–by Quincy Tejani, Music Connoisseur–
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We’re only halfway through the year and making this top ten list was already incredibly difficult. I don’t envy the sap who has to make the end of the year album list… oh wait, that’s me. Some fantastic albums just missed making it on here including Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book and David Bowie’s Blackstar. Whenever this is the case you can be damned sure that it’s been a wonderful year for music so far. Without further adieu here are Q-Avenue’s picks for best albums of 2016 so far:
10. Whitney | Light Upon the Lake | Secretly Canadian
Super-groups don’t always impress like they should. Bands like Methods of Mayhem and G3 should, by basis of skill alone, blow people out of the water (okay, maybe Methods of Mayhem never had any hope). For this reason when I heard that Julian Ehrlich, drummer of Unknown Mortal Orchestra was hooking up with Max Kakacek of Smith Westerns I was hesitant in my expectations. But boy I needn’t have been. This album is incredibly catchy and also carries great substance. Single “Golden Days” encapsulates everything that is a summer song while still remaining humble. I am greatly looking forward to anything that these guys plan on putting out in the future.
Best Track: Golden Days
9. Kanye West | The Life of Pablo | Def Jam Records
I almost did it. I almost kept Kanye off of this list as “punishment” for all of the shit he put us (the fans) through earlier this year. I felt like someone needed to do something. But, like the rest of the world I chickened out because as much as I hate to admit it, his newest album Life of Pablo is a solid piece of work. As I said in this article, I was not immediately blown away by this LP and even thought it to be underwhelming. But, as the months have gone by TLOP as grown on me in a big way. Although I still think the album is too long for it’s own good and that some tracks are seriously unnecessary (“Low Lights”) Kanye does succeed in creating a messy, but enjoyable record.
Best Track: Ultralight Beam
8. Blood Orange | Freetown Sound | Domino
Blood Orange’s 2013 LP Cupid Deluxe was a fantastic record. Blood Orange’s 2016 LP Freetown Sound is an important record. Don’t get me wrong, some albums can be incredibly satisfying simply for their sonic quality and creativity, but not all of these albums are artistic statements that are truly valuable for the world to hear. At the height of the racist bullshit that has been transpiring in North America for the past year or so, Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) releases a record that speaks to these issues as well as develops a personal message about living life every day as a black male in America. As David Sackllah of Consequence of Sound writes, “this emergence feels like a grand statement.”
Best Track: Best to You
7. Frankie Cosmos | Next Thing | Bayonet
Frankie Cosmos’s greatest skill is being able to say a lot with a little. This new record is composed of 15 tracks and is only 28 minutes long but on it Frankie is successful in expressing the joys and sorrows which come with living with an existentialist point of view. There is no shortage of female twee-pop singers in this era of music but what sets Cosmos apart is her ability to couple the catchy side of indie music with the intelligence of a seasoned lyricist. Look for her to continue to create masterful pieces or art which go under the radar as a result of the reputation of the genre in which she operates.
Best Track: Too Dark
6. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard | Nonagon Infinity | ATO Records
The Gizzard’s have been at it for 5 years now and show no signs of slowing down. Arguably their most consistent and technically impressive record to date, Nonagon Infinity works as an infinite loop on which the ending of the record connects with the beginning. You can try doing what I call “the Gizzard test” in which you see how many time you can listen to this record over and over again on a loop (My record is 3, beat that). Over the course of their career the Gizzard’s have always worn their influences on their sleeves but not once has it seemed like they have run out of directions to take their music. To me, this is the mark of a great band.
Best Track: Mr. Beat
5. Kevin Morby | Singing Saw | Dead Oceans
The other day my roommate made fun of me for playing this record and called it “old man music”. My roommate and I are no longer friends…I joke. On this record Kevin Morby continues to improve his writing technique and find his voice. In fact, I would argue that this is Morby’s most impressive record to date by far because and this is due to the fact that it is so wonderfully refined. Although some might argue that Morby expresses his inner Dylan and Cohen at an excessive rate I would argue that it simply adds to the charm of Morby’s music.
Best Track: Drunk and On a Star
4. Porches | Pool | Domino
I dig the direction that Porches front man Aaron Maine is taking the sound of the band. Rather than continuing to travel along the folky path that his previous records walked upon, he is beginning to venture into a DIY style electronic sound which, in my opinion, suit his style more. Porches taps into the dark and broody side of electronic music and by the end of the record one is left feeling satisfied but also slightly empty (in a good, introspective kind of way). On songs like “Underwater” and “Mood” this gothic electronic sound is perfected and in my opinion, is some of the best of it’s kind.
Best Track: Underwater
3. Deakin | Sleep Cycle | My Animal Home
Finally! Deak-The-Freak had been promising this crowd funded album for nearly a decade now and fans were beginning to worry they would never get to hear what Deakin sounds like apart from his regular collective (that would be Animal Collective). It was a fantastic time for him to release the record as it erased a lot of the fans disappointment that stemmed from Animal Collective’s newest record Painting With. Although Sleep Cycle is a mere 6 song, 30 minute long effort it is not underwhelming and ends before it begins to overstay its welcome. I’m going to take this space to congratulate the often mocked and forgotten 4th member of Animal Collective. Deakin, congratulations on a fantastic record mate.
Best Track: Good House
2. Anderson Paak | Malibu | Steel Wool
Am I the only one who feels like this guy came out of nowhere? I hear him featured on a couple of Dr. Dre tracks last year and suddenly he’s releasing what may very well end up in my top 5 records of the year. On this LP Paak seemlessly combines hip-hop, r&b, jazz, soul and even rock in a way that is bested only by Paak’s hero Lamar. His abilities as a songwriter and lyricist are put on display on the single “The Season/Carry Me” when he sings, “Gather ‘round hustlers, That is if you’re still living, And get on down before the judge give the sentence… If cash ain’t king it’s damn sure the incentive”. Look for this guy to continue to blow up over the next while. I can’t wait.
Best Track: The Season/ Carry Me
1. Radiohead | A Moon Shaped Pool | XL
Oh you thought that these guys were done did you? Weren’t quite feeling The King of Limbs and thought that trash talking Thom Yorke, one of the greatest songwriters of the last 25 years, was the new cool thing to do? If so then give Radiohead’s newest record a listen and then we’ll talk about who should and who should not be trash talked. It has been a long time since I was so emotionally moved by a record upon first listen and when the final notes of “True Love Waits” faded away I knew that I had just heard something special. I think that we can now agree that Radiohead ain’t finished quite yet folks.
Best Track: The Numbers
Quincy Tejani has been writing fun and informative articles for over a year and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. When he isn’t writing or attending university he likes to spend time in record shops and at the gym. He also never turns down a nice, cold Pabst, ever…