Favorite Albums of 2016 (So Far)

One of the most old man things I’ve ever heard myself say is to comment on how quickly the year has gone by. But, really. It’s July? We’re already past the All-Star Break? It’s hot out? (Purportedly. Still gloriously foggy and chill by Ocean Beach.) It does seem as though the first half of 2016 has gone by in a blur… until I look back at the list of albums I’ve enjoyed since January. Here are five of my favorites, as well as a link to a bite-sized playlist of representative tunes, courtesy of the Idle Time Mixcloud.

hinds albumHinds – Leave Me Alone
January 8
Those two ladies from Madrid whose “Trippy Gum” made its way onto every other playlist I made in the summer of 2014 (back when they were known as Deers) became a four-piece last year, and then opened twenty-sixteen with this record, their outstanding debut LP. There’s a wild, carefree zest to their brand of jangly lo-fi rock n’ roll that reminds me of Love Is All. Despite releasing in January, Leave Me Alone hasn’t left my rotation alone yet this year.

hotelierThe Hotelier – Goodness
May 27
I remember growing up in the mid-80’s thinking “disco” was a bad word. Thankfully, those days have passed, and the bubble of insufferable dance music that perverted great East Coast disco has been mostly lost to time. Now to do the same with “emo.” These Massachusetts boys just released a follow-up to 2014’s Home, Like Noplace Is There, and it’s a blistery, passionate return to the intensity of late-90’s emocore, sans pretension, melodrama, or eyeliner. That album cover is a bit of a fuck-you to selfie era narcissism too, which I can dig (even if I can’t stand looking at it).

esmeEsmé Patterson – We Were Wild
June 10
Since leaving indie folk band Paper Bird in 2014, Esmé Patterson has released a pair of solo records, and We Were Wild is her latest. There’s a lot of optimism on this record, which I can appreciate, but it’s clearly cradled by renewed faith in herself, and a self-determination to deal with whatever the future may hold, despite past challenges. Which I can really appreciate. “I’m human,” she sings on the second single, “No River,” and the strength of being alive is inspiring.

usbeckMaria Usbeck – Amparo
May 27
New Yorker (by way of Ecuador) Maria Usbeck’s solo debut is breezy and beautiful, like a hot air balloon ride across the South American landscapes of Pablo Neruda and Cortázar. It’s also recorded entirely in her native language. I love listening to this album, but I really love that my Spanish has improved to the point where I understand almost every word.

policaPoliça – United Crushers
March 4
This is the second time in as many months that the Minneapolis synthpop outfit has been featured in a Tunes of the Month mini-mix. And if we ever get off our asses, they’ll be repping the dearly departed Prince – and the Twin Cities – in this year’s Idle Time Tune tournament.