“Ruminations” is the seventh solo album from Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Desaparecidos fame. The album finds Oberst at his most vulnerable and visceral in quite some time. Recorded in his home over the course of 48 hours with just a piano, harmonica, and an acoustic guitar, intimateness really shines through. The sparse style resonates a stark loneliness. You can feel the trauma that Oberst has gone through in the past couple of years in his voice and in his reflection. The most frequent comparison made is to that of Springsteen’s “Nebraska” and if you are an avid listener of similar bare-bones folk music then this album should not pass you up. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, The Tallest Man on Earth
Listen to: “Tachycardia”
Run For Cover
In the midst of a tour with emo heavyweights Joyce Manor and The Hotelier, Crying released their debut full-length record, “Beyond the Fleeting Gales.” Their double EP from 2014 had much more of a chiptune aesthetic to it but here those synths are moved to the background and more traditional rock instrumentation is put to use. The jagged lo-fi riffs were rough on the ears at first but once I got used to the sound I was hooked. The mix of twee and stadium rock is somewhat baffling but it works out quite well. It’s flashy, dynamic and infectious; Crying really pulled through with this debut. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Deerhoof, Jawbreaker, Frankie Cosmos
Listen to: “Wool in the Wash”
I’ve been following D.D Dumbo ever since I saw him at a festival in 2014. After a few singles, an EP and supporting acts like Tune-Yards, St. Vincent and Tame Impala on the road; he’s finally released his debut full-length out on 4AD records. “Utopia Defeated” features a collection of fun, jittery guitar loops that turn into great pop songs with a flair of perfectionism. It’s easy to tell that Dumbo took the two years since his EP to make the album that he wanted to make exactly the way he envisioned it as every little thing feels purposeful. Although it is not one of my favorite releases of the year, it’s admirable to see an artist so patient and fastidious. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Xenia Rubinos, Olga Bell, Julia Jacklin
Listen to: “Walrus”
Side One Dummy
“Worry.” by Jeff Rosenstock has some of the sharpest punk songs of the year. The tongue in cheek “Festival Song,” the biting “Wave Goodnight to Me” and the sad triumph of the opener “We Begged 2 Explode” are all catchy, self-depreciative and most of all, ambitious. That ambition is best seen in the last eight tracks, which come together to form a medley similarly to how the tracks came together on King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s latest album, “Nonagon Infinity.” Even when they are as short as thirty seconds, each part is memorable and key to the narrative. The album feels meticulously planned and expertly executed. Even when it dips into genres I don’t normally listen to like Power Pop, it never loses my attention – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: PUP, AJJ, Beach Slang
Listen to: “Wave Goodnight to Me”
Marching Church is the side project founded by Elias Bender Rønnenfelt of Iceage fame, which also features members of Lower and Hand of Dust. Iceage released my favorite album of 2014, “Plowing Into the Field of Love” and that was quickly followed up with Marching Church’s excessive debut full-length, “This World is Not Enough.” Now, just over a year later, Marching Church have released their sophomore album “Telling It Like It Is” and are feeling much more like a bona fide band than a deviation from Iceage.
The free-form song structures have been ditched in favor of tight thought out sonic progressions. Rønnenfelt’s characteristic drunken swagger fits just as well over “Calenture,” which sounds reminiscent of the country side of the Rolling Stones, as it does anything else he’s done beforehand. The trudging post-punk is still intact on songs like “Information” and “Let it Come Down” but the rest of the album varies its style while still remaining thematically focused. Emotionally harsh and instrumentally complex, “Telling It Like It Is” is one of the most interesting rock albums 2016 has to offer. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Iceage, The Birthday Party, Protomartyr
Listen to: “Calenture”
Anderson .Paak has been one of if not the breakout artist of the year and he has rounded it off with a second album, a collaboration with renowned producer Knxledge. Much like Stones Throw duos of the past like Madvillain and Jaylib, NxWorries possesses a beat tape quality while also showcasing Paak’s distinctive chops as a crooner. From a lyrical standpoint, the album can feel repetitive at times, but that only further focuses one’s attention on the impression array of beats Knwledge made for the record. .Paak doesn’t show anything noticeably different from what he’s done so far but he does prove that he can keep up his momentum with consistently quality releases. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, BJ The Chicago Kid
Listen to: “Lyk Dis”
Following 2014’s eleven-minute album “Dissed and Dismissed” with a new ten-minute EP “Confront the Truth,” Tony Molina moves away from garage rock and into folk music. Save for two tracks the electric guitar is absent. The synthesizers are a welcome addition and tones match the melancholy of the album terrifically. The brevity and sweetness often give off the semblance of lullabies. Molina is able to accomplish in one minute what most artists can’t with four and that should be lauded. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Ovens, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub
Listen to: “See Me Fall”
Vulfpeck are back after a short wait – it’s only been a year since their stellar debut full length, “Thrill of the Arts”.The album capitalized on the band’s penchant for complex and precise funk as well as their image of being a bunch of carefree guys.
For the most part, “The Beautiful Game” continues the group’s traditions in every sense. Which means that despite being an excellent album, there seems to be little growth here stylistically.
One of the most obvious differences between “The Beautiful Game” and previous releases is the large number of tracks with vocal performances. On “Animal Spirits”, there is a comical but nonetheless touching love story told in the vaguest terms possible. On “1 for 1 DiMaggio”, we get the return of Antwaun Stanley (thank goodness) singing of his love for the baseball great.
The vocals don’t always work here, though. “Conscious Club” is an old instrumental reworked with vocals (another Vulf tradition). They seem a bit overwrought here, however. Vulfpeck went a little too far on this one and things don’t feel quite as together as usual.
The group shines, as always, when the focus is on their playing as a band, feeding off each other. Tracks like “Dean Town” and “Daddy, He Got a Tesla” are irresistible funk. They boast unbelievable grooves that can’t be ignored.
This album has cemented what we already know about Vulfpeck, but leaves us wanting just a little bit more from them in the future. – Patrick Larsen
Recommended if you like: Lettuce, Thundercat, Soulive
Listen to: “Dean Town”
Simply put this album is gorgeous. Lush orchestral backdrops support the call back to the popular psychedelic folk music of California in the 1970’s. Natalie Mering’s voice is transfixing and fits harmoniously with the instrumentation. The record is as enthralling at its quietest as it is at its loudest. “Used To Be” pulls the listener in with just Natalie and a piano to begin with and then seamlessly transforms into a massive chamber pop ballad filled to the brim with percussion, horns, and backing vocals.
“Front Row Seat to Earth” has a noticeably calming and tender tone, which makes it a remarkably relaxing listen. You can feel your stress wash away whenever any of its many ethereal melodies kick in. Weyes Blood created one of the most beautiful albums this year and it should not go under your radar. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Julia Holter, Itasca, Marissa Nadler
Listen to: “Generation Why”
Be sure to check out our Best of October Spotify playlist which features all of these artists and many more!