KXSC Top Albums 2016

 Graphic by Blake Wagner

Graphic by Blake Wagner

Ramiro Mosquera - Co-Music Director

Public sentiment has declared 2016 a wash - a year that will be remembered more for what we lost than what we gained. Music legends were lost; David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White, Sharon Jones, Prince and many others all passed before we were ready to let them go. Music to most has always been a coping mechanism of sorts, at times a way to travel outside oneself and experience a different reality free from daily life. Often, we as listeners look to musicians as not only creators of art but creators of utopia. Losing them means losing a friend to whom we could always turn.

This year has also been one of stress and duress for members of the KXSC music community for a variety of reasons. These musicians who advocated for peace and kindness are especially missed during times like these.

In light of these tragedies, a wealth of new music was still released this year that comforts and challenges just as much as music of the past. The following albums and tracks symbolize what I believe went right in 2016 and represent hope for all music listeners. Regardless of what is happening in your  life, music will still be there for you when you need it most.

I have decided to include relatively few albums, as I had simply too many in mind. These five are my favorite full bodies of work from start to finish.

1. Anohni - Hopelessness

Anohni lets loose her 11 theses on the issues of today, from false idolism to environmental destruction she illuminates the grievances we have all committed against this planet and each other. The album, produced by Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, is a sheer work of sonic brilliance that succeeds in broadcasting its message of change.

2. Elza Soares - A Mulher do Fim do Mundo

When an aging icon of Brazilian samba creates an album, many would expect it to be composed of primarily samba music, right? Most musicians would avoid reinventing themselves musically at 79, but Elza Soares is not like most musicians. A Mulher do Fim do Mundo fuses noise and punk with traditional Brazilian samba to create a provocative album that takes risks and showcases a brazen woman who is nowhere near finished.

3. Noname - Telefone

In a year where hip hop pushed the boundaries of excess, this little mixtape from a small no name artist from Chicago proved that you don’t need to go big and over the top to create a beautiful work of art. Telefone depicts life honestly and truthfully; it is sincere, and all the better for it.

4. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

Will Toledo and friends manage to bring the corpse of indie rock back to life with an album filled with the right blend of angst and confusion to allow it to feel like a breath of fresh air for an entire genre.

5. Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered

A living legend still in his prime, Kendrick puts his poesy on full display in this collection of tracks that exemplifies his ability to influence other artists and teach members of society. These tracks double as history lessons and musical excellence while adding to a body of work that holds immense cultural and societal importance.

I couldn’t list every track that I liked (although if I could, I would) so here are some tracks I thought had some level of importance in the grand scheme of things. That importance could be musical or cultural or simply personal - no promises.

1. FDT by YG

YG manages to blend boombastic west coast G-Funk and a political message with relative ease, a track that will hopefully only remain popular for only four more years.

2. Birthday Girl by Stormzy

Stormzy’s beauty of a ballad for girlfriend Maya Jama comes across as a message from a man in love and appreciative of his relationship. This track reveals Stormzy’s emotional side, and it’s surprisingly pleasant.

3. Don’t Touch My Hair by Solange, Formation by Beyonce, N***** by Kamaiyah, Kiss It Better by Rihanna

These tracks symbolize a powerful year in music for female empowerment and individuality. Each track (and the albums from which they come) showcases a proud woman, unafraid to sing about her culture, appearance or interests.

4. Best to You by Blood Orange

An emotional duet that evokes joy in melody and grief in lyricism. The agony of a broken relationship comes from the beauty it once held.

5. You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen

It is a rare gift to hear out an artist’s last dying words - most go without getting to say their final piece. You Want it Darker was Cohen’s cry out into the darkness: an acknowledgment that the end was nigh and that he did not intend to go silently into that long good night.

6. Real Friends by Kanye West

In a year where Kanye could escape neither adulation nor critique, he delivered a track that depicted a struggle to which we can all still relate. Who can we really count on, who can we look to for help, what can that sort of uncertainty do to an individual? Kanye West may be an incredibly polarizing figure, but at least it’s because he depicts his thoughts and emotions as truthfully and honestly as he can.

7. No Heart by 21 Savage

Hip Hop has changed drastically in the last decade. During the early 2000s, many rappers strived to be viewed as dangerous as well as musically talented. Death Row Records name itself encapsulated that sentiment. Nowadays, we view Kendrick Lamar as a poet, Lil Yachty and Danny Brown as clowns, and 21 Savage and perhaps Freddie Gibbs are the two latest popular rappers to be really seen as frightening.

8. Shutdown by Skepta

As much as the U.K. may have tried to separate itself from the world this year,  its music continues to expand. 2016 marks the biggest year for Grime in the United States by far. Kanye and Drake’s buddy-buddy relations with Skepta have helped propel him toward international fame,  and his latest album, Konnichiwa, didn’t hurt either. Grime brings with it a wealth of influences: reggae, dancehall, garage, drum and bass, all of which are relatively new to mainstream U.S. audiences. Hopefully, we will see the same genres that compose Grime begin to reach mainstream audiences the same way that funk and soul are seeing a revival today (looking at you, Childish Gambino) after being used as samples on rap songs for decades.

9. Theme for a Taiwanese Woman in Lime Green by Devendra Banhart

I love Devendra Banhart, so I usually love what he creates. A strong contender for best elevator music single of the year.

Cameron Hejna - Co-Music Director

1. Kamixlo - Angelico

The return of Evian Christ was well received and long awaited. Kamixlo once again delivered the club bangers you need. This one will follow you into 2017.

2. Qweendom

2016 was a big year for ballroom music. LSDXOXO released what is sure to retrospectively be an iconic mixtape. MC Cakes da Killa had his first “mainstream” commercial release. And the Qween Beat collective released a definitive compilation. They made it very clear on this one what ballroom is and who its coming from.

3. Persona - Lorenzo Senni

Lorenzo Senni topped himself this fall. Every track manages to thread the needle between elegant composition and huge tune, something to aspire to. Top 2016 release from Warp.

4. Clark - The Last Panthers

Another top one from Warp, Clark’s redux of his film score for the show of the same name makes for great listening on its own.

5. Mssingno - Fones & Personal Trainer 1

2016 was a solid year for Mssingno if you couldn’t get enough of those supple sweet grime instrumentals. Both his second EP, Fones, and the mixtape PT1 were solid releases that you’ll probably continue to hear in 2017.

6. Cakes da Killa - Hedonism

The first official licensed release from Cakes makes this one a standout. We’ve been hearing Cakes for a while but the production game was upped on this one. Check it out if you slept on it.

7. Wwwings - Phoenixxx

This may technically be a 2015 release, but it was officially issued in 2016 so it counts. If you ever wondered what the post-soviet countries sounded like, now it your chance.

8. Air Max '97 - HPE EP

Track no. 3 recommended to all. Great track for blending with anything (fyi interested DJs).

9. Elysia Crampton Presents Demon City

Notable was the cast of who’s who in electronic music that Elysia assembled for this mission. Why Be, Chino Amobi, and Rabit are good sidekicks to have.

10. Fill this void with whatever your heart desires.

1. Frank Ocean - Blonde

2. White Lung - Paradise

3. Joey Purp - iiiDrops

4. Anderson .Paak - Malibu

5. Run the Jewels - RTJ3

6. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition

7. Denzel Curry - Imperial

8. Isaiah Rashad - The Sun’s Tirade

9. Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered

10. Schoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

1. Frank Ocean - Blonde

2. Solange - A Seat at the Table

3.  Kanye West - The Life of Pablo

4. Kaytranada - 99.9%

5. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

6. Anderson .Paak - Malibu

7. Alicia Keys - Here

8. Noname - Telefone

9. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

10. Rihanna - Anti 

1. Anderson .Paak - Malibu

2. Mitski - Puberty 2

3. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

4. Run the Jewels - RTJ3

5. White Lung - Paradise

6. Angel Olsen - MY WOMAN

7. Parquet Courts - Human Performance

8. Teen Suicide - It's the Big Joyous Celebration, Let's Stir the Honeypot

9. Sugar Candy Mountain - 666

10. Pity Sex - White Hot Moon

1. De La Soul - And the Anonymous Nobody

2. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

3. NxWorries - Yes Lawd!

4. Denzel Curry - Imperial

5. Young Thug - Jeffery

6. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition

7. Kendrick Lamar - Untitled, Unmastered

8. YG - Still Brazy

9. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo

10. Open Mike Eagle & Paul White - Hella Personal Film Festival

1. Jordan Rakei - Cloak

2. Dave King Trucking Company - Surrounded by the Night

3. NxWorries - Yes Lawd!

4. Yussef Kamaal - Black Focus

5. Margaret Glaspy - Emotions and Math

6. John Raymond & Real Feels - Live Vol. 1

7. Noname - Telefone

8. Mancrush - Authentic Midwestern

9. Max Ox - Things We Used to Know

10. GoGo Penguin - Man Made Objec

1. Keef Mountain - Keef Mountain

2. Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage

3. Druid - Odysseus

4. Animals as Leaders - The Madness of Many

5. Bad Vibrations - A Day to Remember