Favorite Albums of 2016: #3

3. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
While it can be argued quite easily the Grammys aren’t relevant, it it nice to see an relatively unknown artist included in the popularity contest. Sturgill’s surprise Album of the Year nomination caps a year of him flat out telling Nashville they have been releasing drivel for the past two decades and garnering accolades from those very people he criticized. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is his advice-riddled love letter to his new born son and it’s a whopper of humor, genre-blending, and meditation on being a new father. He has a beautiful, traditional country voice: deep and pleasant as it rides waves of interesting musical arrangements. “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” starts out a traditional country song, brings in some pretty strings and, then — half way through the song — breaks out the amazing Dap-Kings R&B horn section. He even uses washes of electric keyboards throughout. It works beautifully. The best songs are full of humor (“Keep It Between the Lines”) or go against the traditional country music topics (“Call to Arms”), but the writing is strong here. He even throws a Nirvana cover (“In Bloom”) smack dab in the middle. It’s a low-key affair which has its meaning changed by the album’s subject matter. The line “He’s the one who likes/ All our pretty songs/And he likes to sing along…” could easily be a hopeful sentiment that his first born will enjoy his daddy’s work. “A Sailor’s Guide…” won’t win the album Grammy, but the attention is enough and hopefully will bring many more listeners to this amazing work.

Favorite songs: “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog),” “Keep It Between the Lines,” “Sea Stories,” “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”

Listen on Spotify or Apple Music.

Favorite Albums of 2016: #4

4. DUST – Agony Planet
Welcome to Agony Planet. A harsh, dangerous place where only the bravest thrill-seeking ravers go to party. Outside is a world filled with hostile aliens and wastelands of acid pools. Inside is a huge compound filled with dance music so menacing, you wonder if it’s meant to party or to warn — which is the reason Agony Planet is on this list. DUST does an amazing job of taking house and techno – genres filled with repetitive beats and hooks — and creating a sci-fi horror techno rave soundtrack around them. Only a few songs have vocals (by a woman named Greem Jellyfish), but those are the songs where the horror and madness are most visceral making Agony Planet quite unlike any dance record on Earth. Meanwhile, inside the club, something sinister is about to be born unbeknownst to those lost in the music…

Favorite songs: “Breeding Pit,” “Xenocide,” “Tell Me,” “She Woke Up in Water”

Listen on Spotify or Apple Music.

Favorite Albums of 2016: #5

5. Pet Shop Boys – Super
There’s much more country in this year’s list than in the past. Why do I bring this up during a Pet Shop Boys review? Start up Super and you’ll hear “Happiness” — which sounds like a continuation of their incredible Electric from 2013. Then the chorus hits. Suddenly, you’re on the soundstage of 1950’s western sitting around a campfire while the Boys plan all dressed up in cowboy drag. While this is really the only surprise Super offers up, it’s still a solid pop album with only a couple of clunkers. The Boys are planning a Stuart Price-produced trilogy with Electric feeling like a night out at the club, Super being the pop-song collection, and a ballad album coming soon. It’s amazing 35 years into their career they are still producing quality music.

Favorite songs: “Happiness,” “Groovy,” “Say It to Me,” “Burn”

Listen on Spotify or Apple Music.

OSR: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

One-Sentence Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

While not the best Star Wars, it certainly is the darkest yet it still entertains in its nodding knowingly at the original series and some beautiful special effects scenery.

Rating: Matinee Ticket (7/10)

Rating System: Splurge on IMAX (10), Full-Price Ticket (9-8), Matinee Ticket (7-6), Wait for Digital (5-4), Late-Night Cable Fodder (3-2), I’ve Made Better Films With My Ass Camera (1)

Favorite Albums of 2016: #6

6. Chairlift – Moth
I’ll admit this is my first exposure to Chairlift who have been around since 2005 and were formed 30 miles away, but one listen to the amazing chorus of “Romeo” and I was hooked. From there I discovered an album full of pop being twisted to this duo’s vision. “Polymorphing” is an experiment in R&B, jazz, and electronics yet somehow sounds a pop song as a whole, while “Ch-Ching” sounds like a fleshed-out demo for Beyonce which wouldn’t be surprising since Caroline has a song writing and production credit on Beyoncé. The other uptempo songs (“Show U Off” is a near-perfect love song) and one of the ballads demonstrate this team’s ability to create energetic, interesting music that entices multiple listens.

Favorite songs: “Romeo,” “Moth to the Flame,” “Show U Off”

Listen on Spotify or Apple Music.