Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 5 records of 2016 (and special mentions)

2016 is coming to an end - it's time to look at this year and its best music:

1. Emitt Rhodes - Rainbow Ends

In 1973, after battling bad contracts and industry demands, Emitt Rhodes saw his last release, Farewell To Paradise. Emitt Rhodes never recorded another full-length LP. Until now.

Rainbow Ends released by Omnivore Recordings - it is his first new album in 43 years.

After connecting with producer Chris Price in 2013, Rhodes revived his home studio with help from Price and an all-star band, all of whom had been enamored of Rhodes’ work: Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Jason Falkner (both solo artists, members of Jellyfish, and currently in Beck’s studio and touring band), indie producer and musician Fernando Perdomo, Rooney’s Taylor Locke and New Pornographers’ drummer Joe Seiders. They would cut the new record live in that space.

More special guests appeared to make this momentous release even more special: Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs (Bangles), composer and producer Jon Brion, Wilco’s Nels Cline and Pat Sansone, Bleu, and Probyn Gregory & Nelson Bragg from Brain Wilson’s band, among others. What was achieved is more than what folks thought would ever happen.

Producer Price says, “I view this as a continuation album, meaning it isn’t meant to be recreating the sound from his first record, but instead what he might have sounded like after his third album, Farewell To Paradise, if he kept making music in the mid-to-late ’70s.

According to Rhodes, “I had a spurt there, you know. I just wrote a whole bunch of songs. I’m just gonna write what my heart tells me, because that’s the only thing that really matters, isn’t it? Sometimes you don’t know, and then the light goes on and you do know.
The music is very good on this record. I think that these guys are all wonderful players and there’s all sorts of interesting stuff. I hope people like it, and I want you young guys to be able to get your due.
I think whenever it happens, it happens on time.

It’s rare to have your dreams come true. For many, a new Emitt Rhodes recording has only been a fantasy. In 2016, the Rainbow Ends at a true pot of gold.

2. The Honeydogs - Love & Cannibalism

The Honeydogs are back. Four years after What Comes After comes ... Love & Cannibalism.  Adam Levy and his band recorded the album at The Pearl Studio in Minneapolis with producer John Fields (Semisonic, Rooney)

Love & Cannibalism is the counterpart to Adam Levy's Naubinway from 2015. While Naubinway is sometimes hard to get through because of its meaning (which is reflected in every song), Love & Cannibalism is straight, positive and full of joy.
Listen (and watch the video) to "Arguing With Fiction" here:

You can and would do well to buy Love & Cannibalism at Bandcamp.

3.  Air Traffic Controller - Black Box

The third record of Air Traffic Controller - BLACK BOX - is a strong and versatile album. And most importantly: it's FUN!

Listen to two songs from BLACK BOX here:

BLACK BOX - digital

BLACK BOX - CD Digipack
ATC PayPal 

4. Johnson & McAuley - Illuminated Dream

Alexz Johnson and Bleu teamed up for a new record: Johnson & McAuley - Illuminated Dream.


Listen to: Illuminated Dream, Heartbeat (Beatin’ You Up), The Secrets You Keep and No More Fear

Order via PayPal:

US Shipping - Black Vinyl Album
International Shipping - Black Vinyl Album

US Shipping - PINK Opaque Vinyl Album
International Shipping - PINK Opaque Vinyl Album

5. Travis - Everything at Once

Travis are back! Their latest full length record "Everything at Once" is their 8th record and the 20th year of the band (time flies!). It was produced by Michael Ilbert at the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin.

Travis never disappoints with their records. The opener "What Will Come" impressively shows the strength for lyrics & melody. 
Fran Healy described "Magnificent Time" as the time of everyone's life where boys and girls become adults. A time where everything explodes and you say "Woo-ooh - wait a second, I can do all THAT now?" - a period you never ever get back and you should enjoy it as much as you can. The song itself is also magnificent, by the way.
"Radio song" and "Animal" are dangerously catchy!
And there is "Everything At Once". I had the chance to see it live (it was the opener of the show). Play it LOUD. It rocks!

Special mentions 

The Top Boost - Turn Around EP 

The Top Boost, Vancouver's psychedelic garage pop trio, released their debut EP "Turn Around" in 2016. Recorded and mixed in Vancouver and mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London, the record is filled with astonishing good songs.

To assemble The Top Boost, singer/songwriter Hunter Gogo searched for musicians who shared his love for catchy melodies and vocal harmonies informed by classic '60s groups like The Beatles, The Byrds and The Zombies. He found drummer Greg Johnston and guitarist Kirill Yurtsev and together they began to hone their craft, playing live to enthusiastic crowds at clubs around Vancouver.

The band has been working hard writing and performing new material, and have already begun pre-production on a new record.

Listen to the full EP here - I recommend to start with "Turn Around" and "What If She Loves You": 

One final note:  This may be the best debut record I listened to in 2016. I demand to have more of this! The Turn Around EP is brilliance! 

Paul Steel - April & II 

Paul Steel is back with a new record. Or will be. The PledgeMusic campaign has already been closed - and the record may be out in 2017.

BEWARE! Listen to the first song and you will WANT TO pledge. It's stunning.



Josh Fix - Free At Last

To be honst - this is a record which is almost 10 years old. But I discovered it in 2016 so techncially it is OK to have it in this list (and it's here just because it's SO good!).

Free At Last is the debut record of Josh Fix. It's his first - and only - full length record to date (also there is the "Steinway The Hard Way" EP from 2004 and the "This town is starting to make me angry" EP from 2009).

Free At Last was recommended to me for years, but I was never ready to listen to it properly. Now I did: What I discovered was nothing less than the powerful, refreshing and playful record in years.

If you're into Queen, Ben Folds, ELO, Jellyfish, Elton John or Bleu you should take a close listen!

Start with: I thought about it first / Jethro / Free at last / Don't call me in the morning

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness - Brooklyn, You're Killing Me

New Radicals - Lost Stars

"Lost Stars" is one of the best songs of the recent years. It's such a shame there's no full record from Gregg Alexander or the New Radicals:

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