Favorite Albums of 2016: WHRB DJs Pick

With 2016 finally coming to a close, we asked WHRB DJs to tell us some of their favorite albums of 2016. Check out what they had to say below:

Nine of Swords - “You Will Never Die”

I’ve been a huge fan of this screamo/sludge four-piece ever since fellow RH member woof! showed them to me sophomore year. (In retrospect, it’s kind of embarrassing that I didn’t know about them already, since they’re from Purchase, NY, 30 minutes away from my hometown.) On their previous releases, 9oS conjured a distinctly heavy intensity. This album, the band’s first significant new release since 2014, introduces - or, at the very least, emphasizes - a new sense of pathos in their sound. This comes in large part from the excellent performance delivered by singer Rachel Gordon, whose vocals on this record are, at various times, pained, furious, and confessional. Gordon’s lyrics are eminently relatable, alternating between millennial horoscope references (“today Mercury may be in retrograde, but tomorrow, you'll pay”, subtle life lessons (“sometimes you need to know someone really well to know that you don't want them around”), and low-key assertions of identity (“when you say I should just relax, and that’s a serious suggestion, it’s clear you haven't considered unfamiliar tongues, dead weight, men, your own shortcomings, unofficial consent”). That’s not to say that the rest of the band doesn’t pull their weight on this album. Their riffs are as satisfyingly heavy as ever, but now, when necessary, an audible element of emotional strain enters the band’s sound - a fitting sonic platform for Gordon’s deeply personal lyrics. We’re going to try to get Nine of Swords for our annual fest this spring, and I hope we succeed.” -Eli Lee ‘17, RH/TDS

Toronzo Cannon - "The Chicago Way"

“In spite of the risk of appearing biased towards the Chicago blues, I have to recommend this Alligator release by bluesman-and-occasional-bus-driver Toronzo Cannon. But whereas Lurrie Bell gave us a flawless tribute to and expression of the classic Chicago sound, Cannon's latest release sees him barking at the city limits. Make no mistake, this album is simultaneously a love letter to and prayer for Chicago from a man who seems to live and breathe the city. But between the band's punchy funk-rock inspired grooves, the grimy and grounded lyrics, and the Cannon's guitar, often distorted to a white-hot simmer, it is clear that this is a man determined to bring his blues into the twenty-first century even as he pays his tributes to those who came before him. Recommended: "Chickens Comin' Home to Roost", "Jealous Love", "Strength to Survive"” -Johnathan Clark ‘19, Blues/RH

Transcendental: Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt.

“This two-disk set released by Deutsche Grammophon features the complete set of etudes for solo piano composed by Franz Liszt. Etudes, or "studies," often test a very specific technical skill in a pianist's repertoire, like large jumps or extremely dense, quick passages, and Liszt's etudes are generally considered to be some of the most difficult pieces in the piano repertoire. I like this recording in particular because the pianist Trifonov performs them so effortlessly and actually gets to explore the melodic and harmonic content of the work instead of just successfully making it through a very difficult set of pieces, like many other performers do.” –Aditya Raguram ‘18, CM

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - “Nonagon Infinity”

“I saw them do basically every song from this album live and can veritably say it's the livest live performance I've ever been to. Buy your tix asap kids, they're coming back to boston in April!” –Lana Harris ‘18, RH/TDS

Danny Brown - “Atrocity Exhibition”

“I got into Danny brown at the beginning of the year and he's become one of my favorite artists. I got to see him in concert and hear some new stuff off the album live, so all in all it's been a really cool experience. The production on this album is unlike anything I’ve heard, courtesy of Paul White and his unique choice of themes on Atrocity Exhibition. This album has many alternative and world music influences from other bands, including Joy Division and Talking Heads, so it’s refreshing to hear such interesting instrumentation on a hip-hop album. ” –Juliet Bramante ‘18, Blues/TDS

Årabrot - “The Gospel”

"The theme of The Gospel is a vision of the lonely warrior on a summit looking out over a battle field, the smoke from the bomb craters, an all-encompassing silence". The character of the lonely warrior is likely played by the lead singer of Årabrot, Kjetil Nernes, who had released this album following a devastating, but victorious battle with throat cancer. As a result, Nernes wrote one of the most exciting records to come out of this year, featuring guest musicians such as Ted Parsons (Killing Joke, Swans) on drums, Andrew Liles (Current 93/Nurse With Wound) and Stephen O’Malley (SunnO)))). This album is Årabrot at its most experimental yet, dabbling in noise, glam rock, metal, and pop, culminating in what can only be described as one of the most fascinating and punked-up success stories of all time.” -Andy Kim ‘18, Blues/TDS

AJJ - “The Bible 2”

“AJJ is one of my favorite folk punk bands, and their latest release does not disappoint. Although far less folky and much more alt rocky (check out their parody of OK Go in the Goodbye, Oh Goodbye music video) than their older stuff, their latest album is a delight and a continuation of the direction their sound was going with their previous album, Christmas Island. In the words of AJJ, let’s enter 2017 with ‘no more shame, no more fear, no more dread.’” -Amanda Glazer ‘18, RH

The Body and Full of Hell - “One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache”
“Last year, I went to the Middle East with fellow RH member blurb to see the Body and Full of Hell. At that time, the two bands - a rumbling drone metal duo and a chaotic noise/grindcore group, respectively - were touring together, and their different musical styles made for a diverse bill. At the end of that tour, The Body and Full of Hell recorded this collaborative album, which came out this past March. I’m not sure if One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache was one of the absolute best records that came out this year, but it is damn good, and without a doubt one of the most interesting. This album is the sound of two bands throwing a ton of experiments at the wall and seeing what a) sticks and b) what kind of crazy mutant creatures come crawling out of the resulting muck. The results are as brutal as they are difficult to describe. The songs on this record largely lack any formal structure, or even, for the most part, recognizable riffs or motifs. Instead, chaos reigns. High pitched shrieks and electronic feedback mingle with downtuned guitar. Eerie female vocals and bizarre dialogue samples float in and out of the sonic fog. Both bands’ drummers are both incredibly talented, but in different ways, and as a result, this record’s percussion veers between abject chaos and a slow, methodical creep. What ties the whole things together is the two groups’ common ground: both make music that is heavy, unsettling, and extreme. Whether The Body and Full of Hell are mingling monastic chants with power electronics (“Cain”), producing impenetrable walls of heavy noise (“Himmel Und Hölle”), or incorporating basslines so plodding and atonal that they sound outright demonic (“Gehorwilt”), this album is an expression of pain, in all its many forms.” -Eli Lee ‘17, RH/TDS

Crying - “Beyond the Fleeting Gales”

“Crying’s Beyond the Fleeting Gales was probably not the most important, or even the best album of 2016, but the fact that it wasn’t any of those things was what made it my favorite of the year. This year was characterized by disillusionment, cynicism, and just being generally awful, and at a certain point, this year’s many self-aware and socially conscious records like they too were weighing everybody down. Sure, these albums deftly held up a mirror to society and provoked deep and difficult conversations — but one could be equally upset and disappointed with society by just turning on the news. It was for that reason the album we needed this year was Beyond the Fleeting Gales. More than anything else, Crying’s debut LP is fun. The record takes genres like hair-metal, arena rock, and 80s synthpop, which have forever been derided as somehow ‘less-than’ musically, and executes them with a sort of bright-eyed brilliance that conveys pure, ebullient joy. While the music has a sort of welcome cheesiness to it, the songwriting is excellent. Elaiza Santos’ vocals float without a care above the bouncy guitar and synth lines. The band identifies its style as “chiptune,” a genre that derived from 8-bit video game soundtracks, and even its merch features images of childhood classics like Sonic. And for this dumpster fire of a year, an album that recalled childhood days spent playing Gameboy and N64 was an absolute blessing. There’s not a bad track on the record, but things like the face-melting guitar solo on “Wool in the Wash,” the jaunty verses and ridiculously catchy chorus and synth lines of “Patriot,” the triumphant final minute of “A Sudden Gust,” and the playful rap-rock of “There Was a Door” are some of the standout moments. Do yourself a favor and ring in the new year with the careless fun of Beyond the Fleeting Gales.” -Teddy Brokaw ‘18, RH

Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra - Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow

“The second release in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “Under Stalin’s Shadow” series came out in May, and was definitely a highlight of the year for me. Nelsons and the BSO are in fine form, wringing every last drop of emotion out of both Shostakovich 5 and 9 in a way few others do. The album just snagged the BSO its second Grammy nomination in a row, following their win last year for Best Orchestral Performance for their performance of Shostakovich Symphony No. 10.” –Henry Shreffler ’18, CM

Andy Shauf - “The Party”

“Andy Shauf. If you don't know him, please look him up zomg. Especially if you like walking around/looking out the window on wintry days and wondering what is going on in the heads/lives of people walking around. His songs tell beautiful small town stories with gorgeous clarinet harmonies (and a string section!!! just to name a few). This album's songs are branches off of a central house party anecdote.” –Lana Harris ‘18, RH/TDS

The Rolling Stones - “Blue & Lonesome”

“On December 2, The Rolling Stones released their first studio album in more than ten years. The disc harkened back to The Stone's Blues roots as they were tutored by some of the best Blues artists out there (Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, for a start). 'Blue & Lonesome' is in many ways a wonderful tribute to those very artists with staples such as 'Commit A Crime,' 'Blue and Lonesome,' and 'Hoo Doo Blues.' Bless The Stones.” –Amanda Mozea ’17, Blues

The Frights - “You Are Going to Hate This”

“The Frights’ new album is less gritty than their last few releases, but it has an intoxicating energy to it. I really like the color they pour into their sound and how they manage to balance that with their edgier tendencies.” –Sophia Higgins ‘20, RH/Blues

Noname - “Telefone”

Her lyricism is amazing, her past as a poet is super clear. It has a really soothing vibe without being boring.” –Sonya Karabel ’18, TDS

Radiohead - “A Moon Shaped Pool”

“Though this album is full of songs included in the Radiohead canon since the mid-90s (True Love Waits, Present Tense, to name a few), Radiohead manages to defy expectations and provide new, emotionally-driven reinterpretations of these tracks that are not only some of their most personal works, but some of Radiohead's most brilliant and beautiful songs. Highlights for me include: Decks Dark, Ful Stop, True Love Waits” - Andy Kim ‘18, Blues/TDS

Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Pictures at an Exhibition

“Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform a modern and emotional interpretation of Mussogorsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The Promenades, intended to represent walking between works of art, are especially accentuated by Dudamel’s lively and energetic conducting. While the individual pieces dedicated to paintings are brooding, dark, and filled with mystery. Few performances of the piece are able to so masterfully shift between the vivid promenades and the provocatively dark images that make this impressionist piece so popular.” -Pablo Rasmussen ‘20, CM

Anderson .Paak - “Malibu”

“Brandon Paak Anderson's second album under the moniker Anderson .Paak is a breakout album in every sense. The Oxnard, CA native fuses R&B and funk with a beautiful backdrop of soulful beats, creating some of the most original sounds of the year. Just don't let it lull you to sleep, or else you'll miss some sharp lyrics. It's pretty safe to say that if she can't dance, then she can't hoop.” –Austin Harcarik ’18, Sports

Snarky Puppy - “Culcha Vulcha”

“Snarky Puppy is difficult to classify because of their wide-ranging repertoire; while not a traditional jazz record, one should not discount their place in the Jazz Spectrum. Their sixth studio album, Culcha Vulcha, crafts atmosphere and seductive grooves place it alongside a Herbie Hancock or a Jaco Pastorius, just as well as with a Fela Kuti or an Antibalas record. From the samba and reggae of "Semente" and "The Simple Life," to the more contemplative "Beep Box" and "Palermo," Culcha Vulcha displays their breadth of musical influences in an enjoyable funked-up package. Whether on a drive or a dance session for one or twenty, Culcha Vulcha is worth a listen for those in need of a good time.” –Edward Vasquez ‘17, CM/Jazz

The Soul of John Black - "Early In the Moanin'"

“If I'm being honest, the first minute of this album grooves harder than anything I've heard this year. An independent release from the duo of John Bigham and Christopher Thomas, already known for blending their blues with a heady dose of funk, R&B, hip-hop, and rock, this latest album continues even further in that direction, reinventing the blues sound even as it builds on what already exists. The groove is the key here; extended passages of guitar work are largely absent and the shimmer of synths lends slickness to a few tracks in the place of organ swells, but it's the groove, the rock-solid, seismic groove that brings everything back home. It's the same groove you hear in old recordings from the Delta bluesmen, when the rhythm section was a boot on the floor. It's still alive here, like a sort of heartbeat, vital and constant. Even if the materials have changed, this is real, living blues. Recommended: "Can't Be Helped", "Thursday Morning", "Daggers"” -Johnathan Clark ‘19, Blues/RH

Blithe Field - “Face Always Towards the Sun”

“Face Always Toward the Sun, the fifth studio album under singer-songwriter Spencer Radcliffe’s instrumental project Blithe Field, is a wondrous collage of disparate elements. Radcliffe weaves together specific ephemera from his youth in Athens, Ohio — “Scaling Alden at Night,” “Paul’s Birthday,” “Ashleigh & AJ’s Attic” — to compose a sonic tapestry that evokes universal feelings of nostalgia (“Endless Days at Strouds”) and maturation (“Finally Understanding”). The album’s quiet force, however, stretches well beyond its suggestive song titles. It relies on a language of its own: a soothing synthesis of tolling tape loops, fuzzy electronics, and field recordings of creaking doors and foggy voicemails. While some ambient music fades into the shadowy background of noise that surrounds you, this will plop you face-forward in a sun-sprinkled trance.” –Cameron Loftis ’19, TDS