Written by: Vincent Nijenhuis
This has been a very, VERY emotional year for everyone. Music lovers lost a few of our icons. LGBTQIA+ community has been gunned down and shot. Black people have been gunned down and shot. A lot of people have been unjustly killed this year. Human beings have to live with the fact misogyny, racism, and bigotry is alive and while in America. The best music released this year has reflected the blunt emotions we had to experience, and gave us a cathartic reason to experience them.
Fun, loud, and subversive in its tackling the trope of the Christmas album, A Very Big Freedia Christmazz is does everything you would expect from a Big Freedia Christmas album. Yes, there’s the aggressively charming noise of Freedia’s voice. Yes, there are lines asks us to twerk. Yes, it’s extreme obnoxious in doing all this, but its charm is in how unabashed it is to demand to make you twerk, smile, and forget the world around you if only for five songs.
G.L.O.S.S. is the punkest of the punk. Brash, unapologetic, and suffocating in the oppression the world has bestowed upon them. It’s seemingly absurd that they seen as subversive for simply making songs about demanding to be seen like on “We Live.” This is the rare punk band with an actual reason to be pissed off, and unafraid to show you it.
This album would have been on this list for Anohni’s voice alone. Longing, melancholic, and filled with a subdued anger that can only be heard if you are listening to her emotions, and not her words. Her voice makes these boldly political songs feel like an experience rather than something we simply put on the background to tolerate. The writing would be painfully self serious, and repetitive if it wasn’t for the shading of emotions she infuses into each track. Her voice makes what could have easily been an okay album into something magical.
Frank Ocean manages to create an album that no song can function without the other. Ocean makes listen to the emotional arch he creates for us through his stripped back instrumental, and his powerful lyrics that each song manages to build on top of the emotion of the other. It would be easy to dismiss the languid tone of this album as boring, but Ocean forces us to go at his place, and tell his story. He never dares to release his control over his narrative. To only listen to a song outside of the order he so carefully placed would be the equivalent of watching a scene of a movie without watching the movie. He gives us a context as to why each song matters, and why it deserves to be placed there. Check out Full Review
This is an album that manages to put the listener into a mannered psychosis in its desperation not express the nightmare that lurks underneath the woozy distorted strings. It’s horror seeps into the listener’s’ skin, and doesn’t dare give them relief by slowly draining panic out through a single happy song at the very end. It dares us not to ignore it. It dares us not to experience it. It dares us to consume its disgust, and we let it. Check out Full Review
This is the most emotionally personal album of the year. It’s intimate. It’s personal. It’s meant to comfort only one person’s wounds. Felix Walworth, the quote unquote ‘talent’ of the band, slowly peels back his scab and let his dripping blood speak for itself. They create mirrors of their pain by simply letting us listen to it.
It seems almost ironic that Tacocat choose to open this album with a love letter to Dana Katherine Scully, a fictional character devoted to skepticism, and impossible to ignore bright red hair that demands to be noticed in a post Trump elect world. Similarly, Tacocat demands the same attention to be heard that Scully’s hair and sharp sketicitic nose did on the X-Files. Tacocat the most subversive punk band of our generations. They demand to be heard, but by making songs, that many men would dismiss on their subject matter alone, fun. Who knew that songs about internet harassment, gentrification, and Plan B could relish in such delight? Tacocat, that’s who.
Ezra Furman manages to intensify our mood on this album. Every song amplifies the honesty in our emotions, whatever that may be. Furman is aware it’s not what we feel that’s important, it’s simply that we do it. Their vocals on this album range from angry screams that would feel at home on Nirvana’s iconic Nevermind to a deep longing, and sorrow found on most Bob Dylan records to unfiltered glee that I dare say would make any One Direction album actually worth a listen. They know we have to identify with emotion, so they give us it in abundance.
This Bowie’s last breathe of musical genius he bestowed upon us, and he knows it. This is an album aware of his death, and the chaos it would create. Bowie let this album explain to us grieve in his words of painful of distorted frustrations. There is nothing left to say about this album that the album doesn’t say for itself. Talking about it seems mundanely painful, so instead let its anguish crush against your ears until you can be at peace.
Yes, the best song of this year also is the best album of the year. These are facts. This album should have felt like eating oatmeal to nourish one’s pretension. An album made with nothing, but samples from a washing machine? That sounds like the epitome of academic experimental music, but this album is pure in it’s expression of joy. It just happens to express it in a unique fashion: with a washing machine.