My 2016 Music Awards – Part 2!

Last week I had my 2016 Music Awards for all my favorite releases of the year. This week I’m going to be showcasing all the music I experienced that was released in previous years! There’s a few extra categories this time around just to make sure I cover all my ground.

BEST “OLDIE”

 

Africa – Toto

Earlier this year, I noted “Africa” as my guilty pleasure jam. I later retracted that statement because I actually don’t feel any guilt at all; this song is pure joy. When my sister and I watched Stranger Things this summer and we heard it come on in one of the episodes, we immediately broke out in song in the most obnoxious way. There’s just something infectious about the tune! And while I certainly wasn’t just introduced to “Africa” this year, it is when I realized just how awesome the song is.

 

Jump – Van Halen

Big hair, leopard prints, ripped jeans… All necessary ingredients for glam rock. I’ll confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of 80’s rock and metal. But Van Halen is the exception, and it’s because of songs like “Jump.” After my brother and I saw Eddie the Eagle this year and this anthem song sounded off at the end, I realized, man, what a great song! It’s got that classic synth style that has somehow remained relevant to this day, and the lyrics – while perhaps not the most encouraging – are as catchy as anything you’ll hear on the radio today.

 

Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

You’ve been Rick-Roll’d, baby!

While this song has earned its fame as one of the oldest jokes on the internet, there’s no denying how great it is. If I had to label any song as my actual guilty pleasure, simply because of the stigma surrounding it, it’d be this one. Again, not that I even just heard it this year. But I paid real money to have it on my phone and play it any time I wanted.

 

WINNER:

Africa – Toto

 

BEST ARTIST

 

Tycho

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As I mentioned in the last blog post, Tycho is brilliant. Scott Hansen has been making music since about the turn of the century and it keeps evolving into more and more creative ambient electronic mixes. This was one of the best musical discoveries I’ve ever made because it expanded my horizon past anything I’ve ever listened to previously.

 

The Black Keys

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Oh, The Black Keys… It’s as if they’re a modern day equivalent of your uncle who exclusively listens to music “back from the good ol’ days.” Anything I read about these guys tells me they’re cranky, stubborn, and hate the modern music scene (and I don’t blame them). For the first 5 or 6 years, The Black Keys were pretty much left to their own devices as an independent act, and with that came some of their most original and true-to-self music: scuzzy, lo-fi garage band-style blues rock that has since only been tried to be imitated. The’ve stuck to their guns since their early days on what type of music they’re all about and they will not budge. And that’s why I love ‘em.

 

Ratatat

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This was one of the few artists this year that was not recommended to me, but rather, I went and took a chance on without knowing much about. I’m glad I did. Another rock duo with earlier roots, I absolutely love the blend of rock and electronic they throw together. But more importantly, their music is just one thing: music. It’s all instrumental; no vocals means they can focus that much more of their attention on the sound, and they really nailed it.

 

WINNER:

The Black Keys

 

BEST AGED ALBUM (10+years)

 

MuteMath – MuteMath (self-titled)

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As a die-hard fan, I’m proud to say I’ve been their fan since the beginning in 2006. This album introduced a very different style I had never heard at my age, and if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t like it at first. I took a little bit to warm up, but thanks to my brother who was also a fan at the time, my ears evolved to understand the brilliance of MuteMath. They just repressed this vinyl version of the album this month for the first time since it was released to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and it immediately sold out. That is a testament to just how timeless this album has become. I can throw it on the turntable any day and it will never get old.

 

Classics – Ratatat

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Now, I’m cheating a little bit here since I only just discovered Ratatat, but this album may as well have just been released this year; it’s great. And what’s more, it’s great from start to finish. So many albums can have a few good songs and the rest just serve as filler, but not a single track here was wasted. Certainly, Classics is a befitting title for a decade-old album that hasn’t aged a bit.

 

Demon Days – Gorillaz

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While I wasn’t a huge fan of their first outing, Demon Days has certainly earned its place as one of the best albums ever made. I think it gets better every year. Damon Albarn, the mastermind behind this virtual band, really created the most unique experience I’ve had yet not just in this past year, but several years. As years go by, Demon Days especially will be the album I remember most. Blending collaborations between other artists like De La Soul and Shaun Ryder and covering multiple genres like techno, rap and alt-rock, it’s the most eclectic album I think I’ve ever listened to.

 

WINNER:

MuteMath – MuteMath

 

BEST ALBUM

(I created two categories for albums just because there were so many)

 

Cast Away – Strange Talk

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Boy, if there were a category for “You should have bought this when you first heard it,” Cast Away would win for sure. I remember listening to the song “Eskimo Boy” not long after this album was released, and I even liked it enough to write it down so I could listen to it later! Alas, I wouldn’t check that note on my iPhone until over a year later. Cast Away is straight-up pop, and it’s done very well. Again, there doesn’t seem to be a single wasted track on here. I can listen to the entire album from start to finish and not have to skip any “meh” songs.

 

Gossamer – Passion Pit

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Another electronic pop album, this was purchased on a whim. And again, it’s awesome through and through. Sometimes, the albums no one tells you to buy end up being your favorites. I discovered this one on my own yet again, and it turned out to be another fantastic edition from a band I had never given to shakes at.

 

Brothers – The Black Keys

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Fans of The Black Keys are going to endlessly debate over which of their many albums is the absolute best. But in my books, the answer is simple: Brothers. I wish I had decided to give these guys a fair shot sooner, but that was my own fault I suppose. My brother had had this album for years before I finally discovered it. In a word? It’s perfection. A consistent through-line from start to finish, yet each song is well-distinguished from the last. I went so far as to find a limited edition out-of-print vinyl copy of this album; it’s one of the crowned jewels of my current collection.

 

WINNER:

Brothers – The Black Keys

 

BEST SONG (One-hit wonder)

(I’ve expanded my nominations for this category because, again, there were quite a few to pick from.)

 

“Undercover Martyn” – Two Door Cinema Club

I think I actually heard this song like 5 years ago by accident, stumbling across it on YouTube’s front page perhaps? I’m not entirely sure. It wasn’t until this year that I made the realiztion of how great it is! However, nothing else from TDCC has really captured my attention. Perhaps I’ll give them another shot in 2017?

 

“Walking On A Dream” – Empire Of The Sun

Wow. Just, wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist with a more flamboyant style. I read in an interview with vocalist Luke Steele that he believes that performing music is 50% sound, 50% visuals. Guess I can’t argue with that. I don’t think I’ve jammed out to any other song this year as much as this one.

 

“Midnight City” – M83

As with a lot of these songs, I discovered them through Pandora. It’s a great way to find great songs, but not necessarily great albums. Like with Two Door Cinema Club, I just haven’t found myself getting invested in the rest of M83’s material. That might change, but for now, I will enjoy the anthem that is “Midnight City.”

 

“Cool Blue” – The Japanese House

This little-known artist from the UK was discovered on that same mixtape where I found Nico Yaryan’s “Just Tell Me.” This song holds a very special place in my heart because of what was going on at the time I was listening to it. But as it stands, it’s a beautiful, spacey, dream-like lullaby.

 

“Luna” – Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club was an artist that I invested a little too much in this year. I went off a recommendation and ended up buying almost everything they had released. That’s not to say their music is bad, but it pales in comparison with songs like “Luna.” And songs of theirs like “Luna” are, unfortunately, far and few between. Still, what a gorgeous song.

 

WINNER:

“Walking On A Dream” – Empire Of The Sun

 

And that’s a wrap on my music awards! I hope you discovered something new today 🙂 If you have any recommendations, please feel free to share!

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My 2016 Music Awards!

This past year I’ve opened up my ears to a lot of new music, enough in fact that I introduced myself to at lease one new artist every month. Sometimes it was hit or miss, but for the most part I’ve really found value in trying out new music all the time. Now, keep in mind, when I say “trying out” new music, I don’t mean I’m checking these artists out on Spotify. I prefer the old school method of actually purchasing my music (gasp!). I may use Pandora as a testing grounds but for the most part, my selections have come from word-of-mouth recommendations and simply taking a gamble on that artist I heard about. Anyway, just remember this as I continue, because every selection I talk about was purchased by yours truly this year.

Anyway, because I experienced so much, I decided for this retrospective that I’m going to have to break down my favorites by category, much like an awards show! In fact, you can think of this as my very own personal 2016 Music Awards Show. I’ll give a brief overview of each “nominee” before then deciding my personal winner.

There was a lot of great stuff I experienced that came out in 2016, but I discovered even more music that I only just found out about now, and it may actually be as old as 10 years! So while I’m going for diversity in my selections, I’ll break down my blogs into “Best Music of 2016” as well as “Best new-to-me Music.” Watch for that blog to drop next week 😉

 

2016 BEST ARTIST

 

The 1975

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Starting out with one of my first new music exposures of the year, I was introduced to The 1975 about a month before their sophomore album was released. A friend of mine posted their hit song “The Sound” on his Facebook page, claiming it was the catchiest pop song he had heard in a long time. And boy, he wasn’t kidding. But it wasn’t just The Sound that had caught my attention, it was nearly everything. A few months later I went back and bought The 1975’s eponymous album and loved it just the same. These gents from the UK are doing something really special with their musical style, and it’s something I haven’t quite seen (or heard) before. Cheers to them and many more albums to come.

 

Paper Route

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It’s amazing that this veteran band has been around since circa 2006 and still making incredible music. Paper Route is one of those few bands that never compromised their artistic merit and unique sound for corporate record label interests; they’ve been shuffled around from label to label but they’re very keen on protecting their own vision first and foremost. And while they’ve garnered only a small fanbase, their true-to-self style has rewarded them with a fiercely loyal following. And after their release of their third LP, Real Emotion, this past Autumn, they continue to be real artists.

 

Pavo Pavo

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Fresh on the scene dropping their debut album Young Narrator in the Breakers, Pavo Pavo is completely new and doing something very different from what I have previously been accustomed to hearing. Harkening back to the 1970s, this new band has woven an airy pop style with snappy synthesizers, all combined with some beautiful harmonizing voices. I look forward to hearing more from this band, as their first effort was impressive to say the least.

 

WINNER – THE 1975

 

2016 BEST ALBUM

 

Changes – MuteMath

changes

After their incredible Vitals release in 2015, I was excited to see what MuteMath had in store for us next. I heard rumors that they would be releasing a B-sides album, but then along came Changes, an even more synth-heavy take on their already synth-heavy forebear. It’s catchy and fun to listen to, but not quite as punchy as the original album that inspired it. Still, that being said, it’s a great remix album, and I highly recommend both Changes and Vitals for your listening pleasure.

Stand-outs: Changes, Light Up (yachtclub. Remix), Vitals (Alt Mix feat. Flint Eastwood), Joy Rides (Alt Mix)

 

Real Emotion – Paper Route

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I only just discovered Paper Route earlier in the year, but I’ll darned if I don’t already feel like I’ve been their fan for years. Real Emotion is the culmination of all the heart and soul they put into their first two albums, but this time giving it a slightly more raw tone. Going as far as to actually mix down some of the instrument tracks of each song through VHS tapes to give the music a different sound, these guys seem to know all the tricks of the trade. Real Emotion is an incredible experience from start to finish, and that’s exactly what Paper Route set out to create with this album. Not one song is filler or meant to be forgotten; you really have to listen to this album all the way through in order to get the most out of it. And that is exactly what distinguishes great albums from the good ones.

Stand-outs: Pretend, Chariots, Second Place, Balconies

 

Awakened to the Sound – Future of Forestry

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Another veteran artist that I’ve followed for over 5 years, Eric Owyoung’s latest outing is the most culturally diverse album yet. From the very start, Awakened to the Sound makes you feel like you’re traveling the world. From India to France to Italy to China, this really is a special album. And Owyoung knew what he was doing; when the album was released he also included an option to download a completely uncompressed, high-fidelity version of the album. The mixing of Awakened to the Sound is without measure, and I still don’t think I’ve been able to hear it exactly how Owyoung envisioned it. Still, his latest work is classic Future of Forestry through and through; an evolutionary progression of music that is becoming more and more complex with each outing. His inclusion of the unique instruments that personify each “region” I specified earlier make this his most ambitious album yet. He continues to be my favorite Christian artist simply because he pushes the boundaries for what is “allowed” in Christian music.

Stand-outs: On Giant’s Shoulders, Homeward, Horses, Life Begins Today

 

WINNER: REAL EMOTION – PAPER ROUTE

 

2016 BEST SONG

 

“Just Tell Me” – Nico Yaryan

Although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the rest Nico’s debut album, What a Tease, this single was the exception. I actually heard this song well before the rest of the album was released thanks to a mix tape Urban Outfitters was giving away for free back in January. And being that this was the first song on said cassette, “Just Tell Me” was probably the first new music I heard in 2016. I wish the rest of his album was as good as this song because it is oozing with style. Mellow blues, classic parlor-style rock and raw vocals have made this one of the few songs I’ve gone back to over and over this year. I sincerely hope Nico Yaryan isn’t destined to become a one-hit wonder, but “Just Tell Me” is certainly a hit in my books.

 

“The Sound” – The 1975

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am going for diversity with my selections this year, The 1975 would almost certainly win every category. “The Sound” is a tour de force. It is by far the shining gem of their latest album, which is a shame because the rest of the album is pretty good too. There’s something intangible I can’t quite explain about what this song does to me when I listen. It can instantly make me want to dance no matter what mood I’m in. It’s infectious, catchy, and tons of fun. I wish more music was like this.

 

“Division” – Tycho

“Division” was my solo introduction to Tycho back in July this year, and I immediately bought every other album they had released at the time. I read someone say, “If you just want good music, you will enjoy Tycho.” And I couldn’t agree more. The off-kilter beat and dramatic tonal shifts throughout “Division” set up the perfect introduction for what I was to expect with the rest of their music. It is all so good, but this song stood out to me as the one that left the deepest impression.

 

WINNER: “JUST TELL ME” – NICO YARYAN

 

And that concludes my “best of” selections for 2016! Tune in next week where I dive into the backlog of all the music I’ve been missing out on these past years.