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Favorite albums of 2016

Here we are again. One year done again. It got quite quiet here. Three articles. Nothing more. But I won’t apologize or promise to do better. Often I feel the urge to write something, but I just don’t know what. Strange, but it is what it is and I’m fine with that.

Good things happened this year. This is now the time to, for a short while atleast, leave behind the year as a whole with all the bad things that came out of it. To take away what it had to offer for our ears.

For me it felt a bit like there was less music this year. I just had other things on my mind. Still, there is some records I want to tell you about.

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Gold Panda
Good Luck And Do Your Best

“In My Car” is great. A wonderful melody. I wish it would never end. But then again there is quite some melodies for which this is true.

The record is not without its flaws. It feels a bit incoherent at points. There are a lot of good ideas, interesting little rhythm patterns. I like all these small repetitive melodies that come and come again like on “Pink & Green” or “I Am Real Punk”. The songs are well-executed. In total, they don’t add together as a whole but it’s a pleasent experience nonetheless.

And then there is “Time Eater” and the cover version by Ssighborggg and Luna Lee. This for me is the high mark of the record. Both tracks, incredibly well-performed. I dig it.

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Bon Iver
22, A Million

Up until 2016 I never paid attention to Justin Vernon. There is no particular reason for that. It just didn’t happen. Until early June when I met you. We attended the Michelberger Music festival in Berlin where he played a good half of his new record. I’m into this kind of rough and unpolished experimenting, although in it’s completeness the album leaves a bit of an unfinished impression upon me. It has some bright moments. There is nothing like getting clocked on the highway because “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄”’s driving beat puts you just in that mood.

Or sitting besides you and start singing “I’d be happy as hell if you’d stay for tea” at just the right moment of ‘33 "GOD"’. And not to forget about that incredible performance of “8 (circle)” accompanied by a humming and stunning choir at Funkhaus Berlin during the festival.

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III was one of my most favorite albums of 2015. Getting my hands on their follow-up IV was only natural. IV came with quite some changes. It’s different. More … elegant, more complex, has more variety. Not as energetic as the predecessor. In it’s own right a very solid and also surprising album. Also, the features are on point. “Time Moves Slow” with Sam Herring or “In Your Eyes” with Charlotte Day Wilson. Very good.

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Various Artists
Furi Original Soundtrack

After last year’s ear-opening Crypt of the Necrodancer soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky, this feels like 2015 all over. Dare I say this is even more aggressive? Hard to decide. Doesn’t matter. It’s brutal and a lot of fun. This one lines up with a couple other game soundtracks I enjoy a lot where I haven’t played the game. So many good game soundtracks around these days. It’s amazing. Plus if I were collecting vinyl, this would be a new addition. The jacket and the vinyl itself look fantastic.

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Grand Killa Con
La Barranca

When it comes to hip hop, I’m often conflicted. Most of the stuff that’s around I don’t like. Not at all. Here it’s different, though. I like myself some Four Owls, some Sound Defects, some Onra who seemed to have left some impressions on GKC. Especially on “Dead Pheasant” that aesthetic comes through. Nice record we got here.

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Mammal Hands

That’s … simply consistent. Hard to pick favorite tracks here. Or least-favorite tracks for that matter. That’s just a very well-rounded album. Would love to hear them live. For the one show they play in Germany I can’t seem to find any information apart from the entry on their website. Oh well. Anyway, I have the album. I can listen to the music. That’ll suffice for now.

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Angel Olsen
My Woman

How can a performance like “Shut Up Kiss Me” not leave a strong impression on anyone? The album starts louder with a fresh attitude and undergoes a change of pace towards a more quiet side with beautiful songs like “Sister” giving me the chills. A beautiful record. Angel Olsen is a name you should definitely look out for in the next few years. Looking forward to new material.

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Vegetal: Offshoots

The first late addition to this list. Straight from the Bandcamp Top-100 via wishlist into my music library. One of my favorite electronica releases this year. Not so sure about that “Animal” record, but what is presented here as B-sides is super good. Feels more like an album on its own.

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Chris Remo
Firewatch Original Score

Hands down the best soundtrack I listened to this year. Belongs to one of the view games I played this year. Hasn’t been much. I played Dark Souls for the first time. Firewatch shortly after it came out. I played quite some Dota 2 where I just lost over and over. Losing 11 games in a row only to lose another 11 after winning just one. I had a 54% win/lose ratio. Now I’m down to 48%. This wasn’t a year of gaming for me. Other things on my mind, on my ears. I wouldn’t say I was ever a hardcore gamer.

Anyway, this record is just as beautiful as it gets. Or as beautiful as the experience I had when walking through Shoshone National Park while this soundtrack did part of the magic. And an important part it was. It’s always nice to return to a game by listening to the music again.

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A Tribe Called Quest
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Before I only was aware of the fact that there is something with the name “A Tribe Called Quest”. Maybe I knew it got something to do with music. Anyway, Anthony Fantano’s review sparked interest and I gave it a listen. They certainly don’t disappoint. Yet another good hip hop record for my library. “We The People....” really gets me with its instrumentals. Same goes for “Dis Generation”. I’ve come to realize that it’s instrumentals that are doing the most for me on a hip hop record. And in that regard, this record is very good.

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Olga Bell

I have to say, I’m impressed. This record was well into the run for one of my favorite albums of the year and I had it at the top spot when writing the draft for this post for most of the time. This isn’t really a battle for what album is the best, so the order of albums presented here is nothing definitive, nothing clear. Simpy put: This is one of the best records of the year. It’s the best pop record of the year.

This is what I call refreshing. It’s is very much the eclectic electronic pop record I needed. Not as weird as your FKA twigs yet not as streamlined as any of the others. It has oh so much variety. I love love love it. And right when you thought this was it, the album is coming to its end, it has surprised and amazed you, then there comes “America”. A beautiful ballad.

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For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages

Wow, this came out of nowhere. Good thing I browsed the Bandcamp Top-100. This is exactly the kind of music I wanted some Godspeed You! Black Emperor songs to evolve into while playing them.

Why is “Despair Is A Siren” not the first thing that plays on their album page on Bandcamp? When I listened to that song riding home through the night from my girlfriends place, I was taken aback. This was so intense, so unique. I wanted to scream. 15 minutes for only the first song. I couldn’t even finish it on my 10 minute way home. But you can be damn sure that I used my time alone in our apartment to play this loud. Love it.

That’s it. This year there won’t be a list for tracks and EP’s. I will put up some honorable mentiones and thoughts up.

This year was different for me for many reasons. Globally and personally. I attended more concerts than in any other year. Apart from two festivals and not counting in some shows I saw with my parents, I only went to a The Prodigy show in 2009. This year, I went to Rudolstadt Festival and to Berlin for Michelberger Music, saw The Lumineers in Hamburg and Marbert Rocel just a few days ago in Erfurt. With my parents and my sister I went to see The Cure in Munich.