20 Best Albums of 2016: The Half-Way Mark

relick rhombi
Photo of Relick by: Rhombi Survivor

OK, so technically today is slightly past the halfway still.  Close enough, right?  I don’t have the time or energy to wax as poetically as these albums deserve.  Still, it’s worth noting my favorite albums and EPs thus year.  For a change, I’m allowing both Texas and “Sorta Texas” albums in the list.  One thing that hasn’t changed from last year, however, is the fact that I’m listing the artists in alphabetical order.  Ranking is too big of a pain.

At the end, you’ll find a playlist with my favorite tracks from each album.  Take a minute for a brief sample of the greatness of all these recordings.

Alexandria Rhea, Naked Soul
I’ve run out of creative ways to rave about Rhea.  Please refer to the articles here and here for a partial understanding of why I have become obssessed with her music.

Bloody Knives, I Will Cut Your Heart Out for This
Bloody Knives is not easy listening music.  On the surface, that statement is obvious by the loud, abrasive nature of their tunes.  The phrase also applies on another level, in that their melodies are more complex than most bands, requiring the listener to focus harder to appreciate the music.  For those willing to make the investment though, your ears will be paid back tenfold.

Charley Crockett, In the Night
While Mr. Crockett does continue his tradition of New Orleans style blues on this album, he branches out further musically into the worlds of soul and country.  His blending of blues and soul on the album’s title track shows that this diversity is only making him more interesting than ever.

Cut Throat Finches, Reality
A lot of attention has been paid to their video for “Boundaries”, the first local video to incorporate the 360 degree technology.  Perhaps too much has been made of the video.  I say that because technology can be made obsolete.  Great songwriting like that from lead singer Sean Russell never goes out of style.  The songs on Reality are the truly remarkable quality about this band.

Herrick & Hooley, Texoma
Is this a hip-hop album?  Is it R&B?  Let’s just throw out the labels and enjoy the beauty of these songs.

Hightower, Echo Spring
As time has gone by, I’ve come to realize how much of a pop leaning that Lindsey Hightower incorporates into her songs.  Still, not enough has attention has been to how truly soulful and bluesy of an artist she is.  This is either the slickest blues album or the grittiest pop album of the year.  Again, throw out the labels and enjoy.

Mind Spiders, Prosthesis
Fans of new-wave, punk, post punk, and anything along those lines should all agree on one thing: this album is awesome.

MobleySome Other Country
First, I feel the need to correct something I said in a previous article.  While Mobley’s beats do hold something of a hip-hop feel to them, his music is clearly closer to R&B than hip-hop.  Having said that, the tracks throughout this EP blend everything from R&B, pop, electronica, and anything else Mobley felt compelled to add to the mix.  The result is something that transcends a simple label.  It’s this innovative spirit that makes Some Other Country such a compelling listen. 

(monkeysphere), Music for Awkward People to Dance To
I remember Jay Singleton (the band’s guitarist) describing the last Rude King EP as “next level ska shit”.  That may not have been his exact words, but I think the heart of his message is conveyed.  And while he used that description on another band, that’s the phrase that keeps popping in my head regarding the latest EP from (monkeysphere).

Pale Dīan, Narrow Birth
Part shoegaze, part new wave, all captivating.

Parallel Play, Bucket of Lies
I always felt there was a certain almost novelty type quality to Parallel Play.  I was a little skeptical about this new EP, since it was a little more dark and biting in lyrical nature.  Not only was I wrong, Parallel Play proved it to be their strongest effort.  While the band has unfortunately called it quits, I can also say that they’re going out at the top of their game, and that’s a rare thing to see happen anymore.

Pleasant Grove, The Heart Contortionists
My only complaint with this album is that that it took them about twelve years to put this album out.  Let’s try to get the follow-up out a little faster.  K, thanks.

The Quaker City Night Hawks, El Astronauto
I’ve heard many a comparison to ZZ Top on the latest album from QCNH.  There’s only one problem I have with that comparison: I feel that QCNH is outdoing ZZ Top.  Give me “Mockingbird” or “Beat the Machine” any day over “La Grange”.  Welcome to the new classic rock.

Reagan James, Have a Nice Day
This young lady has created more interesting pop tunes than 99% of what’s heard on Top 40 radio.  Songs this catchy will ensure that you will indeed have a nice day.

Reddening West, Stare
This Austin band came out of nowhere and surprised The Ghost with some of the most gorgeous alt-country tracks I’ve heard, since… dang, I can’t remember when.  Songs like “The River” and “All You Need” just envelop you with their beauty.

Relick, Twin House
Relick (shown above) knows how to write pop hooks.  While “I Wouldn’t Lie to You” and “Offering” are the EP’s clear standouts, there’s not a weak song on here.

Ronnie Heart, you(r) mine
There’s something about Ronnie Heart that the 4th grade version of me would’ve absolutely loved.  And that’s not meant as an insult.  There’s a good hearted, fun quality to him in everything from his dance moves to his catchy electronic tunes.  This is the kind of music that you’d dance to in the room when no one’s watching.  Lots of Prince and Michael Jackson influence evident in his songs, which can never be a bad thing.

Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent
Although Ms. Jarosz now calls NYC home, the former Austin resident has proven herself to be not just one of the best folk songstresses in Texas, but in the nation.  Her songs exude beauty and passion, and her storytelling and voice suck you in.  If Jarosz doesn’t hit it huge soon, something is severely wrong.

That Dog Don’t Hunt, Soul Shakin’
If you want music to make you shake, then TDDH is what you need.  I’ve raved plenty about “Soho Hurry”, but every song of theirs is made for a good time.  And I still maintain that they’re the most underrated band in the metroplex right now.  Readers, help strip them of that title.

Vanessa Peters, The Burden of Unshakeable Proof
Vanessa Peters released another album of gorgeously written, intelligently thought out tunes that will hit you in the heart.  And in other breaking news, the sun rose this morning.

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