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Top 25 Albums Of 2016

December 12, 2016

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Alright friends, here’s my full album list.  Unlike my Top 50 Songs of 2016, there are Austin acts here. As always, this isn’t some sort of “critical” list, it’s just the albums that I jammed the most this year.  Enjoy.

PS – Here’s a playlist of all the albums on Spotify!

25) Deftones – Gore

While I’ve always liked the Deftones, I haven’t legit loved an album of theirs since 2000′s PonyGore wrapped me up though – it’s really well crafted and features some great songs.  I went back to it often in 2016.

24) Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow

At first I was slightly let down by Nothing’s sophomore effort, but after I spent some quality time with it I became pretty damn attached.  If you’re into shoegaze, then you need to listen to Tired Of Tomorrow.

23) Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness

I love me some Explosions In The Sky.  By the way, my instrumental album rankings for 2016 go like this: 1) EITS’ The Wilderness, 2) Russian Circles’ Guidance and then 3) Mono’s Requiem For Hell.

22) Tancred – Out Of The Garden

There isn’t a song on Tancred’s Out Of The Garden that isn’t infectious.  Definitely a must-listen for fans of 90s indie/pop rock.

21) Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive

Thao continues to be one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time.  I just connect with everything she churns out.

20) Bleached – Welcome The Worms

Bleached took a step away from surf rock on Welcome The Worms and it turned out to be a great move for them.  This album is so energetic.

19) Yung – A Youthful Dream

This kid – 22-year-old Mikkel Holm Silkjær – out of Denmark really impressed me with his debut as YungA Youthful Dream is noisy in all of the right ways.

18) A Giant Dog – Pile

Austin’s very own A Giant Dog have long been a favorite of mine, so I love that they totally crushed it on Pile, their debut for Merge Records.

17) Savages – Adore Life

I was obsessed with Savages’ Adore Life for the first few months of the year.  Eventually I was able to wiggle myself out of its intense pull, mostly.

16) Preoccupations – Self Titled

Just in case you forgot, Viet Cong is now Preoccupations.  In regards to their self titled effort, I love that the majority of it sounds like Interpol on artsy steroids.

15) Cross Record – Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi is a rather ethereal effort from Cross Record, a newer band out of Austin.  The whole thing is really damn good and it totally turned me into a big fan of theirs.

14) The Hotelier – Goodness

For those of you that love anthemic rock (with a dash of emo on top), here’s Goodness from The Hotelier.  I passionately rocked this album a lot in my car.

13) Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

There isn’t a single song on Frankie Cosmos’ Next Thing that isn’t soaked in sincerity.  She has one of those voices that makes everything feel so very genuine.

12) Terry Malts – Lost At The Party

Any time Terry Malts put out an album, you can count on it being high up on my list.  They write super catchy stuff and in general are reliably awesome.

11) Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

Pretty Years is one hell of an album.  At one point will the masses open up to Cymbals Eat Guitars?  Those guys should be playing huge rooms.

10) White Denim – Stiff

Stiff is another high quality set of jams from White Denim.  They remain a really big favorite of mine.

09) Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

Light Upon The Lake is quite possibly the most accessible album that I came across this year.  Seriously, there’s not a single track on Whitney’s debut that isn’t instantly likeable.

08) Basketball Shorts – Hot And Ready

Hot And Ready from Austin’s Basketball Shorts was a big go-to for me in 2016.  It’s 20-ish minutes of pop punk perfection.

07) Angel Olsen – My Woman

My Woman made me go from liking Angel Olsen to loving her.  What a next level effort.

06) Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

For a while there, I only listened to Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book.  It’s an inspired, energetic effort that features a lot of great songwriting.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

05) Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo

Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo is a manic listen with a lot of layers.  He sure does have a lot going on in his head.

04) The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend

The Coathangers really hit a home run with Nosebleed Weekend.  It has a ton of great hooks and just the right amount of snarl.

03) Frank Ocean – Blonde

Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a hypnotic experience.  I’m not even sure how often I’ve listened to the entire thing after only intending to revisit one particular song.

02) Car Seat Headrest – Teens In Denial

They may not sound alike at all, but Car Seat Headrest’s Teens In Denials is like Frank Ocean’s Blonde – they’re both really hypnotic listens.  That Will Toledo is one hell of a songwriter.

01) White Lung – Paradise

Of all the EPs and LPs I listened to 2016, White Lung’s Paradise is the one that I jammed the most.  It’s loud and heavy and the best modern rock album I’ve come across in years. Congrats to the band for nailing it and grabbing the top spot on my list.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 5

December 2, 2016

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Here’s the end of my “songs I liked a whole lot this year” list.  Enjoy.

PS – Just a reminder that there are no Austin acts to be found in any part of this list.  I’m going to be doing a two-part year-ender via 101X Homegrown (my radio show) that will detail my favorite local tracks.  Look for Part 1 to air on 12/11, and then Part 2 on 12/18.

Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 3 is HERE.
Part 4 is HERE.

PPS – I got a ton of take down notices, so you’ll have to listen via Spotify.

10)  :P.O.S. – Wave (Featuring Moncelas Boston And Sophia Eris):  P.O.S. didn’t put out an album this year, but he did release a handful of singles.  This slick-sounding effort finished the year as my favorite of the bunch.

09)  :White Lung – Kiss Me When I Bleed:  White Lung’s Mish Barber-Way commands all with her vocal work in this heavy track that aims to pummel.  Turn it up.

08)  :Chance The Rapper – Angels (Featuring Saba):  Chance The Rapper and Saba are as pleasant as can be in this joyous track – it’s infectious stuff.

07)  :Whitney – Golden Days:  This song from Whitney was a big go-to for me every time I needed a breather in 2016.  It’s so damn accessible and laid back.

06)  :Coathangers – Squeeki Tiki:  Admittedly, a part of me couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put a squeaky toy-enhanced track in the top 10 of my year-end song list.  Also, it’s scuzzy and creative and perfect and deserving of everyone’s love.  Thanks for the jam, Coathangers!

05)  :Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?:  This one from Shura is easily my favorite straight up pop tune of 2016.  It may also be the winner of this year’s “song that John poorly sang-a-long to the most” award.

04)  :Cymbals Eat Guitars – Have a Heart:  If I were to rank out every Cymbals Eat Guitars song, I’d be tempted to put this one in the top spot.  What a track.

03)  :Frank Ocean – Solo:  This is one seriously hypnotic effort from Frank Ocean.  That fella is a hell of a crooner.

02)  :Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me:  Every time I hear this song I just want to high five Angel Olsen and go rollerskating.  I love the way she pulls no punches here.

01)  :Kanye West – Ultralight Beam:  Is this song absolutely ridiculous?  Yes.  I mean, it’s Kanye West, so of course it’s ridiculous.  It also happens to be amazing though, and I love it.  Definitely the song I blasted the most in 2016 … probably because it was the most ridiculous year ever and I needed the right song to accompany me through it.

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2013 SOTO Staff Picks

December 18, 2013

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It wouldn’t be fun if only I just rambled along about what I liked this year, so I reached out to my very diverse staff for their Top 5 Albums of 2013.  I think you’ll see that the SOTO clan like a lot of different things.  Enjoy.

You know what can, sometimes, kind of blow? Getting old. Yup, watching the old life clock tick on by, the responsibilities of life pile around your ears, those precious moments when you could just wile away an hour or five listening to a handful of new records. Well kiddies, those days are dead. Nowadays I’m happy if I can listen to the new Lil’ Wayne single more than a few times when I’m driving to the gym to work my gut out with my trainer Francis. What I’m getting at here is that though I wish my list was full of a shocking selection of diverse and mind-expanding music, well, it’s not. I stand by each and all of these picks but I can’t say I did the extra work this year to blow any minds.

Forgive me, and enjoy.

5. The National – If I Stay Here, Trouble Will Find Me
4. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
3. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
2. Fuzz – S/T
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City

In keeping with my column, I fully intended to select nothing but chick-fronted albums in 2013. Laura Marling was one of my most-streamed, and my girl Neko’s latest was an insta-fave. But once I got back to looking at things, I realized my list was a little more eclectic than anticipated. Vampire Weekend never ceases to be the catchiest around, and Local Natives continue to lyrically break my heart with everything they put out. And there’s nothing like a little Washed Out to soundtrack a Sunday afternoon. Notable mention? Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds stopped by KCRW, resulting in a record store day release that I haven’t stopped listening (and crying) to since purchasing.

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Washed Out – Paracosm
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Local Natives – Hummingbird

I see it this way … 2010 was the first date, 2011 was the good times, 2012 was the breakup, and 2013 was when music took some “me” time. That does not mean this year did not generate some great or even classic records, it does mean that there was some experimentation that may or may not have worked out so well; see Drumgasm. That being said, there was still plenty of illuminations happening all over the musical cosmos in 2013. Labels like Chapter Music and Paradise of Bachelors killed it this year, as did Bedroom Suck and Fire Records. Though some more successful than others, 2013 saw artists and bands the world over restate time honored sounds and genres.

5. Fat History Month – Bad History Month (Exploding In Sound)
4. The Stevens – A History Of Hygiene (Chapter Music)
3. Purling Hiss – Water On Mars (Drag City)
2. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)
1. Steve Gunn – Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors)

When I received my assignment to pick my Top 5 albums for the year, I thought that It would be a piece of cake: “5 albums? No problem.” But then I started to recall the various new releases from this year and felt twinges of panic and regret: “Who do I choose ? Who do I leave off the list ?”. I don’t have a complicated system for deciding on favorites; it usually comes down to what I listened to the most.  The focus for my 2013 Top 5 are all Austin-based artists, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy records from bands from other places. This year was also a fantastic year for some outstanding releases from some of my favorite local bands. They all share a common love for melodies, harmonies, and top notch songwriting.

Royal Forest – Spillway
Black Books – Black Books
Wiretree – Get Up
The Zoltars – Walking Through The Dark
Yum – Take My Blue / Santiago Dietche – Waxing And Roaring (tie)

This year there have been some amazing metal releases, I am not even giving lip service about my genre, it has been incredible the caliber of albums coming out, and to narrow it down to five, I had to switch a few things around from other lists I have made. Excluding Dillinger Escape Plan, Cult of Luna, Arsis, Black Dahlia Murder and All Pigs Must Die is heart wrenching, but these five bands have created some of the best music metal has heard in two decades. From noisy extremes like Nails, to groove laden jams on the new Clutch album, and the rebirth of the dormant Carcass to win the top spot on every list I have done.  So let it be written, so let it be done, the best metal albums of the year are:

5. Nails – Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
4. Kvelertak – Meir (Roadrunner)
3. Clutch – Earth Rocker (Weathermaker)
2. Protest The Hero – Volition (Razor And Tie)
1. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)

Hey, everybody! It may surprise you that here in my natural habitat of the music blog, I am supremely uncomfortable making lists.  Yes, I listen to a lot of music, and yes, there is stuff I like more than other stuff, but really when it comes down to taking my favorite albums from an entire year and ranking them on such a fine gradient, I just get miserable and ambivalent.  There was a lot of great hip hop produced this year and these are all great albums, and these are only in an order because John Laird forced me to do it.

5. Shad – Flying Colours
4. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
3. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
1. Danny Brown – Old

2013 was a big year for pop music. Miley’s tongue was inescapable, British teens ran rampant, and through it all I reveled in the weirdness. The latter half of this year found me really embracing my not-so-guilty pleasure of pure female fronted pop, so I thought I should theme my Top 5 to mainstream pop with female vocalists. Specific enough for ya? But after all, there’s so much of it, sometimes you need a spirit guide. Like Katy Perry–those of you who wrote her off for bubblegum pop need to check out Prism, where her dark side shines and emotions run rampant. And Ariana Grande–the next in line for a breakout from the Disney dynasty actually has the pipes to back it up, and I can’t stop spinning her tracks. Meanwhile, singles shine for Lady Gaga’s Artpop, where any track could be a hit–and Do What U Want is climbing charts for a reason. None of the Lana Del Rey songs on 2013′s Tropico are new–all taken from last year’s Paradise–but these three songs might be her best so far and provide an excellent primer for burgeoning Lana fans. Number one couldn’t go to anyone but Lorde–sure, brush her off as a one hit wonder, but I’d take Tennis and Ribs over Royals any day–it’s an incredible album.

5. Katy Perry – Prism
4. Lady Gaga – Artpop
3. Ariana Grande – Yours Truly
2. Lana Del Rey – Tropico
1. Lorde – Heroine

So 2013 was pretty good year for music, yes? My thirst for catchy punk rock and fuzzy garage rock was quenched throughout the year. There were a bunch of albums I loved that did not make the very top of my list. I’m looking at you Ty Segall, Bad Sports, Mind Spiders, A Giant Dog, and Thee Oh Sees. I love you all but there can only be five:

5. Radioactivity – Radioactivity
4. Vaadat Charigim – The World Is Well Lost
3. Sweet Talk – Pickup Lines
2. Mikal Cronin – MCII
1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

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