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algabor writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2016: Al Gabor

CHIRP Radio Best of 2016

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2016. Our next list is from volunteer Al Gabor.



Blackstar by David Bowie (Columbia)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

David Bowie BlackstarA brilliant coda to an amazing career. Given Bowie’s shape-shifting career, it’s fitting that his last album is totally different than anything he recorded before and yet unmistakably Bowie.


Freetown Sound by Blood Orange (Domino)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Blood Orange Freetown SoundAfter the election, I rediscovered this album and played it incessantly. All of the strong female voices—sometimes lead, sometimes half a duet, sometimes choir; sometimes earthy, sometimes ethereal—seemed the best balm for the sorry state of things.


The Wilderness by Explosions in the Sky (Temporary Residence Limited)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Explosions in the Sky The WildernessTheir best since The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. The drive, the sense of grandeur and space are still here, but the aural textures are richer and more nuanced.



Moth by Chairlift (Columbia)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Chairlift MothDesperate times need perfect pop records. Chairlift delivers big time.


My Woman by Angel Olsen (Jagjaguwar)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Angel Olsen My WomanMy Woman is a huge step forward in songcraft and production. Angel Olsen’s vocals have never been stronger or more evocative. Highlight: the slow- burning ‘Sister’ with its refrain “All my life I thought I’d change” repeated as the guitar lines grows more frantic.


Puberty 2 by Mitski (Dead Oceans)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Mitski Puberty 2Japanese-born Mitski (Miyawaki) uses a cool, almost distant, vocal style--a stark contrast to all the agitation and anxiety in the lyrics revealing how a person’s mid-twenties can seem like a reprise of the awkwardness and the sexual/personal confusion occurring with puberty. Standout: “Your Best American Girl” which posits love as a type of assimilation.


Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest (Matador)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Car Seat Headrest Teens of DenialAt times, Teens of Denial sounds like combination of Television and Pavement--all in all, not a bad choice of bands to emulate. But lead man Will Toledo plays and writes his way out from under these influences to a sound that is all his own, creating an album with urgency, wry humor, shrewd observations, unpredictable transitions and great crunchy rock moments.


Livin’ on a High Note by Mavis Staples (ANTI-)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Mavis Staples Livin’ on a High NoteAfter two acclaimed albums produced by Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples tapped M. Ward as producer and asked a slew of songwriters to contribute “joyful” songs for Livin’ on a High Note. The songs gathered here—written by Neko Case, Nick Cave, Valerie June Justin Vernon and other elite songwriters—are a restrained kind of joyful: more a reflective appreciation of the love of family and friends than any lighthearted larks. Mavis’s voice retains the warmth, moral fervor and emotive power of her youth.


Malibu by Anderson .Paak (Steel Wool Records)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Anderson .Paak MalibuEffortlessly moving from hip hop to Stax-like soul to R&B to dance grooves, Anderson .Paak put out one of the year’s most multifaceted albums. A joy from start to finish.


Blonde by Frank Ocean (Boys Don't Cry)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Frank Ocean BlondeTo dig himself out of a yearlong bout of writer’s block, Frank Ocean decided he needed to revisit some of the events of his youth. The biographical elements present in Blonde are more hints and fragments than fleshed out narratives. He uses a myriad of voice distortions to indicate points of view from different phases in his life. Although the songs are intimate, Ocean remains elusive. The album as a whole is mesmerizing, with an immense range of sonic textures.


Honorable Mentions
Eleanor Friedberger, New View
The Range, Potential
Savages, Adore Life
Lydia Loveless, Real
Bombino, Azel
Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2016

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