END OF THE YEAR: Mitch’s Top 15 Albums of 2016

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First of all, I just want to sincerely thank you all for listening and supporting WVUM. All of our members love what we do and we’re extremely privileged to have the opportunity to share music with the wonderful city of Miami. I’m really not sure if 2016 has been especially good for music or if I’ve just been putting more effort into finding new stuff. For the second half of 2016, I served as the music director for WVUM, so you’ve probably heard a lot of these on the air if you’re a regular listener. I hope you all have enjoyed the direction I’ve helped steer the station towards. To date, I’ve added approximately 250 albums to our rotation, so this list is missing tons of great albums that I felt compelled to add, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you guys. Below, you’ll find my list of my 15 favorite albums from 2016. All of the favorite tracks are hyperlinked to YouTube videos of the songs you can sample them (sorry for some reason our website doesn’t make hyperlinks noticeable).

15. Raime – Tooth

London’s Blackest Ever Black continually sets the bar when it comes to experimental electronic music. Raime’s second album, Tooth, is a fantastic addition to Blackest Ever Black’s repertoire. They create a sound way out in the genreless void intersecting somewhere with dark ambient, industrial and dub. This album took awhile to grow on me, but it absolutely requires good headphones or speakers, otherwise you’ll be left really confused. I actually passed on this album for WVUM because I thought it was perhaps too minimal for radio and a lot of our listeners would probably think we’re having technical difficulties.

Favorite track: Dead Heat

14. Youandewan – There Is No Right Time

This album is confusing to me because I’m not sure if its supposed to make me dance or think. It has all the structure and all of the elements to be played in a club like Bardot, but it’s also perfect if you’re home alone and want to listen to an album to help you unwind. At moments its extremely reminiscent of Radiohead and I’m just waiting for Thom Yorke’s voice to come in, but this album is entirely instrumental. I hadn’t even heard of Youandewan until this year and they’ve been spinning a lot lately on WVUM. I’d love to see him live so if any of reading this book shows in Miami help me out cause I bet his live shows are incredible.

Favorite track: Left on Lucy

13. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

When it was announced that Danny Brown was signing to Warp Records, I knew something special was going to come out of it. I think his XXX album (or mixtape??) was groundbreaking and remains my favorite rap release of the past decade, but Atrocity Exhibition is just as visionary and met all of my expectations. You would be hard pressed to find a rap album with better production than Atrocity Exhibition or one with better rapping. Brown is relentless throughout the entire album and every track makes me question everything I had previously thought about hip-hop. His track Ain’t It Funny is even featured in the new Dragonball Z teaser.

Favorite track: Really Doe

12. Buttering Trio Threesome

This jazzy neo-soul group from Tel Aviv/Berlin seems to fly under the radar over here in the states, but deserve far more attention. Threesome so happens to be their third album to date and it certainly doesn’t disappoint listeners their first two albums Toast and Jam. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of bands like Hiatus Kaiyote or Snarky Puppy.

Favorite track: Unexperienced

11. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow

As the former host of WVUM’s shoegaze/dreampop/post-rock show, it would be wrong for me to not include at least one band from that realm. In my opinion, Nothing is doing that sound better than anyone else at the moment. Tired of Tomorrow is definitely their most polished album to date, but I still regularly listen to their 2014 release Guilty of Everything. If you listened to WVUM at all over the summer, you definitely heard tracks from this album because it was actually our most played album of 2016.

Favorite track: Fever Queen

10. Romare – Love Songs Pt. II

Ninja Tune is extremely good at constantly finding up and coming electronic acts with trendsetting sounds and Romare is emblematic of that. Taking his name from Romare Bearden, an African American artist who primarily created soulful collages, musician Romare aims to also create collages through sampling. He takes a blend of old soul and funk sounds and arranges them in a modern dance context. Love Songs Pt. II is an extremely worthwhile listen.

Favorite track: All Night

9. Smerz – Okey EP

Danish synthpop duo Smerz absolutely blew me away with their debut Okey EP. I know this is list is supposed to be for albums, but I’ll make an exception for this EP since it’s 6 full songs with no filler. They’re probably one of my best finds of the year because I don’t think they’re nearly getting the attention they deserve, but WVUM DJs seemed to enjoy this one. I could make all sorts of comparisons to well-established electronic musicians here, but I think they distinguished themselves plenty with this release and proved to me the Denmark can put out really solid indie pop music.

Favorite track: Because

8. Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation

I don’t think I like the idea of Kero Kero Bonito (KKB) on paper at all. Overtly poppy and kawaii music with story-telling lyrics full of metaphors… but KKB completely destroys any and all negative preconceived notions I might’ve had about them. They’re absolutely fantastic. They’ve been releasing singles for over a year now for this album, so there weren’t many new tracks, but hearing the album in its entirety is such a treat and every song serves its purpose. Whenever they released a new song, I’d always think that they had officially crossed the line of too cheesy for me, but they kept on delivering. The beats are fantastic, the lyrics are actually insanely clever, and Sara Bonito’s vocals shine throughout the entire album. This is a pretty unanimous favorite among the WVUM staff and it’s been getting a lot of plays from us.

Favorite track: Trampoline

7. Skepta – Konnichiwa

Mans never been in Marquee when it shut down eh? Trust me daddy!! 

Grime-legend Skepta released the first single for Konnichiwa all the way back in 2014 and 3 more singles followed before its release in May. Most of Konnichiwa was produced by Skepta himself and he brings in Pharrell, Young Lord and ASAP Nast. For many reasons, this wasn’t an album we could feature on WVUM, but it’s probably my most listened to album of the year.

Favorite track: Ladies Hit Squad

6. Jerry Paper Toon Time Raw!

Lucas Nathan’s persona known as Jerry Paper has gotten the attention of indie music heads with his awkward, yet soulful, music that his cult following relates too. With the entire album featuring instrumentation by Badbadnotgood, Toon Time Raw! is a must-listen for fans of Mac Demarco and Homeshake. The album supposedly tells a story featuring several characters and animals, but quite honestly, I’ve never been smart enough to follow along. This album got tons of play on WVUM but a few tracks cuss so there are a few songs you never heard on our station.

Favorite track: Gracie II (but also check out the music video for Zoom Out)

5. Mark Barrott – Sketches From An Island 2

2016 will go down as the year where I got into Balearic music. Mark Barrott, formerly known as Future Loop Foundation, created an absolutely beautiful album with Sketches From An Island 2. If you’re looking for an album to melt all of your worries away, look no further. If you want more, check out this compilation he also released of music he regularly played at his residency at Hostel La Torre in Ibiza. Both of these albums were very popular for WVUM over the summer so you may recognize some of the tracks.

Favorite track: Brunch With Suki

4. Trim – 1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim

Did you ever fantasize about CMYK-era James Blake producing a rap album? Well Blake only produced one track on this album, but this whole album reminds me of early James Blake. This all makes sense considering 1-800 Dinosaur is Blake’s label and all of the producers are from his circle of friends. Despite being Trim’s first solo album, he isn’t new to the scene. All the way back in 2011, he released a project with Mark Pritchard (who I’ll talk about later) called Pritch & Trim. Just because this album is a rap album from the UK, it doesn’t seem to fit directly under the grime umbrella and overall is pretty genre-bending. This blend of minimal electronic production with hip-hop is something I’m all-in for. You didn’t hear this on WVUM because of how explicit it is, but we definitely would’ve been bumping it if we could’ve gotten our hands on a clean version. Big ups, Trim.

Favorite track: 13th Apostle

3. Equiknoxx – Bird Sound Power

Brought to you straight from Kingston, Equiknoxx brings a new and unique sound to dancehall music. Released on Demdike Stare’s DDS label, Bird Sound Power experiments with a wide array of influences and sounds throughout the album. Each song contributes its own style the album, but the album manages to remain contingent.I have a feeling this album is going to have a big impact on the juke and footwork scene and we’re probably going to hear its influence on albums in 2017 (or at least I hope so because I need more music like this).

Favorite track: Congo Get Slap Like A Congo Get Slap

2. Angel Olsen – My Woman

Whoever says rock is dead certainly hasn’t listened to Angel Olsen. I truly think Olsen is a generational talent whose pure talent shines on My Woman. I first heard of Olsen after her 2014 album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, which is also an exceptional album, but I think My Woman is definitely her best release to date. Remember Angel Olsen’s name, because I think she’s going to be a powerful force in the Indie Rock scene for years to come.

Favorite track: Intern

1. Mark Pritchard – Under The Sun

Mark Pritchard has been a force in the underground electronic music scene for well over a decade now, but Under The Sun is his first album released under his name. In the past, Pritchard has dabbled in grime, dubstep and footwork, but we see an almost complete departure from club music in Under The Sun. With the help of artists like Thom Yorke, Bibio and Linda Perhacs, Pritchard creates mesmerizing musical landscapes perfectly captured by the artwork created by Jonathan Zawada (who also created the artwork for Classixx and Flume). This album delivers from start to finish and is an extremely worthwhile listen.

Favorite track: all of them, but Beautiful People has a cool music video

Honorable Mentions: Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus, James Blake – The Colour In Everything, Weval – Weval, Nicolas Jaar – Sirens, Jessy Lanza – Oh No, Amber Arcades – Fading Lines, Cavern of Anti-Matter – void beats/invocation trex, Seahawks – Escape Hatch, DIIV – Is The Is Are, DVA [Hi:Emotions] – NOTU_URONLINEU, Uffe – No!, Harmonious Thelonious – International Dance Record

Want even more? I made a spotify playlist of my favorite tracks of 2016. Hopefully that’ll tide you over for a bit, enjoy!

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