my top 50 albums of 2016

Posted by Brad Schelden, December 17, 2016 01:41pm | Post a Comment

#1 onDeadWaves -
onDeadWaves (Mute)
This is one of those albums that I fell in love with right away. Some albums take a while to grow on me. I have to listen to them multiple times before I know for sure that I am going to love them. But this album got deep inside me right away. I was in love after the first song. I am a sucker for dream pop or anything that reminds me of the 90s Mazzy Star or Julee Cruise. onDeadWaves are sort of like Mark Lanegan or the Tindersticks meets Mazzy Star or Galaxie 500. It is dark and dreamy but has a lightness to it that is hard to describe. It puts me in a good mood every time I listen to it. Just try and listen to the song "Blue Inside" and not fall in love with this album. I can't get enough of this album. It is always the best when an album like this seems to come out of nowhere. It makes it feel like destiny for it to find you and makes you feel all good inside.

#2 Merchandise - A Corpse Wired For Sound (4AD)
I really fell for these guys after their last album from two years ago. After The End was an album I spend a lot of time with in 2014. So I had high hopes for this new album. I just love the singer in this bands voice so much. It has got such a cool dark tone to it. Sort of like the cool British dudes I fell in love in the 80s and 90s from bands like Felt, Modern English, & Cindytalk. This is another album that I kept going back to this year. "Shadow Of Truth" was the song that really got me on this record. 4AD is the perfect label for this band. I could totally imagine them performing a song on one of the This Mortal Coil albums.

#3 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed LTD.)
It is really great to have an artist like Nick Cave in your life for so long. I have bonded with so many friends over the years over him. I feel like all of us Nick Cave fans are bonded together for life. I have seen him live a bunch of times over the years and always look forward to hearing a new album from him. When his son died before this album was recorded it was something we all sort of felt. This album is intense. But his albums never get me depressed. The songs are always so great that they sort of take you away to another place. This album totally grew on me over the months and I started liking it more and more with every listen. I am not sure how Nick Cave & Warren Ellis found time to put out this amazing album and a couple of soundtracks this year. But I am sure glad that they did.

#4 The Weeknd - Starboy (Republic)
The Weeknd has become another artist that I always look forward to. I just know his albums are always great and so worthy of repeated listens. There are always little gems hidden in his albums that will keep you coming back for more. This album really feels like Michael Jackson at his Thriller and Bad peek in the 80s. I am talking "Billie Jean," "Dirty Diana" and "Smooth Criminal" era. And who else can pull off a sample of The Romantics "Talking In Your Sleep" and make it sound so cool. There were tons of great R&B albums like this in the 80s ad 90s but we just don't get them like this anymore. I just hope The Weeknd inspires a new generation like Michael Jackson inspired so many back in the 80s.

#5 Jherek Bischoff - Cistern (Leaf)
I spend a lot of time every year listening to film scores. They always make me fall in love with a movie and are great to revisit to recapture that feeling you had when you first saw the movie. This is not a film score. But it somehow takes you to that place a great film score can. It is a fantastic instrumental orchestral album. It has this beauty inside it that really gets me. I always need a couple of albums like this every year to sort of calm me down. This album is like a really good therapy session. Classical music is an overwhelming genre at times. But artist like Johann Johannsson, Max Richter & Jherek Bischoff make it easier to get into.

#6 Emma Ruth Rundle - Marked For Death (Sargent House)
I somehow missed Emma Ruth Rundle's last album Some Heavy Ocean from a couple of years ago. I only discovered it this year when this new album came out. So I spent a lot of time with Emma Ruth this year while listening to both of these albums. I think I even listened to both of these album multiple times in one day. Emma has worked with Marriages and Red Sparowes. I really loved those Red Sparowes albums so it is no surprise that I love this album. It is a dark & heavy album. It has a sort of goth folk feel to it. Everything I love.

#7 Miranda Lee Richards - Echoes of The Dreamtime (Invisible Hands)
I really don't understand why more people don't love this new album like I do. But I was not really expecting to like it as much as I did. It is not exactly the kind of album that I usually fall in love with. Her first album The Heretherafter came out way back in 2001. This new album has a breezy sort of 70s folk feeling to it. But mix that up with a 90s dream pop album and you sort of get what this album sounds like. Miranda has one of those magical and  soothing voices. This is an album I really needed to help me get through the end of this year.

#8  Miserable - Uncontrollable (Native Sound)
Miserable is Kristina Esfandiari from the bands King Woman and Whirr. This album is sort of miserable. But miserable in the good way. It is full of emotion and despair. But like all good music it doesn't leave you feeling miserable. It is like she goes to the dark places for you to somehow help you through it. This album is for the goths and shoegazers of the world. The album is at time a slow burn. But give it some time and it will work its way into being one of your favorites. At least that is what it did for me. "Best Friend" is the song that I listened to the most on this record. But I did listen to this album almost every day for a while after it first came out.

#9 Marissa Nadler - Strangers (Sacred Bones)
I would describe Marissa Nadler's music as somewhere between goth and country. Or maybe dark dream pop folk. I am just not sure how you can't fall for this album. Marissa really cast me under her spell after listening to this album for the first time. I could not get enough of this album. Sacred Bones usually gives us a a couple really great albums every year. And Strangers is one of those albums that I won't soon forget. It gets under your skin for sure. She has one of those great ethereal voices. Combine that voice with some great dreamy music and you get an album that is pretty close to perfect.

#10 Amber Arcades - Fading Lines (Heavenly Recordings)
This is just a really great pop record. Super catchy and addictive. Not like any sort of pop music you might hear at the gym or on the radio. But more the pop music I gravitate to. I usually like my pop music from England, Norway or Sweden. Or in this case the Netherlands. At times this album seems like it could have been released on K Records in the 90s. But sometimes it sounds like a much bigger record than that. One of the albums that made me happy this year to have in my life.

#11 Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (Columbia)
I have never really been a fan of Leonard Cohen's earlier folk beginnings. I have tried. But I sure do love I'm Your Man and The Future released in 1988 and 1992. It makes sense for me of course since this is one of my favorite periods for music. The first time I heard him might have honestly been in Natural Born Killers. But I was hooked on him right away. There is nobody like him. Nobody will ever have that distinctive voice like him. Hard to believe he made this album at the age of 82 and that he is no longer with us. But the album is brilliant and sad and everything you would expect from him. He of course has those distinctive backing vocals that make the songs so perfect. One of the best.

#12 ANOHNI - Hopelessness (Secretly)
I have been a fan of Anohni (formerly known as Antony & the Johnsons) for a long time now. She has another one of those distinctive voices that there is no confusing for someone else. Another great album produced by the amazing ANOHNI. The words in the songs are so full of emotion and power it is almost too much to handle sometimes. This album somehow feels like it is in the future. The songs are very set in the present. But the music really takes me to the future. Or at least makes me feel like we will be OK as long as we have ANOHNI to help guide us through the uncertain future.

#13 Blood Orange - Freetown Sound (Domino)
I am a big Dev Hynes fan and loved his previous band Lightspeed Champion. I loved the first Blood Orange album Coastal Grooves from 2011. Somehow I didn't really love his last album but he got me back with this one. I can't resist his catchy songs. He really is a great songwriter. "Hands Up" and "Better Than Me" stand out as two of the most catchy and addictive. I hope he keeps writing songs for himself and others forever. We need more people like Dev Hynes around the world.

#14 S U R V I V E - RR7349 (Relapse)
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein got a little famous this year for doing the Score for the TV show Stranger Things. But this is their band. I was one of the many 80s pop culture fans that was cast under the spell of Stranger Things this year. I loved it. And the score did really help make the show what it was. Sort of like how the soundtrack to the movie Drive really made that movie what it was. If you like the Stranger Things soundtrack you will like this album. It is that futuristic sound that sounds like it came from 70s or 80s. A super fun album to listen to.

#15 Steve Hauschildt - Strands (Kranky)
Another great retro futuristic sci-fi sounding album brought to us by the great Steve Hauschildt. I basically love anything this guy does. I loved his band Emeralds. This album if more ambient sci-fi than horror soundtrack. A great new age sort of album that would fit nicely next to your Blade Runner soundtrack. It is easy to sort of fall in a trance when you listen to this album. Or to fall off into a nice relaxing blissful sleep.

#16 Justice - Woman (Because Music)
It is hard to believe that Justice unleashed the album Cross on us almost 10 years ago. Where did those 10 years go! This album is pure fun. It could easily soundtrack your 70s themed wedding or your late night yacht ride around the world. We will hopefully get another Daft Punk or Holy Ghost! album soon. But this more than fills the void this year. Happy to have these guys back in my life.

#17 Wild Beasts - Boy King (Domino)
Wild Beasts is another band I go through phases with. Sometimes I love them and sometimes I don't. But this is for sure one of those years where I love them. "2BU" was listened to over and over by me this year. Wild Beasts is sort of like a more modern version of Bronski Beat or Erasure. Great electro pop songs.

#18 Public Memory - Wuthering Drum (Felte)
I don't think I can ever get enough of this genre of music. You can call it dark wave or goth experimental electronic music. This is an album that I love to lose myself in. The album opens up with one of the best songs on the album. The sounds and textures on this album are great. They would fit perfectly in the background of some of the songs on Disintegration by The Cure.

#19 Flyying Colours - 
There are not really that many modern bands that can pull off the shoegaze sound of the early 90s. But these Australians got it right. It might be too obviously influenced by bands like Ride And Slowdive for some. But I am always glad to have another album like this in my life. I can never get enough shoegaze.

#20 Vow - Kind Eyes (Native Sound)
I have never really stopped listening to this album since a coworker recommended it to me a couple of months ago. They remind me of 90s bands like Curve or Lush. Or maybe it is just those doll heads on the cover of the album that make me think of Curve. Vow are like the catchier pop side of shoegaze songs. "Over and Over" is one of my favorite songs on the album. But there are many great songs to choose from.

#21 Douglas Dare - Aforger (Erased Tapes)
I fell hard for the debut album from this dude a couple of years ago. I feel like I am still recovering from my obsession with that album. He has one of those voices that will stay with me for my entire life. His voice has a sadness to it that I can't get enough of. Another beautiful and captivating album. For fans of all things British and melancholic sad love songs. 

#22 Ice Choir - Designs In Rhythm (Shelflife Records)
This album fits perfectly with my 80s nostalgia and love of all 80s British music. They sound like a mix of Human League, Depeche Mode, OMD & The Style Council. I need albums like this to balance out the rest of what I listen to throughout the year. I love escaping into this album. This could have been the soundtrack to my favorite 80s themed Black Mirror Episode "San Junipero." I can't get enough of this album. Super fun and addictive.

#23 Wild Nothing - Life Of Pause (Captured Tracks)
Wild Nothing and all things Captured Tracks will always have a special place in my heart. Wild Nothing is like one of my old best friends. I can go years without seeing or hearing from them. But it is always the best when you get to see them again. You can relive those memories of when you first met. Wild Nothing gives us another great album of gorgeous dream pop. Dreamy and otherworldly. 

#24 DIIV - Is The Is Are (Captured Tracks)
While Wild Nothing is more the dream pop side of Captured Tracks. DIIV (formerly Dive) are a bit more rough around the edges. I never get bored with these albums. They are like my comfort music. I feel like I can just put this album on and listen to it forever. Like a dream pop version of Dinosaur Jr. or Ned's Atomic Dustbin. 

#25 Nite Jewel - Liquid Cool (Gloriette Records)
Nite Jewel has been making music for almost 10 years now. But this was really the first album to get me into her. This new album sounds like it could fit next to any of the Italians Do It Better artists like Glass Candy and Chromatics. This is a pop album. But the kind of pop music you could imagine David Lynch listening to. Like a dark and moody lounge singer singing in some retro bar in the future.

#26 Johann Johannsson - Orphee (Deutsche Grammophon)
I pretty much like everything this dude puts out. I have certainly loved the last couple of soundtracks he has put out. He worked beautifully with the director Denis Villeneuve on the score to Prisoners, Sicario & Arrival. This new album is also great and just as cinematic. A nice album to put on when you need some alone time with your thoughts. 

#27 Pye Corner Audio - Stasis (Ghost Box)
I got pretty addicted to their album Sleep Games from 2012. This album is supposedly the sequel to that album. I am always looking for any albums with a 70s or 80s synth sound. And especially anything reminiscent of John Carpenter. This album is sort of like a mellowed out John Carpenter movie. Another album that is easy for me to get lost inside of. 

#28 The Blessed Isles - Straining Hard Against The Strength Of Night (Saint Marie)
This is one of those albums that I knew I was going to like as soon as I listened to it for the first time. These guys are like if The Book Of Love put out an album on Sarah Records. Similar to artists like Slowdive, Secret Shine and The Field Mice. But like the more pop side of those artists. They are exactly what dream pop sounds like. Dreamy songs that make you feel good inside. 

#29 Chasms - On The Legs Of Love Purified (Felte)
This album is for those who like their shoegaze a little more experimental and rough. A great beautiful album. But more industrial and dark than your typical shoegaze. They are from San Francisco which makes me love them just a little bit more. Dark and moody. This album may not lull you off into an easy deep sleep. But it is the the sort of album that you won't soon forget.

#30 Shura - Nothing's Real (Universal)
It makes me happy every time I find a new artist like Shura. She sings 80s tinged pop songs in the style of Kylie Minogue or Ladyhawke. This album is super fun and catchy. Better than pretty much every other pop album out this year. She really should be a much bigger deal than she is.

#31 Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony (Fat Possum)
If the name of this band is a bit too ridiculous and cute for you then this band might not be the album for you. But they do fit right next to your other similarly named 90s bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and The Cranberries. This is one of those catchy albums from earlier in the year that has stayed with me. It is another great 90s sounding jangly indie pop album.

#32 Night School - Blush (Graveface Records)
I would have probably been obsessed with this album in the mid to late 90s. Back when I was listening to everything K Records and loved bands like the Softies and Heavenly. It is one of those perfect little twee albums. Sort of dirty and grungy but still very much twee. A great album full a catchy adorable pop songs.

#33 Preoccupations - Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar)
The band formerly known as Viet Cong found a much better name in Preoccupations. And I actually really like this new album much better than their first. They are sort of like my Future Islands for this year. The Canadian version. The lead singer has a crazy deep voice that I love. Sort of like Joy Division meets Psychedelic Furs.

#34 Umberto - Alienation (Not Not Fun)
This album is way more mellow than their Confrontations album from 2013. But I am OK with that. Like the soundtrack to a mellowed out sci-fi John Carpenter road movie. I am sure I could easily bond with any lover of new age over an album like this. Weird and synthy. And they even have some Blade Runner style vocals on the track "White Night."

#35 Lust For Youth - Compassion (Sacred Bones)
I am always excited when my favorite Swedes have a new album. Another great album from Lust For Youth and Sacred Bones. I really needed this album this year. Especially without new albums this year from bands like Trust or Cold Cave. Dark synth in the style of the greats like The Human League or Clan Of Xymox. 

#36 Samaris - Black Lights (One Little Indian)
This album brings me back to the late 90s. Back when the female driven electronica bands were so popular. Bands like Portishead, Moloko, Morcheeba & Lamb. Samaris sounds similar to a 90s Bjork. Dreamy and ethereal. Samaris are from Iceland and they are on One Little Indian. So the comparisons to Bjork are expected. It is a pretty album though. And I never mind going back to the 90s.

#37 Trentemoller - Fixion (In My Room)
I am always going to like any album that sounds like the darker more experimental side of Depeche Mode with Siouxsie Sioux vocals. Another dark and synthy album that helped me get through the year. I totally needed this album. The album features vocals from Jehnny Beth from the band Savages. 

#38 Black Marble - It's Immaterial (Ghostly International)
Black Marble is no longer a duo. It is now the solo work of Chris Stewart. But Black Marble still has that dark 80s introspective sound. I can never get tired of this music. I always need more of it in my life. A great album for driving around at night to. Or hanging out in your room alone and being angsty to when you are too old to be angsty. Or maybe you are the exact right age.

#39 Vatican Shadow - Media In The Service Of Terror (Hospital Productions)
None of us really knew how this year would end up. But this album was the perfect album for 2016. I obviously really do like a lot of my music on the dark side of things. And this album will take you there. No vocals necessary for Vatican Shadow. I can listen to that song "More Of The Same" over and over again. And Vatican Shadow sort of read my mind by putting the song on the album twice. 

#40 Loscil - Monument Builders (Kranky)
I have been a long time fan of Scott Morgan and the minimal electronic music of Loscil. I pretty much love everything Kranky puts out. Grouper, Stars Of The Lid, Tim Hecker, Mirrorring, Steve Hauschildt, Low, Deerhunter & Jonas Reinhardt have put out some of my favorite albums over the years. This guy should really be doing soundtracks along with dudes like Johann Johannsson & Max Richter. A great moody and atmospheric album.

#41 Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing (Bayonet Records)
So yes she is the daughter or Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline. And yes I am jealous that those are her parents! And this really is reason enough to listen to this album. This album is another great twee inspired albums that will take you back to the days of K Records and bands like Heavenly. I will always love Phoebe Cates for giving us Gremlins and now we have her to thank for Frankie Cosmos!

#42 Japanese Breakfast - Psychopomp (Yellow K Records)
I have been obsessed with this dreamy album since I first heard it back in April. This albums make me think of the indie bands coming out of the UK in the 90s. This album would fit perfectly next to the Sarah Records albums that I was into back then. Maybe like Sarah Records meets Slumberland. 

#43 Minor Victories - Minor Victories (Fat Possum)
There was no way that I wasn't going to like an album featuring Rachel Goswell of Slowdive. The band also features members of Mogwai and Editors. This album met my expectations and became one of my favorites of the year. "A Hundred Ropes" is as addictive as you can get. It is a beautiful and messy shoegaze album. I will always welcome Rachel's voice back into my life.

crescendo#44 Crescendo - Unless (We Were Never Being Boring)
It is always great to find a new band that can do shoegaze right. This LA band is I am sure young enough to be the children of the bands that they sound like. But that just makes me excited for the future. They are sort of a mix of indie bands like Blueboy or Secret Shine and the shoegaze greats like Lush or Pale Saints. A fantastic band and such a great impressive album. "Haunted" is one of my favorite tracks on the album. But it is a solid album and highly worthy of repeated listens.

#45 The Goon Sax - Up To Anything (Chapter Music)
Awkward indie jangly pop from Australia in the style of Beat Happening. This record totally won me over this year. It is a charming little pop record full of ridiculously sweet songs. And the band features the son of Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens! I wish I had this band to listen to when I was in high school. But somehow I can still relate to this album. The song "boyfriend" is the best. 

#46 Nils Bech - Echo (DFA)
Nils Bech is like our modern day version of Jimmy Somerville from Bronski Beat. And I am talking specifically about Jimmy Somerville as the angel in the Tilda Swinton movie Orlando! Please go watch that movie right now if you have not seen it. This dude has a beautiful angelic voice. A great super synthy and weird pop album. You will either love or hate this record. But I am super into it. It just makes me so happy that somebody made this record and that it exists. 

#47 LUH - Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing (Mute)
LUH features former WU LYF vocalist Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn. He apparently likes all CAPS. The album is produced by The Haxan Cloak. So it is a bit weird and dark and introspective as you would expect. It is the sort of album that I could imagine two artists like Nick Cave & Yoko Ono bonding over. Ellery's raspy intense voice sort of works perfectly against Ebony's lighter voice. There is a definite beauty that exists beneath the surface of this album.

#48 Shield Patterns - Mirror Breathing  (Gizeh Records)
It is impossible to not compare the vocalist in Shield Patterns to the great Kate Bush. I also just listened to Kate Bush's new live album so her voice was already whisping around my head. This album is mysterious and dreamy. Sort of the perfect album to go along with Twin Peaks and the David Lynch universe. 

#49 Bent Shapes - Wolves Of Want (Slumberland)
I always have room in my top 50 for a band like Bent Shapes. They are like a Boston version of Versus and Los Campesinos! They sort of remind me of Shout Out Louds as well. I have always loved Slumberland and they always bring me great records like this.

#50 Roosevelt - Roosevelt (City Slang)
Roosevelt is Marius Lauber. He gives us a super fun album of German electro disco songs. Sort of like Holy Ghost! or Classixx. Addictive and sugary electro pop songs. "Sea" & "Heart" are the songs I keep on repeat from this album. I needed a feel good album to end my list on this year. And this was that album! Thanks for reading if you made it this far. 

Relevant Tags

Miranda Lee Richards (1), Merchandise (7), Jherek Bischoff (1), Amber Arcades (1), Best Of 2016 (18), Flyying Colours (1), The Weeknd (14), Nick Cave (29), Miserable (2), Emma Ruth Rundle (2), Top 50 (4), Top 50 Albums Of 2016 (1), Leonard Cohen (15), Ondeadwaves (1)