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Tommy’s Top Ten

Here is a list (in no particular order) of the ten best “under-the-radar” albums of 2016.

Joyce Manor — Cody: On their latest release, the Californian punk quartet present a far more developed and mature sound. They ditch the teenage, angst-ridden tracks of their previous record “Never Hungover Again” for more conventionally written songs that explore themes such as parenthood and unemployment. A must-listen for fans of The Story So Far, Blink 182 and Brand New.

Touché Amoré — Stage Four: This is the album that the young D.C HarDCore movement was waiting for. On this new record, Amoré transgress the boundaries of both genre and lyricism, creating an end product with the melodic satisfaction of The Smiths intertwined with the unhinged passion of Jeremy Bolm’s vocal delivery.

Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition: On ”Atrocity Exhibition,” Brown delivers a refreshing blend of experimental and hardcore hip-hop that both challenges and rewards the listener. Since his last full length release “Old,” Brown has transitioned from underground party starter to progressive hip hop pioneer, a side he had hinted on during his early career but had seemingly dropped in search of greater commercial attention. Fans of Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt should surely take a listen.

Sunflower Bean — Human Ceremony: Arguably the hottest new act to emerge in 2016, with their uncompromising blend of raucous psych-rock and indie pop, Sunflower Bean delivered a debut album that simultaneously feels both nostalgic and new. This album received significantly positive reaction from Grinnellians when they played Gardner Lounge in November.

Parquet Courts — Human Performance: The New York Garage Punk quartet deliver their most vibrant and melodic album to date, sending a clear message to the alternative scene that they are a force to be reckoned with. Highlights include the brooding and beautiful “Berlin got Blurryas well as the six-minute punk jam “One Man, No City”.

Skepta — Konnichiwa: The North London artist dropped what has turned out to be a highly significant album for the burgeoning grime scene. This album sent shockwaves around the music industry when it was named “Album of the Year” at the Mercury Awards ahead of the likes of Radiohead and David Bowie. This unanticipated recognition propelled the relatively unknown rappers onto an international platform where I am sure they will continue to flourish.

Death Grips —  Bottomless Pit: The infamous hardcore hip hop trio once again dropped a surprise release to the delight of their small, but infatuated, fan base. It would be hard for any Death Grips listener to imagine an even more twisted and unusual sound than on their previous release “Jenny Death,” yet they are once again able to deliver a unique sound that pushes the limits of hip hop.

Preoccupations —  Preoccupations: Formerly known as Viet Cong, the band chooses not to change their sound as well as their name for this new release. A dense and powerful collection of post-punk and alternative songs, this album simultaneously challenges and rewards the listener while offering a revitalized version of their distinctive sound. They also feel no need to stay within the normal constraints of songwriting, creating the 11-minute epic “Memory.” Fans of Ought, Joy Division and The Editors should enjoy this album.

Underworld —  Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future: On their ninth album, Underworld have created some of their most vital work yet, all without compromising their unique sound that a modern audience might label as dated. The songs here are long, dramatic, forceful and linear in their motion. Songs like “I Exhale” sweep the listener away rather than make them groove, demonstrating a level of transition in their work. Few believed Underworld would drop potentially their most fulfilling record this late into the game, but none can argue that they have achieved something special with this release.

MONEY —  Suicide Songs: This album sees the trio perfect what they started to build on their debut record “The Shadow of Heaven.” The gritty, grey backdrop of Northwest England continues to be the prominent aesthetic, yet on this record they have the confidence to shed more light on what was previously kept quietly in the shadows.


-Tommy O’Donnell ’20

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