This year has been an interesting year for… well, everything. Including music! Although I’d say 2016, musically speaking, is mostly interesting in a good way, rather than just bizarre like everything else. At the beginning of summer, I wrote a brief list of awesome new releases. Now that summer is ending, I think it’s due time for another one.
These are in no particular order, and I seriously struggled to narrow it down so much. For instance, I think both Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree and Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound should be on this list, but since those are already heavily acclaimed among literally everyone, I would just be parroting all the other reviews. I also wanted the music on this list to be mostly accessible, and those two artists aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. With that said, check out our pre-fall picks:
Glass Animals – How to be a Human Being
This Oxford-based four piece released their sophomore album, How to be a Human Being, just over two years after their first full-length, Zapa. Truthfully, I was not familiar with this group until a few weeks ago, but I already know this album will end up on my Best Albums of the Year list in late-December. While their first release incorporates a fun array of experimental and eclectic sounds obviously heavily inspired by the likes of Animal Collective, with How to be a Human Being, Glass Animals showcases a cleaner sound that they’ve made their own. Check out the album’s first of three singles, “Life Itself,” above.
of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
Similar to Glass Animals, of Montreal’s newest also boasts a cleaner sound than it’s predecessors. The record is nowhere short of overwhelming visuals, but that’s the case with everything frontman Kevin Barnes does. However, while many would say of Montreal’s music isn’t for everyone, this even moreso applies to Innocence Reaches. I definitely can see how “it’s different for girls” could come across as pandering, despite its catchiness, and both of the album’s music videos might seem too eyeball-roll-inducing, try-hard quirky. While non-fans might find this album to be simply a catchy hipster party record, I think fans will be better able to appreciate Innocence Reaches‘ fresh and innovative sound, and therefore, it earns a spot on this list.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Okay, this album also received overwhelming coverage and acclaim, but I couldn’t leave it out. On August 20, Frank Ocean finally dropped “the album” fans have been griping about for the past 500 years. Luckily for us, Blonde, one of the most anticipated albums of this year, lived up to its hype. This album has an overall sound that is decidedly dreamy and minimalist, yet way too lyrically emotional for your typical chill-out record. In addition to Frank Ocean showcasing his own artistic talent, each of Blonde‘s big-name guest vocalists (and there are a lot) bring their own signature spin to the songs they appear in, such as Andre 3000’s reprise of “Solo.” Beyonce and James Blake, who both have released albums this year, appear on this record as well. This is definitely a record that should be experienced in one whole sitting, but if I had to pick a favorite track, it would be “Ivy.” Unfortunately none of it is available on Youtube, just Spotify and Apple Music, but we promise this album is worth seeking out.
TTNG (This Town Needs Guns) – Disappointment Island
While they’re still commonly known by the name This Town Needs Guns, the math rock band’s name was originally a play on the fact that guns are extremely uncommon in their hometown of Oxford, U.K.. This was lost on most of their fans after they reached global recognition, and so a few years back, the name was officially changed to the simple abbreviation, TTNG. While the complex, yet chill instrumentals are probably the most fascinating part of Disappointment Island, Henry Tremain’s vocals and lyrics, and even the album art, gives the record somewhat of an old-school ’90s emo vibe. It’s also worth noting that TTNG changed lead vocalists well into their career and still managed to carry on successfully, which not only says a lot about Tremain as a vocalist, but about the entire group’s artistic talent.
LOVEYOU – Sparkle & Crush
These guys are one of the more impressive new artists to emerge this year, and one that I certainly would have never discovered if it weren’t for working as a college radio music director. Indie alternative, but a little more pop rock-y, but definitely possessing some psych elements and a tad bit of shoegaze in there too — LOVEYOU’s debut is too complex to pin down to one exact genre, despite having a fun and widely-appealing sound. Sparkle & Crush is as stellar of a debut as Los Angeles group could have hoped for, despite only being eight tracks long, and will undoubtedly leave their new fans stoked for their next release.