DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2017: 5-1

So here we are, at the end of my top 20 list. Here are the 5 albums of 2017 that I feel exemplify the best of what the year had to offer. Thanks once again for reading. Let’s get into it shall we?

5. Boris- DEAR

Ahh, Boris. Forever pushing the boundaries, this year played it a little more safe and just put out an album you can tell they loved making. It plays to all their strengths, it’s easily their heaviest release in a long while- and in turn, surprisingly, their most accessible. It’s an invigorating listen, so many of Boris’ finest tropes on display in one tight package. It rocks, it drones, it wails, it rumbles. It’s Boris.

4. Converge- The Dusk in Us

Converge return for their first album in five years, and once again, prove that they are the kings of modern hard-core. This album is truly spectacular, each and every song is meticulous, the production amazing. It houses some of the most amazing drum work I have heard in almost a decade. Converge not only manage to bring the best hard-core/punk/metal release of the year, it might be their best album to date- though that will be hotly debated. Either way, no one can deny it’s power and prowess. Also, when has hard-core ever been this beautiful? Next level stuff.

3. St. Vincent- MASSEDUCTION

St. Vincent delivers the best western pop release of the year in 2017. Hauntingly potent, amazingly catchy, it’s a small revelation in itself. I often roll my eyes when an indie rock artist goes the electronic dance route- it’s quite an overdone trope in modern music to me- however, it’s as if St. Vincent was made for it. Never leaving her rock roots behind, St. Vincent uses the electronic medium to expand her vision and deliver her stories home in a way that will shake up any listener. It’s fun, yearning, sexy and most of all- just sounds damn good. Get it.

2. Seiko Oomori- kitixxxgaia

Let’s face it- anyone who follows me at all will have known this was going to be in the top five. Seiko Oomori has once again delivered an album that has been talked about, pondered over, loved and in turn- loathed even more by detractors, depending on who is listening. Her expansion of themes into religion, idol culture, sex and personal politics are really what stand out the most here. kitixxxgaia is a very important album to me, I have listened to it countless times. Every song has its place. The use of new producers and collaborators make it her most expansive- and exhausting album to date. As Seiko’s career gets bigger- her music does too, and this is no doubt the biggest, most over-the-top, huge, visionary and most importantly, entertaining J-pop album of 2017. Amazing. Goddamn amazing.

Read my full review here.

1. Phew- Light Sleep

Phew’s latest album, Light Sleep, is hands down the most overwhelming album I heard this year. It’s almost atonal sea of electronics sends chills down my spine every single time. Phew never relies on nostalgia or catchy hooks to create her works- and it really makes me appreciate what a talent she really is. Light Sleep is a solo project in every sense of the term- literally recorded in her own bedroom, utilizing a whole set of old analog equipment- and it’s used to perfect, haunting effect. It gives a sense of peering into someone’s private world, never fully penetrable but always inviting. Best experienced with a good set of headphones, Light Sleep’s melting pot of noisy, droning electronic hums and beat up drum machines will not hold your hand, but those willing and patient enough will find no album as rewarding as this. Phew has created her best work in years, an experimental masterpiece that further cements her legendary status in the Japanese music scene. A must listen for serious music fans, and truly the best album I listened to in 2017.

A masterpiece.

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DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2017: 5-1

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 10-6

10. Seiko Oomori- MUTEKI

MUTEKI is a celebration of all things Seiko Oomori, the ultimate in fan-service. 18 re-recorded songs selected from her entire backlog, stripped down to their essence, either backed with her trademark acoustic guitar or some delightful piano work, it’s a treat for any Seiko Oomori fan. It also features two new full studio songs that are both wonderful in their own way, but let’s face it, we’re all here for the acoustic songs.

It’s addictive, time consuming (at nearly a full CD), indulgent, essential and utterly Oomori. While it didn’t resonate as much as this years main release, “kitixxxgaia”, it certainly is a must hear for anyone interested in hearing some of the top-tier J-pop at the current time. Read my more in-depth review here.

9. CHAI- PINK

CHAI’s debut full length is one of the most charming albums of 2017. Short, wild, groovy and energetic, PINK marks one of the most exciting newcomer albums in quite a while. CHAI have a real sense of control, and never are ones to take themselves too seriously. The musicianship is very strong, the vocals shout-along and full of youth edge. It’s addictive, colorful and most of all, damn fun. Can’t recommend this one enough.

8. Björk- Utopia

Björk returns in 2017 with her longest album of her entire career. It’s also one of her most colorful and layered releases. Some may find it overwhelming or even impenetrable at first- indeed, there are barely any ‘catchy’ moments on this beast. Those who have the patience though, will be rewarded for their time, as more and more of this album reveals itself through repeated listens. A latecomer in 2017, but such a strong release that it managed to shoot it’s way into the Top 10 without any hesitation. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s Björk.

7. Hirone-chan- Yume no Yume

Hirone-chan’s “Yume no Yume” was the biggest surprise for me in 2017. After a string of promising but fairly “Seiko clone” style albums, Hirone-chan finally found her calling with this one. It’s an absolutely gorgeous listen that creaks, pops and rattles along with a complex subtlety that becomes more and more noticeable on repeated listens. Hirone-chan really has matured significantly, and her songwriting has improved tenfold. A must hear for fans and newcomers alike.

Read my full review here.

6. Leah Dou- Kids Only

Leah Dou returns with her sophomore album, and damn what a followup. A sophisticated, engrossing and hypnotic record from end to end, Dou really expands on the sound she is known for and takes her experimental side to a new level. It’s a perfect album to chill out with, and certainly the most interesting Mandarin language album you’re gonna come across this year. An intoxicating blend of looping samples, beats, funk, jazz and smooth vocals- it’s about as perfect a second album a fan could ask for. Most of all, it feels honest and truly from a place that Dou understands and owns. Get on it.

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 10-6

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 15-11


15. Angel Olsen- Phases


Angel Olsen’s “Phases” is not a ‘proper’ album as such, it is a compilation of outtakes, unreleased material and b-sides. However, the choices here are so strong, and the structuring of the album so well thought out, it almost feels like listening to a fully-fledged release. Olsen’s hypnotic voice, subtle songwriting and potent lyricism really shine throughout this release, and it’s a good placeholder while we wait for whatever she intends to release next. A must hear. Plus, the album cover is awesome.

14. ZOMBIE CHANG- GANG!

ZOMBIE-CHANG’s continual expansion and adaption to the electronic scene has been quite an experience to be part of, and her newest album “GANG!” is no exception. This time round, the production is punchier, brighter and the album feels a lot tighter. It’s loaded with catchy tunes and unexpected ear-worms, as well as some amazing vocal improvements on ZOMBIE-CHANG’s side. It’s a short and sweet listen that demands multiple rewarding replays.

13. Fleet Foxes- Crack Up

Crack Up” marks Fleet Foxes’ long overdue return to the music scene- and what a return it is. It’s not as immediately accessible as previous album “Helplessness Blues” but it is far more complex and demanding. Songwriter and mastermind Robin Pecknold brings to Crack Up everything he has- it’s a sweeping, engrossing journey from start to end, often so textured that it will need multiple listens to break down and make sense of it all. Political, personal and damn addictive, Crack Up is both the best Fleet Foxes album this year -and in general.

12. Arcade Fire- Everything Now

I know, I know. This one may come across as a bit of a shock- after being panned critically and having such a negative response from the fan-base- but, still, I really had a great time with this one. Arcade Fire this time are playful, pretentious, corny and overly theatrical- but I feel in context of the album- it all works. The theme here is consumerism, selling out to the extreme. The track-list is presented as ‘our sponsors’ and each title has it’s own logo. The lyrics insert is presented like a catalog. It’s all very, very tongue-in-cheek and I feel some may have missed that aspect of the album. The thing that makes it all work though- is how damn catchy some of these tracks are. Call me a heathen but I LOVED the maligned single “Signs of Life”. It’s a long leap from the Arcade Fire of yore, but in this particular case- it’s fine with me and I’m happy giving it a rightful place in my top 20.

11. Tori Amos- Native Invader

Jesus Christ!  A TORI AMOS album in my top 20 in 2017? Things are really getting weird now! Indeed, Tori seemingly has broken her dry spell that she was under the last, oh, decade or so. Native Invader has some of the most compelling, subtle and beautiful work from the songwriter in a long, long time. While the production is still a little on the flat side, its still not enough to take away from the magical qualities of the tracks presented here. It made me feel like a teenager all over again, a fantastic blast from the past. This is the best Tori Amos album since Scarlet’s Walk in my opinion, and that’s some tall praise right there. Check it out!

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 15-11

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 20-16

So, here we are again. 2017 has been quite a turbulent year, both in music and in general. This year has been a particularly hard year to create a list of top albums for, my original list of notable albums came to over 60 releases, so I’ve had to wean out almost 40 of them to make a concise Top 20. Anyway, you know the drill, let’s get straight into it. Here are numbers 20-16

20. never young beach- A GOOD TIME

never young beach returned this year with their first major label effort. While it never really hit the highs that they had achieved in previous releases, it’s still a warm, comforting listen regardless. What is most impressive here is the control never young beach are showing, considering the young ages of the band members. The guitar work in particular, is stunningly beautiful. The major label production smooths off the rough edges and makes for a perfect, relaxing and lazy summer’s listen.

19. The Shins- Heartworms

The Shins’ last effort, Port of Morrow, was a very interesting blend of slow-burns and more mature writing than early releases. It also had a very distinct glossy sound that probably comes with the fact that it indeed was really a James Mercer solo project (everything on the album is from his mind)- and Heartworms continues that trend. Housing it’s fair share of catchy bops and beautiful –almost to a fault- production, Heartworms in another strong addition to The Shins’ catalog. It certainly got a lot of play throughout the year and is one of the more fond releases from early on.

18. Maron Hamada- Lady Monochrome

Maron Hamada continues her streak of winning, sexy jazz-rock that manages to fill the gigantic gap that Shiina Ringo has left in some people’s lives. Sure, while Maron Hamada will never get the same kind of recognition- the talent is definitely there. Lady Monochrome is her tightest and most ‘rock’ album to date- and has quite a lot of standout tracks. An essential if you’re into this genre and probably worth checking out if you’re into Japanese rock in general.

17. Charlotte Gainsbourg- Rest

Settle in, this album is an all engrossing, demanding and rewarding listen that might get overlooked on many people’s radars. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s latest album is presented mainly in her native tongue of French and is a wonderful blend of psychedelic prog-rock and modern electronic pop.  It has some of the most creative string use I’ve heard in a long time. Fantastic chord progression, instrumentation and song writing combine to create quite a unique album. Listen to the single “Deadly Valentine” and you’ll know if this album is for you. As it stands, it’s probably Gainsbourg’s strongest release to date and fans are eating it up.

16. MINAKEKKE- TINGLES

MINAKEKKE’s debut album was one of the freshest releases this year. A slow, hypnotic mix of shoegaze and beautiful pop-rock matched with MINAKEKKE’s  vocals is enough to create quite a trance-like state for the albums run-time. By the end of the album you will wonder where the time went, and consequently delve right back into to it to experience it all over again. A great newcomer to keep your eye on, TINGLES is definitely a must hear of 2017.

Stay hooked for the next 5 entries, coming early next week!

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 20-16

THE BEST OF 2016: 5-1

So, here we go, the cream of the crop. Here’s my top 5(ish) albums of this year!

5. ZOMBIE-CHANG- ZOMBIE-CHANGE/Hanae- SHOWGIRL

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Ok, ok, I know it’s cheating a bit, but I honestly couldn’t decide which of these two were better. I love them both in equal amounts for different reasons, so I’m gonna take the easy way out and group them together. ZOMBIE CHANG with her ethereal, relaxed, trippy and gorgeous opus that is her sophomore album and Hanae with her bizarre, carnival like mix of bright and bubbly sounds that is SHOW GIRL. Both albums do have their own blend of sensuality, ZOMBIE-CHANG with her shy-girl approach and Hanae with her more blatant sexuality. They both are really nicely made, neither of them have any real dud tracks, both flow wonderfully and both have gotten equal playtime from yours truly since their release date. Hell, they both run for about the same time too. It’s just two of the best releases you will find from Japan this year, and I highly recommend both to anyone.

4. Angel Olsen- My Woman
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Ah, Angel Olsen‘s “My Woman“. What a wonderful release this one was. Only being somewhat familiar with the singer-songwriter, a lot of buzz was being made about her latest- which I foolishly chose to ignore for a little while. But dammit, this name was popping up everywhere I lurk, so I went and listened. What a treat I was greeted with- here was someone who had fully developed her craft, whether it be in short pop ditties or longer, near ten minute epics, everything was delightful. Her voice is AMAZING- and seems like she is almost limitless in her power. Music style is a neat mix of traditional indie pop mixed with some 60s/70s inspired progressive rock and psychedelia. A friend once described her as “The Stevie Nicks of the Twitter Generation” and that description has really stuck. A must hear. And if she’s ever touring your neck of the woods, a must see. Her live show is outstanding.

3. Jun Togawa with Vampillia- Watashi ga Nakou Hototogisu
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This album is honestly the biggest shock to me this year. Sure I was expecting it to be good, and also expected it to land somewhere on this list, but I generally thought that it would likely be just some neat variations of Jun Togawa tracks that would be a nice addition to the collection. Wrong. This album is SPECTACTULAR. These aren’t just rearrangements to me, they are totally reinvigorated, the most respectful arrangement Vampillia could possibly come up with. Blending Vampillia’s signature black metal/orchestral sound with Jun Togawa classics, this is truly a heart-stopping release. Togawa’s aged vocals only add a level of sorrow and emotion to the mix that perhaps hasn’t been seen before in any of her releases- it had this hardcore Togawa fan in tears. All at once it feels like a new Togawa album and an amazing, powerful and ultimately, honorable celebration of one of the greatest Japanese pop stars to ever live. A must own.

2. Mitski- Puberty 2
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Mitski‘s Puberty 2 is fucking great. I have spent so many hours with this insanely confrontational, open, soul-bearing release and often just fade away listening to it. It’s a wholly engrossing experience, and it’s lyrics are bound to hit anyone on a deep and profound level. Musically it’s fantastic and slightly nostalgic- with plenty of inspirations to mid 90s alt rock- and it just works a charm. There are two extremely powerful moments in particular that haunted me long after hearing them- that is the tracks “Fireworks“, with its amazing buildup and lyricism and the punkish belter “My Body is Made of Crushed Little Stars“, that really makes listeners feel uncomfortable but unable to escape its clutches. The album is no doubt going to become a cult classic, and rightly so. If you haven’t heard Mitski’s masterpiece yet, then you haven’t heard the best western release this year.

1. Seiko Oomori- TOKYO BLACK HOLE (and the rest of 2016).
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Now let’s face facts. You all knew that Seiko Oomori was likely going to top my list. No surprises there. But it’s not just TOKYO BLACK HOLE (which indeed I feel is the best album), it’s the entire year of 2016, where Seiko released so much great material that it was hard to even keep up. But first lets start with the album:

TOKYO BLACK HOLE was to me, at first, an amazing album full of top notch songs and a great flow by Seiko Oomori. It may be a bit more gentle than her previous albums- but I’d say that has to do with the period in her life in which a lot of this was being written- that time where she had just given birth. Over time it has grown into something completely different, an album that has firmly worked its way into the hearts of many listeners. I’m reaching a point where I dare say it’s my favorite of her releases in general- and a favorite release by my favorite artist is nothing to be sniffed at.

It’s hard to imagine 2016 without TOKYO BLACK HOLE, it truly is the sound of year- through all it’s ups and downs, the album has been there to fall back onto. It’s one of those records- a guiding hand, a comforting friend. The songwriting skill here is top of the line, every song holds its own and yet can work together as a full album with ease. It has never left my playlist since day one- and it still gets plays frequently. It truly deserves its place in the Seiko Oomori canon, and fully belongs here, at the top of the list in 2016.

But as we know, it wouldn’t end there. Seiko released many, many more tracks over the year, including a three single project (which I will review in full soon), multiple songs for the likes of other idol groups, songs on compilations, appearances on a few bands releases and released a whopping 12+ hours of video footage of live concerts on her fanclub’s website alone. To go into it all would take an entire post of it’s own. The very fact that she’s always got a presence of some form makes her one of the most attractive and rewarding artists to be a follower of- and the fact that her quality barely ever drops is something quite unseen in the Jpop market in 2016. She’s always there, always doing something. For a fan, it’s always exciting. It always feels like she cares about her fanbase.

2016 truly has been the year of Seiko Oomori and that is why she is top dog in this years list. Bring on 2017, where we surely will see her next album (and hopefully, her first covers album).

And that concludes my best of 2016 list, I hope you all enjoyed reading it. There are still a few albums that I feel should be mentioned, but unfortunately I had to cut off, so I will post a second round of honorable mentions in the next week or so. Overall, I feel 2016 has been one of the strongest years for music in a long while, particularly for the Japanese scene. One can only hope next year will be just as amazing.

THE BEST OF 2016: 5-1

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 10-6

And here we get to it, the beefy stuff. The top 10 albums of 2016 begins!

10. Mizuki Ohira- TRUE ROMANCE
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Mizuki Ohira‘s debut album is a gorgeous, gentle, soothing and overall unforgettable experience. Songs are painstakingly constructed, and Ohira really shows a lot of attention to detail and love for her craft throughout. Every song lives in its own little universe and is warm and organic. New listeners may recall artists such as Salyu or perhaps even Deep River era Utada Hikaru, with its super nice instrumentation and subtlety sexy vibes throughout the entire album. Ohira’s voice is beautiful and her level of control of her compositions is to be commended. One of the best new discoveries for me this year, and deserves its place in my top 10.

9. BPM15Q- BPM15Q ALL SONGS
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BPM15Q‘s album, for lack of more appropriate word- is a BEAST. From it’s very opening track to its finale, there is not one thing stopping this train from reaching it’s destination. Sporting some of the wildest, most fun J-pop tunes you’ll find anywhere this year (or perhaps any year for that matter), this EDM/Future Bass influenced record is bound to win many people over. I called it’s lead single “Hakuchuumu” the Jpop song of 2016– and I stand by that, its truly the most infectious, nod along, hell, dance in your seat tune you’re gonna find anywhere. This album is rad, and I can’t get enough.

8. PJ Harvey- The Hope Six Demolition Project
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After her amazing “Let England Shake” project, PJ Harvey returns with this release, a kinda-sorta expansion on the ideas and issues raised with Let England Shake, but this time reaching for a more modern and global scale. The instrumentation here is her ‘rockiest’ in years- with many songs (such as lead single “The Wheel“) having guitar up front and center and it’s such a hard hitting release after her more subdued last few efforts. Some portions of the album are so downright powerful that they sent this listener reeling. It might not sit well with some listeners (lyrics are occasionally a little clunky for sure) on first listens- but give it time to warm up and it really is one of the most rewarding albums you will find this year. It’s certainly one of my top listened records in 2016 and I can’t wait to see the live incarnation early next year.

7. never young beach- fam fam
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never young beach last year released one of the most charming breaths of fresh air with their album “YASHINOKI HOUSE“, and was on my end of year list. This year they brought “fam fam” which to many- was the sound of their summer. It’s chock full of those indie/surf rock inspired ditties that fans have all come to love- and this time it feels more rock-centric, with the focus on the right here, right now rather than giving a sense of wanderlust. It’s a nice little touch and makes this album stand apart from the previous one. All of it’s singles are great and once again, vocals and instrumentation are impeccable. Really damn good stuff.

6. Bokutachi no iru tokoro.- Gomi
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Bokutachi no iru tokoro. are fast becoming one of my favorite ‘dirty rock bands‘ and for good reason- they always just do what they do best- stick to the core roots of what makes rock music ROCK. Again, they give us a tight, concise short album of catchy tunes all brought together by that incredible vocalist that is Jinsei Dame Ko. The production value this time is ever so slightly ‘cleaner’- but it actually works pretty damn well for them. Tunes are far more catchy this time round too- you will no doubt be humming these long after you’ve finished playing it. If there’s one down to earth rock album you’ll wanna listen to this year, this is it.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 10-6

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 15-11

ROUND TWO: No intro, let’s keep going!

15. Fujin Club- Fujin Color
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This quirky release took many people by surprise (and stole quite a few hearts while at it, I’m sure) back in July. With it’s gorgeous Shibuya-Kei sound and fantastic and novel theme of anonymity (all the while showcasing Sado Island’s heritage and culture) really makes for an interesting listen. The production here, by M. Lemon is absolutely breathtaking and the songs all are playful and relaxing. Vocal work is absolutely perfect and hit the right balance of sweet and not-too-showy. It’s hard to imagine anyone not finding something to enjoy here, it’s definitely one of the most surprising, seemingly out of nowhere releases to come along in 2016.

14. Jun Togawa + Hijokaidan- Togawakaidan Series

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When Jun Togawa and Hijokaidan announced a collaboration album (Togawakaidan) this year, people were pretty excited. What we got (first time round) was quite impressive, taking Togawa classics and ramping them up with Hijokaidan’s signature noise- however, it, while cool, also only felt like a taster. That mainly came from the fact that the majority of the “studio” album was actually Hijokaidan solo performance- mainly from live recordings. While this is all fine and dandy, and made for one of the more interesting listens in early 2016, it wasn’t the TOGAWAKAIDAN experience many of us were waiting for.

Enter TOGAWAKAIDAN LIVE. Now, this was more like it. This album lit a fire up your ass and was totally unapologetic. Togawa sounded rough as fuck, her vocal chords shredded. Hijokaidan’s intensity reached apex level. Taken live from Akihabara Goodman on February 21, 2016, this really felt like the experience we were after. It wasn’t broken up in intervals, we got more Togawa songs. It felt like a real album. And it’s one of the best things released all year. Combined, these two rightly deserve their spot in my top 20.

13. David Bowie- Blackstar
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David Bowie‘s final release is a brilliantly sombre one, and one of his best in years. It’s brooding cauldron mix of jazz, electronica, progressive rock and foreboding what was to come- is truly a haunting and unforgettable experience. You will never leave this album unscathed, it manages to take something, some part of you with it on every play. And that truly is it’s greatest quality- it’s impeccable ability to be both highly enjoyable and profoundly disturbing simultaneously. If anyone could claim to truly have had a swan song- it’s Bowie. And this is it.

12. Metallica- Hardwired… to Self Destruct
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Metallica have not had the best time in the last couple of decades, they’ve always either done something stupid (see Napster scandal) or created albums that have either had questionable mastering choices (see Death Magnetic) or just downright awful (see St. Anger or Lulu). Yet, they still manage to have a good track here or there, and still unquestionably are true masters of the live show. That said, with their new album “Hardwired… to Self Destruct” they have given a real quality mixed bag of their two main eras- the thrash and the ‘faux-country-rock-whatever‘ era from the 90s. It has some real hard hitters (Spit Out the Bone, Hardwired) but for me, the real gems lie in the slower tracks. Personal picks include rumbler “Dream No More“, cheesy yet fun “Murder One” and the longest track on the record “Halo on Fire” which feature some of the best vocals by James Hetfield ever recorded. Sure Metallica is no longer Kill ‘Em All Metallica, but they don’t need to be. This is just a highly entertaining mainstream metal album that I truly have had a lot of fun with. Can’t wait to see them on tour (with BABYMETAL perhaps???).

For better or worse, I personally like both of Metallica’s main eras pretty much equally- and this album really feels like a conclusion to it all. If this ended up being Metallica’s final album, I would be satisfied.

11. Neon Bunny- Stay Gold
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Korean indie synth pop/electronic artist Neon Bunny released her newest release “Stay Gold” in July this year, and it is a much more focused, contemplative release than her debut. Lyrically it seems more vulnerable, soul exposing and yet has this kind of strange introversion/disconnect from real life- and it really makes it far more compelling than ever before. It’s slow, gorgeous beats are hypnotic and fantastic to listen to when you want to unwind. It really stands out from the sea of similar music because the production value is so rich and satisfying. There’s no dud tracks to be found throughout the whole album, and its main singles are all impressive works. If you listen to any album from South Korea this year, this should be it.

So there you have it, starting next week, my TOP 10!

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 15-11