Since there are only so much records I can talk about a year, I wanted to devote this little segment to highlight some of the wonderful albums that I didn’t have time (or space) to talk about in previous issues.
Producer: Kero Kero Bonito
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Is pop music just too somber and depressing these days? Do you need a safe haven from all the brooding and angst of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie? Look no further than Kero Kero Bonito’s second full-length album.
Bonito Generation is packed with chipper electropop tunes full of lush keyboards, irresistible melodies and cartoony sound effects. “Try Me” literally lists things that Perry can do, “Break” is just a song about not doing anything, and “Heard A Song” is about hearing a song in the radio, not catching its name, and being stuck with an unidentifiable earworm for the rest of the day. One would think lyrics so straightforward and childlike would be bad thing, but it’s incredibly refreshing to have words that actually mean something instead of just meaningless words about relationships and feelings, just there to fill a mental checkbox because instrumentals don’t sell.
Bonito Generation is a sugar high of an album, perfect for helping you through the darkest months of the year.
Producer: Kurt Ballou
Release Date: June 17, 2016
On the other end of the pop music spectrum we have a punk subgenre called powerviolence. I’m usually averse of the term “brutal” when applied to metal music – not because I don’t like it, but because most often it comes up in a flamewar of two elitist metalheads in a YouTube video. But when it comes to the third album of NAILS, I cannot really put it in any other words: You Will Never Be One Of Us is the angriest record of the year.
Borrowing from hardcore punk and thrash metal, NAILS delivers a collection of minute to minute-and-a-half long auditive batteries. With titles like “Life is a Death Sentence”, “Violence is Forever” and “Parasite”, it is clear that the music doesn’t come from a place nice or healthy. You Will Never Be One Of Us is a twenty minute gut punch, made from hurt, to hurt.
Producer: Justin Vernon, BJ Burton
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Justin Vernon and his troupe have made some heavy stylistic shifts over the years: Their debut album For Emma, Forever Ago was mostly an acoustic, ascetic folk record; the follow up, the critically acclaimed Bon Iver, Bon Iver started expanding the band’s horizons with brass sections, double bass drums and keyboards. The last track of that album, “Beth/Rest”, was a ballad featuring 80’s synth sounds, electric guitars and autotune.
That song seems like a rather important stepping stone in the band’s sound, as now their third album 22, A Million shoves the acoustic guitars in the back, embracing the keyboards and electronic elements, with songs featuring samples, intentional sound glitches and heavily layered vocals, like a robotic a cappella group.
Despite the changes, many of the number-themed tracks manage to convey the same heartfelt emotions that Bon Iver, Bon Iver did. 22 A Million might not be the harmonious symphony that their previous album was, but even in its new strange, electronic form Bon Iver manages to be as wistful and somber as ever.