Erik Bue
My Favorite Albums/2016
Even in a year like 2016, where everything just seemed wrong, unfair, and often unbelievable, thankfully, we still had music. And music is one of those things that helps distract us, and at times, even convice us that everything might just be fine. That’s why I created this minisite of my favorites from the past year — to celebrate something positive and to share the tunes that may have prevented the year from being 100% awful. So here’s to 2017, with hopefully plenty more awesome music to come!
Pure in the Plastic —
Polyenso is easily the least known artist on my list, but I have a feeling that may change sometime in the near future. It’s hard to believe that the band’s members once made up the hardcore/screamo band, Oceana, but for those of you who may have listened to their final release, it was clear that the band was eager to break out of that style and into something more mature. With Pure in the Plastic, it’s clear that they’re on the right track. From Thom Yorke-esque vocals, to soulful percussion and groovy jazz sax solos, this album showcases a plethora of influences that craftfully come together to create something truly unique. Listening to Pure in the Plastic is an immersive experience, and upon each listen, I end up discovering new bits and pieces that I had missed before. In terms of experimental success, Polyenso has created an album not so far off from Bon Iver’s, 22, A Million.
My Fav Track
Moona Festival
Junk —
I’ll be honest, I almost missed the boat on M83’s latest album. I gave it about one lazy listen back in April when it was released, and then forgot about it. But it wasn’t because I didn't like it—I just didn't pay close enough attention. Luckily, though, I revisited Junk towards the end of the year and realized I had made a mistake. It’s been awhile since M83 released new music, but it’s clear that founder Anthony Gonzalez has done some revisiting of his own. This album exudes vibes from the 70s and 80s, and it honestly sounds like it could’ve been played in the Mos Eisly Cantina from Star Wars: A New Hope...just with more neon. I’ve read several less-than-positive reviews about Junk, but if you couldn’t tell by the name and cover art, it’s obvious M83 didn’t make this album to please the masses. And that’s fine by me, because I find Junk to be a truly enjoyable and fascinating album.
My Fav Track
Walkway Blues (feat. Jordan Lawlor)
Joytime —
After hearing his aweseome remix of Jack Ü’s, Where Are You Now, and the shoutout given by Skrillex in a Katie Couric interview, it’s safe to say I was impatiently waiting to see what Marshmello would do next. Joytime seemed to pop up out of nowhere, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise. In a year full of EDM hits, Marshmello seemed to stick with me more than most, and I think it’s because of his ability to keep things simple and fun (without a random female vocalist in every song like we’re used to). And it turns out the disguise isn’t the only light and fluffy thing about him—Joytime is really a solid collection of upbeat and catchy tunes that makes me miss the warm summer days even more than I already do. Oh, and btw, check out his remix of Alan Walker’s, Sing Me to Sleep. It wasn’t on the album but it’s definitely worth mentioning.
My Fav Track
Local Natives
Sunlit Youth —
I may or may not have added this way after the fact, but after seeing these guys live I couldn't not go back and give this album a couple more listens. What I've always enjoyed about Local Natives, and what really stood out in their live performance, is the way the dual lead vocals interact with each other. Whether back and forth, or blended together in the smoothest of harmonies, it's these vocals that beg you not only to listen, but also to sing along. And let's be clear, this is not to take away from the fantastic musicianship that occurs throughout the album. It's obvious that these guys are capable of creating beautiful layers of sound that are often unique and complex, yet never superfluous. And this, combined with the prevously-discussed vocals, makes Sunlit Youth an absolute must-listen.
My Fav Track
Dark Days
St. Lucia
Matter —
If for some reason you have an unexplained hatred for synths, you might as well turn back now, because St. Lucia definitely hasn’t backed down from the catchy electro hooks that they’ve become known for. Matter is a lighthearted, yet extremely energetic album that undoubtedly conjurs up feelings of many classic 80’s dance tunes. When it comes to synth-pop like this, it can often get repetitive and somewhat exhausting, but the pace of this album varies just enough to keep you on your toes, both literally and figuratively. And if you’re not literally on your toes during some of these songs, you must be wearing lead shoes, because honestly, Matter is just downright fun.
My Fav Track
The Winds of Change
Kanye West
The Life of Pablo —
No matter your opinion about Kanye, the person, it’s really hard not to appreciate Kanye, the artist, and The Life of Pablo is yet another example of how he continues to redefine and make his mark on the genre. You never really know what you’re going to get when Yeezy releases new things, but it’s safe to say that he loves to stir the pot that is music, throwing in just the right amount of unique beats, unexpected samples, and guest vocals from his famous friends. While there are several standout tracks, TLOP is one of those albums that I feel should be listened to in its entirety. It’s one of the most uncohesive, cohesive albums that I’ve heard. Yes, you read that correctly, but I’m not sure how else to describe it. There’s such a wide variety of songs on the album, yet they all seem to just come together into a truly fascinating piece of work.
My Fav Track
Epoch —
Whether I’m trying to focus at work or contemplating life’s mysteries while sitting in traffic, Tycho always seems to be the artist I turn to for the perfect background soundtrack. And to clarify, this is by no means a negative classification. On the contrary, Tycho manages to create songs that are not only subtle and ambient, but also ones that are complex and engaging. With Epoch, Tycho stays true to their chill sounds, but also continues to push further into the foreground. It’s easy to get lost in the lush atmosphere that Tycho creates, but at the same time, you’ll probably find yourself moving your entire body to the beat. Oh and btw, Scott Hansen, the main dude behind Tycho, is also a graphic designer, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
My Fav Track
Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book —
I think it’s safe to say that I had more fun listening to Coloring Book in 2016 than I did any other album. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest rap/hip-hop fan and it often takes me awhile to really “get” those kind of albums, but this one grabbed me immediately. I think a lot of its appeal, for me, comes from the beautiful musical accompaniment that pulls the album together. From blaring horns, to layers of strings and powerful choral verses, I often feel like I’ve stepped into the pews of a gospel church. And along with that feeling, comes a sense of immense positivity and comfort. Even I was surprised how high Coloring Book ended up ranking, but I feel like I’m constantly in a good mood while listening to this album, and it feels like Chance was probably pretty stoked while making it.
My Fav Track
Same Drugs
The Hotelier
Goodness —
To understand why this album is at the top of my favorites list, you’d have to peer back into the past, about 10 years ago when I was a skinny, emo kid in high school. At this time, I’m not sure what was growing faster, my hair or my interest in music, but it's safe to say that my musical identity was built around the emo bands of the time. Though my taste (in both music and hair) has greatly expanded since then, I still enjoy some solid emo/rock/whateveryouwannacallit. To me, The Hotelier perfectly brings the classic emo stylings that I enjoyed in the past into a more mature and thoughtful light. Goodness is not only introspective and highly poetic but, as the name alludes, pleasantly positive and forward-looking. Oh and if you’re curious what the original album art is, you can view the uncensored, NSFW cover here.
My Fav Track
Soft Animal
Bon Iver
22, A Million —
I am of the opinion that Justin Vernon (lead dude of Bon Iver) can do no wrong. And even as his musical explorations stray farther and farther from “mainstream,” he manages to create beautiful and unique musical experiences that offer surprises at every turn. Whether it’s a highly distored sample of Stevie Nicks, or a subtle synth pattern hiding behind Vernon’s famous falsetto, I feel like I’m constantly discovering something new upon each listen. I greatly admire and appreciate Bon Iver’s ability to reinvent and experiment with their sound after each album, while also maintaining bits and pieces from where they began. It’s been a real pleasure to follow the evolution from acoustic, cabin-folk to a sound that's truly hard to classify. With that said, there aren’t many albums that seem to get better after each and every listen, but for me, 22, A Million is one of them.
My Fav Track
33 “GOD”