Best of 2016: Art Rock and Shoegaze

This is a funny list because I think it’s really consistent and these artists are all in the same lineage, but then again, it’s a little bit all over the place. This has some of the best records as might be recognized by very official publications, and then it has a bunch of other stuff. I like it though, and I really think, as for all my lists, that it’s in the right order.

10> Swans - The Glowing Man

I always include the Swans albums right near the bottom of my lists. They’re great albums and it would be wrong to not include them but…I think it’s important for music to be more digestible than these epics are. It’s a rare listen, and I listen back to the older ones rarely. However, it’s a great album, and it does deserve to be heard…a few times.

9> Programm - A Torrid Marriage of Logic and Emotion

There’s not a lot of information about these Toronto natives, but I can pretty much write their bio having heard the record and knowing they’re from Toronto. They grew up right outside the city, listened to a lot of alternative rock and shoegaze, moved to Toronto and formed a band. And then they made a good record! Programm use their influences wisely and add their own fingerprints to music that’s hard to have identity with sometimes.

8> Matt Bartram - Moments Before

This is essentially a one-man shoegaze army doing exactly what he wants when he wants to. It’s so much easier than what Kevin Shields tried to do 25 years ago with today’s technology, but Bartram deserves credit for honing his sound and songs to this point. There are some really perfect moments that celebrate the genre and its forbears better than most.

7> True Widow - AVVOLGERE

What do True Widow’s titles of things even mean? I’ve never picked apart much about this band (they’re one of my favorites) because it’s so much more important that they have their trademark sound that no one else has. Heavy ass slow core sounds basic enough, but no one is doing it! This is another good effort from them that doesn’t change much, but doesn’t need to.

6> Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

More beautiful balladry from the master of the craft. Nothing is as good as “Jesus Alone” but “Magneto” comes close and it’s beautiful all the way through. People have talked a lot about the context in which it was performed (but it was already written) and I don’t think the tone is dramatically different from before. If anything, I take Cave a little more seriously, but then again, I took him pretty damn seriously.

5> Cross Record - Wabi-Sabi

I keep wanting to think that this is called Cross Record (emphasis on the first syllable) and that the band is Wabi-Sabi, but that’s just not the case. Never was. This is the best slow core record of the year, which is a strange distinction because of how rare it is to come across any slowcore record. This is in permanent rotation for when you’re in a slowcore mood though, because it hits all the right dynamic shifts.

4> Medicine Boy - Kinda Like Electricity

Really strong debut from this South African duo. They show a lot of restraint and care with their sound in a way not too distant from the likes of the XX or Low. This was close to being on the Indie list, but there’s reverb at every turn and the whole thing is quite a dark affair. Very lovely record.

3> Flyying Colours - Mindfullness

This really makes me think that people shouldn’t stop aping the likes of MBV and Catherine Wheel…ever. This really works for me in the really traditional It’s Anything kind of way that apparently never gets old. This is one of those that is hard to explain besides “this just rocks” .

2> David Bowie - ★

This is an incredible record. It would be an amazing achievement for a healthy man and a monumental one for a dying man. I was thinking about Bowie this morning and I realized how no matter when he lived (in modern times), he would have to eventually be recognized for his greatness. There’s no coincidence, there is only infinite talent, passion, and personality from this man. 

1> Radiohead - Moon Shaped Pool

Other people do lists wrong, because while this isn’t the best album of the year (necessarily), it’s the best rock album of the last few years (I’m going to do some research soon that proves this). Seriously, people, do some genre separating on your lists. Or be like pitchfork, who reserves most of the top ten for Hip-Hop and R&B. Pitchfork is the worst. What am I talking about here? You’ve all heard Moon Shaped Pool, it’s great. While not necessarily as revelatory as ★, it’s more consistent and does almost as much to prove the relevance of the artist who has already seen great success.