My Top 10 Albums Listened To From 2016

This is something new I wanted to try starting this year. I wanted to do three top ten lists that outline my favorite items (songs, albums, artists) listened to from the past year.

This list, will be my favorite albums that I listened to this year. Each album listed will have a short explanation as to why it was my favorite. If the album was previously featured on here, I’ll link out to the review.

So let me get it started with…

Number 10: ¡Carajo! – Donots (2016)

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(Click here for the album review!)

It was a really good year for me when it came to my favorite bands releasing new albums. Number ten on the list is ¡Carajo! by German punk band, Donots. The album was an English language release of their tenth studio album,

From the album review:

Versatility, diversity, and rock… those are three words that you never expect to hear in the same sentence. But the Donots have created an album that is both versatile and diverse, but manages to keep a classic  punk rock sound.

I Will Deny is a giant arena rocker. If you happen to see their performance at Rock am Ring last year, they played a version of Ich mach nicht mehr mit with two other drummers … this song is meant to be played live in front of thousands of people.

No Part of It, is a track that was written about the current refugee crisis throughout Germany and the rest of Europe. Much like Die Ärzte‘s Schrei nach Liebe, it is an anti-fascist/anti-Nazi anthem… It’s got this dance-punk vibe to it only with heavy and roaring guitars and a soaring. I found myself shouting along to the message of the song.

Number Nine: We Were Here – BOY (2015)

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(Click here for the album review!)

As I’ve said in multiple album reviews on here before, I love diversity in my music. I love contrast. I love versatility. More so contrast. This is why I love BOY’s We Were Here. The album provides much needed change of pace and contrast in my playlists that I listen to. I also have a thing for female singers, and Valeska Steiner’s voice is both breathtaking and stunning. Her vocal range is every bit impressive. Compared to the band’s first album, Mutual Friends, the album is more subdued, but is every bit as good as it. The first track grips you and doesn’t let go, giving you a sense of the journey that the duo BOY have been through.

From the album review:

We Were Here is an excellent sophomore album and perfect follow up to their debut Mutual FriendsWe Were Here is an ambitious and charming album that finds it impossible and unnecessary to follow in it’s predecessor’s path.

Number Eight: This Could be a Possibility – Valencia (2005)

(Click here for the album review!)

Loud and local. That’s how I roll sometimes. Valencia was one the bands I listened to so much in high school. So much so I wore out the first CD I ever bought… a copy of Valencia‘s 2005, This Could Be a Possibility. It as my favorite song from the band: Tenth Street. The band was pop punk at it’s finest, and man did I love this album. Each song has that catchy and melodic, yet edgy pop-punk feel to it without it going into too much of mainstream pop-rock.

From the album review:

It’s every easy to dismiss Valencia as just another pop-punk, pop-rock, or emo band. But This Could Be A Possibility is a slick and well-crafted debut. The album is full of soaring choruses, crunchy guitar riffs which harmonize when needed, as well as filled with poppy hooks….

At roughly 33 minutes long, it could be the most fun you’ve ever listen to from a local band.

Number Seven: Music @ Work – The Tragically Hip (2000)

As a friend once told me, “Brian, when it comes to Canadian bands, you need two separate iPods for your Rush and your The Tragically Hip albums…” Well he wasn’t wrong. I listened the hell out of The Tragically Hip‘s Music @ Work. The eponymous track, Music at Work, is the ultimate disgruntled worker’s anthem. The lyrics of the tracks on here are odd and cryptic, yet give a view into the human condition. The album is a work of consistency and the old adage, “less is more”.

Number Six: From Caplan to Belsize – Muncie Girls (2016)

Once again, I struck gold within Spotify’s “suggested songs”. And man does From Caplan to Belsize from Muncie Girls hit a home run. The album is filled with smart lyrics and catchy indie-punk tracks. The album has excellent songwriting, excellent dynamics, and overall catchy quips within the songs. It’s a solid debut album. The album is full of variety while remaining consistent with the sound the band has made from previous smaller releases.

Number Five: Get Lost, Find Yourself – Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! (2015)

Another one of the rare finds from within the “suggestions” that Spotify offers. One listen to the third track,  The Other Line, from French pop-punk band, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!‘s Get Lost, Find Yourself, and I was instantly hooked. Tracks like Playing DeadSet it Straight, as well as The Other Line remind us just how fun pop-punk can be. It’s just one of awesome albums to rock out to.

Number Four: Boombox – Beatsteaks (2011)

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(Click here for the album review!)

Once again, another German punk band sneak their way into my most listened to albums for the year. The Beatsteaks, much like the Donots, are veterans of German punk rock. Though Beatsteaks, to me, have always been closer to alternative rock. But I digress. One of my favorite songs from their album Boombox, is Milk & Honey. It’s one of my favorite songs ever.

From the album review:

Milk & Honey. Arnim Teutoburg-Weiß’s vocals on the track are perfect […] Maybe it’s because the song […] is a slightly more gentler side of the band. It’s guitar riffs are solid, the vocals are sharp and crisp, the bass bounces nicely, and piano riffs are excellent.

While their old punk intensity may or may not be fully present on this album, the catchy choruses and riffs are bountiful. This album is a straightforward rocker, that’s no-nonsense. It’s a delightfully dirty, raw, rowdy, and gripping album.

Number Three: Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorshau – Die Toten Hosen (1988)

Third German punk band on here… and this time it is the “godfathers” of German punk. Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorshau by Die Toten Hosen, is one of the quintessential German punk albums. It’s also the quintessential Die Toten Hosen album. This album was creatively written and the lyrics are imaginative.

The opening and closing songs are excellent Hier kommt Alex (Here comes Alex), starts off with snippet of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. BEETHOVEN. This album is a concept album based on the film A Clockwork Orange. I mean seriously, how many bands can even pull off something like this? The ending track, Bye, Bye Alex is pretty much structurally and musically similar to the opening track, Hier kommt Alex. Overall it is a excellent album, especially if you have read and seen A Clockwork Orange.  It’s even better if you understand German.

Number two: Afraid of Heights – Billy Talent (2016)

I awaited this album for awhile. Canadian punk band Billy Talent, never disappoints. Their fifth album picks up where Dead Silence left off. Their fifth album, Afraid of Heights captures the essence of previous Billy Talent releases… from the catchy anthems of Billy Talent III, and III to the gravity and headiness of Dead Silence The centerpiece of the album besides the tracks, February Winds, Horses & Chariots, and This is Our War is the two part Afraid of Heights. Part one, the single version and the second track of the album hits home on conquering fears and taking a step into the unknown. The second part of Afraid of Heights, the reprise (and final track), is punctuated by an extremely uplifting guitar solo and closes out the album beautifully.

Number One: Morning Report – Arkells (2016)

Here we are, we’ve arrived at our final destination… number one. This was a no-brainer. I’ve worn out my CD copy of Arkells‘ 2016 release, Morning Report. It’s got so many different feelings and sounds to it, it might actually hurt the album. But it doesn’t. These different sounds and styles add layers of versatility; there is no one set, specific tone to any of the tracks. For me, some of the defining moments on the album are: Private School, Making Due, and My Heart’s Always Yours. Max Kerman, frontman for the band, has a voice that’s like a shape-shifter. Going from an almost gospel rock on Drake’s Dad to the jam that is Private School. While its a bit of a departure from previous work, I couldn’t say enough about this album… but I’ll save that for a later date.

Conclusion

There you have it my top 10 albums that I listened to from the past year. I would love to hear about your top 10 albums that you listened to in the past year. Here’s to an excellent 2017!

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Year 4, Day 13: BOY – We Were Here

“We Were Here” strikes the balance between familiar songwriting qualities and new musical experimentation. All the while sounding more mature, focused, and confident.

Year 4, Day 13: BOY – We Were Here 

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Track List

  1. We Were Here
  2. Fear
  3. Hit My Heart
  4. Hotel
  5. No Sleep For the Dreamer
  6. Flames
  7. New York
  8. Rivers or Oceans
  9. Into the Wild

About the Album

We Were Here is the second studio album from German-Swiss pop/rock duo, BOY. The album was released on September 15th 2015 through Nettwerk Records in North America and Grönland Records in Europe.

Thoughts on the Album

One of things you will notice about the music I listen to or the music on any playlist I make, is the wicked contrast. I love contrast in the music I listen to. What I mean by “contrast” is: the first song that plays on a playlist could be loud, hard-hitting, and full of righteous rage and the song that follows it up could be slower, softer, and less angry. Essentially, it’s like going from Bad Religion to BOY.

That is why today’s artist, BOY is one of my favorite artists. Fun fact, there (technically) are no boys in BOY only Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass. This German-Swiss pop duo provides some of the contrast on my playlists. As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for a good female vocalist and Valeska Steiner’s voice gives me chills. She can hit wide range of octaves and her voice is soft yet loud and carrying. Steiner’s voice really is a plus on today’s album.

So with all that said, today’s album is BOY‘s second studio album, We Were Here. The album isn’t quite as effervescent as their debut album, Mutual Friends but that’s alright. It’s an album that pushes the duo’s sound into the more mainstream electronic rock territory. I view this album as a transitional one for future albums, except this album is actually great for a transitional album. The album signals a promising future for future albums from the duo.

I love everything about this album right down to it’s cover photo. The album cover fits with the lyrics and overall sound of the album. This found especially with the first half of the album as the tracks are slightly gritty, urban, modern, and busy. The titular opener, We Were Here, reflects on the journey that the duo has been through in the four years since Mutual Friends

Everything’s on the move; the paint is wet, all colors are new
But if you look carefully, you’ll see us shining through

Cause everywhere we’ve been, we have been leaving traces
They won’t ever disappear

Fear, the second track follows up on We Were Here perfectly with a well paced, up-tempo electronic rocker. Fear follows in the same vein as We Were Here does, but builds on it. Hit My Heart is track that has an uplifting spirit about it and highlights Steiner’s crafty yet polished songwriting.

Conclusion

You can go ahead an poke fun at me for liking a softer sounding band like BOYWe Were Here is an excellent sophomore album and perfect follow up to their debut Mutual FriendsWe Were Here is an ambitious and charming album that finds it impossible and unnecessary to follow in it’s predecessor’s path. Need some contrast in your music? Give this album a shot.

Year 3, Day 16: Valeska Steiner – Home

Year 3, Day 16: Valeska Steiner – Home

Track list

  1. Lullaby
  2. Home
  3. Chameleon
  4. Love Me Less
  5. III
  6. Cool As Berlin

About the Album

Home is a six track EP by Valeska Steiner. The album was self-released in January 2009.

Thoughts on the Album

Today I decided on something different. Something lighter and easier than usual music I listen to. That is one of the reason why I love the duo, BOY, and more specifically, Valeska Steiner.

So today’s album is a six song one by one of the co-founders of BOYValeska Steiner. The album is titled Home and it’s six songs of a combination of folk and pop music. Six very good songs I might add. As a whole, the album’s strength comes from Valeska Steiner’s singing prowess.

The album opens with the track, Lullaby, a spirited number that features Steiner singing while strumming an acoustic guitar. It’s like mix of McCartney, Dylan, and some of Springsteen’s softer more folksy songs. Home, the second track and the longest one of the album, is another beautiful written tune. But for me, it’s the last track, As Cool As Berlin. The track is the only “plugged-in” song on the album featuring electric guitar and bass instead of acoustic. While more pop than folk and an odd choice for a closer, nevertheless it highlights Steiner’s creativity.

Conclusion

I wanted to keep this one more to the short side, mainly because for the past few days I’ve been giving you longer and longer ones. I for one, don’t want to burn you out at all. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy this six track album from one of my favorite artists. While it’s not on this album, check out Steiner’s cover of Bonnie Raitt Can’t Make You Love Me. Valeska’s cover of that song does it just and more. Anyway, if you need/want some rather easy and relaxing listening, give this album a try.

Year Two, Day 2: It Seems We Have Some Mutual Friends…

Year 2, Day 2: BOY – Mutual Friends

Track Listing

  1. This Is The Beginning
  2. Waitress
  3. Army
  4. Little Numbers
  5. Drive Darling
  6. Railway
  7. Waltz for Pony
  8. Boris
  9. Oh Boy
  10. Skin
  11. Silver Streets
  12. July

About the Album

Mutual Friends, is the debut album from Hamburg (Germany) based singer-songwriter duo, BOY. BOY is combination of Swiss singer Valeska Steiner and German bassist Sonja Glass. (Surprised that a group by the name of “BOY” is actually two women?). Mutual Friends was released in 2011 in Germany and is certified Gold there and it was also released in 2013 in North America. Mutual Friends comes in at 48 minutes.

Thoughts on the Album

Remember yesterday when I said I’m a sucker for a good female vocalist/singer? Valeska Steiner’s voice just gives me chills. Her voice is both soft, yet loud and carrying a wide range of octaves. Where Steiner lacks in low octaves, Glass makes up for it. The thing about duos when it comes to music is, they have to be able to compliment each other. Steiner and Glass do just that on their debut release, Mutual Friends.

If you are wondering, “well why haven’t I heard this yet/before?” It’s because European artists and bands have a tendency to release their albums in their home country first, before then spreading out. Of course, if they are big enough act, then they obvious don’t need to do that.

I would best describe Mutual Friends as a combination of different genres, but mainly a mix of folk-pop, alternative, pop, and indie. But it is mainly pop, and of course, the Europeans obviously seem to have a different take on it.

Mutual Friends relies heavily on Steiner’s crisp vocals and the duo’s ability and knack for storytelling. For example, “Little Numbers” is entrancing tune with its simple lyrics and Steiner’s accent-riddled melodies. Of course, I’d be stupid to forget about Glass’ basslines throughout the album, no more prominent on “Drive Darling” and “Skin”.

I’ll admit that that some of the songs really don’t appeal to me, but most albums are like that. We have are songs that we like, and the ones we dislike on albums. The beauty of Mutual Friends is that is a lighthearted album, sans the track “Boris,” which does a 180 and goes slightly darker.

Conclusion

This one is definitely a change of pace compared to the one yesterday, and the 40 other albums from year one!

I remember trying out the then new iTunes Radio feature on my phone and listening to BOY’s “Skin” on the (either) Mando Diao or Johnossi radio station. I was almost blown away, because it was a departure from the rest of the songs on that radio station. That said, I immediately fell in love with it and had to check out the rest of the album. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

The Swiss singer, Valeska Steiner’s vocals are almost dream-like, and the harmonies from Sonja Glass just add to everything awesome about this album. But let’s take Mutual Friends for what it is: it’s singer-songwriter pop. But that’s okay.

Every time I listen to Mutual Friends, it just seems to get better and better. Between catchy riffs in “Little Numbers,” “Oh Boy,” and “Skin” to the driving bassline in “Drive Darling,” the album as a little bit of everything. Mutual Friends demonstrates Steiner and Glass’ intelligent songwriting, as well as also managing to seemingly and effortlessly win the heart of the listener. I know it did with me.

While it probably isn’t going to be the most forward-thinking album you’ll ever hear, but as a debut, Mutual Friends from BOY is a record that’s all too easy to fall head over heels for. One final number, definitely check out the live performances of these songs, especially “Little Numbers”.