Overlooked Records 2016

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It gets considerably harder to keep track of new music every year. As more avenues are made available for artists to release their music, be it Soundcloud or Bandcamp, the pool of new records continues to expand. We don’t cover everything that comes out. We can’t cover everything that comes out. There just aren’t enough of us. But what we miss during the year (and very likely you missed as well), we make up for with our annual list of Overlooked Albums. These 20 albums slipped under our radar partially because of surprise releases, and partially because of under-the-radar release methods, but we’re giving them the spotlight they deserve before we offer our favorites for the best albums and tracks of the year. So as we kick off year-end season, here’s our list of Overlooked Albums 2016 (complete with links to streaming where available).

Overlooked Albums 2016 Absolute PowerAbsolute PowerAbsolute Power
(Youth Attack)

Sometimes, we all need a classicist hardcore punk band to rally around. That’s exactly what Absolute Power is—no delusions, no tricks, no gimmicks, just tempo changes and hints of powerviolence lead-offs from the percussion. With only one track that’s over a minute and a half long, this self-titled work can’t spare the time for anything but pure unbridled anger. This is a turn-the-knob-up-to-11 and forget-about-your-worries album, exactly what you need after a hard day. Or year. – Brian Roesler

Overlooked Albums 2016Algae BloomI Am Everyone I’ve Ever Met
(Wolf Town)

There has never really been another band that sounded like Algae Bloom, at least that I am aware of. Tightly knit and structured, with minimalist guitar and light drum work layered with hyper-emotive screaming, calling Algae Bloom a two-person Saetia wouldn’t be inappropriate. The sound dichotomy between the deeply harmonic and spacious guitar work with featherlight percussive work and raw vocals is amazing. – Brian Roesler

Overlooked Albums 2016 Camp CopeCamp CopeCamp Cope
(Poison City)

Going viral is not something typically associated with garagey indie rock but in July, when Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen tweeted a link to their album, it’s exactly what happened to Camp Cope. This randomly clicked link on my timeline led me, and others, to the Bandcamp of this Melbourne three-piece lead by Georgia Maq. Writers and listeners alike were enthralled by Maq’s voice, which is both powerful on the page as coming through speakers in a way that is immediately reminiscent of Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan or Cayetana (who they’ve toured with). OK, maybe they didn’t quite go viral but that’s what it felt like in the initial whirlwind of “whoa, how didn’t I know about this band?” Also if at this point I’ve possibly attributed their rise as owing anything to a prominent rock critic’s follower count, this notion is blown to bits as soon as one hears Camp Cope who are more than capable of speaking for themselves. Maq is a realist, and if her songs come across as cynical it’s only because they offer observations over answers, something that feels particularly poignant in a year such as this. They’ve certainly received some press now (including a retroactive Pitchfork review), and it’s doubtable they’ll ever be “overlooked” again. – Matt Perloff

Overlooked Albums 2016 CryingCryingBeyond the Fleeting Gales
(Run for Cover)

Upon first glance, the cover of Crying’s first proper full length looks like the perfect thrift-bin score for a shut-in bible thumper on the prowl for only the finest in Gregorian chant music. Crank the first ten seconds of “There Was a Door” and a bemusing double record scratch will have you thinking otherwise. Primarily known as “the band with the GameBoy” for the past few years, the Purchase-based trio has largely been hailed as a ‘chiptune’ group since 2013’s dual EP release Get Olde/Second Wind. Crying’s latest effort has not only embraced their Gen-Y instrumentals, but vastly expands upon their glimmering sonic scope, finding the band embracing their pop sensibilities in a condensed, yet sweepingly brilliant half hour. Beyond the Fleeting Gales is a vibrant, genre-fusing project containing some of the most wildly ambitious and utterly catchy melodies released this year. – Patrick Pilch

Overlooked Albums 2016 Evasive Backflip

Evasive BackflipEvasive Backflip’s Turbo Chili Children

Voted THE best MUSIC BAND by State Farm and Google, Chicago’s own jazz punk trio Evasive Backflip have released THE funkiest sloppy Joe ingredients you’ll sink your ears into all year. Evasive Backflip’s Turbo Chili Children is a psychotically calculated exercise of genre-evading genius, crammed with enough allegorical alliteration to open the band’s world of originality to listeners eager enough to enter. The band’s fabricated milieu is a testimony to Evasive Backflip’s unconventionality, matching their all-the-wrong-notes-in-all-the-right-places composition style. A double neck guitar and bass leads the charge on their latest full length, rhythmically assembling with a fancy new “E-lectronic drum pad” in precise, harmonious discord. Reference points may include the experimental intelligence of bands such as Don Caballero and Slint, but Evasive Backflip’s Turbo Chili Children emulates the unorthodox of unorthodox, manifesting itself as a true sonic outlier in contrast to its predecessors. – Patrick Pilch

Overlooked Albums 2016 FlasherFlasherFlasher EP
(Sister Polygon)

Born and reared by the thriving punk scene currently tearing through the “anti-orange” capital of our nation, Flasher have emerged among political turmoil festering just outside the band’s front door. Sharing a member (bassist Taylor Mulitz) with Sister Polygon labelmates Priests and Young Trynas, the scene has certainly developed a sense of camaraderie within the DC punk revivalist hub. Flasher evoke punk trendsetters Magazine and Wire, all while presenting a starker take on DIIV’s dreamlike ethos, sonically rattling listeners with a more sinister approach. The band’s self-titled EP is a compact batch of post-punk fervor, tailored to the broken and nauseating bureaucracy recently greased into office. – Patrick Pilch

overlooked albums 2016 HecksThe HecksThe Hecks
(Trouble In Mind)

A photograph by architectural photographer Richard Nickel graces the cover of The Hecks’ self-titled record: it’s a fittingly stark image reflecting the art punk tunes generated by the Chicago trio. The group’s long-awaited debut has been nearly two years in the making and sharpens upon the band’s distinct application of jangly post-punk via nasally-tweaked, dueling guitars. The Hecks is a perceptive take on pop dissonance weaving its way through bleak and hypnotic breaks of atonal soundscapes. By placing pairs of more accessible tracks next to sonically jarring instrumental pieces, the album sticks to a jab-jab-punch formula, assembling The Hecks as a single, seamless entity through shrewd song juxtaposition. – Patrick Pilch

overlooked albums 2016 into it over itInto it. Over It.Standards
(Triple Crown)

Profound, tender and deeply understated, Standards unfortunately gets lost among an emo resurgence that Evan Thomas Weiss helped usher into prominence. Nonetheless, Standards fits into accordance with a lot of artists’ priorities this year, and that’s a shifting turn into modern and mature work that consults age, loss and musings on the nature of life as inspirations for the album itself. Weiss’ songwriting abilities and vocal range have never been stronger, or clearer. A brilliant gem. – Brian Roesler

overlooked albums 2016 IT ITIT ITIT IT
(Raw Broccoli)

Well, we’ve finally reached another breaking point of a band’s ‘unGooglability.’ Pittsburgh’s IT IT jests within the tongue-in-cheek footsteps of bands such as Girls, Priests and Women, as well as pre-search engine era bands like The Band, The Who and The The. At this point, the double pronoun group is the final frontier of blatantly nominal anonymity, but hopefully their titular disguise is short-lived. Not necessarily offbeat enough to be considered left field, but nothing short of novel, IT IT’s self-titled release is one of the most compelling indie rock advancements in recent memory. The band’s compositional mastery is revealed through their ability to compress numerous movements into each sub-six minute track, yielding a kaleidoscopic product crammed with moody effects, frequent tempo shifts, and hook-harnessing samples. – Patrick Pilch

Nicolas Jaar SirensNicolas JaarSirens
(Other People)

Nicolas Jaar hit a personal artistic high in 2013 with Darkside’s Psychic, an album length set of spacious electro-psych with guitarist and collaborator Dave Harrington that not so subtly evoked Pink Floyd while pushing electronic music into new progressive spaces of its own. In the aftermath of that onetime collaborative effort, Jaar has continued to evolve while maintaining the same M.O. of beat- and ambiance-laden progressivism. Sirens, packaged with minimal pre-release hype, is despite its surprise drop probably one of the less overlooked recordings here. Still, Jaar remains an enigma, tapping into sounds from both past and present that build up into something that sounds like the future. He mines post-punk edge on “Governors” and “Three Sides of Nazareth,” and puts his own electro-psych spin on cumbia with “No.” Even its minor moments feel significant, each space a sustained and dramatic presence. On first listen, Sirens proves to be a sensory experience worthy of repeat immersion. Then you notice how subversive it is, how rich each track is underneath the sublime atmosphere, and once again Jaar proves how vital a presence he is in music today. – Jeff Terich

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