Soundseeds Favorite Albums of 2016!

Soundseeds Favorite Albums of 2016
by Glenn Smith
many of these can be heard here (hit "shuffle" and enjoy the ride):  https://open.spotify.com/user/123785190/playlist/5q007dfJ0k0BexNaDCYzCA

  1. Stephen Katz - Cello Temple (http://www.stephenkatzmusic.com)

    • Beautiful improvised journeys, all recorded live for dance jams in Massachusetts.  Stephen is pioneering new sonic possibilities with the cello, and his combination of rhythmic and ambient elements is perfect for meditative movement.  

  2. Tina Malia - Anahata

    • A sublimely sweet sanctuary for the heart.  Returning to the heights (and depths) of her first few albums while continuing to evolve musically.  This is a gentle but powerful ride, with flowing arrangements laying the grounding for her exquisite vocals, this time all in Sanskrit, as on her last few albums.   The instrumentation mixes acoustic kalimba, guitar, harp, hand pan, and other treats with a subtle use of electric keyboard and guitar.  

  3. Incus - Reconciliation (https://incus.bandcamp.com/album/reconciliation)

    • Music as medicine for moving through these crazy times, born out of fire circle ceremonies, crafted into engaging songs that you will surely be singing along to.   An all-acoustic journey with piano, upright bass, guitar, accordian, percussion and a nice balance of voices.  So much goodness here … sweetness is knockin’ ...

  4. John Hughes - Heartstring Theory  (http://johnhughesmusic.com/Welcome.html)

    A lovely collection of original solo kora pieces, on a 22-string kora that he built. Delightful doses of gently flowing strings, both meditative and rhythmic at the same time.   “The Finch And The Python” is particularly engaging.  And it’s recorded live in a subway station, though you couldn’t tell from the studio-quality recording.  It’s hard to believe such a symphony of sound can come from one instrument.  

  5. Anoushka Shankar - Land Of Gold

    • A powerful album reflecting on the current refugee crisis.   As usual, she pushes the borders of Indian classical music to a more expansive pallet.  Excellent guest vocal contributions and stellar instrumental arrangements, with hang drum, upright bass, and of course sitar.  “Crossing the Rubicon” is especially groundbreaking.  

  6. Estas Tonne, One Heart Family - Mother of Souls.  Soundscape of Life.

    • A phenomenal journey through mystical gypsy waters, with beautiful vocals weaving with guitar, violin, percussion.  Music for ceremony, for ecstatic dance, for breathing deep, for life …  The track “Make Space” has an especially potent and touching message.  I first met this gypsy troubadour at Burning Man in the mid-90’s and was impressed with his guitar wizardry, but this well-produced gem is a whole ‘nother level.

  7. Martin Green - Flit

    • A compelling collection of pieces, mostly based on human migration - atmospheric electronic / acoustic ambient weavings with a haunting sweetness.  Based in Scotland, he draws in a wide array of accomplished musicians for a varied and always rewarding journey.   Seems like the music for a very moving theatrical performance.  

  8. Baaba Maal - The Traveller

    • A return to form for one of West Africa’s most loved musicians.  Incorporating some new elements (such as the compelling political truth-telling of author Lemn Sissay) and building on a long career of pushing boundaries beyond Senegalese traditions.   Acoustic meets electric in an exhilarating way.

  9. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service

    • Wow, didn’t see this one coming, especially since Phife died a while back, but here he is in fine form, and a whole slew of new talent fills the void in the album creation after he died.  An older and wiser Tribe, with the highs just as high as their early classics.  A few mediocre tracks can’t quell the thrill of having the Tribe back in action.  Thanks for sending Phife out in style.  Don’t sleep on “Conrad Tokyo,” where Phife and guest Kendrick Lamar both shine over a delicious groove.  

  10. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

    • Ya it’s another great one - no radical departures from previous releases, but innovative as always.  Hypnotic and skewed musical craft which always rewards repeated listens.  

  11. Beautiful Chorus - Sound Healing:  Cymatic Meditation

    • Hauntingly beautiful hypnotic weaving of voices and guitar

  12. Alicia Keys - Here

    • Reaching deeper than ever, and coming up with some powerful songs for our times, such as the touching “Illusion of Bliss,” a slow-burning soul tune with explosive accents, on par with James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World.” “Holy War” and “Kill Your Mama” are acoustic manifestos, while “The Gospel” and “Pawn It All” are classic grooves with potent lyrical cascades.  

  13. The Gloaming - The Gloaming 2

    • This Irish “supergroup” is a moving and magical combination of fiddle, piano, guitar, and vocals.  “The Pilgrim’s Song,” “Fainleog (Wanderer), “Sian le Maighe,” and “Cucanandy” are all beautiful examples of their sensitive and exquisite approach, drawing on tradition but bringing the depth of the heart. “The Old Favourite” may indeed be my favorite, with a potent feel of dreamy longing.  

  14. Ayla Nereo - The Code of the Flowers

    • More of her flowing lyrical sweetness here, with her distinctive vocals riding on a softly pulsing weave of lush acoustic strings and keyboard.  Some acapella (or nearly) tracks highlight her great vocal sensibilities.  

  15. Jesse Autumn - Bright Stars

    • Just some great songs, well-crafted weavings of voice, piano, harp, and bowed strings, all recorded live.  At times majestic, melancholic, dreamy, or sublime.  “The Time-Jumper” is an especially catchy tune.  Thankfully, there are a few songs highlighting  the harp - including the beautifully gentle “Paris, France.”  Her celtic influence, focused on in previous recordings, seeps in subtly on these tunes.  

  16. Kendrick Lamar - untitled

    • “Unfinished” pieces from the To Pimp A Butterfly album - still better than most, and stands up as a great album on its own.  Lyrical flow over this jazz / soul / funk / hip-hop hybrid.  

  17. Tanya Tagaq - Retribution

    • Intense dives exclaiming the resilience of the wild warrior amidst modern devastation. Her intense vocal delivery is set against an often hypnotic throb with apocalyptic overtones.  “Summoning” treads a fine line between acoustic playfulness and dark dread, while “Retribution” may just send shivers up your spine, building to a roaring climax.   Tagaq has taken throat-singing vocal techniques, born of her Inuit life in the far north lands of Nunavat, to a new level of complexity.  Testament to her talent is her collaborations with Bjork and the Kronos Quartet, among others.

  18. Ian William Craig - Centres

    • Otherworldly wanderings, with ethereal voices disappearing into a shifting haze of dreamlike beauty.  

  19. Shira - Subtle Creature

    • Some of the most innovative and compelling pop music out there today, with a slew of guests to add to the spice.  Strong vocals over a creative stew of melodic madness.  

  20. Charlie Roscoe - Druid Circle

    • A master of evocative and lush acoustic / electronic sound journeys.  Acoustic flute, piano, guitar, bowls, voice, and sounds of nature move over a bed of sweet keyboard washes, allowing you to sink in and breathe.  

  21. Lau - The Bell That Never Rang

    • A collection of sweetly sweeping tunes by this power-trio of fiddle, cello, guitar, and accordian.  Original twists breaking far out from traditional folk.  “The Death of the Dining Car” is a jaunty and uplifting tune, while “Back in Love Again” is a flowing, subdued meditation on love.  “The Bell That Never Rang” is an epic journey with many twists and turns.  Each tune is its own little gem.  

  22. Mahsa Vadat - The Sun Will Rise

    • All acapella, fitting for the stark beauty of this music.  Recorded inside ancient landmarks in Norway, France, Spain, Turkey, Alhambra, and Poland.  Unable to perform in public in her native Iran, she has carried the soul of Persian music to many lands.  

  23. Shahram Nazeri & Ferdowsi Ensemble - Derafsh-E Kaviani

    • The vocalist who was instrumental in bringing Sufism into Persian music.  Impassioned delivery that exemplifies the haunting beauty of the best Persian masters.  Sometimes as fierce as punk, often ascending and descending successive waves of dark delight.    

  24. Wildlight - The Tide (Acoustic)

    • A lovely merging of earth and air, with rootsy acoustic grooves laying the ground for the vocal lilting of Ayla Nereo.  Music for swirling and swaying in a field of flowers.    Guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, flute, percussion, toy piano, and more ...

  25. Kate Bush - Before The Dawn

    • Concert recordings from her first live shows in 35 years, selected from “Hounds of Love” to the present.  A great introduction for anyone not familiar with her grandeur.  Alas, there’s only one new song, but it’s sung by her son!

  26. John de Kadt - Speak (http://www.johndekadt.com)

    • Some nice grooves here, with De Kadt’s speaking /singing rhythmic vocal approach over a funky pop / soul backing with rootsy elements and a strong group of female vocalists.  “Good Trouble” and “It Acts Like Love” are nice rootsy jams with uplifting sing-along sections.  The rhythm is always upfront, while the lyrics address issues of the human condition in a down-to-earth way.  

  27. Rokia Traore - Ne’ So

    • One of Mali’s finest with another strong album.  Mostly traditional West African instrumentation, but some guest spots from unusual suspects like John Paul Jones (Led Zep) and Devendra Bernhardt.  

  28. Gojira - Magma

    • Pummeling riffs and grinding rhythms from this French band which stands out in the crowded heavy music field.  There’s even an acoustic piece which shows a whole different, and intriguing, side of the band - I long to hear official release of some of their amazing acoustic music, such as that in their 2014 Spring tour video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfYmEXEdtQc

  29. Alsarah & The Nubatones - Manara

    • A nice mix of flowing dance grooves, showcasing the oud in a mix of East African roots.  Alsarah is Sudanese-born, Brooklyn-based (with a stint in the Pioneer Valley of MA).

  30. Marcel Khalife, Mahmoud Darwish  - Andalusia of Love

    • The bittersweet beauty of Middle-Eastern music is elegantly displayed here, with Khalife (from Lebanon) playing his oud, and the words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish

  31. Lee Ranaldo and the Dust - Acoustic Dust

    • Ranaldo continues to make a graceful transition from noise-merchant (in Sonic Youth)  to songwriter of merit, here in beautiful acoustic form that crosses dreamy folk-rock with dissonant modernity.    

  32. Karsh Kale - Up

    • Some transcendent moments of cross-cultural fusion, drawing on his native India as well as contemporary soul / rock / electronic.  The title track is a great dreamy piece with building rhythmic drive.  

  33. Konono No. 1 - Konono No. 1 meets Batida

    • Konono’s trancy electro-traditional grooves from the Congo, here augmented by contributions from Angolan/Portuguese artist Batida and friends.  The dance is on, with a few new twists.  

  34. Laura Cannell - Simultaneous Flight Movement

    • Sometimes solemn, sometimes stirring.  Straddling the worlds of the avant-garde, folk, classical, and ambient, with songs alternating between 2 rarely-heard instruments - the double recorder and overbowed fiddle.  

  35. Kaitlin June - From the Living Room  (http://www.kaitlinjune.com)

    • Piano meditations with plenty of room to breathe.  The melodies flow sweetly and gently, often somber reaches into the heartspace.

  36. Million Sellers - Sufficiently Rude

    • Rootsy rock delivered raw and electric.   “HDMI” and “They Make Medication for That Now” drive fiercely, and “No, I’ll Never Know” is a fine swingin’ romp, while “Mr Redstone” is a more subdued hypnotic piece.   “Ellie Greenwich” is another fine romp, with a great paired piano-guitar line.  

  37. Steve Reich / Terry Riley - Six Pianos / Keyboard Study #1

    • New interpretations of classic works by these two masters of repetitive complexity / simplicity.  Though much of their work is based in acoustic instrumentation, their style paved the way for the trancy grooves of electronica, with the heavy emphasis on rhythmic weaving.   Piano, piano, and more piano.  

  38. Esperanza Spalding - Emily’s D+Evolution

    • An always adventurous mix of rock, jazz, funk, and pop.  Sometimes the overly complex arrangements make the song more “interesting” than fulfilling.  While some songs owe an obvious debt to Joni Mitchell’s adventurous jazz-folk-rock fusion a la “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter,” others carve out a unique slice of rock, like “Rest In Pleasure.”

  39. Yaima - Ovo

    • Dreamy songs with an acoustic / electric mix.  Nicely melodic vocals ride over the somewhat ambient mix, with just enough rhythm to keep things moving.  

  40. Marya Stark - Qi Songs for Crystal Kids

    • Sweet tunes for little and big kids.  High consciousness brought down to earth in a lovely way.  

  41. Matsumoto Zoku - Matsumoto Zoku II
  42. EMEFE - Time
  43. Neurosis - Fires Within Fires