Best Albums of 2016

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With the gradual proliferation of streaming services and curated playlists, for a while it didn’t look likely that the “album” format would survive. Yet here we are, at a time where the biggest pop stars are releasing cohesive, fully developed ALBUMS, in capital letters. I will always have a soft spot for the album as a concept, whether contained on discs of vinyl or within links to Spotify pages. Smash hits lie alongside deep cuts to form one 30-70 minute statement reflecting the artist’s pain and joy, their view of the world, their quest to express the words in their head and the riffs in their gut. Here are my 25 favorite albums of 2016.

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Five Quality Tracks: April 2016

Including initial thoughts on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Drake’s VIEWS

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1. Weezer: “California Kids”

We’ve gotten to a point where we judge Weezer too harshly. They were one of the most celebrated bands of the ’90s with their first two albums, the Blue Album and Pinkerton, but they slowly fell out of critics’ (and even some fans’) good graces as Rivers Cuomo opted instead for cheap hooks and obvious lyrics. While a lot of their decisions were unfortunate, they still cranked out fun, catchy songs. Their two most recent albums, 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and this year’s White Album, both even echo the magic of their old stuff. The White Album may not be quite as inventive as the material from their earlier days, but the songs are plenty satisfying. “California Kids” has a melody that’s ready for summer, harmonies straight from the Beach Boys’ playbook, and most importantly, huge, fist-pumping, “Say It Ain’t So”-style guitar riffs. If you still haven’t forgiven Weezer for past transgressions, it’s time to open that cold heart of yours.

 
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Five Quality Tracks: January 2015

This was a feature that I used to do for the Daily Californian’s Arts & Entertainment blog. I decided to give it life again here. At the end of each month, I’ll post a feature highlighting five quality tracks released during that month.

Time to shake off the doldrums of 2014 and celebrate how good 2015 will be. January was a really solid month, so let’s get right to it.

1. Natalie Prass: “Bird of Prey”

Natalie Prass is a singer-songwriter from Nashville who spent the majority of last year singing backup for Jenny Lewis (formerly of Rilo Kiley). Natalie Prass gives her songs a Dusty Springfield-style wash of luxurious, comforting production, full of strings, muted brass, and a lot of soul. This song has perpetually been stuck in my head for the last week.

 
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