Next week our music staff writers and I will tackle the best local releases of 2016, but I'm sticking with albums not from the birthplace of rock-and-roll for this list.
In no particular order, here are my picks for the albums and singles of the year.
Tim Presley — The Wink (Drag City)
White Fence has long been one of the most interesting psych bands to come out of California, and the mastermind behind the many LPs the band has released is San Francisco artist Tim Presley. After recording a killer record with Cate Le Bon under the name DRINKS last year, Presley released The Wink, his first record without the White Fence moniker.
The Wink is a departure from Presley's mad-scientist style of home recording, as Le Bon produced the album earlier this year in a proper California studio. The result is a kaleidoscope of krautrock, California psych, free jazz, and late '70s New York City rock, and the album hasn't moved more than a few feet from my turntable since I bought it.
Heavy Metal — LP (Static Shock)
A completely odd and perfectly offensive punk album from the band known as Heavy Metal. There isn't a whole lot out there to learn about the two-piece band hailing from Berlin, Germany, save for BandCamp with a link to buy the album. The internet yields no other information on Heavy Metal, and the album's "lyric sheet" is just a piece of construction paper that reads "ANTI LYRIC SHEET." Probably the best punk record I've heard this year.
Merchandise — A Corpse Wired for Sound (4AD)
Merchandise fans knew a change in the band's sound was probably coming after the Florida boys signed to indie label titan 4AD. Their first offering for the label — After the End — was met with mixed reviews, and critics wondered if the band had lost their ability to make behemoth post-punk ballads with budget recording equipment.
The band didn't really answer the questions posed following the release of After the End and instead made an album featuring some of their most moody and vulnerable songs to date. It's been fun watching Merchandise grow into their new label as they challenge the songwriting that made them a great band in the first place, and here's hoping the quartet will finally come to Memphis after skipping us over for both Birmingham and Oxford on past tours. What's up with that?
The Fall — Bingo-Master's Break-Out! (Superior Viaduct)
I tried not to mention a reissue in this list, but not including the debut single from The Fall would just be irresponsible. Mark E. Smith is still making music as The Fall (occasionally with Tim Presley), but this three-song attack is arguably one of the best punk singles of all time and definitely some of the band's best work. This was technically a Record Store Day release — the original came out in 1978 — but there are still copies of the reissue floating around. The Fall's discography can be a daunting collection to try and tackle, so why not start at the very beginning?
Rixe — Les Nerfs a Vif (La Vida Es En Mus)
The Oi! sub-genre of punk can be a little tricky to master, and more often than not, bands that attempt the classic British sound miss the mark. That rule doesn't apply to Rixe, whom I had the pleasure of watching in Los Angeles this summer before quickly buying all of the merchandise they had to offer. Rixe's 2016 EP, Les Nerfs a Vif, is like taking a trip back in time, and opening track "Hexagone" is an instant classic.
Omni — Deluxe (Trouble in Mind)
Omni's Deluxe wins surprise album of the year. The perfect summer record from a band that literally seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. If you dig around hard enough, you can find an Omni feature on the Flyer website written by yours truly.
Cheena — Spend the Night With ... (Sacred Bones)
Cheena had all the hype a new band could ask for prior to the release of their debut album, but critics were quick to call the band all sorts of things that they weren't. Sure, members of Cheena have played in some of the biggest bands to come out of New York City's underground rock scene of the last five or so years, but Cheena deserves to be looked at as its own project. From that vantage point, Spend the Night With ... is one of the most interesting and complex albums of the year. Also, any band that can get Daniel Stewart (Total Control, UV Race, Distort) to write a press release deserves a spot on a year-end list.
Exploded View — Exploded View (Sacred Bones)
This record sounds like if the Velvet Underground and Isolation Ward shared a practice space, got their scheduling dates mixed up, and decided to create a family band. Exploded View's debut LP weaves so many genres together so seamlessly that you can't help but wonder what the record collections of the band members of Exploded View have to offer.
Albums like these are why we yearn for new music in the first place. Exploded View takes the listener on a journey through both familiar and unfamiliar territory, accessing different emotions in the process. Essential listening in 2016, and mindblowing with each and every listen.