Over the last couple of months, I’ve discovered some records that, in hindsight, were some really incredible highlights of the year. Discovering them closer to their original release dates would have made my end-of-the-year post from 2016 harder to write, but I can’t help but wish that I had discovered these releases sooner.
Carol Cleveland Sings, Effervescent Lure
I discovered this record thanks to its inclusion on Half-handed Cloud’s best of 2016 list (posted on his Facebook), and I have since been entranced by the band’s intricate and playful musical layerings. Effervescent Lure is a psychedelic stew of retro synthpop and jubilant alt-folk whose sharp writing and danceable instrumentation begs to be shared and revisited. With the longest of the eighteen tracks clocking in at only just past three minutes (the standout single, “Ennui”), the album explores a wide range of lyrical themes and musical ideas without becoming aimless or repetitive. Definitely listen to this record. PS: it sounds great on vinyl, too.
Plastiq Musiq Workshop, Birds of North America
I actually first heard about this record a week or two after it dropped, but I didn’t give it a proper listen until around Christmas. Analog synthesizer audio sketches built around samples of North American bird calls apparently works really well. While it may be an acquired taste, and certain elements don’t necessarily land (such as the species announcements at the beginning of each track), it’s a captivating listen. Birds of North America is a mysterious, experimental, and beautiful electronic record that allows its music to transcend its central experimental gimmick. PS: be sure to get the CD version, as it includes two tracks not available digitally.
Weyes Blood, Front Row Seat to Earth
Listening to Front Row Seat to Earth feels like listening to a record from the far future, which is strange given that the music and Natalie Mering’s voice draw so much inspiration from the past. Though it would be easy to write off this album as a pastiche of 1970’s folk singer/songwriters — it’s callbacks to the era may be too strong for some listeners — it also instantly feels progressive and otherworldly. Mering’s nostalgic sultriness almost seems out of place juxtaposed with modern imagery (see “Generation Why”), but her approach, message, and delivery is perhaps what we need most today.
Permit, Vol. 1 – EP
I debated including this release since Permit’s debut EP on Fat Possum Records was released in December 2016. I thought that I really couldn’t have discovered it earlier. However, I discovered it’s actually been floating around in the Bloomington DIY music corner of the internet (it’s a bigger corner than you’d think) for over a year. The band — a “super group,” if you will, of prolific Bloomington musicians Jack Andrew and Drew Auscherman — specializes in speedy, scuzzy, garage power-pop, blistering their way through six tracks in a mere ten minutes, leaving the reader breathless and energized. The production is shamelessly lo-fi (perhaps even indulgently so), but it’s hard not to admire the spirited charm of this little record. You can stream the EP, under the band’s original name, “Gum,” here. Or pick up a 7″ record here.