DFW Music News

Eight Local Musicians and Experts Share Their Favorite Albums of 2016

As the year winds to a close, we ask local music insiders who are deep in the trenches and hear new music on a regular basis — promoters, DJs, musicians and music retailers — to share their favorite releases of 2016.

Wanz Dover (Blixaboy, the Dotz, Contributing writer)

Non-Electronic Albums of 2016
1. David Bowie - Blackstar
2. The Olympians - The Olympians
3. Savages - Adore Life
4. Lee Fields & the Expressions - Special Night
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
6. Swans - The Glowing Man
7. Caverns of Anti-Matter - S/T
8. Anderson Paak - Malibu
9. PJ Harvey - The Hope Six
10. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love

2016 will most likely be remembered for the high number of deaths among major cultural icons. Despite the seemingly weekly loss of music heroes there was a lot of great music released on all fronts. David Bowie pulled off the hat trick of turning his passing into one of the biggest artistic statements in recent memory and one of the best albums in his catalog.

Electronic Albums of 2016
1. Mala - Mirrors
2. Datach’i - System
3. Convextion - 2852
4. Floorplan - Victorious
5. Venetian Snares - Traditional Synthesizer Music
6. Sterac - Scorp
7. Autechre - Elseq 1-5
8. Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald present Borderland
9. Factory Floor - 25 25
10. Roly Porter - Third Law

Electronic music on the whole tends to be less of an albums game and more of a singles market due to the overwhelming demand on the dance floor. This year saw the return of some legends showing up in fine form, with stand out players Autechre, Convextion, Juan Atkins, Moritz von Oswald, Sterac; headier electronic brain dance coming back in vogue (Venetian Snares, Detach'i, Aphex Twin); and legacy genres of dance music (house, techno, drum and bass) finally starting to make a return to prominence as the more commercial, pop-centered dance music began its final descent to passing music fad.

Chris Penn (Good Records)

1. David Bowie - Blackstar
2. A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service
3. Wilco - Schmilco
4. Lvl Up - Return To Love
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
6. Goat - Requiem
7. Whitney - Light Upon The Lake
8. Andeson.Paak - Malibu
9. Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
10. Morgan Delt - Phase Zero

Honorable Mentions: The Mystery Lights, Frighteners, The Olympians, Blixaboy

With the loss of some phenomenal musical icons, 2016's musical output obviously and rightfully so got overshadowed, but there were still some bands and artists kicking some serious treads in 2016. I am counting on 2017 and the next three years' musical landscape thereafter to help us out and cope.

Sean Kirkpatrick (Nervous Curtains)

1. David Bowie – Blackstar
Upon watching the mysterious videos that led up to the album’s release, I suspected this Bowie album might rank alongside his catalog’s greatest works. I bought the record on the weekend of its release, and I went home to fully immerse myself in its dark atmosphere. Then, I went to bed. Upon awaking to the news that David Bowie was dead, it felt as if I was under some spell which the album had cast upon me. Slowly, I would come to understand that Bowie had written his own brilliant exit from this plane. Blackstar accompanied me through a dark year in which death and fear ran rampant and tragedy seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. At a time when nothing seemed OK or normal, this dense web of cryptic symbolism and sound often felt like thing that made sense.

2. Black Mountain – IV
IV is a career-high for a band that has been playing top-tier heavy psych rock for a decade. In the midst of a renaissance of great analog synthesizer music, Jeremy Schmidt’s performance on this album is the year’s unquestionable high point.

3. The Body – No One Deserves Happiness
Bearing one of the greater album titles in music history, the noise/doom duo takes pop music tropes and subverts them in a disgusting/beautiful manner. It’s a feel-good album of devastating hopelessness.

4. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
If Bowie hinted that he was pushing his art rock into areas informed by an appreciation for hip-hop, then Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition is the counterpoint to that. Of course it’s not surprising that an artist whose track once sampled This Heat and Hawkwind would reference Joy Division and Talking Heads. Brown is a fascinating artist whose painful Detroit childhood of poverty and violence gave way to the hedonistic lifestyle of a successful rap career. It’s a party album for people with anxiety disorders. It’s the sound of someone living too fast and documenting the process along the way. Sometimes it’s darkly funny; sometimes it’s grotesque. He’s putting it all out there. I’m looking forward to more crucial, genre-defying work from this artist as long as he doesn’t die first.

5. Solange – A Seat at the Table
While her sister’s album was bold, badass and omnipresent, this is the one that floored me and kept me coming back for more. This record is artful, subtle and sophisticated. It feels so personal, so black. The production, musicianship and melodic structures are on another level. As much as I love my post-punk and doom metal, it’s abundantly clear to me that hip-hop and R&B artists are making the music that defines our times and are pushing us into the future.

6. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
A finely-distilled 40 minutes from these veterans who’ve spawned an entire sub-genre of acolytes. The B-side explores some dark folk territories with world-weary vocal harmonies before erupting into a final apocalyptic explosion that only this band can summon with such perfection.

7. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 your Service
I hardly expected such a vital and relevant work to come from these '90s legends. This album seemed to come out of nowhere just at the time we needed one thing to feel good about in a world full of terrible things.

8. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
The Austin instrumental band went deep into the studio and reinvented itself. Keyboards, electronics and distorted, syncopated drums swirl with a sense of foreboding that makes the entrance of the band’s signature, layered guitar heroics undeniably rewarding.

9. Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker
I listened to this record every morning in the days preceding and following the election. No other words encapsulated the creeping dread of humanity’s self-imposed terror quite like, “You want it darker / We kill the flame.” Cohen’s ability to chronicle our most depraved proclivities with his spiritual grace has rarely been in finer form. When he sings, “I’m ready, my lord,” who can blame him?

10. Tie: Suuns – Hold/Still / Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
It just depends on whether I’m in the mood for minimalist electronic psych-rock or beautiful, yet uncomfortable, gut-wrenching despair in audio form. Sometimes it’s hard to choose.

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Wanz Dover
Contact: Wanz Dover