Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: lights

My Top 10 Albums of 2016

(feat. track – Dinosaur Pile-Up – “Bad Penny” [spotify] from Eleven Eleven)

[Posted 1/3/18] So… I was going through the blog to make some updates and found my 2016 “Best Of The Rest” lost in a draft. Of course, I never did get around to doing write-ups of my top albums for 2016 – or even posting them on the main blog! – much less posting what didn’t quite make it. (The list is, and will remain, over at the Top Tens page.)

Still, this blog feels incomplete without the list living here, even sans commentary, so I’m popping in to retroactively post it, along with the Best Of The Rest list I had written up at the time.

So without further ado…

MY TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

10. Myrone – Drift Stage Vol. 1 [spotify]

9. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini [spotify]

8. 18th and Addison – Makeshift Monster [spotify]

7. Boys Night Out – Black Dogs EP [spotify]

6. Cash Cash – Blood, Sweat & Three Years [spotify]

5. Garbage – Strange Little Birds [spotify]

4. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It [spotify]

3. Kitten – Heaven Or Somewhere In Between EP [spotify]

2. David Bowie – Blackstar [spotify]

1. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo [spotify]

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

American Football – American Football [spotify]

Bon Iver – 22, A Million [spotify]

Brand New – 3 Demos, Reworked [spotify]

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book [spotify]

Dinosaur Pile-Up – Eleven Eleven [spotify]

The Downtown Fiction – Alligator Tears [spotify]

Frank Ocean – Blond(e) [spotify]

From Indian Lakes – Everything Feels Better Now [spotify]

The Hotelier – Goodness [spotify]

Jeff Rosenstock – Worry [spotify]

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat [spotify]

k.flay – Crush Me [spotify]

King Neptune – A Place To Rest My Head [spotify]

Lights – Midnight Machines [spotify]

Look Park – Look Park [spotify]

The Monkees – Good Times! [spotify]

Moose Blood – Blush [spotify]

Pity Sex – White Hot Moon [spotify]

Suede – Night Thoughts [spotify]

Tancred – Out Of The Garden [spotify]

#7 Album Of 2011 – PATRICK STUMP – SOUL PUNK / TRUANT WAVE EP

(feat. track – “Dance Miserable” [spotify] from Soul Punk)

It’s no secret around here that I’m a big fan of just about everything Fall Out Boy did, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I feel the same way about Patrick Stump’s solo releases.  Of all the post-FOB projects (Black Cards, The Damned Things, Burning Empires), Stump’s is really the only one I’ve connected with, and I’ve connected with it in a big way.

Partly it’s that voice – soulful, blustery, half confident and half that sort of fake confidence that gives away, more than masks, insecurity.  Partly it’s the sounds he toys with – I feel like there’s a serious funk current running thru pop right now (I found it this year in everyone from Lights to Cobra Starship) that’s right in my wheelhouse, and Stump plays it like a champ.  And partly it’s that the dude just writes really good tunes.

Last Fall, New York Times music columnist James C. McKinley Jr. raised the Internet’s hackles with a story on the dearth of protest songs revolving around the Occupy movement.  McKinley was taken to task (appropriately) for his deaf ear towards country and hip hop, perhaps the two most populist popular genres today, both of which have plenty to say on the subject. But if you’re the sort who’s insistent on getting your protest music from a white, male, rock-oriented performer, well I’m not sure anyone this year did a better job of harnessing, or at least elucidating, the zeitgeist than Stump.  Tracks like Soul Punk’s “Dance Miserable” and “Greed” and Truant Wave’s “As Long As I Know I’m Getting Paid” put a laser focus on the strains of disillusionment and cynicism that were largely inescapable this past year.  On an album that draws so much of its musical influence from the worlds of soul and funk, it’s hard not to trace lines from Stump’s 2011 work to albums like Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On, products of similar economic times and social upheaval.

Those are obviously some weighty comparisons to make, and while I do think Stump’s work measures up favorably, it has become apparent that it won’t have nearly the impact, despite the fact that both its sound and subject matter should have broad appeal.  To quote music journalist / Alternative Press Managing Editor Annie Zaleski on Stump, “[i]ncreasingly, any artist who’s been immersed in the Warped Tour/media-classified “emo” scene is branded with a scarlet letter, which prevents them from ever crossing over to a non-youth-oriented audience.“** This has held true throughout “emo”’s transition from obscure subgenre to mainstream scene, even as its sound transmogrified from hardcore to scruffily-melodic indie to stadium punk. It would be a stretch to say Truant Wave or Soul Punk retain much, if any, connection to any of “emo”’s many sounds, and Stump’s connection to its fanbase is now tangential at best (judging by the smallish crowds his headliner performances have drawn), but his history with that scene may have consigned him to permanent-Dangerfield status.

So be it.  Despite its strange little moment in the sun (for which Fall Out Boy arrived right on time), “emo” – and its purveyors – were never mean to be cool.  If Truant Wave and Soul Punk are consigned to being lost classics, well at least in the age of Bittorrent and Spotify they’ll merely be hidden in plain sight, always accessible to those who look hard enough.  And maybe someday, after all the social trappings have long fallen away, when nobody remembers exactly why things were supposed to be so cool or uncool and people have to start judging based just on the music, they’ll get their due.

review of Truant Wave EP (published 3/06/11)

review of Soul Punk (published 1/13/12)

**I realized while reading the commentary on the 2011 Pazz & Jop Poll that I may have unintentionally plagarized some of Ms. Zaleski’s comments regarding Soul Punk, which she had previously shared on twitter. I’ve gone back and rewritten a portion of this entry, as well as credited her where appropriate. Mea culpa; all apologies!  And if you enjoy smart, insightul and eminantly readable music writing, you should be following her on twitter or here; she “gets it”.

#6 Album Of 2009 – LIGHTS – THE LISTENING

(feat. track – “Lions”)

If there was one major trend in music this past year, it was the rise of…well nobody seems to know what to call it.  I’ve seen folks call it “electro-pop”, but that kind of implies a more dance-oriented electro root.  Some have been using the old standby “synthpop” which I suppose is accurate, but implies a sort of retro-minded-ness that I don’t think is really present in the newer stuff, done mostly by kids who weren’t even alive in the 80s.  I’ve been going with the perfectly-descriptive-but-more-than-a-mouthful “hyperearnest bedroom emotronica”.

Whatever you want to call it, its been bubbling up in the underground for a couple years now (some favorites include the stitched-together-with-paperclips-and-scotch-tape Nickasaur!, boy wonder The Ready Set, the darker and grittier PlayRadioPlay!, and cross-genre explorer The Secret Handshake) and it’s clearly ready to break through. Two artists really busted out in a big way this year – one you’ll be seeing here in a couple days, and the other is Lights.

Part of the joy of “The Listening” is Lights’ pure hooky pop effervescence, but it’s equally rooted in the delectable squelches and blurps of perfectly-selected vintage synths.  She’s a studio nerd and it shows in the best of ways.  Of all the folks in the genre, Lights seems to be the one with the strongest ties to 80s synthpop, both the sparse bliss-blips of early Depeche Mode and OMD and the lusher sound of its mid-decade maturation.  Combine them with careful melodic craftsmanship and a handful of earworms, and you’ve got one of the best (and most addictive) albums of 2009.

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