1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
2016 was a break-out year for Will Toledo, aka Car Seat Headrest, whether it was signing to Matador Records to releasing Teens of Denial, their second on the label and first that consisted of entirely new material. On their thirteenth album, Toledo’s lyrics are, as always, emotional and reflective, looking at his dealing with mental illness and dealing with the inevitable feeling of dread that has been a recurring theme throughout this album and their previous 12. In the opening track, “Fill in the Blank,” Toledo goes on to say: “You have no right to be depressed. You haven’t tried hard enough to like it. Haven’t seen enough of this world yet. But it hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Well stop your whining, try again.” The idea of no one truly understanding his depression and what is going on inside his head repeats back and forth in this song until the outro when he affirms he has a right to be depressed and that he has tried to fight it. This reflectiveness is not uncommon for Toledo in the third track on Teens in Denial, “Vincent,” where he talks about googling his depression and his previous albums, especially the track, “We Can’t Afford (Your Depression Anymore)” on his album, Nervous Young Man. This cleaner sounding and breakout album from Car Seat Headrest is just the beginning of what will be even more critcal success for the band in the future.
2. Bon Iver – 22 A Million
The highly anticipated return of Bon Iver and follow up to 2011’s self-titled, 22 A Million, heads in a completely different direction than what Justin Vernon has done in his history. However, it is somewhat expected from Bon Iver as For Emma, Forever Ago, showed what Vernon could do alone, not including what he released previously under his own name, and Bon Iver showed what could be done with a full band and recording with more people. 22 A Million shows what Vernon can do as a musician and what the band can do outside the realms they built for themselves in indie folk. This turn to a more experimental and somewhat strange new sound that Bon Iver brings to the table with this album is an interesting new step in what might be a new era of the band.
3. Mitski – Puberty 2
The 25-year-old singer-songwriter, Mitski’s fourth studio album discusses the struggles of being happy from day to day, especially shown on the track, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” where she sings: “I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent. I wanna see the whole world. Would you kill me, Jerusalem.” The lyrics go on to talk about how she hopes she does well in a job interview and the stereotypical interviewee line “I work better under deadlines” being repeated. This sort of trying to find something to grasp onto in order to find some sort of happiness in the cloud of depression and anxiety is a recurring theme throughout this album as Mitski shows off her chaotically good sound that she has had across her discography.
4. The Growlers – City Club
The Growlers, have always managed to combine “country, surf pop and rock” all into one, something that is somewhat trademark to them and lead to the definition of their sound, “Beach Goth” to a popular festival under the same name. The industrial-esque funkiness of “I’ll Be Around” allows it to be one of the best tracks on the albums. Another notable track is “Neverending Line” because of how seemingly miserable the chorus sounds: “It’s the end of a line. Another shit job. Another piss-stained room. Another tomb. Another city. Hardly make it to the other side. Just to find, it ain’t so pretty.” The darkness of this song encompasses the album and its mood in what seemed to be one of the somewhat slower tracks.
5. Iji – Bubble
The almost always upbeatness of iji’s (pronounced “eehee”) latest album, Bubble, is the perfect album for anyone in need for the perfectly groovy pop album. The song, “Wild Music,” is particularly a favorite, where the singer, guitarist, and saxophonist, talks about wanting to “play the saxophone in your band” and the fluidity of this track is both is invigorating as it gets to the two-minute mark and soothing at the same time. This eccentrically melodic pop album is erratic as they masterfully maneuver through these weird but engrossing 13 tracks.
6. The Washboard Abs – Have U Scanned Ur Club Card
Denver-born and Olympia-based, The Washboard Abs’ Have U Scanned Ur Club Card gracefully goes through bedroom indie music as Clarke Sondermann sings somber and reflective lyrics in the seemingly melancholic backing tracks. The song, “Window,” is the perfect example on this album as the lyrics are earnest (i.e.“Early in the morning but later in the day, your brother snoring the sky will slowly grey, and I will drink my coffee and I will try to say I think about you often I hope you’re not okay”) and yet it is a seemingly warm song with the guitar repeats. The third track, “Sugar Skulls” differs n the sense that it is somewhat more upbeat and the Sondermann’s lyrics talk about self-destruction. They are one of our favorite local bands and it makes sense why they are on the rise and opening for bigger and bigger indie bands.