CS Best of 2016 — Albums
As 2016 comes to a close, we're taking the time to reflect on our many favorite moments, artists and bodies of work from a fantastic year in music. Each member of CS team has sifted through memories and emotions to bring you our mostly coherent, occasionally eloquent and often crazed ramblings about our top selections of the year.
First up, 'Best Albums'. This year saw an abundance of artists releasing music in the form of LPs, successfully pushing the boundaries of existing genres, conveying stunning artistic growth and producing poignant expressions on current events. Below are fifteen albums that had the biggest impact on us personally.
Cam's Selections •
LEISURE – LEISURE
I’ve kept a keen eye on New Zealand five-piece LEISURE since their slinky groover of a debut single, Got It Bad, dropped in early 2015. I think anyone who heard that track immediately knew these guys were going to build something great, and that they did. Their self–titled LP is impossible not to love, with superb songwriting and catchy instrumentals sitting at the forefront of twelve eternally appealing tracks – further proving LEISURE just never miss the mark. I can’t wait to see how far this project goes.
Gigamesh – Time Travel
Gigamesh is one of those artists that has been there since the very start of Caveman Sound, so I feel like we’ve sort of ‘grown-up’ together over the years. His new two–part album Time Travel really encompasses his progression as an artist for me. It feels incredibly current while also giving a nod towards the past, covering everything from french–touch, house, disco and then some. There’s so many bright spots throughout it's tough to even where to start, so I’ll just say if you haven’t rinsed this record yet, do it now. And then do it again and again and again.
Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Like many, many others I hopped fully onboard the Anderson .Paak train this year, and with one listen to pretty much any track on his third album Malibu, it’s pretty easy to see why we all ended up here. I probably listened to this record more than any other one in recent months. And probably shared it with the most people as well, from my girlfriend, to my dad, to any fellow cafe–dweller I could beg a few minutes off. .Paak’s skill as a percussionist, unique vocal talent and boom bap approach provide a distinct framework for neo–soul, gospel and disco explorations, not to mention a slew of notable collabs. Any direction this album takes is a worthy one, and it has certainly put Anderson .Paak on another level.
Tourist – U
After a string of excellent EPs over the years, Will Phillips, known for his solo work under the moniker Tourist, unveiled his debut album U. He’s often been quoted on the importance of narrative and storytelling in his music, and there’s little question that’s the overarching concept on this expressive, fairly instrumental record. Tourist’s music does something to me on an emotional level like nothing else and that’s wholeheartedly the case here, with tracks like To Have You Back, Run, and Too Late compelling countless introspective moments. Exquisitely layered synth melodies and chopped up vocals samples make U, from start to finish, an illuminating experience for listeners – and that’s something which is most certainly better felt than told.
Club Cheval – Discipline
Discipline was one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me, and it sure didn’t disappoint. On their own, Sam Tiba, Canblaster, Panteros666 and MYD all have wildly unique, innovative styles and this record is the culmination of all that coming together for something really special. The result is an impeccably produced 15–track set that takes listeners through a myriad of emotions, from club–ready bangers to polished, pop–trimmed groovers and beyond. This album truly has something for everyone, I can’t get enough.
Honorable mentions: Kaytranada – 99.9%, Justin Jay & Friends – Fantastic Voyage, Honne – Warm on a Cold Night
Gary Paradise's Selections •
Satin Jackets – Panorama Pacifico
Since you’re all my friends, I can be a little more straight up — and kvetch that the biggest assumption people make is that I’m a Tropical House DJ because my name is Gary Paradise. Well they’re 100% fucking wrong, and I’m not; the rise (and potential fall?) of the bandwagon sub-genre boils my blood, and more importantly overshadows the sounds of nu-disco worldwide. One unfortunate casualty, Belgium’s Satin Jackets, has been laying down vivacious grooves for years that seem to teleport you to carefree, faraway lands. Panorama Pacifico is perhaps the most accessible and feel-good record I’ve heard this year, something people who claim they “love music!” can shake a hip to. Great for cooking, as a poolside companion, or cruising down the street in an appropriate vehicle.
Moderat – III
Berlin’s supergroup Moderat (Modeselektor + Apparat — if you haven’t heard of either, start there first) have been hard pressed to put out a track, album, sound, breath, ANYTHING that isn’t utterly dynamic and game-changing. I fell in love with Rusty Nails from their self-titled LP Moderat while walking around Copenhagen, contemplating life and watching the sunset and looking for meaning — because their sound evokes a truly complex emotional spectrum — and that’s exactly what III does in only nine tracks. Some of the grittiest sound combinations can be absolutely breathtaking and rhythmic at the same time, hyperspeed, half-speed, or pitched down, which is what separates Moderat from the flock. I’ve always been surprised by the single they’ve chosen from each album, because I’ve had much stronger connections with totally left-field tracks.
Sofi Tukker – Soft Animals
Talk about a powerhouse of a record! Apparently the Grammy Committee agrees, nominating the Brooklyn duo’s standout track Drinkee for the Best Dance Recording award this year. True story, I gave this one a spin in the Colombian jungle while scaling down an unbelievably precarious dirt road in a Jeep 4X4 full of British expats. The driver loved it. While not the lengthiest (read: this is actually an EP I couldn't not include), I guarantee there is not a heartbeat of filler amongst endless layers of eclectic vibes that urge you to erupt in primal dance expression. When the drums hit at the 1:56 mark during my first listen on Awoo I thought I was going into epileptic shock. Note my review of their TIMF performance too, as their live show slays.
Anjunadeep 08 – Mixed by James Grant & Jody Wisternoff
There’s no question that Anjunadeep and it’s Anjuna sub-label affiliates are total juggernauts of the international dance scene, starting in 2005 from Above & Beyond’s trance vision and gradually becoming more and more club-leaning. Despite its acclaim, the London label doesn’t seem to be concerned with big names as much as a consistent, spellbinding soundscape — for which it has amassed an enormous fan base. And rightfully so. Anjunadeep 08 showcases the latest output from a vast artist roster over a double-record, 2.5 hour transcendental journey, effortlessly spanning an amalgamation of soulful, atmospheric, hectic, reassuring, and completely gorgeous tracks woven with superior mixing finesse from A&R heads James Grant and Jody Wisternoff. I recently asked a friend where the record transports him (yes I’m a tool) and he said “the bow of a ship moving through the desert at sunset, half naked with zero responsibilities”. Confirmed that he goes to burning man every year.
Tycho – Epoch
Of course it has to be Tycho. There is hardly another artist on earth that can command the senses like Scott Hansen, and we are all just subjects to his sonic rule. When describing Tycho, people never say “this sounds like…” — fuck no. Other things sound like Tycho, and that’s if they’re skilled and worthy. Maybe this album is special because it was a total surprise release, maybe it’s because he’s from San Francisco and recorded the whole thing in the Berkeley Hills, maybe because it’s nominated for the Best Dance/Electronic Album Grammy, or maybe it’s just beyond insane and perfect and we should all give up.
But that’s the beauty of the whole affair; its nature is to inspire, and to not have us give up. The tones are hopeful, at times delicate, at times fearless. The drums are perfectly dialed. The arrangement is flawless. The mixing world-class. Music is all about the memories it can create, and there’s so much about Epoch that is bursting full of life and energy. Call me cliche, but it’s not worth even noting individual tracks because they’re all winners. Scott, if you’re reading this, thank you — it’s gotten me through thick and thin these past couple months, and I can’t wait for that to roll into 2017.
Leonard's Selections •
RÜFÜS DU SOL – Bloom
Indie dance album of the year? Almost certainly. If only they put Caveman Sound in charge of Grammy nominations things would be a whole lot more fun! If you haven’t heard of RUFUS by now I’m not sure we can help you...but we’ll try. It was clear by the end of last year that Rufus was up to something big. As the band started touring again, a few big name songs like “You Were Right” and “Like An Animal” had already dropped and things were getting real. But it wasn’t until the full album was released in January that the Australian trio officially threw down the gauntlet. I can even remember the first time I heard “Innerbloom”. I was driving back across the Bay Bridge on a sunny Saturday and when I reached my apartment I stopped the car for a solid 5 minutes in front of the garage door to let the song finish. We’ve all had those unexpectedly intimate moments with a song and this was certainly one of them for me. I rushed upstairs to queue up the rest of the album and was blown away. This was the soundtrack of my 2016 and is probably a huge reason why I remain more optimistic than most after all that we lived through this year. Bloom is the perfect title for this work as both the band and it’s music emerged and blossomed onto the scene, bringing a brightness and color that had not been there before.
Roosevelt – Roosevelt
Roosevelt came onto the scene a couple of years ago with original tracks like “Elliot” and “Montreal” which made a lot noise (deservedly) in the SoundCloud and HypeMachine circles for a newcomer. The German producer then spent some time honing his craft with smooth remixes of big names like Glass Animals and Jax Jones before finally releasing his first album in the summer of this past year. This album is a phenomenal example of the power and importance of the bedroom producer in 2016. Not that I’m certain this album was created while surrounded by dirty laundry, but I have a hunch. The full indie-rock band sound that Lauber creates might be on the poppy side of electronic but it will get you moving and singing along like no other. If I had to find music to play for the depressed, Roosevelt would be in the queue. Hit songs from the album like “Colours” and “Fever” sound so instantly familiar that you may even pretend to know the words on the first listen. Tracks like “Night Moves” and “Moving On” are just a touch deeper and darker while still keeping the synth and vocal essence of the sound. Roosevelt reminds me of the earliest days of Goldroom, St Lucia or Cut Copy; the sound and skill are so clearly there and I can’t wait to see where this artist progresses both live in concert and in the studio.
Bob Moses – Days Gone By (Never Enough Edition)
As if the original Days Gone By album from 2015 wasn’t enough (which it seriously was), the duo of Bob Moses went a step further this past summer and released a “Never Enough” version of the same album that included additional remixes and live versions of the tracks that put them firmly on the map. As a huge fan of the driving, minimalist vibe that the group is known for, I was ecstatic to get additional content and new takes from the band themselves. This album includes two new bonus tracks, an extra acoustic version, four remixes from other artists and three live recordings (all from the SF show at Mezzanine!). I truly love when an artist embraces the remixing of their own work and appreciates alternative versions or sampling in all it’s forms. It’s worth lauding these types efforts and albums whenever possible and to dismiss those trying to swim futilely upstream against this type of collaboration. Music, like technology, is constantly building on top of the ideas and successes of that which came before and the more we embrace it the better. Hats off to Bob Moses for not only producing an incredible original album in the first place but for welcoming the work of fellow remix artists publicly and passionately. Can’t wait for what’s next.
ZHU – Generation Why
I love hearing stories of ZHU locked in his frat house bedroom at USC getting so into deep house beats that it totally freaked out his frat brothers. His obsession paid off and it quickly became clear he was onto something big when he debuted “Faded” in 2014. Pete Tong tapped the now famous song as an essential new tune and it got a Grammy nomination. How’s that for a start?? Where do you go from there? Answer: GenerationWhy. “Faded” wasn’t a fluke people, this deep house whiz kid is as real as they get. This first full album from Zhu is the perfect continuation of his initial success in producing ethereal, other-worldly deep house. The signature synth, horn and electric guitar combo is so unique that calling it ‘deep house’ doesn’t do it justice, and I love deep house! “In The Morning” and “GenerationWhy” are the album’s standout tracks but it is a cohesive work through and through. I had the pleasure of seeing Zhu at TIMF this year and have heard from numerous parties that his Coachella set in the Sahara tent was the best hour of the entire three day festival. Watch out.
STRFKR – Being No One, Going Nowhere
I’ll admit, I ignored STRFKR for too long at first because I simply couldn’t get into a band named STRFKR. It’s a testament to the quality of the music that that’s no longer even remotely a problem because holy star sex this album is incredible! The Portland based indie rock band emerged a couple of years ago and made some waves by landing some high profile ads and television shows. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new and interesting sound in this years album titled Being No One, Going Nowhere. The evolution of the band’s indie-electronica and synthpop sound is immediately apparent. You can hear the band find it’s identity in this album and it’s awesome. The hit songs “Satellite” and “Tape Machine” once again show the band’s poppy nature with catchy choruses and fun piano synths but it’s the darker tracks like “Maps” and “Open Your Eyes” that truly make this album for me. The grittier and more resounding minor synth tones showed me a new side of STRFKR in 2016 that wasn’t there before. Let’s hope they keep exploring and evolving into their next adventure.