Music

The Best Indie Pop of 2016

In 2016, indie pop's highlights often went hand-in-hand with a general feeling of fading away, falling apart, saying goodbye.

5 - 1

Artist: Pete Astor

Album: Spilt Milk

Label: Slumberland / Fortuna Pop

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/p/pete_astor_spilt_milk.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 5

Display Width: 200

Pete Astor
Spilt Milk

Split Milk is driven by witty pop-rock songwriting with super melodies, framing life's frustrations in an immediate, entertaining way. That shouldn't be a surprise -- it's what's driven Pete Astor's music now for over 30 years, starting with his bands the Loft and the Weather Prophets in the 1980s, and continuing solo since 1990. His perspective on Spilt Milk is older and wiser, or perhaps older and jaded, with a persistent sense of humor. James Hoare (Ultimate Painting) recorded the album, played a number of instruments, and apparently convinced Astor to make the album. Thanks for that, as Spilt Milk is a beauty, which should appeal equally to longtime fans and to listeners coming to the charms of Astor's music for the first time.

 
Artist: Ablebody

Album: Adult Contemporaries

Label: Lollipop

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/a/ablebody_adult_contemporaries.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 4

Display Width: 200

Ablebody
Adult Contemporaries

The debut album from Ablebody is a luxurious, romantic affair, albeit one where the lyrics seem driven by doubt, frustration and heartbreak. A bittersweet romance, like all the best ones. The project of Christoph Hochheim (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Depreciation Guild), aided by his twin brother Anton Hochheim, Ablebody play melodramatic synthpop steeped in influences of the past, but not dominated by any one. The synths mean the '80s are never far from the listener's mind, but various sides of that decade, from top 40 radio ballads to shy underground anthems. On Adult Contemporaries Ablebody turn those influences into a consistently beautiful and affecting album; a pleasure to listen to, with layers of sound and feeling to dive into.

 
Artist: The Radio Dept.

Album: Running Out of Love

Label: Labrador

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/t/the_radio_dept-running_out_of_love.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 3

Display Width: 200

The Radio Dept.
Running Out of Love

Attention Americans: before you start thinking of running away to Europe to escape the current political state of things, you might want to listen to the latest from Sweden's the Radio Dept. Living in a climate shifting towards xenophobia, fascism, aggression, etc. has chased the love songs out of their music. The Radio Dept has always been defiant, provocative, progressive in spirit, but never this single-minded. Which doesn't mean Running Out of Love is a more narrow realm than their impressive back catalog -- they're still progressing, pushing their music forward. The sound is as dreamy as ever, with synths you can get lost in and a new focus on dancefloor grooves. It's a powerful combination -- protest and romance.

 
Artist: Jonathan Richman

Album: Ishkode! Ishkode!

Label: Blue Arrow

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/j/jonathanrichman_ishkode.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 2

Display Width: 200

Jonathan Richman
Ishkode! Ishkode!

At the point in his career where the attention he gets is mainly from longtime superfans, Jonathan Richman remains on a genuinely independent path, stubbornly so. His latest is countercultural, in that you won't find it on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, et al., but you can buy it directly from the record label (Blue Arrow, a record store turned label). He remains countercultural in outlook, and idiosyncratic, and sound as great as ever, in voice and guitar. And while he displays his trademark blend of wide-eyed sentimentality, playful humor, and nostalgia for another era, over the last handful of years he has also quietly been probing deeper into questions of mortality and life's meaning, something he continues here. While his story has been written as a progression (youthful angst leading to a second childhood), his more recent work is tonally more complicated than that story would lead you to believe. Ishkode! Ishkode! is one of the best albums he's released in the last two decades, though he's released a lot of great ones in the time. This time he's even brought back at least one hallmark of his earlier albums -- the giddy, loveable amateurish backing vocals -- while continuing to move forward.


Please don't adblock PopMatters.

We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.

We can't survive without your support.


 
Artist: Frankie Cosmos

Album: Next Thing

Label: Bayonet

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/f/frankie_cosmos_next_thing.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 1

Display Width: 200

Frankie Cosmos
Next Thing

The labyrinthine creative world Frankie Cosmos has built in the last few years, out of homemade Bandcamp releases full of in-jokes and wisps of tunes, instantly felt like it was just training, upon the release of Next Thing, her second album to have more of a band/studio treatment. Her dozens of releases all have their charms, but there's nothing anywhere near as well-developed as this. The sturdier musical approach is the perfect foundation for her songs, which are so interior in focus and gentle in tone that they can in other settings be dismissed as lightweight. Nope, the emotional depth here, projected as often through tiny scenes and stories as through openhearted expressions, is vast. Her singing is affecting, the melodies feel familiar like old friends (not familiar like tired). The songs seem tiny and epic at the same time; intimate and universal. They're packed with ideas and experiences, much more so than it can seem at a glance. On Next Thing, an album with deep pleasures to offer indie-pop fans, Frankie Cosmos feels like one of the best young songwriters working today.

Prev Page

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.