We’re halfway through 2016 and that means every pop culture site is going to make a “Best of 2016 (So Far)” type of post. I respect them. They help me catch things I may have missed. I also like to do one for my friends to enjoy. However, I never claim my list has the “best” of anything. Just my favorites, because I can admit something that isn’t meant to be a pinnacle of pop culture is my favorite. Like School of Rock being one of my Top 5 Recommended Films and Casablanca isn’t listed. Savvy?
I never knew what the “cool” music was. While boys were jamming to Blink-182, I was bopping to NSYNC. When it seemed like everyone was listening to the hottest rap track, I was into the deep cuts on The Killers’ Hot Fuss (okay, maybe that was cool, but it didn’t seem it at the time). Whenever I tell someone my favorite band is Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s they go, “Never heard of her.” I think I have a couple of mainstream albums that have been my favorite this year though. So that’s new.
Now for the list:
5. Holy Ghost by Modern Baseball (Run for Cover Records)
I was talking to my cousin, who lives in Philly, today and she was at Modern Baseball’s show recently. Actual text: holy shit, SO EMO. So true. The best part about the Philly quartet is their energy. It’s as simple as that. From the fuzzy guitar riffs to the pounding drum beats to the simple vocal delivery of the lyrics, everything is energetic. Brendan Lukens diagnosis for manic depression, alcoholism, marijuana addiction, and cutting behavior make everything more relatable as this band leads the so-called 4th wave of emo.
4. Next Thing by Frankie Cosmos (Bayonet Records)
Short, sweet, and sincere. This soft, “bedroom” rock album is far from a lofi attempt and is incredible polished. In this sophomore effort, Greta Kline has found a way to turn 15 brief songs into a lengthy introspective. Her soft voice may seem unassuming, but through it, Kline explores a wide variety of important topics paired with lyrics we’ve all wanted to write at one time or another but were afraid to put down in our spiral notebooks. The singer-songwriter is young, and sometimes it feels like it while other times it feels like she is well beyond her years.
3. Puberty 2 by Mitski (Dead Oceans)
Perhaps my favorite thing in modern music is this connection to ultra personal, and almost diary-infused lyrics. What Kline did as Frankie Cosmos this year is just a step behind Mitski Miyawaki’s recent release. It’s soft, but not nearly as much. There is a lot more sonically happening. Mitski goes for more grand aural sound, but barely so. If I had to relate her to a band, it would be the second most saddest version of a Rilo Kiley. This is an album that you should listen to when you want to feel happysadangryhopeful.
2. Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper (Apple Music)
This is probably the most well-known album on this list, but maybe the most shocking for a list by me. I love hip-hop though. I really enjoyed Kanye and Kendrick’s releases this year. Both were unconventional and worth listening to. Chance’s third album is my preference though. Why? I’m not sure. So I’ll just speak in cliches: it feels fresh. Chance’s flow just has something incredibly enticing; plus, he’s not too big in his own head. He does what he likes and he’s good at it. His third mixtape is simply fun.
1. Out of the Garden by Tancred (Polyvinyl Record Co.)
You may know Jess Abbott from Now, Now. But you should just know her as Tancred from here on out. Her first couple of albums under the moniker are good. Out of the Garden is phenomenal. From the opening riff on the first track “Bed Case” you know this is one of the best revivals of the ‘90s vibe we all miss. She infuses a poppy structure with clever lyrics (about 10 Things I Hate About You’s Joey Donner, for instance) along with crunchy instrumentation that feels, well, like a true riot grrrrl. Abbott has found a way to stand out from the majority of what is out there. She’s not looking to start a revival. She’s just trying to make good music. And she’s definitely succeeded in that realm. Plus, I do have to say that she puts on a terrific live show that hasn’t been discovered by enough people yet. So be on the look out for her next tour. You won’t be disappointed.