Basement Dwelling: The Top 25 Albums of 2016 (Part 2)

Here we are, folks — the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The creme de la creme; the best of the best. Through streaming services, compact discs, vinyl records, and cassettes (lol), I listened to a countless number of albums this year.

Below you will find my top ten favorites. The ten LPs that made my music nerd heart flutter, made me reevaluate my life, made me do a dance, made me cry, or simply made me say, “Damn, that was really good.” The ten records you should have been listening to instead of complaining about how “music isn’t good anymore” or downloading Tidal (c’mon, you knew [insert “Tidal exclusive” album] was going to be available elsewhere eventually).

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first part of this list, which ranked my favorite albums of 2016 from #25 to #11.

These are my top 10 records of 2016:

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Basement Dwelling: The Top 25 Albums of 2016 (Part 1)

It’s over. It’s finally over (well, almost). I’m ready to say goodbye to you, 2016. You were a cruel year. You killed many of our greatest musicians, actors, and artists, completely derailed our government both here in the US and across the pond, and saw the goddamn deaths of both David Bowie and Prince. Hate has been encouraged in our society at a sickeningly high level, Batman v Superman kind of sucked, and Pokemon Go was popular for like two weeks (which was two weeks too long). Just so many disappointments.

But even through all of that, there was a lot of good music. Music that is not only good on its own, but which also provided an escape to help ease the pain of what has been an absolute shitstorm of a year — something that the best art of any medium you love — film, literature, etc. — should succeed in doing.

There were so many amazing albums that I loved over the past 12 months, but sadly I’ve had to narrow those down to a mere 25. My hope is that as you read my list, you can find some new music to dig into and become just as much of a fan of as I am, because recommending music to people is something that makes me feel good inside. It’s something I love to do because I care so deeply about the medium. So, I introduce you to my top 25 albums of the year — a list of sounds and visuals that give us life, something we all need now more than ever.

Below are my picks for #25-11. Be sure to check back in the near future for my top 10 list.

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Basement Dwelling: “22, A Million” by Bon Iver

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to 22, A Million by Bon Iver

http://bit.ly/2dqCg6c
http://bit.ly/2dqCg6c

There are some opinions I carry that have always made me feel like an outsider when talking to my fellow music nerds: I hate Nirvana, I don’t really care much about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, and I don’t like Bon Iver…like at all. I think his stuff is super overrated. Seriously, how the hell could his previous record top so many year-end lists? Did all those critics not listen to any other music in all of 2011?

This was a mindset that I’d held for years; it genuinely bothered me that I didn’t like Bon Iver. Over the past few months, after talking with friends about Bon Iver and my distaste for Justin Vernon’s work, I found myself wanting to revisit his older albums to see if I’d maybe been too harsh on the Iver. And you know what? I actually started to warm up to him. But in my newfound appreciation came a genuine hype for the record I’ll be talking about in this post: Bon Iver’s third LP, 22, A Million.

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Basement Dwelling: “Atrocity Exhibition” by Danny Brown

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown

http://bit.ly/2dAxbpD
http://bit.ly/2dAxbpD

“This is the way…step inside.” Words uttered by the legendary front man of post-punk forefathers Joy Division on “Atrocity Exhibition” (named after the J.G. Ballard novel), the first track off of their album Closer. Closer would be the last album to be released from Joy Division, as front man Ian Curtis tragically committed suicide in 1980 just preceding the album’s release.

Joy Division, J.G. Ballard, and post-punk aren’t exactly the first examples that come to mind for influences on a hip-hop record. But then again, in Danny Brown’s case, when has he ever been what one would deem a “typical” emcee? Here, the Atrocity Exhibition you’re stepping into is the Molly and Jameson-addled, clinically depressive brain of Danny Brown — and what a glorious mess it is. If there’s anyone in rap music that could use Ballard’s writing as a metaphor for their art, it’s Brown, who coincidentally is also the Ian Curtis of modern hip-hop.

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Basement Dwelling: “My Woman” by Angel Olsen

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to My Woman by Angel Olsen…

http://bit.ly/2bOyBwP
http://bit.ly/2bOyBwP

Being typecast in the world of music is an incredibly easy thing, especially living in an age of needing to abide by brands or personas to uphold a specific lifestyle. And if you’re a woman? Forget about it. It makes that whole process even more arduous and annoying.

The intent of Angel Olsen’s third full length being titled My Woman has all the intention one could get from it. Olsen has nothing to prove to you but everything to prove to herself and show what she is made of. And apparently what she’s made of is quite significant, because My Woman is an absolutely phenomenal record.

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Basement Dwelling: “A Moon Shaped Pool” by Radiohead

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead…

http://bit.ly/1rNN6at
http://bit.ly/1rNN6at

What makes listening to a new Radiohead record always such a great experience is the amount of layers you have to unpack. Whether it’s a sonic texture you didn’t notice the first time, or a lyric that you didn’t quite catch from Thom Yorke’s sometimes garbled vocal delivery, there’s always a level of depth and greater meaning to uncover and appreciate in every Radiohead record.

The last time around, on 2011’s ode to sampling and loops, The King Of Limbs, the band proved this in a record that felt pretty skeletal but showed how much great songwriting you can get out of studio manipulation. It felt robotic, which works in the tone of that particular record. Radiohead, being masters of never making the same record twice, have switched things up again, with a record that doesn’t feel so robotic this time around. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

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Basement Dwelling: “Human Performance” by Parquet Courts

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to Human Performance by Parquet Courts…

http://bit.ly/1V57bFx
http://bit.ly/1V57bFx

It’s the summer of 2013, and I decide to order a copy of an album I have heard a lot of buzz about, Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold.

Completely excited by the singles that I had listened to prior to buying the album — “Borrowed Time” and “Stoned and Starving” — I was pretty certain I’d love what I heard once I got to listen to the final product.

Not only did I love it, but it became what I could easily deem one of my favorite albums of all time. Light Up Gold is a half-hour long adrenaline rush of a record that marries all the best elements of what has come before in the last 20+ years of indie rock and garage punk and firmly places its own stamp on the styles.

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Basement Dwelling: “Everything You’ve Come To Expect” by The Last Shadow Puppets

Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.

Let’s head down to the basement and listen to Everything You’ve Come To Expect by The Last Shadow Puppets…

http://bit.ly/1MbSUnr
http://bit.ly/1MbSUnr

Back in 2008, a charming record was released: The Age of The Understatement, by the duo of Alex Turner and Miles Kane, under the name The Last Shadow Puppets. Turner and Kane were in their early twenties when they released Understatement, and were already critical darlings and, frankly, big stars in the British press.

Miles Kane was a much buzzed about singer-songwriter, and Turner proved that the hype should be believed, with his mega popular band Arctic Monkeys releasing two great records — 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare. Both were blistering, hungry, indie rock records that capped off the “Garage Rock Revival” sound of the early ’00s. These albums brought AM a lot of attention, not only in their native England where What Ever People Say… broke records for being one of the fastest selling début records by a British band, but also stateside, where the band garnered much attention and popularity, especially within the last couple of years.

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Basement Dwelling: Essential Listening March ’16

Hello, and welcome to Essential Listening. This is a monthly list of albums that I, your humble music nerd/critic, would deem to be the best of the best from the previous month. Some months might garner more picks than others. A lot of the time there will be choices I didn’t get around to doing a full review of, and that’s what makes this list handy.

These are my picks for records that have come out in the last 30 days or so, and which you should go out and buy/stream/whatever.

Editor’s Note: Below is Dan’s list, accompanied by a Spotify playlist that features his favorite tracks from each album.

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Basement Dwelling: “Is The Is Are” by DIIV

http://bit.ly/20mJE0N

Heroin. For such a horrible substance, a lot of great art has been influenced by it. The Velvet Underground wrote a song about it (“Heroin”). The Flaming Lips made their best record under the influence of it (The Soft Bulletin). Acclaimed books have been translated into acclaimed movies about it (Trainspotting). DIIV’s (pronounced “dive”) new record Is The Is Are is a record about, well, you guessed it…heroin addiction.

Created in light of the arrest of DIIV songwriter Zachary Cole Smith and his girlfriend Sky Ferriera for drug possession, Is The Is Are is a 17-track concept album that documents addiction in DIIV’s hazy, white-washed indie rock sound, which in this context, creates a literal soundscape akin to being strung out on smack. It’s a grim listen, but a highly rewarding one from an indie act that had a lot to prove, and had a lot riding on this album.

Although I am a fan of DIIV (I love their first record, 2012’s Oshin), I can be the first to admit that I understand why a lot of people don’t enjoy them. Zachary Cole Smith is not the greatest songwriter in the world, and DIIV has pretty much used an admittedly repetitious sound for their entire career. A lot of people see this as boring, and I totally understand.

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