Join The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers as they count down the 50 best albums of 2016, releasing 10 new albums every day.
50. Horse Lords — Interventions
Horse Lords — a four-piece avant-rhythms band from Baltimore with more creativity than they’ll ever know what to do with — have been specializing in freaking us all out since 2012, but Interventions is their first release which brings it all together into one coherent vessel you can really dive right into. Maybe it’s because they’ve finally said goodbye to anything resembling rock music; maybe it’s because they’ve figured out how to make that flitting groove stick around from start to finish. Either way, Interventions’ mind-busting polyrhythms and brain-zapping dissonances no longer sound like Pere Ubu outtakes or Steve Reich scraps. Every second on Interventions sounds just like Horse Lords.
— Troy Sherman
49. Travis Scott — Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
On his sophomore effort, Travis Scott introspectively reflects on his formative upbringing in Missouri City and eagerly contemplates about his future. Incorporating infectious hooks, head- bobbing cadences, and his signature digitized ad libs, the tracks form a collage of the veteran crooner’s erratic and charismatic personality. Likewise, high-profile guest appearances, from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi, André 3000, 21 Savage and others add sonic diversity, but Travis himself never feels overshadowed; it is his record through and through, and whether he is somberly musing over his lover in “goosebumps” or audaciously rapping about his squad in “outside,” he brims with confidence and swagger on each track. All in all, Travis leaves no room for worry on Birds; he soars high amidst the tribulations, going the only direction he knows how: Straight up.
— Zachary Lee
48. Wet — Don’t You
Something about this Brooklyn trio of Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle and Marty Sulkow opening up a space for us to muse about the different layers of isolation and separation we come to experience makes the process of listening to their album painful but much-needed. Far from other obscure albums bemoaning life’s little difficulties, Don’t You opens itself up in a dark loveliness that will consume you from within, from “It’s all in vain” straight through “You’re the Best.” The album stops time even as you walk on with the lamentations of Zutrau’s voice and a bare-bones synth that refuses to give you the support you so desperately crave the more you listen.
— Jessie Weber
47. Vince Staples — Prima Donna
Vince Staples hates boxes, and he keeps breaking out of them on his 2016 EP Prima Donna. Accompanied by a 10-minute music video as strange, inventive and thought-provoking as Lemonade, Prima Donna sticks close to the central topic of Staples’s 2015 album Summertime ’06: the fear and anxiety of growing up in a gang territory. Its sonics, however, push in new directions. Producers DJ Dahi and No I.D. return with ominous and unstable tracks, but it’s James Blake’s work on the frenetic and unsettling “War Ready” that is most memorable.
— Jack Jones
46. Nice as Fuck — Nice as Fuck
Jenny Lewis doesn’t give a fuck if you think she’s corny. She never has, but on the self-titled debut album by her new indie supergroup, Nice As Fuck, Lewis is truly carefree and defiant of expectations. The album feels and sounds like a gorgeous, funky whim. It’s lyrically and instrumentally skeletal and playful as hell; light, grungy, guitarless, drum-based, funk and punk-infused, with only occasional synths. Lewis borrows from the attitude of Stevie Nicks, and slogan-shouting of the riot grrls. Instead of her usual intimate stories, Nice as Fuck’s lyrics are pleasantly amorphous on “Door” (“And if you believe in peace in love / in the message, in the message above/You shouted ‘don’t close the door’”), politically outward-looking on “Guns” (“I don’t wanna be afraid/Put your guns away…crisis is not ISIS/Spilling our own blood”), playful on “Cookie Lips” (“Are you even still alive?/I think I just got ghosted by cookie lips”), with a hint of feminist guts on “Runaway” (“I am a runaway, runaway… In the graveyard/I got nothing for you boy”). Nice as Fuck finds itself in moments of simple, sincere mantras, political plea, romantic humor and a few feminist fuck-you’s; also serving as a testament to the fact that any words, no matter how goofy or vague, sounding mesmerizing through Jenny Lewis’s harmonies.
— Jael Goldfine
45. Scrop — Ilegal
Eugenar Palacios, better known as Scrop, is a force to be reckoned with. Surprising fans with an album in June, he released self-scathing songs that read off more like desperate confessions and pleas for forgiveness than anything else. The hyper-romantic, bravado rapper splits apart word by word the ways in which he’s tricked and lied to others, and how he’s found the truth that sits behind all the rest of it. His penultimate track, “No quisiera irme,” is a crushing ballad of hope for those who have been forced to leave Caracas and the rest of Venezuela, calling for them to remember the country that they love. Ilegal is riveting, and mature, and marvelous.
— Jessie Weber
44. León Larregui — Voluma
Contrasted against his surrealistic 2013 album Solstis, Mexican artist León Larregui delivers more abstract truths about love and life with a touch of psychedelic substance on Voluma. The new musical and lyrical directions make Voluma the perfect soundtrack for lazy, deep, Saturday afternoon thoughts on just about anything from skinny love to present-day society’s consumption by technology.
— Viri Garcia
43. Joey Purp — iiiDrops
Joey Purp never intended to start a career in rapping. Growing up alongside Chicago’s SaveMoney crew (Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, et al), it happened anyway, and with iiiDrops he makes his case as the best writer of the bunch. Raw talent and charisma round out the project’s rough edges, and you might miss its lyrical subtleties by virtue of how easy rapping seems to come to this relative rookie. At a time when every try-hard out there seems to be aiming for rap stardom, Joey Purp gleefully undercuts them all with writing as culturally observant as it is perversely funny.
— Chris Stanton
42. Told Slant — Going By
Four whole years ago (a goddam eternity in a world where underground/indie bands cycle in and out of relevancy about as fast as the sun sets over Brooklyn), Told Slant released Still Water, an unrefined collection of bedroom yelps, frantic drumming, shoddy confessionals and unraveling compositions which only got better and more grueling the sadder you were. It was excellent. But with so much time passed and so many expectations riding on a new release, the only question that droves of basements kids could muster in the days coming up to June 17 was, “What’s Going By gonna be like?” The answer was a bit more polished, a bit more mature, a sliver more complete. At its core, though, rests the same hopefulness, the same bursting-out, the same pathos which typifies everything Told Slant has done. When Felix Walworth groans, “Isn’t this silly and aren’t you beautiful” over and over and over again, the words (like so many others on the album) come from a place of such authenticity and depth that they don’t just evade corniness; they sound like a hymn.
— Troy Sherman
41. Sia — This Is Acting
As with any Sia album, This Is Acting was an emotional, uplifting journey from start to finish, containing songs to overcome any type of emotional distress from heartbreak to anxiety, and others to just make you feel good. This Is Acting features sounds similar to those in Sia’s 2015 1000 Forms of Fear, yet the lyrics show contrast with an equal amount of emotion.
— Viri Garcia