Music 2016: Scene’s Comebacks of the Year
Our album of the year, “We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” was the ultimate comeback record, released by A Tribe Called Quest 18 years after their previous LP, “The Love Movement,” hit the shelves. 2016 saw an unusual amount of dormant artists rise from the ashes to release new albums. Here are a few of our favorites.
The Avalanches by Christian Bunker
The Avalanches could have waited a week, a year, a decade or a century before releasing their second album — it wouldn’t have mattered. The group’s two LP’s would still have sounded completely different, yet possessed the signature Avalanches touch: They still would have contained a diverse collection of influences that set it apart from any particular genre or time period. Like nature itself, “Wildflower” is an album that can sit sublimely in the background or grab your attention depending on your mood. A prime example of the latter is the excellent lead single “Frankie Sinatra.” This track effortlessly mixes masterful funk, jazz and classical music underneath masterful performances by two of today’s best rappers, making it one of the year’s best singles (although it cannot top “Frontier Psychiatrist” as the band’s best song). Other tunes, like “If I Was a Folkstar,” “Colours” and “Wildflower” are smooth, soft background tunes that please the ear and are more reminiscent of the Avalanches’ earlier work. Less pleasing was the highly literal “Noisy Eater,” which used a daring set of samples but nevertheless made for a painful listen. However, hits and misses are to be expected from the highly eclectic nature of the group’s compositions. “Wildflower” remains an impressive release that proves the Avalanches can still be as fun, as innovative and as weird as they were in 2000 and leaves fans anxiously awaiting more music.
American Football by Mike Donovan
American Football must have a crippling fear of market saturation. When they released their first EP in 1999, they filled a clever niche in the music industry. The weaving guitars lines and expositional lyrics rode on the coattails of 90s indie giants Guided by Voices and Built to Spill while the tight production and melodic intricacy added a new element of professionalism to the genre’s sound. Alongside Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc, American Football helped carve a new path for American guitar music.
The early 2000s saw an influx of emo bands in the vein of American Football. Some of these bands — Conor Oberst’s Desaparecidos for instance — actually produced interesting material. Unfortunately, most the newcomers were chart hunters, prone to formulaic boredom. American Football waited silently in the background, watching their rise and burn.
By the time 2016 rolled around, the emo craze was a distant memory. A surplus of hastily made EDM tracks and cookie cutter Pop/R&B stifled the 2016 market, opening a spot for something different — possibly even nostalgic. American Football sought to fill this spot with their second eponymous LP.
The record is good yet lacking in ambition. If you’re looking for the sound of emo at its birth, you’ll get it on this sophomore album. Lyrically, the album is darker and more introspective than their debut. After all, one certainly hopes to see a reasonable dose of self-reflection when middle aged men decide to make teen angst music. Some criticize the album’s lack of inventiveness, but one can’t expect every band to give us Bowie-esque innovation on a comeback record. Sometimes, a simple reminder of past musical triumphs is enough. “American Football (LP2)” serves this purpose well.
Gucci Mane by Adam Ramos
While a measly three years between albums may not seem sufficient to warrant a spot on our comeback list, considering both American Football and The Avalanches waited over a decade and half, we’d be remiss not to mention Gucci Mane. After a parole violation landed the Atlanta icon a three-year jail sentence, temporarily stopping his seemingly endless stream of trap bangerz, in 2016 Gucci Mane emerged better, sober and ready to spit.
Recorded in just six days, “Everybody Looking” finds Gucci returning to what Gucci does best, slurring his hypnotic flow over a series of eclectic head-banging beats. Understandably underdeveloped, “Everybody Looking” is not perfect; in fact, it’s not even Gucci’s best 2016 release (see “WOPTOBER,”) but it does recall everything we missed as Gucci toiled away in a jail cell for those three cold years. Welcome back bud.