Brickbackground's Top 20 of 2016
While the general consensus regarding 2016 is a resounding “That Sucked”, it certainly wasn’t all bad. We were, as we are every year, blessed with a smorgasbord of scintillating songs from across the globe. Sweden, France, Canada, Australia are all well represented in this year’s Top 20. Even the good ol’ US of A took some time off from whatever it is they’ve got us thinking they’re doing down there to bless us with enough rip roarin’ rock and roll to help us forget what it is they’re actually doing down there. 2017’s bleak political landscape promises to supply even more reason to pick up a guitar, mic or a drumstick, leading me to believe that we as music fans are in store for a particularly inspired output next year, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the 60’s. So at least we have that. Until then, here is Brickbackground’s list of the 20 best albums of 2016. Stay positive, kids! See you in 2017.
20) ORB -Birth
Heavy and heady riffs from three young’uns hailing from Geelong, Australia. When Total Control’s Mikey Young produces it, Ty Segall releases it and No. 2 on this list takes you out on tour, you know you’re doing something right.
19). A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here…
I approached this one with great trepidation. From what I assumed to be unnecessary A-List appearances(Kendrick Lamar, Jack White), along with Phife’s passing and a brutally disappointing 2011 documentary about the legendary hip hop crew, I was leaving them for dead. Yup, fucked that one up real good. The best hip hop album of 2016, and possibly the best of this decade. R.I.P Phife Dawg. Thanks for coming through one last time.
18) The Limiñanas - Malamore
Oozing retro swank unrivaled in today's garage scene, France’s The Limiñanas stepped through a psychedelic time machine into 2016 with Malamore. It plays like a perfect mix tape, blending the best of Serge Gainsbourg and The Velvet Underground with the mini skirt and cigarette stylings of 60's French pop. Malamore soundtracks the early part of the evening, that magical time when you’ve had just enough spirits to convince yourself that you’re still one of the cool ones.
17) The Frightnrs - Nothing More To Say
This album was exactly what 2017 needed. A reggae/rocksteady throwback to simpler times, where people took a breath before they spoke and thought about their fellow man before they acted. It was a tough year for Daptone Records, losing both Sharon Jones to a valiant battle with cancer and Dan Klein, frontman of the The Frightnrs, to ALS. But even in the face of tragedy, the label continues to bless us with jams that will forever stand the test of time.
16) Golden Dawn Arkestra - Stargazer
This one definitely resides in the "unusual" spectrum of what you’ll find here at Brickbackground. Very danceable, beat driven psych “rock”, though I hesitate to use that last word. But, good is good, and these crusaders of positivity certainly know how to make a sunny day sound even better. Also, the first of three mask wielding bands on the list.
15) Goat - Requiem
The second of the aforementioned masked musicians, Sweden’s Goat turned it down just a bit for their third full length. Requiem. I’m rarely a fan of it turning it down, but it worked wonders for the band, allowing their songwriting to truly shine. It’s still weird, but good weird. A must see live show too.
14) The Mystery Lights - The Mystery Lights
A couple years ago when living in NY, I saw The Mystery Lights at a night bazaar in Brooklyn and left mostly uninterested. Fast forward two years, their self titled comes out and makes me wonder what was wrong with me that night. Not them, me. Their live show has improved leaps and bounds too, as evidenced by the ass kicking they laid on Seattle last month while touring with No. 4 on this list. A giant step out of the garage.
13) Whitehorse - The Northern Soul Vol. 1
Not gonna lie, I didn’t want like these guys strictly because of their name. I’m from Whitehorse, they are not. So fuck em, right? Wrong. Stripped down two piece blues, male and female vocals, and a selection of covers that would make even the most jaded of blues aficionados proud. My only regret is not getting over my ridiculous hometown biases earlier.
12) The Kills - Ash & Ice
One of my favorite bands of this millennium, it would take a monster flop for me to talk shit on The Kills. Ash and Ice, while not a mind blowing advancement of the band, is solid throughout, with the exception of maybe one or two unnecessary ballads that kind of drag the album out. But the songs that are good are great, classic Kills, and they may have one of the best live rock and roll shows going.
11) Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
Called the most essential album of 2016 by more than one prominent writer, Love & Hate exceeded all expectations. With Danger Mouse production similar to Rome (the DM and Daniele Luppi spaghetti western soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist featuring Jack White and Norah Jones) Kiwanuka flows effortlessly between rock, folk and soul, speaking the minds of many in regards to race relations in America, the hardships worn throughout his voice without for a second sounding tired. Sometimes you really need to listen, as opposed to hear, and for those times this is that record.
10) Angry Angles - Angry Angles
Spazztic, frenetic psyched out garage punk is what Jay Reatard does best, and this collaboration with former love interest Alix Brown perfectly showcased the breakneck pace that Reatard liked to live life at. Both relationship and band came to a crashing halt, leading Reatard into the Blood Visions era, widely considered his best work. Mandatory garage punk.
09) Salem’s Pot - Pronounce This
More masked marauders from Sweden, this time bringing the heavy. This is a classic Riding Easy Records album, with touches of doom, classic metal and stoner rock all coming through to create an experience I simply wasn’t expecting after hearing Salem’s Pot earlier work. The only thing missing was a North American tour. Fingers crossed.
08) Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
Being a huge fan of all things Iggy AND all things Homme, this album came with some pretty inflated expectations. And in classic Homme fashion, this album exceeded them all. If this truly is Iggy’s last album, he went out the same way he came in: better than most.
07) Death Valley Girls - Glow In The Dark
My first ever favorite band when I was four was Blondie. Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for bands with female leads. DVG are keeping that flame alive by oozing 70’s horror movie, Manson girl, desert garage coolness, minus the murder. I think.
06) Natural Child - Okey Dokey
Okey Dokey indeed! It’s so sick to hear bands get better and better with each album, both in the ability to play their instruments as well as write good songs. Somehow Natural Child has been doing this while simultaneously sounding more and more stoned. I’m not sure if stoner country is a thing the way stoner rock is, but if so, Natural Child is at the forefront.
05) The Blind Shake - Celebrate Your Worth
These guys just fuckin rip. Surf tinged, dystopian garage punk that sounds both maddening and inspiring at the same time. If Celebrate Your Worth was the soundtrack to the apocalypse, I’d die happy. Also, probably the coolest video in this collection.
04) Night Beats - Who Sold Our Generation?
Good question, great album. I imagine Nights Beats crushing the mid 60’s Sunset Strip scene, crazy swirling psychedelics on a screen behind them, girls dancing on platforms high above the crowd, people’s bodies flowing amongst each other, not really touching but not NOT touching either. Oh wait, that was Seattle last month. Night Beats rule.
03) Black Mountain - IV
I had an epiphany earlier this summer at Ponderosa Fest during Black Mountain’s mind altering closing set. They’ve become one of my top five all time favorite bands. They’ve never released a sub par album, they’ve never sucked live in the 10+ times I’ve seen them, side projects are all pretty good and they’re from the best city on Earth. This album will take you places.
02) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity
King Gizzard is the perfect example of why I talk to record store folk. The name alone was enough for me to write KGATWL off as hokey, but persistence from my main man at Neptoon Records led to me to arguably the most exciting album of the year, not to mention a buck wild live show at the Rickshaw earlier this year. The idea of Nonagon Infinity is a nine song infinite loop of ripping rock and roll, with the last song blending seamlessly back into the first. Kinda hard to do with a record that needs to be flipped, but ambitious nonetheless. Sometimes you need to relearn lessons, and not judging a book by its cover was the finest lesson I re-learned this year. Thanks Ben!
01) Mondo Drag - The Occultation Of Light
Simply put, this album has everything I want in a full length. Dark, trippy, ripping. Good for smoking, good for drinking, good for driving. There’s some 70’s hard rock worship, some prog worship, some early 90’s stoner rock worship but for the vast majority, they simply demand Mondo Drag worship. They were number 2 on last year’s Top 20, and this year they’re the best. Bow down and worship.