LxL’s 10 Best Albums of 2016

I’m certainly not the first person to say 2016 was full of loss and turmoil, both with losing several music legends and the world experiencing all sorts of violence and tragedy. Some of our picks speak to that turmoil, whether it be speaking to police brutality and racism in our justice system, or the fear and xenophobia against immigrants that has spread throughout the U.S. and around the world. Other picks of ours were a comfort and escape from the madness. Others were just flat-out great albums.

  1. William Tyler – Modern Country

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Fitting firmly in the escape category, it’s rare that an instrumental album makes our list for 2016, but William Tyler’s country-guitar picking is breathtaking and cathartic. I probably listened to Modern Country more than anything else this year.

  1. A Tribe Called Quest – Thank You 4 Your Service

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A return almost 20 years in the making, influential rap trio returned just after the passing of the late Phife Dawg with an urgent, political album for Trump’s America. It’s warm and hopeful, but still cuts like a knife.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar

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In truly prophetic fashion, David Bowie’s last album delivered 3 days before his passing speaks to death, mortality, and the afterlife like a man embracing it. With the help of Donnie McCaslin’s avant-jazz group, Blackstar was Bowie’s most experimental and best album in 35 years.

  1. Solange – A Seat at the Table

solange

Fair to say, it was a great year for the Knowles sisters…not so much for Jay-Z (see Beyonce’s Lemonade). We had a good conversation over which Knowles sister should make this list, so we sort of split the two, Beyonce on our songs list, and Solange on our albums list, for the more poetic album statement: about what it’s like being black in America and how to persevere when life gives you lemons.

  1. Drive By Truckers – American Band

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Not many people wrote better about Black Lives Matter, anti-immigrant sentiment, and our current political landscape than the old white Southern rockers Drive-By-Truckers. Seriously though, Patterson Hood and his Southern compatriots sound like a band on fire on American Band, almost like Crazy Horse in their peak.

  1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

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A joyful and unique expression, Chance the Rapper released his 3rd mixtape Coloring Book, which is a celebration of growing up, becoming a father, and expressing faith in a child-like fashion. Few people exert more exuberance and joy about their city, their art, and their life as Chance, and the world is better for it.

  1. Angel Olsen – Woman

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Over her work with folk singer/songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy and her first three solo albums, Angel Olsen’s music has been expanding and becoming more of her own with each album. On Woman, Angel Olsen delivers song after song with her melodramatic voice and compelling arrangements for her best album to date.

  1. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.

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Even Kendrick Lamar’s scraps are better than other artist’s best feasts.  Kendrick surprisingly delivered untitled unmastered, the b-sides to our 2015 album of the year To Pimp a Butterfly, and even those made for our favorite rap album of the year. Suffice it to say, I’m not sure any musician is as exciting or talented as Kendrick Lamar right now.

  1. Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree

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The story behind Skeleton Tree is simply devastatling: Cave’s 15-year-old twin son Arthur tragically died after falling off a cliff near the family’s home. Cave, who has always dealt with death, God, and the afterlife in his music, now had to face it head on. On Skeleton Tree, the mourning and emotion is palpable in Cave’s voice, and the music is simply devastating. But there are moments of tremendous humanity and slivers of hope amidst the tragedy.

  1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

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2016 isn’t exactly the golden age for rock music, but 24-year-old Will Toledo aka Car Seat Headrest delivered the most riveting album of the year, a concept album on adolescence that is sharply written, inventively composed, and full of good-old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll energy.

Honorable Mentions:

Beyonce – Lemonade

Mitski – Puberty 2

Anderson Paak – Malibu

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailors Guide to Earth

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

 

Just Missed:

Wes – Jamila Woods – HEAVN

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Chicago singer, rapper, and spoken-word artist Jamila Woods first became known on Chance the Rapper’s joyful “Sunday Candy”, but she showed what she’s made of in her debut album HEAVN, a beautiful, and personal expression about her life as a black woman in Chicago that also keys on musical influences from surprising places.

Austin – Lucy Dacus – No Burden

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Richmond’s Lucy Dacus debut No Burden was a true surprise: a well-written rock album fronted with Dacus’s classically beautiful voice.

Todd – Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

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Chicago duo Whitney is as soft and soothing as it gets, sort of a 70’s soft rock throwback, which makes this pick extra surprising for former wannabe-punk Todd. I guess he’s becoming a softy in his old age.

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LxListening: So 2000 and Late (Part 2)

LxListening iconyou're so 2000 and late
This time of year, everyone (including us at LxL) are terribly obsessed with creating “end of the year lists”. Not only is it a fun topic of conversation and heated debate, but I also think it is appropriate because it is a good way to categorize eras of music. However, part of me always has a problem with the rush of the “end of year lists”. With the amount of music that comes our way in a year these days, it is hard not to miss a few things here and there. This is why last year I posted a LxListening reflecting on the songs of the year prior. For this year I am going to stick with the concept, but switch to albums. These are all albums that are now staples of mine. They have made my “go to” list of albums that will forever be tagged in my library as favorites, yet last year at this time, I’d hardly even listened to them (or in some cases, had not listened to them at all). In no particular order:
Death Grips – The Money Store
death grips - the money store
The fact that this album was not even on my radar last year is almost depressing to me. Since really discovering The Money Store this past spring, it has been a staple for me in many moods and atmospheres … especially ones that involve extreme thrashing of any kind.
Continue reading “LxListening: So 2000 and Late (Part 2)”

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 Recap

Pitchfork Music Festival, 2013

On the surface level, I think it’s natural to have some preconceived notions of what a festival put on by Pitchfork may be like. Pretentious I would imagine is the first thing that would come to many people’s minds. An uppity crowd filled with music snobs and young folks more focused on style than substance. You’d probably also assume that following suit with any other festival/venue it would provide nothing but overpriced food and beverages that would be moderately annoying to wait in line to get as well. The lineup can also be a bit off-putting for some. Unsure of all the names on the lineup seems to be a problem for even dedicated music followers at times as Pitchfork likes to stick with very highly acclaimed (even if it is themselves in fact acclaiming them) list of acts. Not to mention the staggeringly small number of acts for a three day festival that pales in comparison to that of a Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Coachella.

After attending this festival for the second time, I have to say that I am continually amazed at how far off base all of these notions are. Every one of them. The crowd is amazingly genuine. It is smaller than most fests, but people there seem to be genuinely into music. I attribute this largely due to the fact that Pitchfork’s lineup is not conducive for the teenie-bopper types that are looking to attend a three day festival to simply see one show a day whether that be Monsters of Men or fun.. All of the fans at Pitchfork seem to genuinely be there to enjoy all music. As far as price goes, there is hardly a bar in Chicago where you can get craft beers for $5, let alone a spectacle venue. Food is also moderately priced, from local Chicago restaurants, and very delectable. The lineup, whether you know the artist or not, is wonderful. Every act you see there (or at least that I saw there) is someone I would pay a full priced ticket to see as headliners. And the fact that this number of acts on the list is smaller than most, only provides strong set times, and less conflict from overlapping acts. All-in-all it has to be the US festival with the most bang for your buck. Now let’s get down to brass tax shall we?

I attended this year on Saturday/Sunday only. Friday I was at a Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field that will be worthy of it’s own post at a later time. So below is my quick few-sentance recap of what was one of the more surprisingly great festivals/weekends of my 2013:
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Seven Under The Radar Shows To Not Miss At Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo Under the Radar Acts

With Bonnaroo starting up in less than 48 hours, we decided it’s time to begin our coverage for this years festival. Bonnaroo is always home to plenty of acts that everyone knows are must-sees, and this year is no exception. Wu-Tang, Animal Collective’s late night show, Paul McCartney, etc. Well in case anyone out there is looking for some mid-day/early evening recommendations that you may or may not have heard of yet, here is a short list of artists that just may be worth your time in checking out. The fact that I have dubbed these “under the radar” were all based on the surprising low attendees votes on the Bonnaroo website. Granted, I have never personally seen any of these myself, but I have my hunches that they won’t disappoint. Hopefully I will catch you at one of these shows:

 
Charli XCX
charli xcx, hot, bonnaroo, live
When: Thursday, 2:15 PM
Where: The Other Tent
Biggest Competition: Local Natives

Call me hopeful, but I expect good things out of this 19-year old British bombshell. Her album was fun, honest, and raw and I hear her live shows follow suit. My guess is that Local Natives will focus mostly on their snoozy second album material which never makes for a good afternoon show on Friday anyways. The good news is that she begins a good 15 minutes before Local Natives, so if her show is going south, you can always abandon ship with and hit up your back-up plan.
Continue reading “Seven Under The Radar Shows To Not Miss At Bonnaroo”