PRINT December 2016

Music: Best of 2016

Angel Olsen

Still from Julianna Barwick’s 2016 music video Nebula, directed by Derrick Belcham.

1 JULIANNA BARWICK, WILL (Dead Oceans) Barwick is a celestial wizard. I listened to Will, her latest album—a compilation of multilayered vocal arrangements soaked in heavy reverb—quite a bit over the summer, to clear my brain on the way to rehearsals or while getting ready for long days of nonstop press.

2 BIG SEARCH (The BlindSpot Project, Los Angeles, February 12) While recording in LA in February, I went to see this rock band at a warehouse party and really enjoyed the show. I became obsessed with their track “Please Do Not Explain.”

3 DAVID BOWIE, BLACKSTAR (Columbia/ISO/RCA) In January, I walked into a bar in my hometown and actually heard Blackstar for the first time, not knowing it was David Bowie. When I found out, I was amazed that someone could keep making records that are surprising and curious, music that still makes people ask, “Who is this?” A few days later he passed. It was a huge loss for the music and art communities, it goes without saying, but it was inspiring for me to walk into any old place and hear Bowie blasting from the speakers.

4 WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM (Basilica SoundScape, Hudson, NY, September 16) I played at the Basilica SoundScape festival this year and stuck around for the Olympia-based metal band Wolves in the Throne Room. I didn’t know their music before—and never thought I could like metal!—but after seeing them live I am a full-fledged fan.

5 S U R V I V E, RR7349 (Relapse) The first listen of this synth-infused album conjured vivid, dreamlike images. I put it on when I run, or while I’m driving around on various errands. I thought my initial encounter with this band was while watching Stranger Things (two of their members provided the sound track for the sci-fi show’s debut season). Then I weirdly remembered that my old label Bathetic Records released a tape of theirs in 2010, and found a copy in my personal collection.

Still from David Bowie’s 2016 music video Lazarus, directed by Johan Renck.

6 HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) (The Orchard) I went to see this film about a teenage boy navigating New Zealand’s foster-care system and was moved to tears. I love everything the director, Taika Waititi, is doing. The sound track—composed by Luke Buda, Samuel Flynn Scott, and Conrad Wedde of the Phoenix Foundation—was the perfect accompaniment.

7 ALEX CAMERON, JUMPING THE SHARK (Secretly Canadian) Cameron’s live shows consist of him crooning to simple synth arrangements while his “business partner,” Roy Molloy, plays sax and a drum machine keeps tempo. I can’t wait to see what Cameron comes up with next—he is such an authentic performer and writer. He could easily be the star of his own TV show.

8 CHRIS COHEN, AS IF APART (Captured Tracks) Rodrigo Amarante introduced me to Cohen’s latest record while we were on tour together this year. We listened to the whole thing from start to finish on the bus, sipping coffee and talking about how great it was. It was the first time in a while I’d listened to an album in its entirety with a group of people without impatiently jumping ahead.

9 UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA (Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, February 3) During our recording sessions in LA, my band and I went to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, with Lower Dens opening, at the Fonda. I’d never experienced them live before, and I was super impressed with their synth-heavy sound. I was working on the synth and keyboard arrangements for my record at that time, so I was curious to see how UMO would present those elements in a live setting.

10 THE ROLLING STONEYS (The Mothlight, Asheville, NC, October 17, 2015) One of my favorite shows in past months was seeing this cover band at the Mothlight in Asheville. Such a killer take on Jagger. One of my favorite nights out in my new hometown.

Angel Olsen is a songwriter, singer, and performer based in Asheville, NC. This year, she released her third full-length album, My Woman, on Jagjaguwar.