cuts deep, and it is definitely the album that I emotionally connected with most this year.

 

 

Randy Ballwahn (DJ) –  Bowie – Backstar.

Why? Because he’s David Fucking Bowie.

 

 

Elijah Mapes (DJ)  – Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial 

Pending that there aren’t any crazy surprise album releases left in the month of December (which, honestly, who knows anymore?), I have to believe that my favorite album of 2016 was Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial. Will Toledo and the gang made a great album that combined both elongated instrumentals and extremely punchy and catchy choruses. Simply put, Teens of Denial is an album that’s fun to rock out to. It’s not hard to imagine shouting and dancing along with “Fill In The Blank” or “1937 State Park” in the back of your friend’s car or while among a mass of people in a ballroom or festival similar to the ones that Car Seat Headrest have spent the last half year touring. Every time I hear the songs on this album, especially “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”, I feel like Wayne and Garth listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, only to songs with geekier and more depressing lyrics. It couldn’t have made my 2016 better.

 

 

Karolina Barej (Music Director) – Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch 

From all the new albums that crossed my desk this year, Blood Bitch was the gem I couldn’t part with… And at this very moment, Jenny maybe my favorite human on the planet.  Lyrically profound and beautifully dynamic, Jenny gifted us with an alternate universe through unique soundscapes, vocal layering, and heavy clouds of electronica.  The album is art –  abstract, sophisticated, revealing, empowering, and honest.

More simply said – Blood Bitch  is magic.

P.S. the transition between track 3 (“In the Red”) and track 4 (“Conceptual Romance”)  = the best goosebumps.   BUT LISTEN TO THE WHOLE ALBUM

 

 

Evan Boyd (Station Manager)  – Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Reason: Spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes spikes

 

 

 

Ben Groth (DJ) – The Body & Full of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache 

Experimental metal stalwarts The Body and modern powerviolence act Full of Hell have paired to forge a really harrowing, well-realized slab of experimental music. The standard guitar, bass, drum combo is used to set up a heavy, engaging framework that is supplemented with cacophonous electronics and pained vocals that sound like something caught between a screaming goat and a feedbacking amp. It’s not a million miles away from something like Indian, Corrupted, or Dragged Into Sunlight, but this album has taken another step further. It cultivates an atmosphere of complete bleakness, yet never sacrifices its power and curiosity.

 

 

Daniel Hawley (DJ) – Bon Iver – 22, A Million

As much as I want to talk about other albums I can’t ethically vote any other album AOTY. The way the soundscapes and textures were organically created is not comparable to any other record this year. No other artist took a step in such a distinct direction as Justin Vernon. Superior songwriting with incredible and immersive results.

Devlin Brush (Production Director) – Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

While Will Toledo’s nonchalant demeanor would never let him say it, Teens of Denial is a magnum opus for the Bandcamp generation of indie rockers. The album elevates the sound and scope of the Car Seat Headrest project to nearly stadium status, but doesn’t for one second give the impression that it was written anywhere but the same bedroom as Toledo’s independent releases. Sure, the riffs and melodies are stronger, more clear, and maybe more widely appealing than ever before. But it’s still Toledo’s wit and awkward everyman perspective that carries the album from front to back. Even on the raucus, Japandroids-affecting opener “Fill in the Blank”, he’s loudly asserting his “right to be depressed”, and elsewhere he uses his expertise in epic songwriting to tell stories of his romantic insecurity, crying after a run-in with the law, and just getting too damn high at a party. Album highlight “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” might speak for an entire cohort of confused and disaffected millennials – we’re all “drunk drivers”, “just trying to get home”. Teens of Denial uses classic sounds to speak for a new generation, and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it better.

Jack Claiborne (future Production Director) – Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool 

Radiohead proved that even in 2016, they can still deliver a great album front-to-back. The consistency of the album is why it tops my list, as none of the tracks are “skippable”. A Moon Shape Pool is many things: atmospheric, oftentimes cinematic, but most importantly immersive. Jonny Greenwood’s string arrangements are absolutely beautiful, the electronic drums are implemented well, and Thom Yorke’s lyrics are some of his most poignant and beautiful he’s ever written. Radiohead is my favorite band, but this album reaffirmed to me their ability to fuse alternative rock, electronica, and art rock into something truly great.

 

 

 

Grant Phillips (DJ) – Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge

An ethereal and virtuosic genre synthesis, from post-minimalist classical to art pop. Also, this is the first disc I ever reviewed for WSUM. 😀

 

 

 

Joshua Brandt (DJ)  – Frank Ocean- Blonde 

Its beautiful and it speaks to me late at night.

 

 

Jordan Jerabek (DJ) –  Cobalt – Slow Forever 

Slow Forever is unapologetic, raw, and ruthless. It’s not out to defy any expectations. It’s not trying to be subversive. It’s just primal, crushing, pissed-off metal. Frontman Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis) proves to be an exceptional replacement for former vocalist Phil McSorley, offering an utterly voracious and repulsive performance. Multi-instrumentalist/project mastermind Erik Wunder displays an innate ability to write with pure, yet intellectual aggression. He understands dynamics and structure, and knows how to tap into whatever sort of magic that is that makes this record sound like the unpredictability of a dog bite. It is nothing short of spectacular, using the darkest and grimiest aspects of everything from country, punk, alternative metal, sludge, et cetera. This is all-encompassing and disgustingly sinister headfuckery. It also happens to be one of the best sounding records of the year. The grating guitars, throaty, growling bass, and hefty drumming create a simultaneously fascinating and disturbing wasteland of a record.

 

 

 

Hervin Centeno (DJ) – Kaytranada’s –  99.9%

This LP took my number one spot for the sole reason that it felt to be the most timeless of all the works listed. Between the sampling, instrumentation, and artist features on this album, it is completely unpredictable and I love it that way. The project drips with unconventionality, roughly embodying elements from Funk, R&B, Hip Hop, and House for an album I can see myself shamelessly dancing to for years to come.

 

 

 

Bruce Ravid (DJ) – Bowie – Blackstar

…was a grower and given he knew his fate, it was brilliantly done. Nothing in life can be more real than impending death.

 

 

 

Loren Sommer (DJ)  – Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

This album encapsulates all the things I love about Death Grips-the confrontational and immediate visage, the ugly broken word generator lyrics and the emaciated hooks. They return to the sound they had on “The Money Store” but more refined and focused, and the replay value bursts through the seems with aggression and a catchiness that was sorely lacking on their last few albums. Truly a work of art in a very non chance taking musical landscape.

 

 

 

Maureen Duthie (Creative Director) – Lucius – Good Grief 

Another truly beautiful album by Lucius. Similar to their debut album “Wilderwoman” released in 2014, the duo has created a perfect, tailored harmony that shows their talent and carries the emotion and meaning of their songs beautifully. This album is one to leave you in awe when you thoroughly listen to it. It was tough to choose my favorite album of 2016, and DIIV came in a very close second with their “Out of Mind”, heart lifting guitar pieces, but I think it is the connection I have to Lucius’s lyrics and their beautiful vocals that won me over. Cheers to another year of great music.

 

 

 

Michael Richter (DJ)  – Frank Ocean – Blonde

Frank Ocean makes seemingly impossible contradictions–the ones we each struggle to resolve within ourselves–the project’s artistic focal point and thematic framework. From the many sweeping yet seamless movements between and within songs to the album title itself, Blond(e) explores these contradictions candidly, with lyricism that speaks as much to Frank’s personal psyche as it does to many others’, myself included. This intimacy, coupled with the album’s stripped-back, equally honest, and nostalgia-laced soundscape make every listen feel like a journey of self-discovery, each slightly more revealing than the last.

 

 

David Heinrich (future Traffic Director) – Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Chance redefined and reshaped the music industry this year. He made real change. He proved that an artist doesn’t have to answer to a label, and proved that true art comes straight from the source. He was the first streaming-only artist to chart on the Billboard 100, and he inspired a petition to allow streaming-only artists to be nominated for Grammys, which he was, seven times. And on top of that, he made incredible music that threw the rulebook out the window, broke the boundaries of the genre, and was a joyful pleasure to listen to start-to-finish. If that doesn’t give you the album of the year, I don’t know what does.

 

 

Maya Sub (DJ) – The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

I chose the 1975’s album as my number #1 because I love every track on this album and love how it plays with several genres. It’s a great album to listen to straight through. I also saw them live in concert this summer, and really enjoyed the theatrics of the concert and how the sets worked really well with the music.