NN PRESENTS: Our Favorite Records From 2016

We’re at that time of year again where like every other outlet of any stripe, we feel obligated to play favorites. It’s that kind of listicle thing that I’m assured the kids like, but mainly to see who did and didn’t make the cut, an argument waiting to happen. If you don’t see your favorite artist getting the fair shake that they deserve, well, we agree with you. Yeah, this is a list of the stuff that resonated with us the most, but we love all sorts of stuff and had to struggle to find just five each. Louisville is a city rich with cultural history and we’re stoked to have that very champagne problem.

Want to chime in? Add your two cents in the comments. Tell us why you love what you love. Let’s use the power of positive trolling to show the world that people can be nice, that we can be passionate for what we want without tearing other people down. Get into it below.

PHIL PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


Twin LimbHaplo
We’ve had plenty of nice things to say about Twin Limb over the last few years, mostly because seemingly everything they choose to share ends up being a god damned masterpiece. Haplo is no different, as this three-piece continues to perfect their brand of simplified dream pop. Lacey Guthrie’s soothing voice is still the main attraction for me, but the musical canvas that she’s given to work with is just as alluring. “The Weather” is worth the price of admission alone, but I’d recommend you experience this record from front to back for the full effect. [LISTEN]


Boner CityKentucky
There hasn’t been a record in recent memory that makes me want to enjoy the fuck out of myself more while listening to it than Boner City’s debut cassette Kentucky. This is about as fun a punk rock effort as I’ve heard in years, and that’s saying something considering the never-ending stream of fabulous punk records that continue to be produced in Louisville. My favorite songs are the horror tribute/non-tribute track  “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and “Die Young,” an irresistible toe-tapper that lyrically is all about living in the moment, and frankly not giving a fuck if you or anyone else aren’t on board. [LISTEN]


Jaye JayleHouse Cricks and Other Reasons to Get Out
After releasing a series of seven-inch records, Jaye Jayle AKA Evan Patterson has at last unveiled a comprehensive, complete record. While I certainly liked the idea of a collective group of singles being put together to form a complete album, for whatever reason this new offering feels like a vision fully realized. My favorite track is “Miss Paranoia”, a creepy, bluesy take that you’d probably see on the juke box at The Titty Twister on From Dusk Till Dawn. [LISTEN]


Eons D & Jordan Jetson Inner Space
There have been a lot of good releases from Louisville’s hip hop community, but perhaps none finer than this unexpected collaboration. Eons D and Jordan Jetson verbally glide over six killer beats that at times remind me of something you might here from Dynasty-era Jay-Z, but with a clever modern twist. This is especially evident on the closing track “Forever” (featuring 1200) which also happens to be my favorite cut on the record. [LISTEN]


American LesionsWoundlicker
As a collective rock and roll unit, American Lesions are incredibly tight, as evidenced on each of the five songs presented on this EP. As I’ve seen in their live performances, every track is blisteringly loud and energetic, but they manage to maintain a polished overall delivery as a studio entity that a lot of other bands of this ilk seem to be unable to pull off. My favorite track may be “Heap of His Heart”, an all out bezerker that gets into full swing before the time counter even reaches 0:01 and maintains the same balls-to-the-wall approach for its entire 1:58 duration. [LISTEN]

HONORABLE MENTIONS: BrendaNight School; Good N FilthyDemolition Derby City; Touch AC x Dr. Dundiff – Odysseus; Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters – Midwest Heart/Southern Blues

NOT LOUISVILLE:


DIIVIs The Is Are
A melancholy-pop masterpiece from start to finish, DIIV’s latest record manages to make you gleefully tap your feet while feeling the pain at the same time. My favorite tracks are “Under The Sun”, and upbeat Real Estate meets Flock of Seagulls number, and “Bent (Roi’s Song)” a bit of a depressed indie pop tune with vocals that in a weird way take me back to Goo-era Sonic Youth. Highly recommended. [LISTEN]


ChairliftMoth
Sometimes smooth and groovy, other times dancetastic and upbeat, Moth serves as Chairlift’s most complete record to date. Caroline Polachek’s voice takes center stage (as usual) as she continues to grow as a talented vocal presence and songwriter. A track that I can’t get enough is “Polymorphing,” a song that is mostly centered around funky bassing and guitar noodling while being escalated with a clever brass section. I also particularly like “Ottawa to Osaka” where the band weirds things up a bit while maintaining their easily accessible pop sensibility harkening back to their first record, Does You Inspire You. [LISTEN]


Jim JamesEternally Even
I wasn’t sure if I should include JJ as a Louisville pick or not, but considering his global presence I feel that it’s safe to have him here. While the music from My Morning Jacket has never resonated with me personally, this Jim James solo effort has the complete opposite effect. This record has a smooth flow to it from start to finish, as if James had planned this album as a complete, but isolated piece of work. At times I get lost in his simplistic, almost haunting vocal melodies but at the same time can’t stop my foot from tapping to the smooth, almost funky grooves that sometimes make me think of Secrets-era Herbie Hancock. [LISTEN]


Danny BrownAtrocity Exhibition
I was admittedly a bit late to the Danny Brown fan club, but after falling in love with Old last year, my level of anticipation for Atrocity Exhibition was sky fucking high. As expected, this album rules, but in unexpected ways. The beats are mostly abstract and unconventional while Danny Brown takes his no-nonsense approach to emceeing to the next level. My favorite track is “Pneumonia” which boasts a haunting beat that despite it’s lack of a snare sample still will make you fucking hyped out of your god damned mind. This record is a legit game changer, whether people are ready for it or not. [LISTEN]


David BazanBlanco
Having been a fan of Bazan’s work in Pedro the Lion and Headphones over the years, I’ve never really caught on to his solo work for whatever reason. Blanco is a welcome shift as the music here successully blends the 90’s bummer rock attitude heard with Pedro with the lo-fi synthesizer folk from Headphones. While “Oblivion” is absolutely the stand alone track for me, “Trouble With Boys” is another superb effort; the synthesizer riff that holds the song together sorta reminds me of the part from Super Mario Bro. 3 after you beat a level and retrieve the sceptor and are endlessly falling in the sky through the clouds. Yeah. [LISTEN]

HONORABLE MENTIONS: NothingTired of TomorrowA Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here… Thank you 4 your service

SYD PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


BrendaNightschool
What a fun record. Nightschool is an incredibly durable record that never tires with repeat listens. That’s saying something considering this is a six song EP that gets in and out without wasting a lot of time. This is a short, but sweet blast of garage punk pop -not pop punk- that cleverly balances the constituent sonic components for tight compositions and delightful ear candy. Brenda create some excellent opportunities for sing alongs, or for air instrumentation of all sorts. Get that air bass, slugger. [LISTEN]


Doctor GirlfriendSilent Screen
There is a excited energy to Silent Screen that blends elements of Television, the Talking Heads, and the Silver Apples for something a little out there. The melody work here is instantly catchy and worms it’s way into your synapses without you realizing it. Doctor Girlfriend perfectly encapsulate that next generation of Louisville indie that defies tradition in an unexpected way. In a lot of respects, this is the music of the internet generation, where distance and access were never a detriment to expanding your music pallet, and it shows. [LISTEN]


Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff1Moment2Another
It’s a delight to hear Otis Junior sing regardless of his format. He’s got a confidence to his voice that matches his ease on the keys, the perfect combo for any R&B outing. This is smooth as velvet and twice as nice, made even more so by the production work of Dr. Dundiff, whose quality never falters. You put this record on when you want to put the make on someone special, light a few candles, set the mood. That’s what Otis Junior does so well, and the addition of Dr. Dundiff is the ideal compliment to both artists. [LISTEN]


ParlourParlour
For a band with decades (plural) under their belt, replete with a variety of line-up changes, Parlour has been anything if inconsistent. Their fifth release (and fourth full length), their self-titled album is a thing of taut beauty. Blending the Kraut Rock informed strengths of their previous work, with the seething noise rock of Crain, former project of Parlour frontman Tim Furnish), their newest offers some intense and crushing highs mixed with some delightfully memorable and hypnotic slow burns. Instrumental indie rock has never sounded so sweet. [LISTEN]


T-Razor x Filthy RichChampionships
This was a banner year for producer Filthy Rich, releasing a few solo releases and collaboration with Mr. Goodbar, which culminated with Championships, his most recent collab with emcee T-Razor. Honestly, all of the aforementioned records are just as solid as this, and I’ll admit my primary bias here is the proximity by which it came out; I’ve been listening to this a lot lately, so it’s hard not to have it in my head at the time. Everything is in it’s right place here. Filthy and T-Razor are an apt pair, with grimy rhymes and gritty beats. This is heady music that never loses track of getting into a good groove. [LISTEN]

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Rob CollierTen Simple Pieces for Pianokillii killiiI Believe in RollerbladingPsychic SkinFieldsEons D x Jordan JetsonInnerspaceJaye JayleHouse Cricks and Other Excuses to Get OutPleasure BoysPleasureTouch AC x Dr. DundiffOdysseus

NOT LOUISVILLE:


RadianOn Dark Silent Of
For anyone that hasn’t experienced Radian yet, I’ve got a treat for you. Perhaps their most accessible record, On Dark Silent Of defies comparison in virtually every possible way. This is instrumental music no doubt, although I’m loathe to call it indie rock. There are electro-acoustic elements at play mixed in seamlessly with modular synthesis to the extent that you will have no means of telling what’s coming from what and who’s playing what sound. In that sense, this is an onion, a delicious, delicious onion, for you to peal ad nauseum that rewards repeat visits. It’s worth pointing out in specific that the drumming on this record is some of the best drumming you are likely to ever hear. Radian are so, so fresh. [LISTEN]


Ty SegallEmotional Mugger
Ty Segall’s greatest gift as an artist is his ability to maintain an output that is both frequent and of high quality, with Emotional Mugger serving as no exception. This album is a blast to listen to, a bit shorter and less pop-friendly than Manipulator, but an absolute barn burner all the same. And the production, boy howdy. The guitars on the track Diversion are enormous in scale, like every distortion every for the most fuzzed out attack on the planet. [LISTEN]


Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
Such a sublime and haunting collection, Skeleton Tree is not quite the somber meditation that I assumed, submitted here as a positive. That’s not to say that this is an upbeat album at any point in its run time, but that the songs found herein aren’t quite as bleak as expected given the tragedy in Cave’s life. These are quite ruminations on loss and love that operate on a minimalist set of musical tendencies. [LISTEN]


ClippingSplendor & Misery
There is nothing quite like Clipping in hip-hop or otherwise. When you think hip-hop you think beats and bangers, all of which are stripped to the barest essentials on Splendor & Misery. Tony Award winner MC Daveed Diggs is a sharp rapper, creating a theme album that never gets tired here of a man lost in space, overwhelmed by loneliness. It’s a beautiful analogy for all sorts of things, matched by minimalist, synth heavy beats with unusual sample sources. [LISTEN]


RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
It would be criminal to not put Radiohead on any year end best of list, so here we are. Although not the best in their catalog, A Moon Shaped Pool is a snapshot of a band operating outside of the mandates of the music industry. This is a quiet and pensive record that feels only possible outside of the pressures of releasing a “hit” or anything that resembles accessible. The amount of molding and shaping that clearly goes into all of their work is equally on display here; you can tell they spend time not just with their compositions, but on the constituent sounds found herein, which makes for a richer listening experience. [LISTEN]

HONORABLE MENTIONS: BiosphereDeparted Glories; A Tribe Called QuestWe got it from here… Thank you 4 your service; 2 8 1 4Rain Temple

JAKE PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


BrendaNightschool

Listening to this album is pure punk rock joy. [LISTEN]


Twin LimbHaplo
Ok Twin Limb, can you stop being amazing now? After all the things I’ve had to right about Twin Limb, I’ve run out of synonyms for “incredible.” Haplo is just another example of the marvelous talent and chemistry these three have. [LISTEN]


Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff1Moment2Another
This record is just the beginning for Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff as it’s an excellent start and just a glimpse at what is possible from them. Otis’ voice is as smooth as butter, and Dundiff keeps doing his thing no matter what position he’s put in. [LISTEN]


Nick Dittmeier & The SawdustersMidwest Heart/Southern Blues
Nick is one of the best and hardest working songwriters in the area. This album dropped in January and it never left my rotation. Growing up as an outcast in the south, it’s easy to relate to songs like “Atheist Wedding,” “Pills, Jesus, and War,” and “Just My Job.” [LISTEN]


T-Razor & Filthy RichChampionships
The beats and the feature verses on this album are sick. T-Razor is the icing on that perfectly crafted cake. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


Jim JamesEternally Even
This is a beatiful sounding album with peaceful and inspiring lyrics. For me, this is his best album yet. [LISTEN]


A Tribe Called QuestWe got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Wow, what a wonderful surprise. Great beats. True hip hop. I didn’t realize how much I missed Q-Tip. [LISTEN]


Bon Iver22, A Million
This is the most polarizing album that came out in 2016. It seemed like everyone either loved it or hated it. I listened to it on repeat for weeks, awed by the soundscapes and composition. I think this album is sonically beautiful, but I don’t know what he’s saying most of the time. I just consider this an instrumental masterpiece. [LISTEN]


Danny BrownAtrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown can do no wrong. This is the most complete album he’s released. Some of the beats on this album are jarring, dissonant, and uplifting at the same time. That’s a hard thing to accomplish. Brown’s lyrics are his most personal to date, and yet it’s still a party album. I can’t get enough. [LISTEN]


Ab-SoulDWTW
This is another late in the year surprise. This album has a similar vibe to “Atrocity Exhibition.” It’s dark, dissonant, and fun as fuck. I’m Ab-Soul-utely in love with this album right now and I didn’t put it on this list just to make that terrible pun. [LISTEN]

2 thoughts on “NN PRESENTS: Our Favorite Records From 2016

  • December 28, 2016 at 3:54 am
    Permalink

    Never listened to Clipping before but I read the concept on bandcamp & went to the record store & picked it up right away. Was not disappointed :)

    • January 7, 2017 at 3:12 am
      Permalink

      Thanks, Peter! Both Clipping releases in 2016 are fantastic.

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