Since we are only in the infancy of 2017, I thought I’d post a list of my top 10 favorite metal albums of 2016. While many of these also appeared on the Top 40 Albums of 2016 list and the Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2016 podcast, I wanted to give metal its due in a year where we saw the boundaries of the genre continue to widen. For some of these posts I used excerpts from past write-ups (I hope you don’t mind!).
Tag Archives: The body
2016 has been a comeback year for “the album” with artists like Beyonce, Chance the Rapper, Radiohead, Drake, and Kanye West dominating news cycles with the surprising arrivals of their new full-length albums. I see this as both a blessing and a curse. As a fan of the long-form listening experience, I love that albums as a whole are getting love in the age of Spotify playlists and Pandora radio. On the other hand, many of these albums do not deserve the hype that surrounds them (i.e: Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book pales in comparison to his last effort, Acid Rap, and Drake’s VIEWS might be the most uninspiring, uninteresting albums of 2016). Lost amidst all of this album release hoopla is a lot of the great music not getting the attention it deserves. That’s where we here at BDWPS come. Below you will find 20 original, rousing, and memorable albums that you should have been listening to instead of wasting your time with the latest Rihanna album.
(All of the albums on this list were released before June 1st. I set this cut-off date to ensure I’ve had ample time to listen and connect with albums before placing them on the list.)
Over the years, the “Top 40 Albums” list (once a measly list of 10) has become the apex of BDWPS, a culmination of a year’s worth of obsessive listening and re-listening (and re-listening) to every piece of music I can get my hands on. Even as I compile this final definitive list (which I traditionally question months and years later), I find myself revisiting albums I was quick to write off, or I end up digging for gems that may have slipped through the cracks of my consciousness. I didn’t have as tough of a time leaving albums off the list this year; I don’t know if that means 2013 was a weak year in music or if I just didn’t have as tight of a connection with as much music as usual. Regardless, I can promise you that the following 40 albums are well-crafted collections of music/art worth investing your time in…lord knows I have.
I always have difficulty when coming up with these lists because there are often albums I’ve enjoyed that I’m forced to leave out. When I had the current mid-year list down to 25, I thought about bucking my yearly tradition of 20 and upping it to 25. Then, I recollected a long forgotten high school memory. During my junior year, our basketball coach had a decision along the same lines – with 10 returning seniors and a strong incoming Junior class of 10 quality players, he had to make cuts in order to meet the roster limit of 15. Instead of manning up and just cutting some of the old players or telling some Juniors to take a year off, he let the extra five Juniors (one of them being me) stay on the team as kind of a practice team. This would turn out horribly with our group of five often feeling outcast and forgotten, and by seasons end, we’d named ourselves The Bullheads (because in Iowa, a catfish isn’t considered a keeper). I decided that, yes, there are some great albums on the outside looking in this year, but at the same time, including them would water down my already loaded list. 2013 is off to a great start musically, and here are my “Top 20 Favorite Albums” so far (no bullheads included: i.e. Daft Punk).
[Kill Rock Stars; 2010]
“Now We Can See”: damn is that a great album. This 2009 release from The Thermals is filled with enticing melodies of rebirth, alcoholism, and letting go all conveyed through the lens of Darwin’s evolution. I ranked it #6 on my “Best Albums of 2009” list, and its staying power is made evident each time I find myself returning to it amidst the downpour of amazing albums in 2010 (more on that in December…). Unfortunately, “Now We Can See” never got the credit it deserved from most major music journalists. Instead of deeming it a miracle that the band could follow up their modern classic “The Body, The Blood, The Machine” with another blistering set of songs, most reviews responded to “Now We Can See” with a yawning “Oh, these guys are still good…”.
Which leaves me wondering if a band is at a fault when they release great album after great album. It’s what I’d like to refer as Tim Duncan Syndrome – after winning back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in 2002 and 2003, Duncan never received the award again. A look at his career stats shows that there was never a fall off in his nightly performances through most of the decade, a sustenance that led Charles Barkley to nickname him “Groundhog Day”. Despite this perpetual dominance in the paint that drove the Spurs to four NBA titles, it seems journalists became bored with his unyielding talent and decided to award the player of the moment each year (how many titles did Steve Nash win again?).
Perhaps if Duncan had a Jordan-like year off to pursue a career in professional swimming his continual dominance would have been better appreciated. And maybe that’s what The Thermals are doing with their latest album “Personal Life”. I’m not saying that the 2010 release from The Thermals is a cataclysmic failure like Jordan’s baseball career. In fact, there are some fantastic songs on the album that flow within the vein of what has become the band’s signature sound. “Personal Life” just lacks the significance that their past few albums have had – it lacks the weight. I’d like to believe they are taking a break from writing songs with depth in order to be better appreciated a year from now. I hope this is the case.
It’s album of love songs. That’s it. No allegories. No references to the bible. Just love songs. So yes, I guess the album has that signature Thermals album “theme” to it, but I’m pretty sure “love albums” have been recorded a million times over (if only they’d utilized a metaphor like the Roman Empire or the Civil War to express the struggles of love). But to just write a collection of love songs without any deeper meaning? I guess I’ve just come to expect more from the Portland band that is usually writing intelligent pop-punk songs. Never have they sounded so literal.
The album’s weakness goes beyond my textual analysis; the songs just aren’t as good as what I’ve come to expect, and I think I know why. The power chord has left the building; the distortion pedal has been put in the pantry. “Personal Life” consists mostly of bass driven songs with Hutch Harris meandering across the fret board trying to keep occupied without accomplishing much. Only on “I Don’t Believe You” do we hear that signature crunch, which also happens to be the best song on the album. It’s classic Thermals, plain and simple.
The video also features Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney and Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock:
The album starts off strong, but quickly dwindles into songs that lack the excitement of what we’ve come to expect from these three. Again, I must stress that the songs aren’t horrible; you can still hear the band’s knack for melody throughout. It’s just missing something.
The most disappointing moment has to be “Your Love is So Strong”, starting off with a promising “Oh-wo-ee-oh-oh-oh-oh!” intro reminiscent of their 2009 hit “Now We Can See”. But this is no “Now We Can See”. Instead, it builds up to stagnation. Unlike it’s 2009 sister, this song never explodes into the passion felt within their music in the past.
You can have this:
Maybe it’s the angst that’s missing. “The Body, The Blood, The Machine” had an anger towards God and the government, “Now We Can See” held a disdain for the past and mistakes, but “Personal Life” has only love. “You Changed My Life”, “Not Like Any Other Feeling”, “Only For You”: these aren’t the types of song titles that lead to fist pump or jumping humping. These are songs for spooning in a Snuggie. No thank you. I’ll take my rage elsewhere. Let’s just hope that The Thermals read some Vygostky sometime in the near future; that psycho-babble will frustrate anyone.