Change is a funny thing.
This time last year I wrote in my 2015 top 10 albums that I felt stagnant and unhappy and that I wanted to move to Los Angeles to continue following my dreams.
And guess what? I DID! Ha! In your face hater! Anyway…
My move was amazingly seamless. I went to a new city, and yet I have the same job, friends, gym, everything, just in a new location. My day-to-day life is much simpler and I have way more free than I did in New York City. I love driving my car, I love the weather, the fact that LA isn’t a miserable gray color everyday, I love hiking mountains or going to the beach whenever I want, and I love that I don’t have to wait in a line around the block just to get Traders Joes, and then wait for a crowded bus to transport my groceries home until the bags break 3 blocks away from my apartment (New York is stupid).
But those are small things in the grand scheme. They make my day-to-day better, but they don’t make you feel whole.
I told our fearless leader Reggie when he was in LA, that I loved LA, but I was still waiting to feel like myself. I’m unusually quiet at work and humbled by my new surroundings, always meeting new people and doing new things. I feel awkward, and I told him I worried that I may never start to feel like myself. I feel like I’ve lost my voice.
But change requires time, and commitment. There are good days and bad days, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light, but it really slowly comes together again. I’m slowly meeting other comics, and other filmmakers who want to collaborate, and I’m slowly building rapport with my new co-workers. We are beginning to have inside jokes, we’re texting each other, adding each other on Facebook etc. Just last week before I left for Christmas vacation, a few of my co-workers made sure to say bye to me and give me a hug.
It seems lame I know, but I haven’t been getting that many hugs since I moved, because I don’t know that many people I’m close with.
It’s funny how it all works. We say we want life to be different, we want change, we keep moving and searching, but what we want never really changes. We want a job we actually enjoy, we want hobbies, we want friends, we want to love and be loved. We want to feel like ourselves.
That’s why sitting down and writing this top 10 list meant more than ever to me this year, because it felt like something that SEAN P. DARR would do! I felt like me again! I felt like writing this helped me get my voice back. For that I am eternally grateful to the fools that run this site.
Now let’s stop talking about my boring crap and get on to the list!
And remember you can listen to selected tracks from these albums and more on my 2016 “Best Of” Spotify playlist, which you can find here or by searching FKB 2016. It features music from Ra Ra Riot, Christine and the Queens, Rooney, BadBadnotGood, Solange, Father John Misty, M83, ABRA, The 1975 and more!
I found myself listening to so many cool EP’s this year, and it made me realize EP’s don’t get enough credit and attention, so here is a list of some cool EP’s you should check out, and I will feature songs from them in my FKB 2016 “Best Of” Playlist.
I know you’re probably thinking it’s just some excuse to mention The Strokes this year, and you would be correct! You’re so smart!
Sheer Mag – III – “Good old fashioned rock, lo-fi, sick hooks”
Com Truise – Silicon Tare – “Like a futuristic Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack”
The Strokes – Future, Present, Past – “They are Gods amongst men”
Day Waves – Hard To Read – “Similar to Real Estate or Kurt Vile”
Marcus Marr & Chet Faker – Work – “More of that chill, groovy, indie electronic music that is going around these days”
Honorable Mention – Shura – Nothing Is real
Listen, let me start this blurb by telling you dear reader, something I don’t tell many people. Which is that I. LOVE. MADONNA. Well let me clarify, I don’t love her as a person (she still owes me a BJ for my Hillary vote), and her later music sucks. But late 70’s early 80’s funky dance Madonna is GREAT. While it would be somewhat lazy to compare Shura to Madonna, her debut album Nothing Is Real is a wonderful 80’s throwback album that still feels unique and fresh. Shura mixes 80’s style with elements of today’s house and electronic music, but still keeps it more along the lines of pop, than the indie edginess of Jessy Lanza. The perfect music to play at a dive bar, club, or an Abercrombie dressing room (fun fact: Where I originally heard her for the first time).
Best Songs: “Nothing Is Real”, “What’s It Gonna Be?”, “Indecision, “White Light”
10) – Public Access T.V. – Never Enough
Every year I find myself feeling like the world lacks fun ass rock albums! Every year I have to dig so hard to find some album that I wanna drink beer and smoke cigarettes to while I drive down the highway (I mean just smoke… it’s illegal to drink and drive… despite how fun it is). Last year I was lucky enough to be bestowed the awesome Royal Headache album that was just good ole fashioned garage punk rock. Public Access is more in the vein of 80’s throwback rock like The Cars or The Virgins then the New York Cool rock of Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes, but it is a welcome addition to my small collection of rock music.
Best Songs – End Of An Era, In Our Blood, Evil Disco, Patti Peru
9) Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Ugh what a tough album to judge, because so much of this album is just pretentious BS. Yet on the other hand it has moments of true beauty. Like I genuinely had some moments with this album, which is a rare thing to experience in a musical piece, or life in general, but then there were so many moments I wanted to roll my eyes. So much of the experimenting on this album rings hollow, and feels derivative of James Blake. Yet I can’t deny some of the utter beauty on this album. I begrudgingly put this on my top 10 list in hopes I like it more as time goes on, and it is beautiful, but right now all I can think is, “Haven’t we heard his auto tuned crap 22 million times before?” (see what I did there?).
Best Songs – Idk they all have dumb names.
8) Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Listen I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t you the chubby guy that put four Radiohead albums on your greatest albums ever list, and then went and shit all over AMSP in your review? And now the album is on your top 10 list? What?” Well firstly I’d like to say that I’ve always struggled with my weight thank you, and secondly… yes I did all those things. I just didn’t think there were that many GREAT albums that I loved this year. I think A Moon Shaped Pool is a good album full of beauty, but a weak Radiohead album as it sounds too much like previous Radiohead work. But I will say that even a weak Radiohead album is better than most things.
Best Songs: “Burn The Witch,” “Decks Dark,” “Desert Island Disk,” “Identikit”
7) Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
I try my best to keep up with new music throughout the year, but I will admit that when we get to December and I need to write this list, I start listening to music like I’m cramming for an exam. I scour review aggregate sites and music blogs, and spend a lot of time listening to well-received indie albums that are all raw and low-fi and all sound the same. But every once in a while an interesting one pops up that feels more original and interesting. Car Seat Headrest was one of them, as it is such an interesting combination of so many sounds. At some moments it’s intense punk rock, some moments is low key like Foxygen or Kurt Vile, and other moments it has fun surf rock sensibilities like that of Nada Surf. It meanders a bit too much, but it’s one of the few other enjoyable rock albums of 2016 that I highly recommend.
Best Songs: “Fill In The Blank,” “Not What I Needed,” “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” “Unforgiving Girl”
6) Andrew Bird – Are You Serious?
Finally, Andrew Bird stopped being boring! After making noise in the indie world with his album Mysterious Production of Eggs in 2005, Andrew Bird went on to blow my mind with his 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha. But things slowly unraveled from there. After becoming famous for his whistling and violin playing, Andrew then put out WAY too many EPs and albums that were REALLY long and mostly made up of boring violin playing and whistling. What worked so well on those older albums was his ability to pair pop sensibilities and indie rock with his natural talents. Although he doesn’t capture the magic of those two albums, Andrew finally made an album that is filled with hooks and beauty that isn’t WAY TOO LONG, I’m very glad to have the old Andrew Bird back.
Best Songs: “Capsized,” “Roma Fade,” “Truth Lies Low,” “The New Saint Jude”
5) Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
Now after a few hours of sifting through raw Indie albums on Metacritic, you start to go numb, you don’t know what is good or bad, and you are tired of listening. You also start to rationalize what is good, and then you put on Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s astounding the difference between a new band and one as seasoned as RHCP. From the second you start The Getaway, the titular track, you see how it is so fully realized. It’s so smooth, the singing is phenomenal, the hooks are there, it’s cool, and yet so unique and on brand for RHCP. That’s basically The Getaway in a nutshell. Is it the best RHCP album ever? No. But it’s so damn solid, and further pushes RHCP sound. “Dark Necessities” is one of the best RHCP songs ever, and so many songs are funky, and some are beautiful and incorporate orchestras and other interesting elements I haven’t heard from the RHCP before.. It is a sort of greatest hits for RHCP. A really solid and fun album I enjoyed way more than I thought I would.
Best Songs: “The Getaway,” “Dark Necessities,” “The Longest Wave,” “Sick Love”
4) Junior Boys – Big Black Coat
As I hinted at earlier when I said I loved Madonna, I’m a big fan of 80’s music, which means I’m a big fan of the new influx of Chillwave, House Music, and Electronic music happening these days, as they are all major throwbacks to the 80’s. I could have made a top 10 list of albums just in this wheelhouse, but it would get out of hand, so I settled on a few. Junior Boys are a band I have dabbled with in the past, but never fallen majorly in love with until this album. Songs like “Over it” are fun 80’s throwbacks that anyone would like and “Baby give up on it” have fun R&B sensualness, but then songs like “C’mon baby” are absolutely stunning, layered, gorgeous, and edgy.
Best Songs: “Over It,” “C’Mon Baby,” “Baby Give Up On It,” “M & P”
3) Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
This was a really fun album to stumble on, and was again one of those rare albums where I feel like I emotionally connected to it. This is Angel Olsen’s 4th LP and one that finds her transitioning even more from acoustic crooner to indie rock powerhouse. Her music is soulful and honest, but still rocks and feels like a cooler more focused Courtney Barnett album. It has classic moments that remind me of The Jam or Stevie Nicks, it’s just a really solid record, I was very impressed.
Best Songs: “Intern,” “Never Be Mine,” “Shut Up an Kiss Me,” “Give It Up”
2) Jessy Lanza – Oh No
This one, wow, I spent 2016 majorly falling in love with Jessy Lanza. Her debut album Pull My Hair Back was a really fun, minimalist album of R&B mixed with electronic music and the Indie chill wave vibe, and then she went and topped it majorly with her sophomore effort Oh No. I went to see her at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and it was definitely one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I find most of the time, that at concerts that the sound levels, on stage performances, and visuals, never seem to connect in the way that they should to make the show as exciting as they could be. That was not the case with Jessy. She recreates her songs perfectly live, the sound quality knows how to pump the bass to make them extra fun, her lights are perfectly in tune with the songs and create the right mood, and she makes sure to run around and dance and have fun on stage. Her performance was meticulous and detailed, yet fun and exciting, which is Oh No in a nutshell. Every song is meticulously layered, and is as gorgeous as it is catchy. They get into a groove and slowly put you in a trance, and every song changes or ups the ante just when it should and constantly swirls and shape shifts into enthralling section after enthralling section. “Fuck Diamonds” was the best song on her debut album because of how many layers it had, and how it twisted and turned and just took you into it’s world, and I’m happy to say that Oh No is filled with those moments.
Best Songs – “VV Violence,” “Never Enough,” “It Means I Love You,” “Oh No”
1) KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
Well I know this is supposed to be a top 10 list of NON Hip-Hop albums, and this is kinda-sorta a hip hop album? I think it’s mostly a House/Electronic album though right? Well whatever, it’s a fantastic album and I don’t really care what you think (i’m just kidding, please share this article and like me and be my friend). Starting out his career as KAYTRADAMUS doing DJ sets and making remixes, KAYTRANADA eventually garnered attention as an opening act for, you guessed it, Madonna. See how these articles come full circle? God I’m a genius. Combining throwback grooves, with smooth and cool electronic beats, and featuring excellent contributions from Goldlink, AlunaGeorge, Anderson Paak, Vic Mensa, and Little Dragon, 99.9% is absolutely dazzling. It’s so smooth, so crisp, and although it has elements of 80’s throwback, it’s still so fresh, and feels like everything Disclosure’s second album Caracal should have been. It’s a fully realized debut that has so much diversity in it’s music, but yet it maintains it’s own unique feel the entire time, I look forward to all future albums from this talented producer and DJ.
Best Songs – “TRACK UNO,” “BUS RIDE,” “GOT IT GOOD,” “TOGETHER”