John Moore's Top 5 Albums of 2016
Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguar)
The latest, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, may be their finest moment since You’re Living All Over Me; There’s a little less distortion this time around, a lot more focus and the trio has gone from simply being ambitious, angry punks thrashing out an identity to truly impressive musicians in the span of two decades. Lyrically that band is also at its best here and the words get a beautiful showcase on some of the slower songs, like the surprisingly sweet “Knocked Around.”
Stake My Claim (Don Giovanni)
If Joan Jett fronted The Ramones, she’d likely sounds exactly like Big Eyes. And while that collaboration – one of the best super groups that never was – will sadly never happen now, the latest full length from New York’s Big Eyes is a pretty sweet consolation prize. With Kait Eldridge’s perfect sing-along vocals and spikey guitars on songs like the infectious “Leave This Town” and the slightly mellower “Behind Your Eyes,” the band offers up an impossible to resist sounds that sticks with you hours later.
Land Sea Air Garage (Seel-Released)
Land Air Sea Garage, offered up about 6 months after the stellar D.I.Y. EP, pays off on all the promises hinted at on that earlier effort. Across nearly a dozen tracks he manages to come off as vulnerable (without all that emo baggage), extremely witty (“D.I.Y.,” is still one of the finest songs ever written about the realities of playing a show) and smart without pretention.
Car Seat Headrest
Teens of Denial (Matador)
Teens of Denial goes a long way to cement Will Toledo’s reputation as not just prolific, but talented as well. From the opening track, the indie pop stunner “Fill in the Blank” to the noise rocker “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” all the way through to the mellow “Joe Goes to College,” Car Seat Headrest cherry picks the best attributes from bands like Pavement, Modest Mouse and early Radiohead for a solid collection that serves as a great introduction to those outside the northwest who are just now discovering him.
Adieu is quite possibly Logan Lynn’s best album yet, as each song here builds on the next for an impressively cohesive set, ending in the brilliantly wry “Oh, Lucifer”. Despite a mix of up tempo indie pop and more introspective piano tracks they fit together beautifully. Lynn continues to impress eight records into his career.
Lee Valentine Smith's Top 5 Albums of 2016
Lighthouse (GroundUp Music)
The iconic 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer - best known for co-founding Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young) and The Byrds - has solidified a strong new creative renaissance with the release of Lighthouse, his best and most satisfying collection since 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. The intimate, harmony-laden disc is the perfect balm for the upheaval of current events - featuring sober reflections on politics, relationships, the Syrian refugee crisis and the ongoing struggle for personal and global happiness.
Peace Trail (Reprise)
For his 37th solo studio effort, Neil Young looked back to his classic early ‘70s (After The Gold Rush, Harvest) eras for sonic reference points, with his plaintive vocals, guitar and harmonica tastefully augmented by veteran session players Jim Keltner (drums) and Paul Bushnell (bass). The result is a very laid-back acoustic set of socially conscious ruminations on current events offered with his usual freewheeling, stream-of-consciousness delivery - and touches of loopy humor.
Swan Song Series (American Laundromat)
As a member of three influential alt-rock bands (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly) and after four strong solo albums, Tanya Donelly took a long break from music. In 2013 she began issuing a string of self-released EPs consisting of collaborations with an eclectic slate of writing partners. Five of the EPs are included here - with seven new songs. The massive set makes for a binge-listening experience and it’s far from her Swan Song from the business. It’s just a fun way to hearld a completely independent comeback.
Good Times (Rhino)
Reunion albums are often embarrassing afterthoughts, bad remakes thrown together for a quick buck and overpriced merch table decorations. This is definitely not the case with Good Times, a very modern-sounding return from the so-called “Pre-Fab 4,” with strong contributions from all four original members (Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith and the late David Jones) with incredible guest players and songwriters. A great way to celebrate 50 years and their best overall record since 1967.
Solid States (Lojinx)
Poised on the brink of their 30th anniversary, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer return as The Posies with a new record that betters both Blood/Candy and Every Kind of Light. The busy musicians who literally travel the globe for their various side-projects (Big Star, R.E.M., etc.) continue to churn out incredible melodies and instantly recognizable tunes. Solid States finds the band whittled to its original founders after last year’s death of drummer Darius Minwalla. Embracing new technology, the project crackles with electric complexities and life-affirming energy.