2016 record grab-bag
John Darr | Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Throwback playlists and favorite albums are the bread and butter for any music listener, but sometimes you need something new. Here we look at some fresh records released in 2016 that might add some spice to your music library.
dvsn: “Sept. 5th”
Though the indie scene has been spouting out a whole lot of PBR&B lately (from The Internet to Majid Jordan to Gallant), there are a surprising number of records that manage to stand out from the pack. dvsn writes lyrics so overtly sexual they’d make Miguel blush. Thankfully, that lack of subtlety is made up for in the restrained, textured instrumentals behind each track on their excellent debut record “Sept. 5th.” Crisp drum machines that range from cascading 64-bit crunchers to reverb-soaked ’80s throwback kits provide a spine for gorgeous, ethereal synth backdrops navigated by flawless vocals that are nothing short of seductive.
Lil Yachty: “Lil Boat”
Lil Yachty is yet another left-field rapper/auto-tune abusing singer who, following in the steps of Lil B, is more than happy to tell you how much he loves you in one line and then demand you warm his bed in the next. His debut mixtape “Lil Boat” is marked by consistently amateurish, but surprisingly pretty, lullaby-esque trap beats that mirror the divide between friendliness and straight-up misogyny that permeate his lyrics. Essentially, Lil Yachty tries to have the best of both worlds. When he manages to strike that balance on “Minnesota (Remix),” “Out Late” and “We Did It (Outro),” the results are wonderful. But when he doesn’t, it’s a childish mess.
Sarah Neufeld: “The Ridge”
Violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld collaborated with experimental saxophone legend Colin Stetson on one of last year’s most exciting records, “Never Were the Way She Was.” This year, she’s back with “The Ridge,” a truly fantastic work that stretches her playing to its brink. Sarah’s clean, airy vocals add a lovely human element over meticulously-constructed string arrangements and acoustic drums throughout the record, allowing the album to straddle the line between artsy precision and sheer sonic beauty without falling too heavily on either side. Technically stunning and emotionally rich, “The Ridge” is an early contender for the best record of 2016. If any artist is able to craft a song more beautiful than “Where the Light Comes In” before the end of the year it will be a miracle.
Hammock: “Everything and Nothing”
What sets apart beautiful music from music that is simply pleasant is singularity. Though Hammock’s sweeping, ambient guitar lines have wooed listeners in the past, the inclusion of a heavier, more memorable production style on “Everything and Nothing” pushes their music to a new level. With dreamy vocals, fuzzy drums and their signature reverb-soaked riffs, Hammock expands their palate beyond the prettiness of their first records and into far more rewarding territory.
The Drones: “Feelin Kinda Free”
Australian art-punk band The Drones has the bite and freshness of a live piranha on your arm. Guitar music has rarely sounded as punishing as it has on bone-grinding record opener “Private Execution” or as paranoid as on the wonky string plucks of “Taman Shud.” “Feelin Kinda Free” is a record that manages to present new ideas every song while maintaining a razor-sharp focus of pained skepticism and unflinching wit. “The best songs are like bad dreams,” Gareth Liddiard snarls to start off the record. By the end, you’re convinced.
Deftones released another Deftones record that sounds like Deftones. Razor-sharp production, solid songwriting, epic guitar riffs cleaner than Main Building’s bathrooms and Chino Moreno’s bafflingly-unusual yet pitch-perfect vocal melodies. Though Gore boasts little to differentiate it from other Deftones records aside from a touch of warm major-key shoegaze fuzz, it’s still a wholly enjoyable listen and a good gateway to metal for anyone looking to stick a toe in.