Hamilton Leithauser has always been able to write a hooky indie rock song through the Walkmen / his solo albums, but they've always been missing something that I think must be what Rostam provides fresh out of his stint in Vampire Weekend. The arrangements are lush, risks are taken in instrumentation and execution, giving this just what it needed to transcend the work of his past. Impressive that two indie rock veterans could come out with something this fresh.
Best of 2016: 20-11
-20: Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
-19: Phil Cook - Old Hwy D
Ok, so this is technically an EP. Listen to it twice over for the full-album experience. Phil Cook is probably my favorite musician going, and it was such a nice suprise to get this little collection of acoustic instrumental ditties this fall, right when I needed them most. Kept this playing on repeat in the hospital room right after Eliza's birth. I'm in love.
-18: A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...
I started this year listening to People's Instinctive Travels a lot, and it's amazing how a group can progress and "keep it together" over so much time and grow while still staying true to themselves. RIP Phife, but what a sendoff.
-17: Andrew Bird - Are You Serious
No new territory here, but when the process is this refined who cares! Another looping, lilting, whistling, glorious set of songs that build on his impressive catalog of the same.
-16: Nap Eyes - Thought Rock Fish Scale
What's most impressive about these songs to me is how simple they are, and it makes me think about how much harder it must be to write a good simple song. This is an amazing feat of an album in any regard, channeling Velvet Underground but finding it's own voice.
-15: Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth
Sturgill finaly got his due on this one. Mind and genre expanding soul-country (with the help of a Dap-King or two...) that brought everyone to his fold and kept them there. Lets destroy mainstream country and replace it with this guy.
-14: Pinegrove - Cardinal
This is an amazing combination of cathartic, plaintive indie rock with the slightest twang and some killer hooks. Simultaneously reflective and explosive, really an incredible feat. I said this about pop-punk in a previous review- but how great is it to be far enough away from the "emo" boom that a band can be emotive without being pigeonholed or bandwagony. I can't wait to see where these guys go next, this is really a promising new voice.
-13: The Gloaming - 2
Their first album felt like a lucky one-off that I happened to stumble into. Kind of a Celtic folk supergroup, the Gloaming is an unlikely success that manages to strike gold a second time here, finding more focus, more moments of joy and heartbreak, all filtered through beautiful fiddle and singing in Gaelic. It may not sound like your deal, but it's really truly a fantastic thing.
-12: Dead Tongues - Montana
This was my favorite bluegrass album of the year. Now this dude has been swept into Hiss Golden Messenger's touring band, which feels like about the highest compliment an americana musician can get. Primarily focused around the banjo, this is a stunning collection of pickers and stompers and meditative interludes that feels new and exciting to me. I wish it had been released on vinyl, I probably would have listened to it much more and it might have ended up higher on this list.
-11: The Avalanches - Wildflower
Some people waited 16 years for this album, which is a lot of buildup. I'm one of the lucky few who went back and discovered their prior work AFTER this came out, which saved me a lot of longing. This is a wonderful, dancable sound collage of samples, live instrumentation, occasional guest vocals, and general fun time music making.