“thermostat check” is a feature we’re running throughout the rest of the month to both take the temperature of music in 2016 so far and to broaden the spectrum of the dimestore’s coverage. we rounded up proprietors of other music sites and asked them to sound off on their five favorite bodies of work that dropped during the first half of the year; kicking off the week’s festivities is a guest post from dante allington, the founder of all around sound. links to stream entire eps or albums are inserted in the caption below their respective cover art, while standalone tracks will be embedded within the post. dig in.
despite the fact that 2015 gave us one of the best years of music in recent memory, 2016 is proving no slouch in that department. featuring much anticipating debuts from acts like aurora, big thief, and yumi zouma, as well as spirited returns from the likes of chairlift, marissa nadler, and mutual benefit, it’s certainly been the year that keeps on giving. the year is only half over and there’s already been so many absolutely stellar albums released and announced that i can hardly wait to see what the rest of 2016 holds. but while waiting over here with bated breath, here are some of all around sound’s favorite releases from the year so far.
adult jazz – “earrings off!“
leeds-based quartet adult jazz are one of those rare and wonderful bands that, due to patience and thoughtfulness, arrive with a fully-realized creative vision. releasing their incredibly underrated debut full-length, gist is ,in 2014, the band’s been a bit home-bound but very recently came out of a hiatus of sorts with “eggshell,” the first single from their earrings off! ep. the song introduces a much more lucid approach to harry burgess’ songwriting and the title track does a wonderful job linking the stream of thought that began on adult jazz’s debut.
“earrings off!” is inspired by anecdotal story about burgess’ normally well-behaved brother’s violent reaction to critique of his masculinity as a boy, and largely turns it a critique of forced masculinity itself. paired with adult jazz’s uniquely complex brand of experimental pop, it sinks right into that sweet spot of being enjoyable music with an important message; the video, directed by sam travis, further explores the theme with its flexing trophy figures.
adult jazz have always made it a point to challenge themselves (and, by extension, the listener) and they certainly don’t let up here, pairing their complicated composition with food for thought.
saskatchewan singer/songwriter andy shauf proved a talent for melancholic narratives with his debut, last year’s the bearer of bad news. for his next effort, shauf turned his gaze even more intimate, abandoning plans to record in germany in favor of at home alone in regina, saskatchewan, and drawing from a significantly smaller pool of songs than he did on the bearer of bad news.
the result is the party, a collection of songs bonded together by a pseudo-concept of the album’s namesake that continues shauf’s streak of engaging songwriting and craftsmanship. the songs on the party are polished with arrangements reminiscent of a 1970’s singer/songwriter, and shauf’s narratives, which occasionally carry over and compound from song to song, are as effective as ever.
bayonne – “appeals”
while live music videos are certainly no new thing, bayonne’s roger sellers attacks the medium with the sort of innovation that lifts his music above that of merely a loop artist. the video, a collaboration between directing duo nofun and digital collective dawn of man, essentially brings the energy and majesty of bayonne’s live set to your home.
one of his most complex compositions, “appeals,” features sellers’ high intensity multi-tasking presented in a way that’s absolutely mesmerizing, and establishes sellers as one of the new breed of electronic artists not content to just sit behind a computer screen but to actively engage with the music they’re creating.
hundred waters – “show me love” (skrillex remix)
from their earliest days as the backing band to gainesville’s levek, hundred waters have always had a deep-seated reverence for the art of collaboration that’s informed not only their recording process but their live sets as well. teaming up with owsla label head skrillex, hundred waters’ sparse opening number from sophomore effort, the moon rang like a bell, is turned into a full-blown jam without losing its poignant message. the “show me love” remix is more rework than remix, featuring a number of new verses from singer/songwriter moses sumney and chance the rapper, arrangements from rhye’s robin hannibal, and production from skrillex.
perhaps one of this year’s best debut records came from northhampton-based singer/songwriter mal devisa. a great deal of why the album works so well is its refusal to be easily defined. taking inspiration from everything from soul to folk, mal devisa’s deja carr practically devours experiences and uses them to inform her emotionally-sincere songwriting. kiid is an album of emotional extremes, but steadily paced and built over time. for every “in my neighborhood,” there’s an opposing “sea of limbs”; for every “live again,” there’s a contrasting “dominatrix.”
deja carr refuses to let her musical style be pinned down. the sum of her musical influences, and kiid, is all the better for it: a solid album whose consistency lies in its raw, emotive force.
most of what dante selected did not even register on our radar, and for that we are ashamed. if you want dante to publicly shame you while also providing impeccable running commentary about music both new and old, follow him on twitter; you can also find all around sound on facebook. watch this space in the coming days for another installment.