On Friday night, in
between a prolonged beat, Jai Wolf
stole my heart at The Showbox in downtown Seattle, and put his concert in my list of top 5 concerts.
The show opened with Ramzoid, an 18-year old from Canada, whose alternative electronic vibe was
refreshing. While electronic music is extremely common, his music pulled
everyone in. The second opening act was Jerry Folk, another person I had never heard of until that
night. I am glad to have heard him because his remixes were outstanding. This
one of Oh Wonder’s Lose It and Years & Years’ Desire was definitely one of my favorite moments of the
Ramzoid and Jerry Folk
played on either side of the main stage. Leaving the main stage for the main
act: Jai Wolf. By the time he came
on, we had been waiting for almost 2 hours, but his show was worth the wait.
Right of the bat, he pulled the entire crowd into his music as everyone jumped,
and danced—swaying as a giant crowd. And as I looked around, I saw a sea of
people whose face had the same goofy grin I am sure I wore too.
Standing behind that
beautifully constructed stage, and using the disco ball in the middle of the
room, Jai Wolf’s entire concert was one that pulled the audience in.
In the middle of his set,
Jai Wolf reminded us this was his first show since his EP Kindred Spirits had
dropped and he was beyond excited to play for us—and near the end, we as a
crowd could tell he was overwhelmed. Yet, his dominance was unwavering. For a
minute there, he let the beat go on a little longer than it was supposed to as
he got emotional, and left the stage soon after to regain his composure.
But he was back in no more
than a minute, closing the show magnificently. He played his most commonly
known and greatest hit Indian Summer where I am guessing the confetti was
supposed to burst but didn’t, and so he said “I am going to pull a Kanye and
replay that last one for you.”
In between the tiny
mishaps and the amazing set, in the midst of confetti, the show was over
leaving us with an abundant memories of a night well spent.
Swedish indie pop band The Radio Dept. is back with a new album Running Out of Love. The band, currently composed only of members Johan Duncansson and Martin Carlberg, has been embroiled in a legal battle with their record label Labrador, delaying new musical releases for several years. This marks the band’s first album since their successful 2010 release Clinging to a Scheme.
Although The Radio Dept. has often been characterized by their blend of dream pop and shoegaze inspired music, Running Out of Love represents a shift towards a more electronic style. Though the band has clearly shown an electronic influence in the past, this album takes that trend the furthest, moving towards a full synth-pop sound.
The upbeat, danceable feeling created by the synths and beat contrast with the somber mood of the album. Though there are still traces of the signature fuzzy and distorted sound typical of the band’s music, the general feeling of these tracks is much more cold than the warm and comfortable feeling of their past efforts. The lyrics, too, are much more solemn and politically charged than in the past. While many of us here in Seattle are preoccupied with American politics as the election grows closer, The Radio Dept. have focused on Swedish political issues in this album, and tackle what the band views as regression in Swedish society.
Opening track “Slobada Narodu,” takes it’s title from a famous anti-fascist slogan originating from WWII, meaning “power to the people.” It begins the album with impactful percussion, slowly building up to the second track, previously released single “Swedish Guns,” a critique of the Swedish arms industry. Other notable topics addressed on the album appear in tracks such as “We Got Game,” which criticizes the actions and biased motivation of the police, and “Occupied,” which details the band’s legal dispute with their label.
Although on first listen there may not seem to be any standout tracks on quite the same level as “Strange Things Will Happen” and “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done” from 2003’s Lesser Matters, or “Heaven’s on Fire” from Clinging to a Scheme, further listens reveal many strong moments on the album, such as the catchy “This Thing Was Bound to Happen,” or the danceable instrumental outro of “Committed to the Cause.” Running Out of Love may not be the band’s greatest work, but it nevertheless serves as another strong addition to their discography.
Listen to Running Out of Love here or listen to single “Swedish Guns” below:
Any major music publication will hastily remind its readers how many great records have come out so far in 2016, many of which are high both in quality and levels of pre-release anticipation. Just to name a few, the year has seen rapturous applause and attention applied to long-awaited releases from
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Radiohead, James Blake, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, and YG, with more on the way from The Avalanches, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, and Run the Jewels.
While we wait for the second half of 2016 to continue blowing our minds, the fine folks here at Rainy Dawg Radio would love to wish everyone a happy summer, and we can’t express enough how excited we are for things to kick back into gear this September. Until then, your summer listening material is below, in alphabetical order so as not to spoil my highly anticipated annual Best Albums of the Year list. I’ve also decided to include 5 of my favorite shortform releases of the year so far, just because EPs deserve love, too, and the year has seen many fantastic ones.
Writer’s note: This list is solely the opinion of myself, RDR’s music director, and only includes albums and mixtapes released through the end of June 2016.
50 Best Albums of 2016
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/underground)
In brief: This is the alt-rap legend’s seventh album, and also his most lonesome one. The Impossible Kid was entirely self-produced and features no other rappers, making it Aes’ most personal record to date, and quite possibly his best (hot take, I know).
RIYL: Danny Brown, MF DOOM, Run the Jewels
Anohni – Hopelessness
Genre: Pop (experimental/electronic)
In brief: A shockingly catchy political pop album that pulls none of its punches. Anohni is something of a musical trio, composed of the titular Artist, former vocalist for Antony and the Johnsons, as well as A++ production team Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. The result is an in-your-face, punk-as-hell noise pop record that’s glossy, heavy-handed (for better and worse), and totally necessary and relevant.
RIYL: Bjork, The Knife, The Haxan Cloak
Autechre – elseq 1-5
Genre: Electronic (ambient/noise)
In brief: English experimental duo Autechre may have surpassed expectations with 2013’s Exai, the longest the band had released at that point in their twenty-year career, but nothing prepared anyone for this. Elseq 1-5 presents an astounding four hours of top-notch robotic noise, ambient, and so-called “intelligent dance music.” This record is bigger and denser than any black hole, reaching a seemingly post-human form of musical expression. Is this improvised? Pre-written? Listen to it in one session or ten, just consume all it has to offer.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Oneohtrix Point Never, Four Tet
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Genre: R&B (pop/hip-hop)
In brief: Now, just what in the hell could I say about this album/its release/the visual accompaniment that has not already been picked to bits ad nauseam by everyone else two months ago? Not much; instead I’ll just say how fantastic the music of Lemonade is, especially considering the amount of sonic variation at play. Each song feels right, necessary, and like it fits, even if Bey jumps from garage rock to bouncy reggae-pop to country without a second’s consideration (and thank goodness for it).
RIYL: FKA twigs, Destiny’s Child, Adele
Big Ups – Before a Million Universes
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/experimental)
In brief: Although largely unknown, this NY rock group dropped one of my favorite albums of 2014 with their debut, Eighteen Hours of Static. Now, the group is back with a less immediately catchy but much better, more cerebral experience of an album. Inspired by the atmospheric post-rock of the genre’s early contributors, like Slint and Bark Psychosis, Before a Million Universes owes a lot to its influences. Yet, it’s still undeniably a current work, filled to the brim with 21st century anxiety and tension. If you messed up by skipping over this band two years ago, then bring balance to your life by not messing up this time.
RIYL: Fugazi, Slint, Shellac
The Body/Full of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
Genre: Metal (noise/grindcore)
In brief: The Body and Full of Hell make music at different speeds, but for some reason putting their collective minds together makes for a cohesive, fast-paced experience. This record is more than bone-chilling, it’s bone-freezing. Absolute terror lurks here, and it’s more thrilling than the five scariest horror movies you’ve seen combined.
RIYL: Nails, Converge, Cult Leader
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Genre: Rock (Indie/garage)
In brief: Will Toledo has been in business for quite a while, but finally decided to schedule his breakout project for release through Matador Records. Following last year’s salient Teens of Style, this record (Toledo’s first album of all new material for a label) is 70 minutes of some of the finest indie rock you’ll hear all year. Diverse, funny, sad, and totally worth your while.
RIYL: Guided by Voices, The Strokes, Pavement
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/gospel)
In brief: In which popular, beloved independent rapper Chancelor Bennett follows up a massively acclaimed mixtape with an even more acclaimed mixtape. Unfortunately for me, Coloring Book is not nearly as good as Acid Rap. Still, though, even Chance’s duds are more of a blast than many rappers’ bangers. If you haven’t already listened to this, what the hell is wrong with you, dude?
RIYL: Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, Kanye West
Colin Stetson – Sorrow
Genre: Neo-Classical (experimental/opera)
In brief: Colin Stetson has long been impressing folks with his sheer ability as a saxophonist, namely on key releases by everyone from Arcade Fire to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This time, he put his strengths toward the reinterpretation of a classic symphony by Gorecki, using black metal, post-rock, and jazz as his inspiration through which to create. The result is Sorrow, a frighteningly beautiful album that demands to be heard over and over again.
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Frederic Chopin, Arvo Part
David Bowie – Blackstar
Genre: Rock (experimental/avant-garde)
In brief: Bowie’s swan song; what more is there to it? A vast, gorgeous, totally whacked out record from one of history’s great musical masterminds. As awe-inspiring a late-period album as any of the best from Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, all late-bloomers in their own respects.
RIYL: Scott Walker, Chelsea Wolfe, Iggy Pop
Deakin – Sleep Cycle
Genre: Folk (psychedelic/avant-garde)
In brief: Deakin, a.k.a. Animal Collective’s lost member. My boy here has been working on this record for several years, and the only thing wrong with it is that it’s criminally short. Otherwise, it’s one of the best solo Animal Collective albums ever, rivaling Panda Bear’s beloved Person Pitch. This record is freaky, beautiful, and everything I wanted from Deakin’s solo debut.
RIYL: Vashti Bunyan, The Microphones, Animal Collective circa 2005
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Genre: Punk (noise/rap)
In brief: Death Grips are secretly the greatest band of our generation. They fight all boundaries, resulting in otherworldly music that no other set of musicians is capable of even touching. Bottomless Pit, the band’s fifth studio album, serves as further proof that the band can do no wrong. This record is full of noisy, filthy, catchy songs about debaucherous acts, death, and occultish mystery, all of which are subjects from which Death Grips scarcely shies away. Basically, Death Grips do what they do and they do it with equal excellence as they always do.
RIYL: Lightning Bolt, Clipping., The Locust
Deerhoof – The Magic
Genre: Rock (pop/noise)
In brief: Longstanding noise pop group Deerhoof are back with one of their best records in quite a while. Delightfully catchy and outlandishly weird, it won’t be too long before The Magic goes down as Deerhoof’s best late-period album, with its myriad of great songs backed by unrivaled musicianship. One of the most underrated bands ever is back, and probably won’t be converting any non-believers.
RIYL: Kero Kero Bonito, Melt-Banana, Flaming Lips
Denzel Curry – Imperial
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/turnt)
In brief: The latest project from Florida rapper Denzel Curry totally caught me off guard. Imperial is a short, unfiltered psychological journey through the gritty streets of Miami. It’s not the most original record on the block, but it’s angry, consistent, and real damn exciting to listen to.
RIYL: Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Three 6 Mafia
Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold
Genre: Rock (garage/punk)
In brief: Turn to Gold is the third album from the horridly named six-piece Diarrhea Planet. Get past the name, however, and you’re in for one of the most fun, unashamedly upbeat rock records of the summer. Combine the shredding guitar leads of classic Van Halen (praise due to the band’s four guitar players) with the unhinged garage rock Jay Reatard and you have Diarrhea Planet, the one band missing from your life.
RIYL: The White Stripes, Japandroids, Jay Reatard
The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free
Genre: Rock (Garage/experimental)
In brief: Australian rock group The Drones have been kicking rock-n-roll in the head for nearly two decades now, and their music has not reached the wide audience it deserves. The group’s latest record is another in a series of atmospheric, noisy garage freakouts, with deftly political lyrics from the band’s cynical vocalist, Gareth Liddard. You won’t hear anything quite like this in 2016 or any other year.
RIYL: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Mogwai, Sleaford Mods
Future of the Left – The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/noise)
In brief: Future of the Left is a Welsh group led by Andrew Falkous, the notorious former lead vocalist of cult noise rock band Mclusky. The past few years have seen him apply his ferocious snarl to Future of the Left, a similarly funny, snide group that paints vivid, disturbing images with its music. A totally bonkers experience, much like all of the band’s albums, and yet another in a series of fantastic Future of the Left albums.
RIYL: Mclusky, Shellac, The Austerity Program
.gif from god – …defragmented…reformatted
Genre: Metal (screamo/powerviolence)
In brief: I don’t know much about this band, but I do know that they have a fantastically ridiculous name to go along with their fantastically ridiculous music. This record is a short, no-bullshit explosion of classic screamo, powerviolence, and mathcore. It scratches the itch that can generally be quelled with classic Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge albums, but is chock-full of ugly vocal performances and fierce riffs that feel undeniably fresh.
RIYL: Converge, The Blood Brothers, The Dillinger Escape Plan
The Hotelier – Goodness
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was blown totally out of the water by New England emo group The Hotelier’s last album, 2014’s Home, Like Noplace Is There. This time around, the band goes for a more straightforward, but still lyrically dense and highly passionate style of music. While not as immediately effective as Home, it reveals its magic and goodness – if you will – with each subsequent listen.
RIYL: The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, The Promise Ring, Foxing
James Ferraro – Human Story 3
Genre: Ambient (experimental/v a p o r w a v e)
In brief: James Ferraro is one of contemporary music’s most versatile underground sensations. He’s released foundational masterworks in ambient, electronic, and beat-based music, from his beloved NYC, Hell 3:00 AM to the underrated Far Side Virtual. I didn’t love his last album, which came out at the end of last year, but I am floored with this one. An experimental piece about our relationship with technology and capitalism, Human Story 3 is an abstract, astonishing experience that will shock you, make you laugh, and maybe make you cry.
RIYL: Dean Blunt, death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, Arca
Joey Purp – iiiDrops
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/pop)
In brief: Joey Purp’s sophomore tape is one of the most fun hip-hop records I’ve heard this year. Believe it or not, this Chicago rapper’s new project, iiiDrops, did more for me than the latest releases from his counterparts, Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. This record is full of great hooks, amazing production, and some notable bars from Joey Purp. This tape is just waiting to be your summer jams mix.
RIYL: Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Le1f
John Congleton & the Nighty Nite – Until the Horror Goes
Genre: Rock (experimental/noise)
In brief: John Congleton deserves praise for many reasons. He’s the Grammy-winning producer behind albums from groups like Swans, St. Vincent, and Explosions in the Sky. He’s also the former vocalist for avant-rock group The Paper Chase, one of the most original groups to ever exist. For his debut solo album, Congleton takes all the frightening, morbid imagery he’s known for writing about and filters them through bizarrely catchy and legitimately great tunes. This one is super under-the-radar, and I don’t know why I haven’t heard much buzz over it, but it’s totally worth checking out.
RIYL: The Paper Chase, AJJ, The Mountain Goats
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/gospel)
In brief: It’s fuckin’ Kanye, man. It’s TLOP, dude. Just get over it.
RIYL: Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, Travi$ Scott
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Genre: Rock (garage/experimental)
In brief: This is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ninth album in half as many years, and through their intense recording/touring schedule they still somehow produce phenomenal music. Case in point, Nonagon Infinity, perhaps the band’s finest, sharpest work yet. The album works as an endless loop, with refrains and hooks popping up repeatedly throughout the album’s runtime. Nonagon Infinity feels like one really long, amazing song, and features some of the most passionate, tight musicianship I’ve heard this year.
RIYL: The Wytches, Tame Impala, Ty Segall
Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone
Genre: Pop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: It’s time we give Neil Cicierega the crown he deserves, because the man is a musical genius. Recorded entirely by himself, Spirit Phone is the latest record under Neil’s Lemon Demon alias. Being the man responsible for “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” the Potter Puppet Pals, and 2014’s two fantastically blasphemous mashup records Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence, I should have expected that he would outdo himself once again. This album is a weird, hilarious new wave album that piggybacks off the music of Devo, Talking Heads, and They Might Be Giants. Few albums are as fun to listen to as this one, and the fact that more people aren’t talking about it is a travesty.
RIYL: They Might Be Giants, Devo, Talking Heads
Lil Yachty – Lil Boat
Genre: Hip-hop (New ATL/#Based)
In brief: Lil Yachty is one of the more polarizing musical figures to drop out of an already polarizing musical scene. In a sea of rappers trying to cash in on the popularity of Young Thug, Future, and Migos, Lil Yachty stands alone as a creative talent with a vision and a whacked-out concept. I fully recognize that Lil Boat is not the most highbrow record to come out of hip-hop this year, but it’s one of the catchiest, simplest, and most memorable. It achieves what it was trying to, and then some, and it’s all the more fun for it.
RIYL: Young Thug, Lil B, Migos
LUH – Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing
Genre: Rock (indie/pop)
In brief: Once, Ellery James Roberts was the sore-throated vocalist for beloved indie rock group WU LYF (pronounced, “Woo! Life!”). After releasing one great album, he broke the band up to pursue a new project, a musical/visual duo with his girlfriend called LUH, which is short for Lost Under Heaven. Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is the duo’s debut, and it’s a pretty ambitious undertaking. Roberts’ vocals sound as gnashed as ever, and his placement atop squelching synths and thunderous drums makes for a truly epic musical experience.
RIYL: King Krule, The National, WU LYF
Matmos – Ultimate Care II
Genre: Ambient (musique-concrete/electronic)
In brief: Matmos has built its career off of making music out of non-music. No one takes sampling quite as seriously as this electronic duo, and it has resulted in one of the finest discographies in sample-based music. Ultimate Care II manages to be unlike anything Matmos has ever done, seeming almost like a joke or a dare gone horribly right. The record is based entirely off samples of a washing machine, the model of which the album is named after. Sounds pretentious and stupid, but it’s a thoroughly beautiful and engaging record that if played for someone not privy to the concept they would have no idea any clothes-cleaning devices were involved.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Tycho
Mitski – Puberty 2
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: Mitski’s newest record is a slow burner as well as a barn burner. She crafts amazing tales and disguises them as catchy, depression-rock ‘90s jams. Seriously, “Your Best American Girl” might be the best song Hole never wrote. It takes a few spins to really unravel the emotions and stories at play here, but the music is simple, haunting, and another example of an independent bedroom pop artist releasing a capital-R “Rock” opus.
RIYL: St. Vincent, Frankie Cosmos, PJ Harvey
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Genre: Punk (pop/emo)
In brief: Fans of Philly kids Modern Baseball already know what the band is capable of in under 30 minutes. The group’s previous two albums, You’re Gonna Miss It All and Sports, are some of the finest pieces of modern indie rock music this side of the emo spectrum, and Holy Ghost manages to surpass both of them in equal stride. This brief, dual-sided journey into the minds of the band’s two vocalists/songwriters is perhaps not as immediately catchy as the band’s previous work, but still mature, funny, and dreadfully sad.
RIYL: Joyce Manor, Spraynard, The Front Bottoms
Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
Genre: Metal (folk/black)
In brief: This is the latest record from long-running Norwegian black metal band Moonsorrow, a band with whom my familiarity begins and ends with Jumalten Aika. This record caught me off guard, as it nicely combines the epic, atmospheric nature of black metal with folk music without losing a bit of raw sonic energy. This record is long-winded in the best possible way, and features some unforgettable metal music.
RIYL: Korpiklaani, Agalloch, Panopticon
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Genre: Metal (hardcore/powerviolence)
In brief: At 21 minutes in length, this is the longest album yet from California grind trio Nails, a group notorious for their blistering, uncompromising sound. For their third record, Nails deliver more of the same short whirlwinds of distortion and screams while also demonstrating their ability to experiment and try something new. This is for all fans of loud rock, hardcore, and getting their teeth kicked the fuck in.
RIYL: Dead in the Dirt, Pissgrave, Slayer
Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/alternative)
In brief: Open Mike Eagle has a consistently great discography that grows greater and more expansive with each release. Hella Personal Film Festival, a collaboration with esteemed UK producer Paul White, is probably the finest, most introspective work Mike has dealt so far, and his ironic sense of humor blends right in with his depictions of anxiety, racism, and living with one’s significant other.
RIYL: Milo, Das Racist, Danny Brown
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Genre: Metal (psychedelic/black)
In brief: Oranssi Pazuzu is a Finnish metal band that has been expanding and warping the boundaries of black metal for several years, to mixed results. Värähtelijä is the finest record the band has ever crafted, distilling black metal through psychedelic rock, krautrock, and noise, resulting in a hell of a cerebral experience. This record is highly inaccessible, but far-and-away one of the best metal records of the year so far.
RIYL: Darkspace, Krieg, Ulver
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Genre: Rock (indie/garage)
In brief: Indie rock transplants Parquet Courts never fail to impress, whether it’s their one-off experimental EPs or their wonderfully written rock LPs. Human Performance is the latest and most immediately pleasant record from the acclaimed band, and it is unbelievably good. There are actually moments where it sounds like Parquet Courts are writing their version of a pop song, and it totally works. If the band hasn’t done it for you in the past, get a load of this and try again.
RIYL: The Velvet Underground, Pavement, Wire
Pop. 1280 – Paradise
Genre: Rock (industrial/noise)
In brief: Another terrifying listening experience! Paradise is the latest record from fearless noisemakers Pop. 1280, and it sounds especially apocalyptic. Even when it sounds like a Marilyn Manson album, it sounds legitimately creepy and weird. If that description sounds like this album will do something for you, it probably will.
RIYL: Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Youth Code
PUP – The Dream is Over
Genre: Punk (rock/emo)
In brief: Canadian band PUP comes through with a bigger, better sophomore album. The Dream is Over is a fierce bummer of an album, and it’s one of the best damn rock albums of 2016. I can’t stop listening to it. Someone help me, please.
RIYL: Rozwell Kid, Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Genre: Sad (ambient/damn)
In brief: Radiohead. There is literally nothing I could say beyond that, because it’s been said before. Just listen to the damn thing. If you don’t like it, no one’s going to sue you or call you a bad Radiohead fan. I happen to find this record mystifyingly beautiful and very sad.
RIYL: Feeling Thom Yorke’s tears pour from your ducts for some reason
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Genre: Grime (hip-hop/real shit)
In brief: I often find grime albums to be disappointing. They’re generally stuffed with filler, bad hooks, and tend to run long. International superstar (and friend of Drake) Skepta, however, defies all those complaints with a tight, cohesive bruiser of a grime LP. Even the bad songs are really good. If you’ve been unconvinced with grime, like many Americans tend to be when first exposed to the strictly British genre, check out Konnichiwa, a.k.a. the best grime album in years.
RIYL: Dizzee Rascal, Jme, Kano
The Sooper Swag Project – Badd Timing
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: This one caught me off guard, to say the least. Badd Timing is the latest album from Chicago heads and yunk-destroyers The Sooper Swag Project. The premise for this record is deceptively simple: math-rap. Yet, somehow the group manages to put together a pretty great LP of catchy, goofy hip-hop songs that have no interest in your damned 4/4 time signature. At one point, there’s a song whose beat spells out a hidden message in Morse Code, over which one of the trio’s rappers spits effortlessly. It’s fucking weird and I love it.
RIYL: Clipping., Open Mike Eagle, Milo
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Genre: Country (folk/soul)
In brief: Like many, I was first turned on to the music of Mr. Sturgill Simpson two years ago when he released the acclaimed album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I didn’t love that record, but it made me look forward to what would come next, and Simpson did not disappoint. Written as a horn-heavy self-produced country concept album dedicated to his young son, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a breathtaking album that packs a lot into a little. Come for the gorgeous opener, stay for the shockingly lovely Nirvana cover.
RIYL: Bill Callahan, Uncle Tupelo, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Swans – The Glowing Man
Genre: Post-rock (Experimental/ambient)
In brief: The Glowing Man is the fourth and final album of Swans’ second official incarnation, closing out one of the finest album runs in modern rock history, especially considering Swans enjoyed a diverse, ambitious career during their initial run from the early 1980s to 1997. This record isn’t as urgent as its predecessor, To Be Kind, but it’s still a fantastic, dreary, meditative album that sticks to Swans’ current formula without a dull moment ever touching its two-hour length. This album is a monolith, but one worth diving into with every bit of your attention.
RIYL: Current 93, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Chelsea Wolfe
Told Slant – Going By
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was properly introduced to Told Slant when they opened up for The Hotelier a few weeks before the release of this album. I was especially taken with the group’s principal songwriter/vocalist/member, Felix Walworth, whose stage presence, lyrics, and vocals captivated me. Most of the songs from which Told Slant played were from the as-yet-unreleased album, Going By, which would strike me just as much upon release as it did when they were playing the songs live. This album is a sad, sleepy slap in the face that finds uplifting messages of advice and love in between bits of unrelenting self-loathing.
RIYL: Low, Xiu Xiu, Frankie Cosmos
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Genre: Rock (Garage/psychedelic)
In brief: Quick question – Why the hell aren’t more people talking about this album? Emotional Mugger is far-and-away the greatest thing Ty Segall has ever come up with, serving as a parody of the very fuzzy garage-rock from which Segall pulls so many of his ideas. Centering around a character who’s essentially a giant, whining baby (literally), Emotional Mugger replaces the desire for sex and drugs with candy and a mother’s attention, resulting in an unsettling, heavy, glitchy, catchy rock record that also happened to make for one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
RIYL: Thee Oh Sees, Fuzz, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Various Artists – Southern Family
Genre: Country (folk/bluegrass)
In brief: TWO COUNTRY ALBUMS?? That’s right, y’all, your boy’s branching out. Southern Family was probably the sleeper hit of 2016 for me, mostly because I did not at all expect to love this as much as I do. I didn’t even know about its existence until Mr. Anthony Fantano (shout out The Needle Drop) gave it a good review on his channel. This thing is a compilation LP assembled by country-producing mastermind Dave Cobb, and each song features a different artist. It feels like a warm, safe quilt of wholesome, gorgeous country music that feels unified yet diverse.
RIYL: Chris Stapleton, The Civil Wars, Zac Brown Band
Vektor – Terminal Redux
Genre: Metal (thrash/space)
In brief: Beloved technical thrash metal band Vektor is back with their long-awaited third album, a sci-fi concept album about madness, revenge, and mind-control. It’s an experience worth having along with the album’s lyrics, which nicely explain the events that take place. The solos are like lasers blasting an enemy’s fleet, while the vocals are wretched and captivating. Terminal Redux is a long LP, but it’s so interesting and fun to play all the way through that the 70 minutes will fly by.
RIYL: Voivod, Havok, Gorguts
Weezer – Weezer (White Album)
Genre: Rock (pop/garage)
In brief: Weezer is on their second official hot-streak. Upon returning from a short recording break in 2014, the famous rock group released their greatest album since Pinkerton, which was titled Everything Will Be Alright in the End. If this is the end, then that prediction was 100% true. White Album is the fourth self-titled album from the band, and would be a fitting bookend to a career that has taken many dives. By shortening and simplifying things, Weezer managed to come through with an even more fantastic album than its predecessor, which is full of great hooks, interesting lyrics, and sticky melodies.
RIYL: Best Coast, Joyce Manor, old school Weezer
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat
Genre: Rock (Experimental/pop)
In brief: This is my first musical experience with NY singer/songwriter Xenia Rubinos, and boy is this a good one. Black Terry Cat is a catchy, infectious experience that blends an innumerable amount of genres into a seamlessly weird, unique record. The drumming on here is some of my favorite of the year, and some of my favorite songs of 2016 land on this album. Don’t sleep on Xenia and her ultra-tight grooves.
In brief: Noise pop stalwart Xiu Xiu covering the soundtrack to beloved television drama “Twin Peaks;” what’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, it didn’t happen here. Xiu Xiu’s rendition of Angelo Badalamenti’s original score is gorgeous, faithful, and damn frightening. The group, led by Jamie Stewart’s dramatic vocal, took just the right amount of creative liberty with this record, and it’s worth listening whether you watch the show or not.
In brief: YG got a lot of attention for his last album, My Krazy Life, and rightfully so. Still Brazy, the album’s follow-up, happens to be a much better, more well-held-together album. The songs on here are so good it’s kind of unfair to other rappers with lesser beats and weaker hooks. Also, “FDT” is this year’s defining millennial anti-GOP jam, and every other song on here is just as good.
RIYL: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign
5.0 Best EPs of 2016
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom
Genre: Pop (dance/experimental)
In brief: In which famous UK dance-pop vocalist Charli XCX teams up with EDM provocateur SOPHIE for one of the strangest, catchiest short-players of the year. I love everything about this EP, and I can’t wait to have more music from these two.
RIYL: QT, Hannah Diamond, Danny L Harle
Clipping. – Wriggle
Genre: Hip-hop (noise/experimental)
In brief: In case you didn’t know, Daveed Diggs, the Tony-winning co-star of hit musical “Hamilton,” is the frontman of a group that has virtually no crossover appeal with “Hamilton,” a noise-rap collective called Clipping. These guys combine grating harsh noise, found sounds, and fairly traditional but expertly delivered gangsta rap. Following their studio debut two years ago, it’s nice to hear these guys doing exactly what they do best, which Wriggle is full of.
RIYL: Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Dalek
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
Genre: Punk (hardcore/lo-fi)
In brief: G.L.O.S.S. is necessary, especially in a time of increased visibility and discrimination of trans people. Following last year’s acclaimed demo, the group is back to kick Pride Month in the ass with Trans Day of Revenge, which presents all of seven minutes of gender-neutral-genitalia-to-the-wall hardcore punk. Ferocious lyrics and killer performances abound.
RIYL: Against Me!, Downtown Boys, All Dogs
Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
Genre: Metal (death/experimental)
In brief: Rather than follow their most recent masterpiece with another full-length album, recently re-booted Canadian group Gorguts returns with an EP, which is actually one 33-minute song. Months following its release, I still haven’t fully dissected this brain-buster of a song. I just know that it is absolutely fantastic, and I notice something new every time I listen.
RIYL: Death, At the Gates, Revenge
Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/jazz)
In brief: A year after the release of the modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick is back with a new EP that proves his demos to be better than most rappers’ full-length projects. King Kendrick can do no wrong. Long live King Kendrick.
For a British electronica band that was founded in 2010, released
their first single in 2012, and signed to Polydor Records in 2015, releasing
their debut album just this past July, we expected Years & Years to
have a pretty humble audience size.
But when we walked into Neptune Theatre for Years & Years’
first show in Seattle, we were shocked. Every nook and cranny was packed with a
person. There was hardly room to breathe, let alone dance, but the crowd was
there for a reason and that was to groove all night.
With a upbeat, dance vibe, the British trio ties together their
90s R&B influences with modern dance pop, reminiscent of fellow contemporaries, Ben Khan, Kwabs, and
Iyes. You catch the more somber tempo with songs like “Take Shelter” and “Real”
that have a James Blake balladry to
the melody and R&B hint to them—songs that have a great visceral feeling to
the lyricism and background beat. And using their set time to play the entirety
of their debut album Communion¸ that
visceral feeling lasted the entire night.
But where Years & Years thrives is in frontman Olly Alexander’s high pitched, well
controlled vocals in tracks like “Worship”, “Ties”, and “Border”—songs that are
subtle in their background instrumentals and hints of synth. They’re songs that
focus solely on the act of listening to his voice smoothly sing every lyric,
and although aren’t explicit in working as a dance pop song, they cause your
body to move.
The song that Alexander executes best is a wild card on the
album, “Foundation”. Not a dance song at all, but also not a soft ballad, this
song has overlaying synth and a mystical, almost surreal instrumental overlay.
Yet, it’s even better life with Alexander’s yearning, almost pleading vocals
that give you chills as he bends over his microphone on stage in front of a
packed theatre of wide-eyed fans.
In a live show, the trio flows well, leaving a brilliant
stage presence–making it no surprise that just in the past year, the band has
been nominated and won a handful of awards and topping charts across the UK. The
synthesis and connected energy between the performers and audience was almost
electric, everyone on-stage and off moving together in synchrony.
There’s something about this trio’s music that is unlike any other electronic-pop artist. Perhaps it’s the ‘90′s R&B influences, perhaps it’s the subtle way
the dreamy synth and smooth vocals work to make you dance almost subconsciously—
or maybe it’s the way the artists are compassionate and human enough to pull
two men up on stage to watch a marriage proposal play out, bonding the
community within the theatre ever more so.
Whatever it is, we were honored to see a band keep the
energy up among their fans for the entire set as that’s a feat in itself, and
when they finished their last encore, we were sad to see them go.
But we’re excited to see what they have for us next.
RAC lights up with a live band at ShowBox SoDo on Tuesday, Nov. 24th
Light keyboard filled the air and a soft beat emitted from the over-leveled speakers. With only half the room filled, the music blasted through the Showbox, piercing the silence until the crowd settled into the sound. The first opener, filouspulled out his guitar, bowed his head slightly and riffed over a reverberating female vocalist. The two instruments together, a midi setup and fx-ed guitar sounded like a chorus of chilled-out house music.
“Hey Seattle,” the beanie-sporting artist spoke before returning to his instruments. A faint cheer could be heard from the bar in the back.
Not phased by the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm, Filous strummed along to dance-worthy tracks. Smiling all the while, the casually-dressed multi-instrumentalist switched between MIDI controllers, keyboards and his various guitars. As he slammed on the bass, the crowd swayed and lights flashed before us.
Filous introduced himself as an artist from Vienna. Over a few spouts of laughter, he further explained his adventures at Jack in The Box before playing his next song, “Coming Over” – a synth-heavy sound featuring the same summery guitar riffs that had been heard frequently throughout the set.
Light lyrics sprinkled throughout the song and the line, “All I can think about is coming over” repeated into a somewhat-tropical instrumental chorus. The hook brought many to the dance floor and the strobes shimmered among us. With all of his talents, I got to wondering why the microphone was placed so properly as if it’d be used whilst playing. All my questions were answered in a single breath as Filous pulled out a harmonica for his last track – blowing us away with his breath-induced harmonies.
filous wowed us with flawless multi-instrumentalism
After a short break, two musicians approached the stage. Both on drums, the two multi-instrumentalists represented the Portland-based Karl Kling. Arpeggios filled the air and a dimly lit duo sang indulgent lyrics over two sets of electronic instruments. A light up set of tools stood adjacent to a traditional drumset as the two musicians harmonized with one another.
We moved our bodies back and forth and a few other audience members joined us. Although I wasn’t there alone, I couldn’t help but notice the sheer amount of standing that took place during this show. Of course, I could chalk it up to the fact that we were watching an opener, but since this is my last post for Rainy Dawg Radio, I thought I’d mention something that’s been bothering me since I moved into this city and began participating in the music scene:
Why don’t Seattle Concert-goers ever dance during openers?!
Their music is good. The dance floor is ready! If anybody has an answer to this question, myself and all of the touring artists in our area would like to know… Synced beneath the falsettos as the two men expressed themselves among a sea of careless Seattleites. Catchy riffs soared beneath existential lyricism as the band showed off their chops, from drums to loops and electric guitars, the multi-talented Portland band never ceased to amaze us.
Yet most of the audience remained unfazed while my date and I swayed just the same. Harder now. Deeper now. The harmonies seemed to strike nearer than before. Perhaps the volume kept increasing but something about the atmosphere above us kept me present as the fog filled the air and the band requested a dimming of the lights.
“Alright Seattle. This is dance time,” Karl attempted to work the crowd. But only a few cheers could be heard in response as many audience members lingered in the back – bobbing their head to the rhythm instead of shaking what their mamas gave them.
“So dust of your regrets” Kling sang, “Cus there goes the day again. Born into this world.”
Karl Kling sported two drummers and a sounded like Death Cab in a dance club
80s melodies and melancholy choruses led from one song into the next as the opening set came and went. During their last song, “Careful” the duo smiled as they witnessed some energy beginning to emit from the evening’s underwhelming attendees. As Big Data prepared their set, I prayed for a miracle that the dance floor would pick up.
Fog filled the air and screams rang out in support of the surreal visuals that began to appear so subtly behind a coordinated set of electronic musicians. A robotic voice could be heard from the pumped-up speakers and the band members began to move in tandem to a static beat. Almost inaudible, a set of muted vocals began to sing the opening lines of “Dangerous” and the crowd finally moved in-tow to the enthralling rhythm.
The two vocalists played off of one another flawlessly. Each computerized run ran into the next as the lights glimmered among us. The music enticed us to engage as Big Data entertained with alluring visuals above driving drums and guitars; all the while the two frontmen acted as conductors of the crowd below them.
Bobbing their heads back and forth to the ephemeral sound of their own creation, the crashes and clangs of the live instrumentation filled the set beneath layers of enchanting lyricism. All the while, the audience followed along in a daze, drunk in the sound of a presented simulation.
References to a computerized system filled the breaks between songs until the word, “Imagination” broke the sequence, “Your simulation is now complete.” The robotic voice complimented our enthusiasm as the lights reflected off the band-member’s florescent sunglasses.
As the lights continued to dim, the combination of the visual and musical performances pulled us in to a videogame-like trance – complete with the sounds of dial-up modems and mid-2000s internet references. Throughout the set, Big Data did nothing but entertain as our eyes reflected the shimmering stage above us.
With flashing lights and surreal digital visuals, Big Data drew the crowd ever-closer in a existential haze
Members of the other bands and backstage crew joined the band as they repeated their hit track, “Dangerous”
The crowd cheered and familiar faces replaced the physical places of Big Data’s digital revolution. Karl Kling and André Anjos (RAC) stood left and right of a headband-wearing frontman. Behind them, Pink Feathers (aka Liz Anjos) rocked out on a keyboard while a full-sized drumset stood lit and elevated above.
We moved in waves as the live band played covers and originals frequently associated with RAC’s collection of (re)mixes. Hiding behind a telecaster, André occasionally sang along and smiled all the while Pink Feathers and Karl Kling led the upbeat performance. The collection of Portland artists did not disappoint as the crowd sang along to their favorite tracks. From Odeszato The Postal Service, local hits were met with more energy from the audience as the four-piece band reworked popular songs with their disco-inspired beats.
“Hollywood” and “Let it Go” were met with thunderous applause as André stepped out into the center to wail over the beat with his electric guitars. The foursome played off each other splendidly, cracking jokes and smiling along to the energy brought from playing their songs live.
André Anjos leads his live band, shredding along with a pulsating performance
After seeing RAC in the past and wondering when he would break out from behind his turntables, I was inspired and impressed by the entire performance! Altogether, the variety of bands made for an excellent combination of Portland sounds that was able to break through the ever-famous Seattle Freeze.