Vamp's best albums of 2016

2016 was a year that nobody could possibly predict what could come. Yet in the darkness of the past year, we saw some amazing people release some incredible albums, and we want to share four of our favourites – and why we love them so much.

My Woman

Angel Olsen

By: Amber McLinden

My Woman steps out of the boundaries Olsen set for herself with Burn Your Fire For No Witness. She seamlessly navigates an array of emotions, beginning with a goosebump-inducing track like “Intern”, and finishing on a pleading note with “Pops”. My Woman brings a complexity that Olsen yearned to provide, and allows listeners to understand this through her ever expressive voice.

Immediacy, vulnerability, and an understanding (or lack thereof) of love is something you can hear in both her lyrics and her vocals. “Shut Up Kiss Me” is a stand out track, bursting out from the rest of the album almost comically theatrical. The album builds tension like a well-constructed novel, going from “Give It Up” to tracks like “Sister”. On the track “Woman” Olsen challenges, “I dare you to understand/ What makes me a woman.” The topic is well explored throughout the album, challenging listeners to try and understand the concept of Woman.

Where previously Olsen has focused on sadness and pain, My Woman pleads to escape from narrow constrictions and makes others understand that the idea can’t be defined. Olsen writes from her own experience, her own life, and self-definition is at the core of this album. My Woman could be defined as an exploration of emotions and of love; it could also be whatever the hell you want it to be. Define what it is to be a woman, it’s up to you.

Favourite tracks: Shut Up Kiss Me, Heart Shaped Face

Puberty 2

Mitski

By: Alec Warkentin

In a year of such turmoil, one thing can be said for certain — 2016 had some killer music.

Case in point: Puberty 2, from New York-based indie rock phenom Mitski, arguably one of the more slept on albums of the year.

It all begins with the pulsating drone of album-opener “Happy,” which has Mitski exploring an experience with happiness personified, first coming to visit her, and then leaving without a word. All the while, the instrumentation building from it’s initial pulse, filling itself with horns and percussion as she ultimately laments “If you’re going, take the train/ So I can hear it rumble, one last rumble/ And when you go, take this heart/ I’ll make no more use of it when there’s no more you.”

“Happy,” as an opener, sets up the listener almost immediately in regards to the ride they’re about to experience with Puberty 2, but by the time you get to the fifth track (massive stand-out “Your Best American Girl”), it’s no doubt that this album is one of the best of the year. In only three-and-a-half minutes, “Your Best American Girl” manages to capture a sound — loud, abrasive, yet still undeniably fragile — that many of those in the well-established indie rock canon could only dream of being able to put out in 2016.

The reason why Puberty 2 is such a great album isn’t simply because Mitski manages to explore a near-endless variety of sounds and song structures successfully, but because of the way she manages to bury these catchy mini-hooks amidst the dissonance for the listener to find. The album itself is Mitski looking for and finding herself in just over half an hour.

Favourite tracks: Your Best American Girl

Adore Life

Savages

By: Nathan Kunz

In April of 2016, Savages, the four-piece alt-rock group who have made a name for themselves with high intensity live show and glowing Pitchfork review scores, performed ‘Adore’ on The Ellen Degeneres Show. The haunting waltz was a surreal fit for the daytime audience, and the friendly reaction of the crowd as they were told everyone was getting a CD copy of ‘Adore Life’ was noticeable in the broadcast. I hope every middle aged couple and ‘fun mom’ in attendance gave the record a chance on their drive home, and I hope at least half made it through the hard hitting first track before switching back to pop radio.

Adore Life, Savages’ second album has the unique quality of being accessible without dumbing itself down. Effortlessly, the record switches from rolling waves of sonic aggression to soft swinging ballads. This diversity of tracks is what makes the record great. Rather than rehashing the formula of 2013’s ‘Silence Yourself’, the four-piece adds to their repertoire, creating infinitely interesting tracks with complicated arrangements and songs that stay in Savages realm without feeling repetitive. Lyricist and vocalist Jehnny Beth performs each track on the album with a sincerity and urgency that punches through the mix, at times resembling the styling of Ian Curtis and at others Siouxie Sioux. The creativity of Gemma Thompson on guitar, Ayse Hassan on bass, and Fay Milton on drums make the album pulse with energy and passion.

With an unapologetic and diverse soundscape, Savages created one of the most exciting and repeatedly enjoyable albums of 2016, a musical project die-hard fans of the group and of Ellen Degeneres can and should love.

Favourite Tracks: The Answer, Sad Person, I Need Something New

Next Thing

Frankie Cosmos

By: Paul McAleer

If an artist can capture nostalgia and make it bleed into a single song or an entire album, the music is going to be successful. New York-based songwriter Frankie Cosmos does all of that and more with her 2016 release, Next Thing. Cosmos not only captures the feelings associated with growing up that most people choose to lock away and forget, but she also throws in beautiful retrospective commentary between the lines on each track. On “What If,” Cosmos balances imagery of parties and train rides with powerful sentiments and stabbing paradoxes: “When you’re young, you’re too young/When you’re old, you’re too old/Too few ideas, or too many/I’m reminded of a dance party.”

At a surface level, Next Thing is lo-fi indie-rock done right, complete with catchy guitars and lyrics sung by a beautiful but broken voice. Cosmos songwriting abilities are the key to understanding what transcends Next Thing into an unforgettable album. Most of the tracks are less than two minutes long, but each one feels complete and fully realized. The decision to keep individual tracks focused is refreshing in a year that felt overloaded with overly ambitious albums that could have benefited with Cosmos’ approach. For an album that deals heavy in both mundane and unforgettable moments, Next Thing mirrors the way time quickly passes in our own lives: great experiences turn into memories the instant they are over, but at least with Cosmos, we have the luxury of the replay button.  

Favourite tracks: Outside With The Cuties, FoolEmbody

What was your favourite album/track from 2016? Let us know in the comments!