The Best Local Albums of 2016

. December 19, 2016.

The hard part, this year, was keeping my list pared down to a sleek “top 10…” And, even then, I cheated and made it a “top 12.”

As we arrive at the end of the year, I inevitably get sentimental, and I feel compelled to thank each and every one of you who regularly check this site and pick up print editions of The Ann Arbor Current. That said, I want to also thank each and every musician, bandmember, singer/songwriter, producer, sound-creator, performer, everyone…, for all of the consistently interesting, exciting and dynamic work they’re producing, year-in and year-out.

List-time! Follow links to bandcamps and keep your eyes peeled for upcoming appearances from these bands at venues around town.

1.) CongressUgly Eye

I’m still just as obsessed with this song as I was when I heard it 350-some-odd-days ago when the album premiered. Splendid rock ‘n’ raucousness, angular post-punk acrobatics, gutsy/garbled poetry warbled and wailed over slick riffs and hypnotic drums. The sound of a storm becoming ever more graceful.

2.) Rebel Kind – Just For Fools

Singer/guitarist Autumn Wetli, bassist Shelley Salant and drummer Amber Fellows continue to hone the sweet/shambolic sounds of surf-punk, riffy anti-folk and pop-ballads that divert into feedback forests of cooled catharsis.

3.) Sonny Dulphi – Just Don’t

Check out our interview from last week with Ypsi-based emcee/producer Matt Hughes, aka Sonny Dulphi.

4.) Child Sleep – Secondary Forest 

I had “Self-Talk” stuck in my head for a month. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Mary Fraser exorcised a lot of demons on her first album with Child Sleep, but this one spreads the musical-therapy-love to the listener, with reassuring refrains like: “You’ll sort it out in time…” It relaxingly revs me up, each time.

5.) Minihorse – Big Lack EP

This song is like a tidal wave in super slow motion. The poignancy of the vocal intonation and the self-deprecating lyrics, the distorted guitar sludge, the tranquilly-punching beats, it all splashes over you so, so steadily, a soft-smoosh…but you’re blown over by it.

6.) Human Skull – self-titled

Glorious, wobbling ricochet rock, unhinged like punk, heavy like the proverbial metal, fast like rock ‘n’ roll and anthemic like Americana, but free of gloss or shine, like a truck barreling through mud pits or, maybe, just a bit of healthy front-row moshing.

7.) Stormy Chromer – A Tale of Two Mouths

So pretty. So groovy. Resplendent neo-psychedelia and charmingly chugging folk-pop, woven up with wonderful melodies, dulcet guitars and sturdy rhythms. I feel like Stormy Chromer could make an acid jazz record, they could even make a black metal record, I sense that versatility; but lucky enough for us, they’re channeling those talents into something sweet and swirly that skews to just the right amount of dark-sider-quirk.

8.) Truman – Slow Burn

The Ypsi area ensemble conjures a formidable storm of elegant psych-metal & post-rockist pirouettes of distortion and delay, rendered with an exceeding sense for dynamically piquing catharsis and doing controlled burns on begrudgingly lingered emotional distress.

9.) The Ragbirds – The Threshold & The Hearth

The Ragbirds, led by Erin Zindle, were already top-notch musicians and performers, they were already one of the more eclectic outfits around the state (if not the country), and they’d already proven their sensibility for blending world-music with pop, gypsy-folk with jazz, all across a cornucopia of intriguing instrumentation.

10.) Storm Ross – Welcome Sunshine

I tend to fly off the handle with vibrant adjectives, dreamlike descriptions and trippy ruminations whenever I listen to Storm Ross’ music, as you can see here.

11.) Starling Electric – Electric Company

After the year we’ve had, couldn’t we all use a “Permanent Vacation”

12.) Evan Haywood – Ramshackles

I know this was supposed to be a “top 10,” but Haywood has been, and still is, such an integral creative component in the Ann Arbor music scene, even if he lives in Hamtramck now. So, while he’s not “local” (as my headline suggests,) his album is still one of my “favorites.” Read more, here.

13.) Louis Picasso

Did you catch that part in the opening paragraph where I said I was trying to keep this to just “10?” Louis Picasso released a flurry of singles throughout the year, check it out.

14.) Drunken Barn Dance – Big Bend

Okay, okay… last one! But what a song to go out on! Remember the healing power of music, remember how much all of this, the scene, the shows, the songs, can mean to you, for you, for all of us. It’s a community, it’s a family…sometimes it’s a church. Happy New Year, everyone.

Coming next year? Fred Thomas is putting out an album in January; stay tuned. Okay….., I’m out.


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