The release of the Panama Papers and Pokémon GO, the manufacture of the last VCR, the Cubs’ victory at the World Series, and the first effective vaccine against ebola; David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Eli Wiesel, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher.
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
In the music video for “Rings”, Aesop Rock is laid out on a coroner’s table, and his head is opened like a book. It’s an excellent metaphor for the album as a whole; this is his most vulnerable work to date, but also his most accessible. Simultaneously tucked away in the barn he’s sheltered himself in and wriggling through choked and filthy city streets, Aes engages with family, grief, aging, mental illness, cat ownership, and a scene that has failed him, juicing even the smallest moments and most banal interactions for cosmic, existential meaning.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc
The first in a planned series of EPs, the rest of which never materialized, this is less an Agoraphobic Nosebleed album and more like a Kat Katz solo record, with Scott Hull engineering most of the instruments. This is an absolutely acrid piece of work; everything about it conjures chemical hazards, from the punishing low end to Katz’s signature gargled-glass vocal attack.
Car Bomb – Meta
Sometimes all that stands between a band and greatness is a few production choices; Car Bomb’s hyper-aggressive mathcore required something a little cleaner than what they had going on w^w^^w^w. Car Bomb aren’t the only band who play this kind of frenetic, laser-precise music (Frontierer, for instance), but they employ a greater sense of melody and dynamic range than anyone else in their cohort, and that deft approach is what separates a blandly punishing sound from one with real artistic weight.
clipping. – Splendor and Misery
Was anyone expecting a sci-fi concept album from clipping? Anyone? Bueller? Maybe we should have been, but even after wrapping my head around the idea, I was still boggled by the storytelling, by the ability of the production to be richly textured and icily desolate at the same time, by a melodious, a capella entry in the “story” series, by the final declaration of optimistic nihilism in the final track.
Gojira – Magma
Wounded by the death of the Duplantier’s mother, Gojira turned their gaze even further inwards and set themselves free to explore and experiment. The result is an album in uneasy but intricate balance with itself, a held hand in a dark place. Perhaps not as tightly-knit as L’Enfant Sauvage, but more raw.
öOoOoOoOoOo – Samen
A wildly cacophonous Katamari Damacy ball of cellos, breakcore electronics, metal guitars, and pop arrangements, aggregated around the core of the most flexible and dynamic vocal performance of 2016.
Sulphur – Omens of Doom
A polished and barbed black metal album, alloyed with spooky synths and some of the most radiant guitar solos I’ve ever heard, solos that capture some of the fire and glory of early heavy metal, which gleam even brighter housed as they are in the gloom.