The Fire Note Top Albums of 2016: Writer Edition

The Fire Note wouldn’t be possible without the talented writers that share their educated thoughts and true enjoyment of music with our readers. The time and commitment that goes into writing consistently is appreciated by TFN and taken for granted by everyone else!

Our year end Top 50 is coming soon but clearly everyone has different tastes and ideas when naming the best album released in 2016. Thanks again to all our contributors!

If you want to be on this list next year send us an email. We are always up for some new voices if you think you have what it takes!

Kevin Poindexter

1. Guided By Voices – Please Be Honest
2. ESP Ohio – Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean
3. Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are
4. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
5. David Bowie – Blackstar
6. Sturgill Simpson -A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
7. Honey Radar – Blank Cartoon
8. Steve Gunn – Eyes on the Lines
9. Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
10. Drive-By Truckers – American Band
11. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
12. Connections – Midnight Run
13. Counter Intuits – Monosyllabilly
14. Lydia Loveless – Real
15. Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
16. Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
17. Ultimate Painting – Dusk
18. Tim Presley – The Wink
19. Lambchop – Flotus
20. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
21. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
22. Mitski – Puberty 2
23. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity of Experience
24. Joyce Manor – Cody
25. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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Scot Lade

1. The Hotelier – Goodness
By far the biggest surprise this year was just how good this record is. Brilliant from start to finish, Goodness is my runaway #1.

2. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
I’m sorry but every Radiohead album is worth owning and this one might be their best.

3. David Bowie – Blackstar
Although difficult to separate this music from his tragic death, Blackstar defied the odds to become an instant classic.

4. ESP Ohio – Starting Point Of The Royal Cyclopean
Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard. Need I say more?

5. Bon Iver – 22 A Million
Sometimes when an artist makes a change it can be disasterous. And sometimes it just works.

6. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
7. Blood Ceremony – Lords Of Misrule
8. Mock Orange – Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse
9. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years
10. Purson – Desire’s Magic Theater
11. Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
12. Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
13. Deerhoof – The Magic
14. Of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
15. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
16. Tancred – Out Of The Garden
17. Mitski – Puberty 2
18. Cloud Cult – The Seeker
19. White Denim – Stiff
20. Guided By Voices – Please Be Honest

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Brian Q. Newcomb

1. Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy)
Co-writing with his producers, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (R.E.M. and the Minus 5), singer songwriter Alejandro Escovedo returns with a big noisy rock record that celebrates the “Beauty and the Buzz.” Walking the fine line between his Americana roots and glam-rock aspirations these literate songs are raw with emotion, and are delivered with the musical heft to sustain these “Redemption Blues.”

2. David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)
It’s impossible to separate the music of David Bowie’s swan song reflection on mortality and the meaning of it all with his actual demise just days after its release. His was the first of the many music star deaths that have haunted 2016, including Prince, Keith Emerson, Leonard Cohen, Lemmy, Glen Frey, Leon Russell and Sharon Jones. Musically, Blackstar found Bowie dipping into a dark and brooding mix of rock and jazz in long expressive songs. The result was artistically compelling and literally haunting as Bowie captures the mixed emotions and desire for transcendence in the face of the inevitable. As a last will and testament, the artist went out with a bang, not a wimper.

3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
Thom Yorke and company continue their artful deconstruction of alternative rock song expectations in one of their most beautiful sounding recordings to date. The album benefited from the addition of strings and choral vocals on some of the songs plus the evocative uses of organic instrumentation and processed sounds. Enigmatic by design, and essentially gloomy, once again Radiohead challenges its listeners to travel with them to new horizons.

4. Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble)
Laura Jane Grace has led this great punk band through her Transgender Dysphoria and is back to tell the next chapter of her heart-on-her-tattooed-sleeves story. The music manages to be as aggressive, energetic, and catchy as her story is heart-rending.

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway (Warner Bros.)
By now everyone knows exactly what to expect from the Chili Peppers – Flea’s funky bass breaks and Anthony Keidis’ sing/rap melodic flow. All these years in, RHCP’s benefit from the genuine musicality and versatility of their latest guitarist, Tommy Klinghoffer, and the guidance of producer Danger Mouse, and have produced their strongest album in over fifteen years.

6. Beyonce – Lemonade (Parkwood)
Lemonade may have started out as a betrayal/revenge fantasy, but it developed into a pop masterwork on themes of feminism, self-determination and liberation. No one has ever doubted that Beyonce had vocal chops, and all the way back with “Single Ladies” it was obvious she could write a catchy tune, but here she digs deep into the historic Black experience as the foundation for her personal effort to turn a difficult situation into something life-giving. When the R&B Queen Bee showed up on the Country Music Awards to join Dixie Chicks on their cover of her song “Daddy Lessons,” she stole the show and proved that she was an artist that could span genres. Lemonade produced many of pop music’s finest moments in 2016.

7. Wilco – Schmilco (dBpm)
This 10th album from Wilco is the yin, to the yang of last year’s release, Star Wars. While the last one leaned toward the louder, edgier sounds, the songs on Schmilco tend toward more acoustic, more introspective songs, like the opener “Normal American Kids,” where singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy acknowledges he was always the odd one out and liked it that way. But even on a record that leans toward a quieter approach, Wilco rarely goes too far without testing the boundaries, and expanding sound-scapes. It’s comforting to watch a band, even 20 years in, willing to take risks and break with convention, especially when its done in such a musical and compelling way. “If I Ever Was A Child” epitomizes the band’s Americana roots, while “Common Sense” is purposely discordant. “Locator” deconstructs pop song structures, while “Someone to Lose” and “Cry All Day” prove that they can play it straight when they want to.

8. Bonnie Raitt – Dig in Deep (Redwing)
In the post-major record company age, Bonnie Raitt has taken things in her own hands, running her own label, foregoing session players and recording with her touring band, featuring her long-time guitarist George Marinelli and stalwart keyboard player Mike Finnigan. She co-produces here with Joe Henry, and delivers her own fun, funky take on the blues. A lot of the attention here went to her cover of INXS cover of “Need You Tonight,” but Raitt wrote a few things here but chose other works, like “Gypsy in Me,” which totally fit her free spirit, bluesy nature, lovely voice, and natural way with a slide guitar.

9. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia)
Leonard Cohen, writer of arguably one of the most beloved pop songs in a generation, “Hallelujah,” was one of the musical artists that we lost this year. If his passing was made a little easier because he had lived a long, full life into his 80’s, this last recording was a great reminder of what a treasure he was in life. More a poet than a singer, Cohen’s lyrics borrowed liberally from spiritual resources from his native Jewish tradition as well as Christianity and Buddhism, but he seemed also to delight in the sensual and the darker emotions. Produced by his son, Adam Cohen, the record feels sparse compared to his earlier outings, thus making his brooding bass voice all the more pronounced and soulful. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, Cohen’s thoughts are turned toward death, and thus the meaning to be found in life and love. This last recording is truly a worthy cap on a long, artful existence.

10. Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome (Interscope)
Over ten years since their last album, and still selling out stadiums, The Rolling Stones don’t need to ever make another record, their fans will continue to pay to see them play as long as Jagger can run from one end of their long stage to the other, and Richards can still play the opening chords to “Start Me Up.” That they chose, finally, to record an album of vintage blues covers by artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter that influenced them all the way back when they started makes Blue and Lonesome a labor of love. That they play these songs with such restraint and artful respect, makes it a joy to hear.

11. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky (Merge)
Who knew that the kind of loud, thrashy hardcore that Bob Mould first made in Husker Du, and the loud, catchy power pop that he made with the band Sugar, would still have currency in this new century? I’m not sure even Mould did, but he too must understand the cathartic power of this music, but he returns to form here on Patch the Sky, for the benefit of the rest of us.

12. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Caroline Intl.)
Who knew that Iggy Pop would be one of the survivors, and that here in 2016 he would produce a smart, relevant and engaging work? Paired up with Josh Hommes of Queens of the Stone Age, Pop finds the right musical structures to support his voice and personality, recalling his most commercial accessible works from his time working with David Bowie.

13. The Record Company – Give It Back to You (Concord)
A couple songs from this band’s debut album kept showing up on one of the satellite radio stations I favor, and I always turned it up. The Record Company is a back-to-basics roots rock trio that plays high energy blues influenced songs with pop hooks that recall the early days of rock & roll. Give It Back to You is a collection of smart grooves, great harmonica playing and no-nonsense rock, a classic sound from these L.A. boys that sound like they belong in Memphis.

14. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
The reunion of A Tribe Called Quest is good news for old school hip-hop fans who have lost touch with the rap scene, and the fact that they have guest spots that include Jack White playing guitar on three tracks, Elton John on one, and some of the rappers that they influenced, Kanye, Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Talib Kwali, and long-time collaborators Consequence and Busta Rhymes. Tragedy struck during the recording with the premature death of Phife Dawg, but mainstays Q-Tip, Jarobi White and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad completed the project as a tribute. The opening tracks, “The Space Program” and “We the People,” offer up political anthems appropriate to the times, and the giddy bouncy rhythms and playful spirit throughout recall the early creative days of rap.

15. Green Day – Revolution Radio (Reprise)
I was one of those with the minority opinion that the trio of albums released by Billy Joe Armstrong & Co. in 2012 (Uno, Dos, Tre) were pretty good records. But the four year hiatus following Armstrong’s breakdown, appear to have served the band well as Revolution Radio is a stellar return to form. Perhaps “all grown up and medicated,” but Green Day is back, playing fast and loud, and delivering big hooks on post-punk pop/rockers like “Bang Bang” and “Bouncing Off the Wall.”

16. Drive-By Truckers – American Band
Drive-By Truckers is one of those Americana, Southern country rock bands that has been plugging away, recording 11 albums in 20 years, grinding it out on the road, and often writing really good songs. American Band has quite a few of those, including “Surrender Under Protest” by Mike Cooley, and some of the most politically potent songs from Patterson Hood, “Guns of Umpqua” about mass shootings, the tale of Irish immigrants in “Ever South,” and the current issues of race and violence against young black men in “What It Means.”

17. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant)
On this concept album takes on urban blight in the Capital of the US, PJ Harvey brings a journalists eye to the gentrification that has forced poorer residents without affordable housing. Her artful alternative rock dissects decay of communities as corporate rulers prosper, suggesting that we can do better for communities, in musical statements that are insightful, edgy and potent.

18. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Alt/country artist, Simpson got a lot of attention for his inventive cover of Kurt Cobain’s “In Bloom,” but A Sailor’s Guide is better recognized for his own song-craft reflection on what it means to bring a child into this world. Richly orchestrated, with exceptional values, it gives one hope that country music doesn’t have to sound like all that crap on “new country” radio.

19. Pixies – Head Carrier (Pixiesmusic)
Officially, The Pixies were back with Indie Cindy in 2014, after a 23 year hiatus from recording, but they didn’t really feel like they were back until I heard this one. Black Francis is back in his rightful place singing fast punk rockers like “Um Chugga Lugga” and all is right with the world.

20. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware os It (Vagrant)
Sometimes you just need a break from unpretentious music, and you wonder who is going to be the next generation of snotty nosed rock stars. The 1975’s lead singer Matthew Healy auditions exhibited a bit of Jagger, some Bowie, and hint of Michael Hutchence in the band’s blend of electronic alternative pop on this long and intriguing second album. They really want to be the Next Big Thing, and the evidence found on this record indicates they could be well on their way.

21. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (Blackened)
Every few years, I begin to think that metal is finally done, locked in endless clichés, and one Spinal Tap too far to ever find its way back into the light of day, and then Metallica raises it’s ugly head again. And on Hardwired, they return with all the piss & vinegar, the speed, turn on dime time changes and muscular guitar fury to match James Hetfield’s seemingly endless pool of rage. Every now and then you have one of those days when you need to bang your head, and this year this is the exceptionally well recorded double album to do just that.

22. Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing (Little Idiot/Mute)
While I don’t usually have the patience for electronica (pretty sure I don’t do the right drugs, and it doesn’t help that I don’t dance), or techno, or whatever it’s being called these days, Moby won me over with Play back in 1999. The video/single “Are You Lost In the World Like Me?” insightful critique of our worship of technology drew me back in, and again he’s infused his electonic beats with enough organic rock instrumentation and vocal hooks to reignite the connection. Moby rocks.

23. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea of Noise (RECORDS)
This great old school, funky R&B band won me over the first time I saw his shiny white Pentecostal preacher shoes and heard his effortless falsetto shout on David Letterman. Two albums later he’s even more refined, as the band has grown to embrace the music soulful nuance and subtlety as well as its punch and power.

24. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)
In 2016, death was in the air. We lost so many musical giants, and here Nick Cave mourns the death of his young teenage son from an accident, in music that matches the singers angst and woe. It’s a challenging listen, but artful, honest and gripping. Play this alongside Blackstar and You Want it Darker, and you’ll be thankful you’re alive and your loved ones are safe.

25. Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts of Highway 20 (Highway 20)
Year in and year out, Lucinda Williams is a voice, both as a writer and as a singer, that speaks to the rich textures of humanity. This collection of songs, like several others in her catalog, capture the back roads of existence, in a life giving and affirming way.

Also considered: Mavis Staples, Livin’ On A High Note (Anti-/Epitaph); Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial (Matador); Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade); Peter Bjorn & John, Breakin’ Point (INGRID); John Doe, The Westerner (Cool Rock); Mudcrutch, 2 (Reprise); Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories (Bloodshot); Peter Wolf, A Cure for Loneliness (Concord); LVL UP, Return to Love (Sub Pop); Snarky Puppy, Culcha Vulcha (Ground Up); and Kaiser Chiefs, Stay Together (Caroline Intl.).
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Simon Workman

1. Bob Dylan – The 1966 Live Recordings (36-CD box set)
A mammoth 36-disc box set collecting every known recording from Dylan’s legendary 1966 world tour with The Hawks (later to become The Band). Sublime acoustic sets and earth-shaking electric sets make this essential for the hardcore Dylan fan.

2. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
A quieter, more introspective set than their last album, Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral additions to A Moon Shaped Pool make it a genuine contender for one of Radiohead’s best-ever albums.

3. Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are
With producer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Mitchell on board, Pollard turns in his best set of ‘solo’ songs since 2013’s Honey Locust Honky Tonk, including more fleshed-out versions of tunes first previewed on GBV’s Suitcase 4.

4. David Bowie – Blackstar
We didn’t know it would be Bowie’s last album, but he did. Putting everything into his final statement, Backstar is the best record the Starman has released in decades, right up there with his finest work.

5. Cluster – 1971-1981 (9-CD box set)
The underrated electronic duo Cluster, who worked with Brian Eno and were ‘krautrock’ pioneers in the 70s, collect their core albums together in this 9-disc box set. Containing eight remastered albums, plus a bonus disc of two live performances, 1971-1981 makes a great case for Cluster as the forerunners of modern electronic music.

6. King Crimson – Live in Toronto (2-CD)
The first “full-show” release of the latest incarnation of the mighty King Crimson, Live in Toronto is proof that the band is as challenging (and downright HEAVY) as ever. The percussion-heavy (3-drummer!) lineup plows through tracks drawn from their extensive back catalog, and includes a few new tracks as well.

7. ESP Ohio – Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean
Robert Pollard’s newest side project is 3/4 GBV, but features a layered, guitar-heavy sound (courtesy of guitarist Doug Gillard) and an ever-so-slightly more polished feel. Starting Point is crammed full of riffs and hooks—like any Pollard project—but here the Fading Captain sounds downright rejuvenated.

8. Wilco – Schmilco
Much less frenetic then last year’s surprise album Star Wars, Schmilco takes some time to grow on you. But after a while its twelve laid-back, mostly acoustic tracks reveal the strength of Jeff Tweedy & Co.’s songwriting, making it a very solid entry in the Wilco discography.

9. V/A – Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967 (3-CD box set)
A sort of spiritual successor to the classic Nuggets II box of British psych, Let’s Go Down leans more toward the psych-pop end of the spectrum, but digs up so many excellent forgotten tracks (and a few acknowledged classics too) that one starts to wonder what was in the water in London circa 1967. (Probably LSD.)

10. Pink Floyd – Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967-1972 (2-CD)
The “sampler” for Floyd’s massive Early Years box set, Cre/ation doesn’t have every track fans have been clamoring for (no “Vegetable Man” or Scream Thy Last Scream”), but does have plenty of surprises. Highlights abound, including a “band-only” live version of “Atom Heart Mother” from 1970, BBC sessions, two versions (studio and live) of rare gem “Embryo,” a work-in-progress “Echoes,” and the unreleased Syd Barrett-era instrumental “In The Beechwoods.”

11. Guided by Voices – Please Be Honest
The first GBV record recorded solely by Pollard himself (á la his Teenage Guitar side project), Please Be Honest is rough around the edges in all the right ways. Classic Pollard hooks sit side by side with experimental dirges, odd samples, and plenty of abstract wordplay.

12. Grateful Dead – July 1978: The Complete Recordings (12-CD box set)
2016’s yearly box set from the Grateful Dead covers five complete shows from July 1978, including two legendary performances at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While not as polished as their spring tour from the previous year, it’s clear over these twelve discs that the Dead were having a great time in the summer of ’78, playing consistently great shows night after night.

13. V/A – Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music
The latest entry in the Numero Group’s Wayfaring Stranger series mines the American country-rock underground of the early to mid-70s, saving over a dozen Byrds/Gram Parsons-inspired pieces of spaced-out Americana from obscurity.

14. Me Time – Vol. 2
Dayton’s Me Time turn in a great set of songs for their first LP, combining Beatlesque melodies and harmonies with jangling guitars and Andy Smith’s wry, relatable lyrics.

15. V/A – Still In A Dream: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995 (5-CD box set)
Theres no My Bloody Valentine here (thanks, lawyers!), but just about every other major shoegaze act is represented (Ride, Lush, Slowdive, Swervedriver, Moose)—along with a few inclusions that might have some scratching their heads (mostly under the guise of being precursors or bands influenced by the genre). But despite a few shortcomings, it’s a fantastic set of tunes complemented by extensive liner notes that, while imperfect, provide a good overview of this often-misunderstood genre.

16. M. Ross Perkins – S/T
M. Ross Perkins’ debut takes the one-man-band approach and hits it out of the park. 60s psychedelia and the pop-craft of acts like Harry Nilsson and Emitt Rhodes are the main influences here, but Perkins’ distinctive voice and style come through loud and clear.

17. V/A – Brown Acid: The Second Trip & The Third Trip
The second and third volumes in Easy Rider Records’ and Permanent Records’ Brown Acid series continue to excavate rare and forgotten gems from the early 70s (mostly) American hard rock and heavy metal scene. It’s like Nuggets, but for stoner rock—brilliant.

18. Starflyer 59 – Slow
Despite the title, on their fourteenth studio album Starflyer 59 shows no signs of slowing down. Its eight tracks serve as a sort of summary of their career thus far, combining most of the approaches Jason Martin and his revolving cast of bandmates have tackled in their two-decade-plus run.

19. Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks Vol. 18 (July 16 & 17, 1976) (3-CD + Bonus Disc)
The best of this year’s Dave’s Picks series focuses on an underrated year for the band, as they got back to work after a year-and-a-half retirement. With second drummer Mickey Hart back on board, the band gets a little more exploratory than most ’76 shows, and the results heard here (two complete concerts if you got the subscriber-only bonus disc) make an excellent case for further excursions into 1976.

20. Joseph Airport – Curators of Earth
Releasing new material at a rate that rivals their musical guru Robert Pollard, Joseph Airport’s albums have been increasingly good, and Curators of Earth is no exception. Featuring a track produced by GBV alum Tobin Sprout, the album is quite possibly their best so far, weaving its way through twenty-one zany and downright rocking tunes.

21. V/A – I’m A Freak Baby… A Journey through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972 (3-CD box set)
Similar to the Brown Acid series (#17 above), I’m A Freak Baby focuses instead on the early heavy rock scene in the UK, zeroing in on what was happening in the underground between Cream and Black Sabbath. Bluesy, distorted riffs and huge rhythm sections meet psychedelic lyrics and darker themes, revealing what happened to British hard rock when, in Lennon’s words, everyone realized “the dream was over.”

22. The Monkees – Good Times!
Who could have predicted that The Monkees would have released a good album in 2016, let alone one of the year’s best? Featuring original songs by the surviving members and some of their original songwriters, tunes contributed by everyone from Ben Gibbard to Noel Gallagher, and a few vintage outtakes spruced up with new additions (including a cameo from the late Davy Jones), Good Times! is definitely what it claims on the cover.

23. V/A – Day of the Dead (5-CD/10-LP box set)
A massive tribute to celebrate the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, on Day of the Dead The National’s Dessner brothers bring together dozens of artists both current and classic, reimagining a large portion of the Dead’s catalog in modern terms. It’s a trip.

24. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious?
Featuring a collaboration with Fiona Apple and some of Bird’s least cryptic lyrics to date, Are You Serious is fine entry in the violinist’s already impressive discography. The album feels sunnier throughout than his last few outings—no doubt the result of tying the knot—and the result is a fresh new spin on Bird’s intricately arranged chamber-pop.

25. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
Bob Dylan’s second album of tunes (mostly) sung by Frank Sinatra is even better than the first. Finding Dylan still in surprisingly good voice, the album is more eclectic than Shadows in the Night, and features some more upbeat material that helps keep the album grounded.

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Adam Strong

1. David Bowie – Blackstar
2. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
3. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
4. Drive by Truckers, American Band
5. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson
6. Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest
7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
8. Frank Ocean – Blonde
9. Suede – Night Thoughts
10. Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok?

Honorable Mention:
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
Big Thief – Masterpiece
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Daniel Taylor

1. Sleepies: Natural Selection – 3rd LP from Sleepies is a pitch perfect slab of catchy indie/noise/post rock. More people should be listening to these guys!

2. Spray Paint: Feel the Clamps – This album shouldn’t work. This obtuse brand of noise rock plays like a punk band writing a soundtrack for a horror/sci-fi film. Brilliant.

3. Votaries: Psychometry – My Bloody Valentine meets Ween meets Wand. Excellent psychedelic drone rock. You don’t need LSD to get high, just put this album on and get ready for a buzz.

4. The Astounds: The Astounds – Dean Wells (The Capstan Shafts) does it again. Catchy lo-fi power pop.

5. ESP Ohio: Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean – Pollard and Gillard capture lightning in a bottle again. On par with Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department and Mist King Urth.

6. Christian Fitness: This Taco Is Not Correct – Andrew Falkous can do no wrong in my opinion. His Christian Fitness stuff is brilliant, edgy stuff.

7. Parquet Courts: Human Performance – Took a few listens, but once this LP sank in, it is a very pleasant listen. A bit more subdued from their Light Up Gold days.

8. Future of the Left: The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left – Once again, Falkous can do no wrong. “Proper Music” is one of my favorite tracks for 2016.

9. Vomitface: Hooray for Me – After two bruising Eps, Vomitface show they have what it takes to make compelling and raucous LPs.

10. Lost Boy?: Goose Wazoo – Another year, another great Lost Boy? LP. Catchy and slightly goofy lo-fi power pop.

11. Honey Radar: Blank Cartoon – Now that GBV doesn’t dip into the lo-fi pool much anymore, Honey Radar fills that niche nicely. Get their EP too!

12. Kal Marks: Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies – Since Pile didn’t release an album this year, I needed a fix on music that is dark, murky and sometimes jangly.

13. Sat. Nite Duets: Air Guitar – Another great release from Sat. Nite Duets. Seriously, fans of Pavement need to listen to these guys.

14. Yak: Alas Salvation – Excellent debut. Tons of energy, tons of swagger. Keep an eye out for this band in the future.

15. Running: Wake Up Applauding – Extreme, heavy noise rock. Extremely good.

16. So Pitted: Neo – Killer debut. Nice and heavy. Can’t wait to hear more from them.

17. Robert Pollard: Of Course You Are – Another solid release from Robert Pollard. No surprise here; he has been knocking out hits over the past few decades.

18. Pink Mexico: Fool – No sophomore slump for Pink Mexico. Good fuzz rock.

19. Mike and the Melvins: Three Men and a Baby – A blast from the past gets resuscitated and wrought havoc on my ears…in a good way. Heavy stuff.

20. Graham Repulski: Boy Lung – My other go-to artist when I need some lo-fi noise rock.

21. Cotton Mather: Death of the Cool – Welcome back Cotton Mather. This record was a fine return for a brilliant band.

22. Teleman: Brilliant Sanity – Great pop stuff from former Pete and the Pirates members.

23. Guided By Voices: Please Be Honest – While this isn’t my favorite GBV album, it is good enough and has some really great tracks.

24. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial – Major label debut didn’t disappoint.

25. The Dean Ween Group: The Deaner Album – Wasn’t a big fan of the Freeman solo stuff, but Deaner brings the rock. A diverse listen and most importantly, a fun listen.
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Christopher Tahy

1.King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity
When it really comes down to it, I did give Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool my first ever perfect score. But, over the year this has to be the album that I listened to the most. Whether it was my daughter requesting to hear “Road Train” for the umpteenth time or maybe it was just to hear the ever powerful transition from “Big Fig Wasp” to “Gamma Knife” Nonagon Infinity was on of the most under appreciated albums of 2016. If it passed you by I implore you to give it a listen. Also, one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a while.

2.Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
One of the most beautiful albums of 2016 has to be Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Thom really seemed to give the reigns to Johnny and his orchestra and it made for one of Radiohead’s fullest albums to date. I’ve admitted to myself that we may never see another “guitar” album from Radiohead and I’m ok with that because in my 3 years of writing this was my first 5 Headphones album.

3.Jeff Rosenstock: WORRY
Considered to be the best punk album recorded this year, Rosenstock takes the theatrics of Titus Andronicus and drops the fuck life, philosophical dichotomy replacing it with the Rivers Cuomo slacker life style. It came out of know were and it’s a hell of a ride.

4.Charles Bradley: Changes
Charles for change! A true success story Charles Bradley is the screaming eagle of soul with a heart of gold. Changes houses some of the truest confessions of love and soul this year.

5.David Bowie: Blackstar
A heartfelt and hypnotizing goodbye. Blackstar is the album that know one saw coming. Bowie was a true artist even in his last days and Blackstar is all the proof that you need.

6.Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
Don’t let Ric Ocasek know this is here-haha. My friend Christopher Anthony couldn’t have been more correct about this album, “The record is a winner because it never stops evolving or surprising you.” This record is one hell of a showcase of indie rock styles and influences.

7.Sunwatchers: Sunwatchers
Some of the greatest and strangest sounds that I’ve heard all year. Sunwatchers’ blast of brass and guitars is something to behold. I’m not going to lie this list is fairly heavy with Castle Face artists past an present. It seems they know they way to pick their artists. Sunwatchers is no exception.

8.Company Man: Brand Standard
Coming in just in the nick time the Company Man’s Brand Standard is dirty, bloozy, and an all around good time. While it’s an EP is has just as much a place here as all these other albums. It was some of the most fun that I’ve had in 6 songs this year.

9.The Hotelier: Goodness
I don’t know if you’d call this emo but, I do know that I really like what The Hotelier did here. Goodness takes theatrics and creative prowess and pushes it way past what a typical “emo” band would be today. In fact it’s top notch rock n roll and that’s the truth.

10.Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
2015 was a tough year for Nick Cave. After having lost his 15 year old son he created the only album he could after that. Skeleton Tree is heartfelt, pure, unbridled pain. It’s Cave wrestling with his demons and that emotion is quite captivating.

11.Parquet Courts: Human Performance
I always love a good indie slacker jam out and Parquet Courts has been very good at it since their debut, Light Up Gold. But, we’re not here to talk about the debut we’re here to talk about grower, Human Performance. I think I must have rocked to spaghetti western jam “Berlin Got Blurry” countless time since its’ release. Parquet Courts have always maintained quality. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

12.ORB: Birth
Also from the same land as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, ORB simply rocks. While Birth got a 3.5 when reviewed, it was their spacey, sludge style that took me to Sleep, then to Sabbath, and to FUZZ. This trio really poured the grooves on thick and it gave me all the stoney, metal feels.

13.Votaries: Psychometry
When anybody links a band to Wand I have to take notice immediately. Many critics poured praises on this debut and with good reason. It can be tough to make shoegaze catchy and hooky. With songs like “Annihilation Generation,” “Delusion,” “Lucifer,” Votaries easily makes a case for themselves. Before you know it “Ritualized” is playing and the album has melted into the floor.

14.Tim Presley: The Wink
Tim Presley takes Barrett, Bowie, and Byrne and constructs something that only seems vaguely influenced by his main project White Fence. A albums that I’m still sad I didn’t review. The Wink has some interesting track from its’ title track, to “Solitude Cola,” and “Goldfish Wheelchair” to name a few. It will do you some good if your looking for a little something off the beaten path.

15.Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits
While it isn’t the strongest Sees album to be released, it still has some really strong Sees tracks. It also saw Thee Oh Sees experimenting with two drummers. “Ticklish Warrior,” “Gelatinous Cube, “Unwrap the Fiend Pt. 2,” and “The Axis” now take their place as some of my favorite songs in the entire Sees catalogue. Knowing their output that’s no small feat.

16. GØGGS: GØGGS
17. Heron Oblivion: Heron Oblivion
18. Black Mountain: IV
19. Lonesome Shack: The Switcher
20. Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
21. Frankie and The Witch Fingers: Heavy Roller
22. The Claypool Lennon Delirium: Monolith of Phobos
23. Witchcraft: Nucleus
24. Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression
25. Preoccupations: Preoccupations

Best Live Album Release: The White Stripes – The Complete John Peel Sessions
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Thomas Wilde

1. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
2. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
3. Pinegrove – Cardinal
4. Mitski – Puberty 2
5. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
6. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
7. White Lung – Paradise
8. The Hotelier – Goodness
9. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
10. LVL UP – Return To Love
11. Danny & The Darleans – Bug Out
12. Male Gaze – King Leer
13. OMNI – Deluxe
14. Ryley Walker – Golden Sings
15. Savages – Adore Life

Fire Note Staff

Fire Note Staff

Online Music Magazine: Independent Music Reviews, Vinyl Spotlights, Music News, Videos, 7-inch record features + more!
Fire Note Staff
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Author: Fire Note Staff

Online Music Magazine: Independent Music Reviews, Vinyl Spotlights, Music News, Videos, 7-inch record features + more!

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2 Comments

  1. Great year in music!!!

  2. just got the Votaries yesterday. WOW is all I can say. I had no idea Jackson Scott had a new project out. Would probably bump something from my list….

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