I have to say that 2016 was, in general, a pretty shit year. It all started with the death of David Bowie and then it really kept kicking everyone when they were down when someone who’s last name rhymes with lump was elected President the United States. So yeah, pretty shit.
HOWEVER. Just because 2016 was annoying, doesn’t mean that there was a lack of good music. Here are my top 3 albums of the year, in no particular order:
Flume – Skin.
25 year old electronic music producer Harley Edward Streten, also known as Flume, has been producing music for the better part of the last decade. Picture this – it’s 2012, and if you hear one more dubstep/big-room-house-female-vocal-medley-remix song (cough, LEVELS BY AVICII), you’re going to lose it and start listening to country music instead. Well. Never fear! You were in luck, because Flume changed that with the release of his self-titled debut album. Critically acclaimed and immaculately produced, Flume was a woozy, R&B inspired, textured, low-fi, somehow still upbeat electronic effort that changed the direction popular electronic music was headed forever. It just sounded nice.
So, needless to say, I was pretty excited for this latest release, Skin, and I really think he delivered. It’s very pop, but it’s also very distinctly Flume. Harley had the chance to work with a number of talented vocalists (Tove Lo, Beck, & Kai to name a few), and the whole thing is very radio-friendly. However, he somehow manages to use enough layered sounds & samples to make it seem like you’ve never heard tracks like them before.
Bon Iver – 22, A Millon
Bon Iver was (I’ll get to this) an American folk band formed in 2007 by lead vocalist Justin Vernon. You’ve probably heard their track Skinny Love. Vernon is infamous for writing Bon Iver’s entire debut album alone in Wisconsin cabin during the dead of winter when he was going through a really sad breakup. It is a very depressing album, but somehow makes you feel better than you did before you started listening to, because it’s so sonically pleasing. They mix electronic sounds, guitar, and… bells (I TOLD YOU I WASN’T MUSICALLY TRAINED) to form a stunning, Grammy-award winning album.
I find it weird that I like Bon Iver, because they’re often linked with bands like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Fleet Foxes – three bands which I cannot stand and if you put them on at a party I’ll get angry and leave. I think they’re generic and the banjo is an instrument that should never have been invented.
But I digress. Justin Vernon is a musical genius, and his last two albums have been very folk, but 22, A Millon, is a purely electronic effort and I absolutely love it. Vernon was apparently hanging out with Kanye to produce this, and it’s a mismatched collection of sounds and vocals that are NOT cohesive. But again, much like Flume, it somehow sounds great. None of the tracks on this follow a traditional song pattern, and his voice is SO soothing. I also think I like this album even more because people who like the Lumineers probably fucking (sorry, Allison!) hate it.
Favourite Track: 33 God
Kayne West – The Life Of Pablo
I feel like Kanye, unlike the two other people on this list, requires little introduction, so I am just going to get straight into it. Kanye is extremely problematic in the sense that people often overlook his musical talent based on this shitty (or narcissistic, depending on how you look at it) personality. But you absolutely cannot deny that this guy is NOT lacking in the production department.
The Life Of Pablo is loud and it is catchy. On this album, Kanye has almost all but abandoned his 808 & Heartbeat‘s autotune love affair and starts to revisit what made him so great in the first place – good sampling & rapping. He rants and he collaborates with the top musicians in the industry (Chance The Rapper, Sia, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, etc.) and the result is an album that you can listen to anytime, anywhere. The gym, the house party, the depressingly long drive back to your parents house. The Life Of Pablo is amazing.
I would also like to mention that this result is extremely biased because I saw Kanye West live and it was the single best experience of my entire life. HE DOES THE ENTIRE SHOW ON A FLOATING STAGE WHILE PEOPLE PARTICIPATE IN A MOSH PIT BELOW HIM. NEED I SAY MORE. SORRY FOR THE CAPS.
Favourite Track: No More Parties In LA