My Top Albums of 2016

Happy New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of a controversial year and it’s all been a blur. In the music world alone, we lost many influential artists who have shaped music in astounding ways. We said goodbye to George Martin (The Beatles’ producer), Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Phife Dawg (of A Tribe Called Quest), Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), and Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire) to name a handful this year. As the world seems to crumble around us, let’s seek comfort in music, shall we?

I didn’t get to any other music festivals this year, but once again the Winnipeg Folk Festival was one of my musical highlights of 2016. I had the pleasure of meeting The Staves, San Fermin, The Paper Kites, and a few other wonderful artists that came through the stage I volunteered on.

Another musical highlight of mine is a personal one. This summer, I finished recording my own album that I can’t wait to share with you. It is in its final stages of mixing, so after that, the real fun can start. Stay tuned.

Anyway, let’s get to the list. I enjoyed the following albums and found myself listening to them thoroughly over the course of 2016. As always, feel free to recommend your favourite albums from this year that I may have overlooked or missed out on. Cheers.

MY TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2016…

20. AURORA // All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

At 20 years of age, Norwegian Aurora Aksnes packs a mean electro-pop punch. Her crisp, clean vocal presence drives each pacy tune and charming lullaby.

19. The Avett Brothers // True Sadness

These colourful folk rockers will have you stomping your feet and singing along in the car down the winding highway.

18. Hannah Georgas // For Evelyn

Hannah Georgas’s soundscape takes us over a mountain’s waterfall with a contemplative current. Don’t ask me what that means.

17. J. Cole // 4 Your Eyez Only

J. Cole’s got a lot of feel and flow. This album is smooth, bold, explicit, and real.

16. Hiss Golden Messenger // Heart Like a Levee

Southern gritty folk rock with a sweet tea refreshing after taste. You can’t ignore their blues feel.

15. James Vincent McMorrow // We Move

James Vincent McMorrow is one hell of a falsetto king. He builds an electronic wall of sound in an epic manner as well.

14. Andrew Bird // Are You Serious (Deluxe Edition)

The maestro fiddler with a knack for dynamic hooks and gleeful instrumentation.

13. Andy Shauf // The Party

Andy Shauf’s a man who keeps to himself and channels all his emotion into his music. The Party takes us through a night’s affair for Shauf… he’s forlorn, wistful, and anecdotal. It all ties in nicely for an emotional album.

12. Bon Iver // 22, A Million

With the most creative track titles I’ve ever seen, Justin Vernon’s artistic abilities never cease to amaze me. 22, A Million‘s abstract sound is off the charts but it beautifully works as a whole. Vernon intricately meshes autotune melody with glorious brass and synths to create a magnificent sound.

11. Radiohead // A Moon Shaped Pool

A steady, eerie album, but not eerie enough to turn away. When I listen, I’m in a trance and I don’t want to break out of it until the album is over. It has a fantastic frightening sound.

10. Francis and the Lights // Farewell, Starlite!

“The whole damn world is a cage.” Aye, I feel you, Francis. Just listen to this synth hook on “See Her Out (Thats Just Life).” “Friends (feat. Bon Iver)” is one of the best music videos of the year.

9. Dawes // We’re All Gonna Die

Dawes’s songwriting and melodies leave me scratching my head in wonder after every listen of every album. May they continue to creatively produce solid, thought-provoking albums.

8. Phantogram // Three

When listening to Three, you start to nod your head at first, but then realize three minutes later you’re aggressively kicking to the beat and moving uncontrollably. Although, Phantogram does throw in a few slow jams in this one.

7. Aidan Knight // Each Other

Soft vocals and a soothing beat. Aidan Knight’s swells make you swoon. A soft and short album with a shimmering tone.

6. BadBadNotGood // IV

Jazz and Hip-Hop? Yeah, I dig it. I’m jealous of the musicianship and raw talent these guys have.

5. Donovan Woods // Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled

Donovan Woods is a spectacular songwriter. If you see him live, he’ll tell you about the time his song was number two to that Gotye fellow’s. You know the one. Get this song stuck in your head instead:

4. Porches // Pool

A yearning voice and a warm electronic sound. Greta Kline of the group Frankie Cosmos features with backing harmonies on the best tracks to complete the magic. Each track is distinct yet perfectly connected… I obviously can’t get over it.

3. Benjamin Francis Leftwich // After the Rain

A feel-good album for chilling by the bonfire late at night. Leftwich’s wispy vocals could sing anything and I’d consider it tender and sincere. Maybe I’m only hypnotized by his dreamy music and utopian album art.

2. Jack Garratt // Phase

A pulsating, introspective album of hope and overcoming self-doubt to become confident in yourself. It’ll move you (and not just in the dancing sort of way). He also writes, produces, and performs all of his music by himself… Impressive.

AND MY #1 ALBUM OF 2016 IS…

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1. KAYTRANADA // 99.9%

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Photo source: genius.com

Louis Kevin Celestin, the Haitian-Canadian producer/DJ known as Kaytranada, has an oozing funky groove and an electric, smooth flow. He deservedly won this year’s Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album with 99.9%.

The bassline groove of “WEIGHT OFF” featuring BadBadNotGood is straight fire. The bass piled on with the track’s driving beat is so satisfying. “BUS RIDE,” “BREAKDANCE LESSON N.1,” “BULLETS,” and “TRACK UNO” have also given me a permanent rhythmic twitch throughout my body. The resulting effects of listening to Kaytranada’s beats are almost crippling. GIVE IT A LISTEN.

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I found it extremely difficult to rank my list this year. Spotify’s made it harder for me to attribute the deserved amount of time to specific albums because my listening is spread over so much more content—a blessing and a curse. Here’s another list of honourable mentions from 2016. Consider these on the fringe of being my favourites.

MORE WORTHY ALBUMS OF 2016:

Andy Hull & Robert McDowell // Swiss Army Man

ZHU // GENERATIONWHY

The Head and the Heart // Signs of Light

Blood Orange // Freetown Sound

Bear’s Den // Red Earth & Pouring Rain

A Tribe Called Quest // We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

M83 // Junk

James Blake // The Colour In Anything

Sam Roberts Band // TerraForm

Jordan Klassen // Javelin

High Highs // Cascades

The Lumineers // Cleopatra

Lucius // Good Grief

HONNE // Warm On A Cold Night

Childish Gambino // Awaken, My Love!

Gallant // Ology

Wild Nothing // Life of Pause

John K. Samson // Winter Wheat

Frank Ocean // Blonde

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I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve. See you in 2017.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
CHEERS,
MG

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My top albums from previous years: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, & 2015

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My Top Albums of 2015

We’ve made it to last year’s top-albums-of-the-year list (I’ve now carried over my 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 posts). Patience, patience… I will deliver 2016’s list before the new year. But before that happens, for my last throwback, here is 2015’s. Enjoy.

2015 Manny: One of my favourite things is BACK! At the end of each year, I love to recap the music in which I’ve spent countless of hours getting lost in. Whether it be travelling, surfing the web, mowing the lawn, or on the road in the vehicle.

Volunteering at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and heading down to Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival were hands down my musical highlights of the year. Those two weeks yielded unforgettable memories with friends and opened up new discoveries toward influential artists.

I usually include honourable mentions in these posts… however, I believe this is my 6th year doing this, so I might as well go all out and do a TOP 20! You’d think a top 15 would suffice, being 2015 and all, but it’s been an outstanding year of music (as always in our day and age).

With 2015 being a breakthrough year of mass streaming, I can only wish to listen to the endless amount of music that is available to us. That being said, I’m addicted to Spotify and the many musical trails it holds. Thankfully, with its help, I managed to provide a favourite track per artist/group! So let’s get to it!

HERE WE GO:

20. Aero Flynn // Aero Flynn

Read the short essay on the aeroflynn.org homepage, which jump starts with: “It is 2002 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin upstairs in a rented student house and Justin Vernon is in my arms weeping, saying, ‘I just want my band back.'”

19. Jamie xx // In Colour

The musical and rhythmic engine of The xx, Jamie churns out hauntingly atmospheric and chilling electronics in his solo debut release.

18. CHVRCHES // Every Open Eye

This Glasgow trio will impress you by gently smacking you in the face with a mike, beat pad, and synth. Their sophomore album will leave you robotically emotional in the best way possible.

17. Josh Garrels // Home

An orchestral, soulful, singer/songwriting sensation. Home finds a warm place in our hearts. Just listen to the harp in this track and try telling me that it doesn’t.

16. Joel Plaskett // The Park Avenue Sobriety Test

Want to really know what the Canadiana genre means? In The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, Joel Plaskett personally takes you down to his hometown bar and feeds you maritime musical shots until you fall off your barstool.

15. Lord Huron // Strange Trails

Plug in your ear buds for an adventurous day of exploring. A vast forest of trees whips by in a blur as you bike through newly discovered trails… Hopefully they don’t become too strange for you.

14. Gungor // One Wild Life: Soul

Ones to opt for a ‘season pass’ of musical gifts and wonder for their fans and followers, Michael and Lisa Gungor—a husband-and-wife duo—take us on a spiritual journey with the One Wild Life series. Soul is the first voyage of three, with Spirit and Body slated for the new year. Can’t wait.

13. Patrick Watson // Love Songs For Robots

Grooving basslines, soaring riffs, and floating falsettos… Should I say more? Please, just listen to “Bollywood.”

12. Half Moon Run // Sun Leads Me On

Imitating Half Moon Run’s vocal dips, trails, and lifts proves very difficult, yet is extremely rewarding when sung on point. They know a thing or two about a powerful build, might I add.

11. Tame Impala // Currents

Psychedelic, infused pop/rock that makes you strut down the street in bell-bottoms and a shirtless vest. Flick up those shades when you say hi to that pretty person  walking by.

10. Oh Wonder // Oh Wonder

Anthony & Josephine make up the subdued, electro-soul duo Oh Wonder. Together, their mission was to write, record, and release a single each month for a year. I’d say they’ve succeeded and surpassed their wildest expectations. By singing powerfully in unison throughout the entire collection, they’ve mesmerized their listeners over the course of 2015 as if by hypnosis; becoming globally viral before their finished product (an aggregate album of singles) even dropped. One more thing to boot: Oh Wonder managed to sell out upcoming tour dates in New York City, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles before ever performing live.

9. JR JR // JR JR

The duo formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. recently eclipsed the Dale Earnhardt prefix (to avoid any angry mix-ups between them and the famous NASCAR driver’s fans). Consequently, they’ve blossomed into their own distinctive (more attractive) moniker. Fizzy, galvanizing, electro-soul goodness is only the beginning. Turn up that dial to electrify your Sunday drive with “Break My Fall.” Or if you’d rather relax in the backseat with your headphones on while your driver and front-passenger chat loudly, mellow-out to “James Dean” or “Listening to Outkast, June 23, 2014.”

8. Ben Folds // So There

Ben Folds’ satirical and humorous lyrics meet grandiose, orchestral magnificence… a match made in… well, Ben Folds’ brilliant mind. So There manages to encapsulate bitter love songs within symphonic instrumentation (courtesy of New York City’s classical sextet yMusic) resulting in a creative whirlwind of indie pop/rock and chamber music. Not to mention it concludes with a three-movement piano concerto featuring the Nashville Symphony. Sheer musical GENIUS!

7. Dawes // All Your Favorite Bands

My inner Dawes fanboy was freaking out this Summer when I witnessed the Dawes boys shuffle to their bus backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Fest. Roots rock combined with reflective heart-wrenching lyrics… Raise a glass and empty your lungs! Ahhhh… flip the record and repeat. If you love guitar solos, there are plenty to tickle your fancy in All Your Favorite Bands.

6. Jon Foreman // The Wonderlands: Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, & Dawn

Jon Foreman, perhaps more known for being Switchfoot’s frontman, wields his acoustic guitar and unique, impactful vocals ever so impressively with life’s meaning and love as his message. The Wonderlands consists of four EPs which were released over the course of 2015; 24 tracks (one for each hour of the day), all individually co-produced by various artists and friends of Jon. This collection definitely deserves a continual listen, he’s got the musical Midas touch!

5. EL VY // Return to the Moon

Matt Berninger of The National has lent his inquisitive baritone vocals to the talented, does-it-all Brent Knopf (of Menomena and Ramona Falls) on this project, which was a decade in the making. Matt’s wit meshes superbly well with Brent’s imaginative arrangements. From angst (“I’m the Man to Be”) to retrospective (“No Time to Crank the Sun”) in a gradual heartbeat, Return to the Moon provides a complete emotional spectrum for you to gauge your present feelings.

4. Fyfe // Control

Under the moniker Fyfe, Paul Dixon has stuck it to the man after being dropped by his previous record label. The UK native, as his album art suggests, paints a complex and intricate canvass of himself in this album. Electronic, choral, and orchestral elements with hip-hop beats make Control an instant favourite. Releasing an acoustic EP of a select few was also a pleasant touch: LISTEN HERE.

3. Sufjan Stevens // Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan has tugged at my heartstrings once again. Returning to his folk roots, this extremely honest, open, and personal record was inspired by the death of his mother. Every time it’s played it has me figuratively bawling in a glass case of emotion. Charming strumming and grainy swells underlie Sufjan’s eccentric lyrics, calming melodies, and oohs and ahhs. Anyone up for some star-gazing?

2. The Staves // If I Was

“The best singers in the world,” exclaims Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who produced and features in The Staves’ captivating If I Was LP. Let Watford’s proud trio of silky smooth, serenading sisters take over your evenings by the fireplace on these frigid winter nights. Enjoy their intensifying builds with a hot cocoa in hand and a cosy blanket nestled up to your chin.

AND MY #1 ALBUM OF 2015 IS…

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1. Bear’s Den // Islands (Deluxe)

Ladies and gentlemen, YET ANOTHER GEM out of the United Kingdom. London’s indie folk trio Bear’s Den will swarm your community and invade the hearts of many by way of humble gladness. The result of Islands is exhilarating: brass and banjo please the ears beyond compare. Just listen to “Elysium,” “Think of England,” and “Above the Clouds of Pompeii.” Such complementary instruments to a vocal cornerstone. Keep your ears and eyes wide open for these loveable, bearded men at a venue near you.

If you want a complete playlist of ALL these albums, jump over to SPOTIFY and check out My Top Albums of 2015 playlist! Give me a follow as well if you feel so inclined: MANNGOOSSE.

I also curated a smaller Favourites of 2015 playlist for the handful of songs I really adored from these spectacular albums. It consists of two songs from each of these 20 albums for a condensed listen (with the exception of The Wonderlands: one from each EP)!

Thanks for reading! As always let me know what you think and suggest away on the albums I missed and must listen to.
I’m looking forward to an incredible year of music in 2016!

MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE A SAFE AND FUN NEW YEAR’S EVE!

 CHEERS.

-MG

My Top Albums of 2014

My 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 top album lists are available for your musical exploration. This leaves two more lists to share until I reveal my 2016 one. Now, let’s shift our focus to 2014. Enjoy.

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2014 Manny: This year was a fantastic year for music. I had many travels and a lot of time in those travels to enjoy a handful of solid albums. I had a blast at Lollapalooza in Chicago (seeing many of the groups/artists below) and also loved listening to the albums below on my long train rides in Europe this past fall—where music was essential for reflection, relaxation and time consumption.

These are my top rated albums that carried me through 2014…

OH BABY, it’s a TOP 15 this year! HERE WE GO:

15. Future of Forestry // The Piano & Strings Sessions

Just like the title says, a refreshing and soothing take on some of our favourites.

14. Switchfoot // Fading West

They’ve been together for a long time and they keep making great music… and they’re amazing people, you can’t go wrong.

13. Phantogram // Voices

You feel like an invincible, electro-energized badass listening to this album.

12. alt-J // This Is All Yours

You don’t know what they’re singing half the time, but their instrumentation and intonation trump the lyrics anyway.

11. Ben Howard // I Forget Where We Were

I’ll never forget where I was when I listened to this album over and over:
Tuscany, Italy, working in a family’s vineyard looking over rolling hills… sorry I brought that up.

10. Ásgeir // In the Silence

Icelanders are music writing GURUS. Enough said.
An original and acoustic version of one of the best songs on the album.


9. Kye Kye // Fantasize

A family band consisting of 3 Estonian-born siblings based in Portland,
and the frontwoman’s name is Olga!
Indietronica at its finest. What else do you want?

8. Hey Rosetta! // Second Sight

A thoroughly engaging, endearing, and musically jam-packed album. One where you headbang very noticeably while singing along loudly in the car… solo.

7. Sam Roberts Band // Lo-Fantasy (Deluxe Version)

Again, Sam Roberts Band is as tight as a band can be. Riffs and groove galore.


6. Jars of Clay // 20

A silky smooth 20th anniversary re-recording of fan-voted favourites from their two decades as a phenomenal band. Includes two great new songs as well.

5. Sleeping at Last // Atlas: Year One

One of those albums you listen to while admiringly looking down onto the world from your window seat, high in the sky.

4. Vance Joy // Dream Your Life Away

Vance will melt your heart. I witnessed this, standing beside several love-struck/fainting women during his Lollapalooza set this summer.

3. Bahamas // Bahamas Is Afie

This guy can shred a guitar, yet he does so in the most effortless, nonchalant manner. This album will make your head swim with pleasing goodness.

2. James Vincent McMorrow // Post Tropical

Talk about mind-blowing falsettos, which even blow the minds of the preceding songs’ falsettos.
This album is epic beyond measure.

AND MY FAVOURITE ALBUM OF 2014 IS…

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1. Manchester Orchestra // COPE & HOPE

The album that became two. COPE is a genuine rock album. Manchester Orchestra felt that they needed to buck the electronic trend so many of their peers were following. A hard-hitting, electric guitar smashing album of piercing vocal melodies and blasting distortion was brought to life as a result. Then came HOPEHOPE was the kicker for me as it was surprisingly released five months later. It uncovered the complementing, heartfelt side of the same lyrics and skeletal compositions of COPE. Overall, Manchester Orchestra intricately exposed the beautiful acoustic faces of their core songs from COPE.

Enjoy “Girl Harbor” and “Top Notch,” two songs that clearly illustrate the difference between Manchester Orchestra’s yin-yang albums:

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Local Winnipeg Albums
Saint Kris // 329

It is an honour to have contributed to Saint’s album with “Flow”. It is also NOW UP ON SoundCloud as a FREE DOWNLOAD. Enjoy!


&
The Bros. Landreth // Let It Lie

Honourable Mentions of 2014

Coldplay // Ghost Stories
Stars // No One Is Lost
Broken Bells // After the Disco
Wild Cat! Wild Cat! // No Moon At All
John Butler Trio // Flesh & Blood


The Ones That Got Away (2013)

Half Moon Run // Dark Eyes
London Grammar // If You Wait (Deluxe Version)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. // The Speed of Things

THANKS FOR LISTENING WITH ME.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
WISHING YOU WELL IN 2015.
CHEERS!