Andrew Stewart Poop 2016

BEST: 2016

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1. Car Seat Headrest / Teens of Denial (Will Toledo’s major label debut follows a fistful of self-released coffee-and-Adderall basement productions, and his sweet power-pop harmonies, disaffected lyrics and crunch-and-grind riffs feel somehow both raw and polished, rehashed and brand-new, all at once. A flawed but endlessly entertaining rock album that evokes Nirvana, Weezer and The Replacements.)

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2. Frank Ocean / Blonde (Ocean made us wait and wait and wait some more, then threw a two-for-one curveball. You were waiting for another channelORANGE? Sorry. This one’s the one, a photo-negative mindfuck, a quiet, deep, soulful album obsessed with fame and loneliness. A masterful, Zen-like move.)

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3. Kevin Morby / Singing Saw (Morby is young but going places on his third solo LP, more pointed and poetic than before with an eerie, epic sound and a layered production with a timeless feel. This guy may someday have a legitimate claim on Dylan’s mantle: brilliant, relentless and very serious about his art.)

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4. Chance The Rapper / Coloring Book (He’s deservedly blown up this year on the force of his insane talent, charm and wit, crossing boundaries and doing things his way. The center of the square is this ridiculously uplifting album full of joy and inspiration. Soul, gospel, R&B and rap, made sublime.)

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5. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam / I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (Like torch songs from another era, these deceptively sophisticated tunes feel like they’ve always been there. Fortified with Rostam’s lovely, complex production touches, Leithauser’s retro-singer-songwriter thing has never been better.)

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6. Andy Shauf / The Party (Saskatchewan singer’s weird thematic album is unique and affecting, his hot-potato delivery perfectly reflecting the characters’ confusion and angst, and here he’s lonely and lost.)

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7. Parquet Courts / Human Performance (These dusty Bowery cowboys keep getting better. Despite the acclaim this one is still underrated, weaving a hypnotic slack-rock spell that’s fresh and exciting.)

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8. Pinegrove / Cardinal (New Jersey emo band turns to alt-country: this should suck, right? Nope. A pure and powerful performance, all throaty commitment and minor keys. A rough-hewn gem that got noticed.)

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9. Lucy Dacus / No Burden (Wow. This self-produced debut is a stunner. Gothic country with a Nick-Cave-meets-Angel-Olsen vibe, full of brightness and waves-rolling-in energy. A special talent, out of Nashville.)

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10. Hiss Golden Messenger / Heart Like a Levee (Feels like the mid-70’s, updated. This fully-realized country-rock LP recalls Townes Van Zandt, a little Kristofferson, and even Tumbleweed-era Elton John.)

11. Big Thief / Masterpiece (Sultry, muscular rock out of Brooklyn that murmurs and whispers and then starts throwing punches, all the more powerful for the quietude that’s passed.)
12. Solange / A Seat at the Table (This one may have you frozen in place upon first listen, all the way through. A mesmerizing psych-soul meditation that feels a bit like an updated What’s Goin’ On.)
13. Fruit Bats / Absolute Loser (Eric Johnson can do no wrong. These joyful tongue-in-cheek tunes are a simple pleasure, taking off like rockets that burst in the night sky, making you smile.)
14. Whitney / Light Upon The Lake (This year’s best summer album, gauzy, blurry folk songs from members of Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. A throwback never sounded so good.)
15. Nico Yaryan / What a Tease (Very similar in feel – if not sound – to last year’s Tobias Jesso album, here’s more Laurel Canyon worship, a pleasing funky lo-fi shuffle through downtown.)
16. Margaret Glaspy / Emotions and Math (Hot-and-spicy indie rock newcomer with a sharp eye, Joe Jackson’s pen and Britt Daniel’s licks. A smart and promising debut.)
17. Islands / Should I Remain Here at Sea? (Another sneakily complex, darkly ironic set of songs from Nick Thorburn. Here he’s a bit less florid than in the past, but just as effortlessly droll and winning.)
18. Into It. Over It. / Standards (Straight-up DCFC ripoff is better and more dynamic than anything Gibbard’s done in a decade. Maybe a little too much, but on certain rainy days it feels like not quite enough.)
19. John K. Samson / Winter Wheat (Former Weakerthans’ frontman delivers a cool, cerebral meditation on typically Canadian topics: doctoral degrees, oil barons, psychotic obsession, and old trees. Amazing.)
20. Steve Gunn / Eyes on the Lines (Road trip jams from the master of surprise, these long, jazzy guitar rock songs sweep you out the door and over the fields, your feet barely touching the earth below.)
21. LVL UP / Return to Love (This exciting, all-business indie rock band does something no one’s done as well, and that’s honor without imitating Built to Spill; and that’s enough to earn respect.)
22. Young Thug / Jeffery (Utterly captivating rap album features the heaviest, dankest grooves of the year, lyrics that twist and turn and spin your head around, and a vibrant magnetism that won’t let go.)
23. Bent Shapes / Wolves of Want (Fuck it, this Boston band can write and sing, and knows how to have fun. Derivative but pleasing in all the best 80’s-rock ways, this sunny-day album kept pulling me back in.)
24. Twin Peaks / Down in Heaven (This seems like an obvious homage to Loaded, from the sizzlingly reverberant production to the retro blues-rock songs. A band could do worse, and this one’s fun.)
25. William Tyler / Modern Country (Too good to ignore, this instrumental guitar album is yet another confident, complicated, transformative offering from Tyler. Sounds best at home, on vinyl.)

THE REST
Bear Hands / You’ll Pay For This (Sharp-edged rock songs get you moving, and make you smile.)
Beyoncé/Lemonade (Pretty fantastic, any way you slice it. Worth your time.)
Andrew Bird / Are You Serious (Beautiful and complex, but too cool and clinical to truly excite.)
James Blake / The Colour in Anything (The best of a certain strain of British synth-folk, very mellow.)
Bombino / Azel (Dave Longstreth reasserts the North African sound in this dynamic guitarist’s songs.)
Bon Iver / 22, A Million (I wanted to like this a lot, but I found it slow-paced and genuinely boring.)
Frankie Cosmos / Next Thing (Short, smart punky rock songs are simultaneously vulnerable and strong.)
Cymbals Eat Guitars / Pretty Years (Rock-solid youth fill the space between Springsteen and Japandroids.)
Diarrhea Planet / Turn to Gold (The highest ratio of album quality to band name since Mannequin Pussy.)
Dinosaur Jr. / Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Workmanlike grind through some of the same great shit.)
D.R.A.M. / Big Baby D.R.A.M. (Challenging Chance on pure lovability, D.R.A.M. has also got some pipes.)
Drive-By Truckers / American Band (Too message-heavy to truly loosen up, but they’re still solid.)
Tim Easton / American Fork (Tireless self-funded troubador plays classic Americana, with heart.)
Alejandro Escovedo / Burn Something Beautiful (Still electrifying, he’s got a lot of miles on his tires.)
Robert Ellis / Robert Ellis (Ballads of heartbreak and loathing from this country crossover are new classics.)
Helado Negro / Private Energy (Haunting off-tempo nuevo-wave songs, in Spanish and English.)
Jim James / Eternally Even (Misses the mark, but everything he does is committed and intense.)
Kamaiyah / A Good Night in the Ghetto (Fresh throwback rap out of Oakland is tough, bright and shiny.)
Kaytranada / 99.9% (Jazz-inflected R&B artist recedes and lets his keys – and guests – make the groove.)
Cate Le Bon / Crab Day (Welsh singer does a thing where new songs sound like traditionals, arranged.)
The Lumineers / Cleopatra (Goddamn, how I wanted to dismiss this thing. Well-played and -produced.)
Mannequin Pussy / Romantic (Completely and surprisingly affecting. This Philly punk band kicks ass.)
Terrace Martin / Velvet Portraits (Super-cool, unique jazz-R&B album from another of K.Dot’s pals.)
Cass McCombs / Mangy Love (I still can’t figure this one out, but I assume he knows what he’s doing.)
Angel Olsen / My Woman (Overrated, not as interesting as her last album, though it’s still pretty great.)
Anderson.Paak / Malibu (Surprisingly funky soul album with a bit of Stevie Wonder’s DNA woven in.)
Britta Phillips / Luck or Magic (Cool, sophisticated covers and originals from Dean Wareham’s other half.)
Margo Price / Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Nashville gal breaks through, bigly, with some amazing songs.)
PUP / The Dream Is Over (Sloppy, punky, power rock from Toronto recalls the best of ‘90’s radio.)
Purling Hiss / High Bias (Personal favorites step on the gas from the get-go, and never let up.)
Radiohead / A Moon Shaped Pool (I’m not sure I have the patience to go all the way down this road again.)
Isaiah Rashad / The Sun’s Tirade (Yes, he’s clearly influenced by Kendrick. No, that’s not a bad thing.)
Dawn Richard / Redemption (This third-of-a-triptych dance-soul album is as deep as a mountain lake.)
Luke Roberts / Sunlit Cross (Kurt Vile stamped his name on this, so I listened. It’s classic folk, and lovely.)
Sheer Mag / III EP (Straight-ahead bongwater rock songs, shouted, with chords. Jump around.)
Sturgill Simpson / A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (A puzzle. Brassy, orchestral country-soul suite is too much.)
Moses Sumney / Lamentations EP (Kind of a hybrid of Jeff Buckley and Seal, he’s off to a fast start.)
Carter Tanton / Jettison The Valley (Reminds me of a latter-day Robbie Robertson album, but sweeter.)
Aaron Lee Tasjan / Silver Tears (This guy’s got a great sense of style, country-rock with a blues edge.)
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down / A Man Alive (Ass-kicking San Franciscan is a bit less accessible here.)
Told Slant / Going By (Like Isaac Brock drank codeine syrup and played acoustic, this Bard grad pleases.)
White Denim / Stiff (Fun, fun, fun. Gimmicky, jam-bandy Ween-worship album is still enjoyable.)
Wilco / Schmilco (For the first time maybe ever, an honest and indifferent “meh.”)
Kanye West / The Life of Pablo (A colossal asshole. Some great songs.)
Jamila Woods / Heavn (She started out backing Chance, but here her solo sun-drenched soul just shines.)

DON’T GET IT
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds / Skeleton Tree
Kvelertak / Nattesferd
Mitski / Puberty 2
Donald J. Trump / Grab Her By The Pussy
Weyes Blood / Front Row Seat to Earth

Andrew Stewart
Rhinebeck, NY

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