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5 Best “Under the Radar” Releases of 2016

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Even though 1989 has been out for two years, it’s seems like we’re still fixated on Taylor Swift. We forget while standing in the shadow of her silhouette that 2016 has been a great year for other music. Sure, the year may have started on a weird note with that sort of underwhelming Kanye release and sure, it may be ending on a weird note with Kanye cancelling his tour, checking into the hospital and pledging allegiance to Trump, but otherwise 2016 went on to see some of the strongest records in rock and related genres.

Here are the frontrunners for Best Underrated Record of 2016:

1. James Blake’s “I Need A Forest Fire”
First records and their follow-ups are hard. They can really set the tone for an artist’s career, especially when they’re successful. When James Blake won a Mercury Prize in 2013 for his second album Overgrown, he not only got a hefty cash prize and surpassed the dreaded sophomore slump, but he also set a high bar for himself going forward. When his new record The Colour In Anything came out earlier this year, Blake proved, particularly with “I Need A Forest Fire,” that he was able to met those expectations.

2. Hotelier’s “Piano Player”
Massachusetts indie outfit Hotelier released their much-anticipated third album as well this year. Goodness, which came out on Tiny Engines, starts out on a strange, poetic note that has listeners weary of the band’s intentions. Is this real life? Is this an emo revival? Or is this just a passing fantasy? Either way, if you last long enough to hear the third track, “Piano Player,” you’ll listen all the way through and see that Hotelier is up to something truly special with this sort of musical tangent of theirs.

3. Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me”
An excellent follow-up to 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Angel Olsen’s My Woman lands direct hits, raw with emotion with songs like “Shut Up Kiss Me.” The single as well as other songs like “Pops,” is complex and open, leaving listeners laying on their floor, clutching their vinyl copy to their chests.

4. Parquet Courts’ “Berlin Got Blurry”
Parquet Courts have over the course of their past half dozen or so releases become a band that both makes you think and dance. Their punk roots and newfound polish come together for 2016’s Human Performance, which ponders both about the cost of cellphone service and the permanence of life in “Berlin Got Blurry.”

5. Mitski’s “Your Best American Girl”
Direct anyone who doubts a girl’s ability to shred directly to Mitski. Her newest record, Puberty 2, is both a powerful, pedal-stomping rocking record as much as it’s a gentle, technical, thought out release. “Your Best American Girl” is the perfect example of that duality. Mitski is no longer music’s well kept secret as she was during 2014 and Bury Me at Makeout Creek.

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