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Best LPs Of 2016 — Part 3

a3676489916_16We conclude our rundown of the Best LPs Of 2016 with the best of the best. Also, be sure to check out the list of five other 2016 longplayers deserving of a listen.

10.  The Cleaners From VenusLast Boy In The Locarno: Martin Newell returns with twelve tracks of great stories, intriguing character studies and winsome nostalgia surrounded by deft melodies and the usual assortment of unexpected twists and turns. Listen and buy here.

9.  Trolley Caught In The Darkness: Trolley distills the entire history of psychedelic — and psych-inspired — rock ‘n’ roll into this blistering twelve song set. Listen loudly and buy here.

8.  Cotton MatherDeath Of The Cool: This one summons the spirit, depth and quality of Kontiki, one of the greatest albums of the 1990s. That’s all you need to know. Sample and buy here.

7.  SomerdaleShake It Maggie: The guys in Somerdale are proud proponents of a style of music — Power Pop — that is “so out of style, its cool.” And this is certainly one of the coolest records of the year — ten proper tracks, and a reprise — recalling the days when radio was king. Listen and buy here.

6.  Tuns — S/T: Chris Murphy of Sloan, Mike O’Neill of The Inbreds and Matt Murphy of The Super Friendz join forces to release perhaps the greatest unassuming record ever released. This one delivers nine perfectly conceived rockin’ pop songs expertly executed. Sample and buy here.

5.  Teenage FanclubHere: How does one compose a pithy sentence about a release by an all-time favorite? One doesn’t. Just sample and buy here. You’ll get the point.

4.  Coke BeldaNummer Zwei: This late-2015 release is a delight from beginning to end, mining all manner of classic pop styles amid sharp songwriting and musicianship and beautiful production. Listen and buy here.

3.  Nick PiuntiTrust Your Instincts: Piunti is a perennial on these pages, and this release does not disappoint as he delivers ten stellar examples of some of the finest rockin’ pop on the planet. Listen and buy here.

2.  The Legal MattersConrad: State of the art pop from the Fab Three, with a little help from their friends. Sample and buy here.

1.  Ryan Allen and His Extra ArmsBasement Punk: The sheer energy packed into these eleven tracks takes Basement Punk to a photo finish victory. Allen’s often quite personal songs soundcheck the great pop rock of the 60’s through the 90’s in a manner that remains contemporary and fresh. Listen and buy here.

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Bubbling Under

A few other albums released in 2016 deserve some love, as well:

Tommy and the RocketsBeer And Fun And Rock ‘n’ Roll: What the Ramones might have sounded like had they grown up in a Southern California beach community and had Danish roots. Listen and buy here.

Bill ShaouyThe Other Town: Shaouy operates as kind of a one-man XTC. Check out “Christopher Walken Told Me,” in particular. Sample and buy here.

Starry Eyed CadetPlaces We Don’t Belong: A sharp update of 80’s dream pop stylings. Listen and buy here.

Rob Clarke And The Wooltones, Are You Wooltoned?: Need a fix of 1966? Listen and buy here.

The Jeckylls, The One I Want, The One I Need: Siting at the crossroads where Mod and Power Pop meet. Listen and buy here.

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Best LPs of 2016 — Part 2

a1972111786_16The countdown continues with a discussion of the “middle ten” on our list of the best longplayers of 2016.

20.  HurryGuided Meditation: This Philadelphia-based trio lets it fly with shimmering, jangly guitars, dreamy atmospherics and clean harmonies over nine spot-on tracks evoking the easy days of summer. Listen and buy here.

19.  Ray Paul Whimsicality: Paul hits all the right notes as he puts a slightly contemporary gloss on the basic British Invasion sound over seven original compositions, and three covers including the Manfred Mann classic, “Pretty Flamingo”.  Sample and buy here.

18. The ArmoiresIncidental Lightshow: The Amoires offer a kaleidoscope of sound over twelve tracks that touch upon baroque pop, psych pop, jangle pop and Power Pop, among other subgenres. The harmonies of Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome, as well as the musicianship, are superb throughout. Sample and buy here.

17.  The Well WishersComes And Goes: Once again, Jeff Shelton releases hit-after-hit of timeless, crunchy, instantly recognizable — and quite comforting in these uncertain times — rockin’ pop. Listen and buy here.

16.  DropkickBalance The Light: This Scotland-based band releases some of the most consistently engaging takes on the peaceful and easy Southern California guitar rock of the late-60s and early-70s. Sit back and let this one calm frazzled nerves. Listen and buy here.

15.  The JunipersRed Bouquet Fair: The Junipers are purveyors of the most elegant pysch pop, and Red Bouquet Fair combines the psych and the pop masterfully over twelve transcendent tracks. Listen and buy here.

14.  Nada SurfYou Know Who You Are: The flowing, layered guitar strums supported by rhythms that alternate between the pounding and the deceptively restrained make this a top accompaniment for speeding down an open highway. Sample and buy here.

13.  Arvidson & Butterflies — S/T: This is pure pop for people in the know, as Arvidson and pals deliver twelve singalong excursions into all manner of 60s-influenced pop rock. Listen and buy here.

12.  Bertling Noise LaboratoriesThe Flehmen Response: This late-2015 release was my “go to” listen for the early part of 2016. Nick Berling writes perfect pop tunes tinged with more-than-occasional melancholy. Just listen to “Sea Shanty.” You’ll know exactly what we mean. Listen and buy here.

11. PropellerFall Off The World: Greg Randall and Will Anderson deliver ten hook-filled rockin’ pop nuggets that should be played loudly at your next party. Your guests will swoon over “Wish I Had Her Picture,” and wonder where they heard it back in the 70s. Listen and buy here.

Best EPs of 2016

a0299150950_16We kick off our year-end “best of” lists with a discussion of the finest EPs we’ve heard over the past year.

The nature of an “EP” is subject to interpretation these days. However, for our present purposes, if it has between three and eight songs, its an EP. We will be discussing the finest LPs of the year in the coming days, and will conclude the year-end festivities by a look at distinguished works that do not quite fit either category — non-LP singles, multi-artist compilations, tributes, and the like. Call that one “odds and ends.”

Enough chit chat. Let’s get down to business.

10.  Baby ScreamLife’s A Trap: Juan Pablo Mazzola continues to revel humorously, and brilliantly, in the bitterly sardonic on this eight-track tale of regret, boredom, disappointment, disgust and (occasional) happiness. Life’s A Trap is somewhat laid back in comparison to Mazzola’s prior efforts, and is perhaps best played at the end of an evening that failed to live up to expectations. Listen and buy here.

9. Matti Jasu and the Loose TrainGone To The Dogs: Jasu populates this eight-track offering with peaceful easy feelings and pointed guitar work. This duality is best experienced on the yin-yang back-to-back duo of “Race You Down To The Ground,” with its swaying, early-70s Southern California vibe, and “Creature From The Past,” with is serious riffage. Listen and buy here.

8. The Persian LeapsYour City Underwater: These St. Paul-based noise pop aficionados make their third consecutive appearance on our year-end EP list, as they skillfully blend fuzz and sugar for thirteen minutes of powerful hooks. Listen and buy here.

7.  Merry WidowsPassword: “Sky And The Sea,” the second track on this five-song outing, may be the finest take on the sound of the The Go-Betweens we’ve ever heard. Password is simply a delight from start to finish, rooted firmly in the classiest guitar pop of the 80s. Listen and buy here.

6.  Fascinations Grand Chorus — S/T and Actor/Actress: On these two EPs, this Brooklyn-based duo whip up seven pop confections from some of the finest ingredients of the 60s. Dig the organs, the slinky surf guitar, the girl group vocalizing and a production style that would make Joe Meek quite proud. Listen and buy here.

5.  Animal DaydreamCitrus:  This Gothenburg, Sweden-based duo makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Listen and buy here.

4.  Stephen’s ShoreOcean Blue: This Stockholm, Sweden-based band makes beautiful, sun-drenched West Coast psych pop with jangling guitars, soaring harmonies and the occasional sing-along melody. Somehow, the story repeats itself. Ocean Blue, however, ranks higher than Citrus on the strength of the opening forty-five seconds of “If You,” during which you will be transported instantly to the deck of a boat sailing the sunny seas. Listen and buy here.

3.  Donny Brown — S/T: On this six-song EP, Brown finds himself in the finest singer-songwriter tradition of the 70s as he pens sharp, incisive lyrics against the backdrop of exquisite arrangements and expert musicianship. Listen and buy here.

2.  Cliff HillisLove Not War: Hillis is one of the finest contemporary American songwriters. This seven-song EP is everything we have come to expect from him: richly detailed slices of life and love set amid instantly compelling hooks and instrumentation. Sample and buy here.

1.   The AboveThere Is A Reason: This entire history of the British Invasion, and its immediate aftermath, is encapsulated in this six-song EP that ruled our personal airwaves for quite some time this year. The running twelve-string guitar on “Say You’re Cool” and the drama of the hook-laden “Just Can’t Forget About That Girl” deliver some of the finest rock moments of the past several years. Listen and buy here.

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