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Craig Reptile: Your Sunday Sonic Sundowner writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2016: Craig Reptile

CHIRP Radio Best of 2016

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2016. Our next list is from DJ and Assistant Music Director Craig Reptile.

2016 was a horrible year for everything except for records, so after making some agonizing choices, here are my favorites as of now. Ask me tomorrow, I might tell you something different-- any of these Top 10 could be number one on any other day, and any of those Honorable Mentions could have cracked the Top 10 too.


#1   Black America Again by Common (Def Jam / Artium)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Common Black America AgainRead my thoughts on this record in the most recent Newcity here.


#2   Going, Going . . . by The Wedding Present (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Wedding Present Going, Going . . .It’s been far too long since these Brits released a record, but this musical travelogue was worth the wait. Fans of the early stuff may not hear enough rock, but for me it’s the perfect blend of their more recent atmospheric impulses and David Gedge and company’s gift for indelible melodies, personal lyrics and dynamic complexity. The deluxe edition with orchestrated and live versions is heart-achingly beautiful-- worth the extra scratch.


#3   The Impossible Kid by Aesop Rock (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Aesop Rock The Impossible KidThe trippy Shakespeare of hip-hop drops his best record yet, with mid-life crisis and therapy thrown in for good measure, my Newcity Knowledge Drop column with him can be read here: [url=][/url]



#4   Dusk by Ultimate Painting (Trouble In Mind)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Ultimate Painting DuskUK quartet Veronica Falls may not have been formed by performing a focus group inside my indie rock loving brain, but it sure seemed like it at the time. Now that band’s James Hoare and fellow countryman Jack Cooper of Mazes have released their third proper outing under the moniker Ultimate Painting, and if the first two were close to perfect, this one is the perfectest. Somehow the duo honor the legacy of The Velvet Underground and their ancestor/torchbearers like Luna without sounding wholly derivative, just as VF did for the NME C86 sound. Their rhyming guitars create an intricate latticework of hooks and mellowness, striking exactly the right balance between sedation and stimulation.


#5   We got it from here . . . thank you 4 your service by A Tribe Called Quest (Epic)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

A Tribe Called Quest We got it from here . . . thank you 4 your serviceWhen my legion of hip-hop followers ask me why I chose MC Cotton Ball as my rap nom de plume, I always say that it’s because Q-Tip was taken. But when Phife Dawg passed away due to complications from diabetes at age 45 in March, I thought we had seen and heard the last of this legendary NYC trio. But they have returned, even featuring Phife’s living and posthumous contributions (and paying proper homage to his memory in live performance). “We got it . . .” features jazzy impressionism with great bounce, and even without the boom of the “low end” one might expect, ATCQ go out on a high note, or at least a devastatingly def one. Tip’s flow is like falling water, spitting rhymes on “ripped from the headlines” themes, and this record made late entry and pushed its way up my list.


#6   Kestrels by Kestrels (Sonic Unyon)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Kestrels KestrelsAfter a strong debut and EP that left me wanting more, this band via Halifax, Nova Scotia blew me away with a guitar-drenched masterpiece. Maybe why they chose to name it after themselves, this is the record to start with for Kestrels, their most focused work, perhaps encouraged by recording the rhythm tracks in Toronto with Alex Bonenfant (METZ, Crystal Castles), including cameos from members of past tourmates Ringo Deathstarr and mixing from legendary producer Brad Wood (Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, Veruca Salt, Liz Phair, The Bangles, etc.).


#7   Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Chance The Rapper Coloring Book“At the end of the day, music is all we got,” Chicago’s Chancelor Bennett claims on his finest release so far, and with his star-studded Grammy-nominated streaming only “Coloring Book,” he attempts to cram in an overflowing amount of creativity, gospel-drenched soul and stellar but never overbearing guest slots that run the gamut from today’s legends (Kanye, Bieber, Lil Wayne, Future), to tomorrow’s stars (Saba, Jeremih, Young Thug, Lil Yachty). It’s Chance’s show end to end, and given his political activism and ability to stay top of mind even though the record dropped in May, it’s a tribute to the strength of “Coloring Book” that repeated recent listens have me wondering if this should have been my number one.


#8   Telefone by Noname (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Noname TelefoneIn 2016, she shed the Noname Gypsy moniker in favor of just Noname, dropped a galvanizing set at Soundset in Minnesota and this fantastic mixtape that lived up to the hype. Noname is like the return of Lauryn Hill or Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets living up to her potential. In a banner year for female Chicago MCs (Dreezy, Psalm One, Jamila Woods, Ravyn Lenae), hers was the record that got the most spins from me, and, as Noname herself would be quick to remind you, she’s not a female rapper, she’s a rapper.


#9   Fishing Blues by Atmosphere (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Atmosphere Fishing BluesAnt and Slug, two (mostly) white dudes outta Minneapolis who dared to rap and build their own rap empire in the Twin Cities (Rhymesayers) are back with a vengeance, and this could be their best record yet. It’s almost completely solid end to end, and there are even a few rays of hope buried in the dark atmosphere they craft-- kudos to the duo for a largely successful execution of their ambitions.


#10   Human Ceremony by Sunflower Bean (Fat Possum)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Sunflower Bean Human CeremonySure, I know it’s natural to look askance at that hotbed of indie rock hipsterism, Brooklyn, New York, but this trio brings the songs. Sounding like the red headed stepchildren of Blonde Redhead and like they were schooled at the School of Seven Bells, the fuzz-drenched psych-pop never disappoints on “Human Ceremony” but they most concisely synthesize their approach on the perfect pop nugget of “I Was Home,” magically transforming the mundane to the heights of the sublime. I got to see them rock a packed Schubas highlighted with a trippy, surreal “Space Exploration Disaster,” which closes this release with a big bang. Given the strength of this recorded debut and that they’ve just released an EP featuring covers of songs by The Modern Lovers, T. Rex and Neil Young, color me incredulous that none of the three have hit legal drinking age yet, but this appears to be true.


Honorable mentions:
1. My Gold Mask -- "Anxious Utopia" (Moon Sounds)
2. The Luck of Eden Hall -- "The Acceleration of Time" (Headspin)
3. Autolux – “Pussy’s Dead” (30th Century/Columbia)
4. Lushlife & CSLX – "Ritualize" (Western Vinyl)
5. Saba -- "The Bucket List" (self-released)
6. Purling Hiss – "High Bias" (Drag City)
7. Shana Falana -- "Here Comes The Wave" (Team Love)
8. Maks The Fox -- "From The Deer Forest" (self-released)
9. Robbie Fulks -- "Upland Stories" (Bloodshot)
10. pinkshinyultrablast -- "Grandfeathered" (Club AC 30)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2016

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