30 Best Albums Of 2016

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Looking back at what a shit year 2016 has been, it’s no wonder I published more music writing than ever before. As the months wore on I found myself swiping away more and more real news in my feed and just getting lost in Bandcamp and other music sources. I wasn’t really trying to bury my head; I was looking for a better way of thinking.

The world is what it is, but I can frame it and focus on it however I choose. Immersing in the toxicity of bad news and worse reactions changed my perception one way, so I aimed to change it another way. Art has been a life sustaining tonic all my life, a refuge sought in times of stress, loneliness, and most of all, deep frustration. If I’ve hit a brick wall, I know that obsessing about the problem won’t help. I need to detach, breathe, and follow something made to surprise. A good story or song is something to be lost in, sure, but it grants perspective. It can bend the light just so, showing me a new way to see.

Perspective also comes from travel. The simple but profound act of experiencing other parts of the world can never be overestimated. This is where the image at the top of this list comes in. It’s Greenland, as seen from my plane back home to the United States from Ireland a month ago. I happened to open the window shade during the brief window when we were passing over the very tip of the continent-sized island. It felt like magic.

I’m entering 2017 with hope that good news can happen and that we can press on, even when our heroes are gone. I look around and I wonder who the future heroes are going to be. Those people will be standing against the dark tide and risking everything. They’ve got new ideas to replace the scary old ones that never quite die.

Looking back on the past year of music, I see a lot of new ideas and new perspectives on old ones. The best kind of music always elicits surprise, even if it’s made in a familiar way. There’s a flash of feeling, a rush of blood, and it clicks. Everything on this list mattered to me and I hope some of it can matter to you.

Let’s begin the countdown. These are the 30 best albums of 2016:

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CFCF – On Vacation

 

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One of my many talents is the ability to be surprised, I guess. Because it seems to be happening more and more often lately.

As the news of a Grammy nomination were swirling around CFCF, aka Michael Silver, I noticed a message slipping in: he’s got more music coming soon. Very soon. Like, there’s a full album out right now. It’s called On Vacation.

And so it goes.

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What I’m Into This Week (2/21 – 2/27)

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I feel like I’m going to start doing a weekly post about the albums I’m listening to. That way, even if I don’t end up writing something lengthy about a given album, I’m still spreading the good word.

So here goes.

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Ohmu

Tonight I’m feeling like this.

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Because I’m listening to this:

Seriously, I feel like a post apocalyptic princess fulfilling a prophecy by befriending a hyper-intelligent bug, saving the world from mutant nuclear annihilation.

Thanks for the incredible song, Dip In The Pool.

I heard of this band because of CFCF. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know why.

17 Best Albums Of 2015

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2015  was an incredible year for music, full of surprises and second comings, weird new genres and unbelievable evolutions of existing sounds. Of course, every year is great for music as long as you’re open to new sounds. That’s how this whole thing works.

Every year, I enjoy writing down my favorites as I go along, adding them to a simple text file on my laptop. Sometimes I add stars to the albums when I realize I’m completely mad for them. For some albums, this means I find myself listening day after day, racking up dozens of plays. For others, this means that I’m struck so deeply on an emotional, intellectual, or even physical level that I can’t bring myself to listen again for a few days. Both experiences bring lasting rewards, especially when considered in the long view. This is why I love looking back and appreciating the permanent impact from these powerful pieces of music.

As it turned out, this year’s list included over twenty starred albums. I left a handful for my Best of 2015 Honorable Mention list, but the rest were simply indispensable. My list would not be complete without all of these albums.

So please, read on and enjoy. These are the 17 best albums of 2015.

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CFCF “Rain Dance”

Apparently CFCF is bursting at the seams with new material. In addition to a new album, Radiance & Submission, he’s dropping a full-length cassette album on 1080p Collection called The Colours Of Life. Here’s a preview piece.

After getting excited about the upcoming traditional album (new single streaming right here), this is a complete surprise. You don’t exactly anticipate an artist returning after two years of near silence with a pair of full length records, but here they are!

This release will be 40 minutes of unbroken, blissed-out sound, full of bright timbres and worldly percussion. Timbre-wise, it’s more in line with his light, modern minimalist work, while the fluid sound collage structure nods toward his monumental Night Bus mixtapes. To a fan like me, this sounds like heaven.

The fact that he’s been nodding toward Ryuichi Sakamoto and Laraaji (a pair of gods, as far as I’m concerned) only heightens my excitement. The label page itself features a lengthy bit of backstory from the artist himself, mentioning The River EP, a new age-tinted instrumental journey into wide-eyed pan-global textures – and the record where I fell in love with CFCF’s music.

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1080p Collection has been dropping some seriously intriguing music over the past year, and his inclusion on their roster only heightens the appeal. You can pick the album up on August 14th, on either cassette or digital download:  The Colours Of Life order page on 1080p.

CFCF has a new single, The Ruined Map

CFCF is one of my favorite musicians alive. His albums evoke an understated brilliance and his mixtapes are literally perfect. The Montreal-based artist, real name Mike Silver, is a direct inspiration for my own mixtapes, and has weirdly and specifically similar tastes to mine. Every time he releases something new, I devour it and savor the sounds on repeat.

This weekend, a new single was released.

I discovered yesterday via his Facebook page that a new album is coming July 31 and would run a limited set of 200 clear vinyl LPs and 300 standard black discs. Being one of the few artists I implicitly trust, I pre-ordered immediately. Today, that trust is vindicated with The Ruined Map.

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