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Atlanta's 10 best albums of 2016

CL scribes call out the best of the best in local local music pt. 2 ... Brrr!

What a long strange trip 2016 has been — a real life Empire Strikes Back scenario unfolded over a year bookended by the deaths of Mr. Space Oddity himself, David Bowie, and the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn. In Atlanta, gentrification continues ravaging the land, picking away at the cultural institutions and neighborhoods the city's creative types have long called home. But ATLiens are at their best under duress. After a lengthy voting process followed by exhaustive debate, CL's staff of music scribes, interns, and confidants made the case for Atlanta’s 10 best albums of the year. Polling was democratic; no Russian hackers influenced the selection process. Each one pushes the city into progressive new musical terrain, and comes strongly endorsed by the team of writers that work here. When the votes were counted the winner was clear. It was a landslide.
Image 10. Jeff Crompton Trio, Magic Word (Southern Crescent)

This is what a 21st century jazz trio should sound like. Jeff Crompton (alto sax), Evan Lipson (bass), and Bob Stagner (drums), bound by a deep immersion in an evolving, more than century-old art form, play like men possessed. They’re on a quest for something elusive and profoundly beautiful, which they find in a balanced triumvirate of swinging, soulful noise. Crompton’s nine compositions (all his, save for two improvs) draw mostly from Ornette Coleman’s post-bop wavelengths, deeply colored by John Coltrane’s blues. — Doug DeLoach

Image 9. Warehouse, super low (Bayonet)
super low by Warehouse
Warehouse’s sophomore album at first feels dominated by frontwoman Elaine Edenfield’s snarling voice. From piercing wails to sultry grumbles, she startles and disarms with impressive vocal dynamism. She is matched, however, by bassist Josh Hughes and drummer Doug Bleichner’s breathless rhythms and Ben Jackson and Alex Bailey’s shimmering guitars, balancing spontaneous outbursts with structured tension. Songs such as “Oscillator,” “Reservoir,” and “Simultaneous Contrasts” temper meticulous control and terse improvisation into an atmosphere of shimmering and melodic post-punk. — Emily Maxwell

Image
8. Rae Sremmurd, (Eardruma/Interscope Records)
Don’t let the viral mega-success of “Black Beatles” take away from the bigger story. Rae Sremmurd successfully followed up its zeitgeist moment with a sophomore album that’s measured and mature while retaining the euphoric vibe that made Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi stars. The brothers have a knack for squeaky melody, and Mike WiLL Made-It provides the big trap beats. Add it all up for a collection of party-starters that are more interesting and ambitious than anything Rae Sremmurd has kicked out yet. — Ben Salmon

Image 7. Lil Yachty, Lil Boat (Quality Control Music, Capitol Records/Motown)
With his debut mixtape, Lil Yachty placed himself at the forefront of a new wave of Atlanta hip-hop artists whose lo-fi, DIY, and emotionally distraught take on the music is widely criticized by many of their predecessors. But Yachty remains unfazed by the criticism, and it shows. Lil Boat is the perfect embodiment of what Yachty calls bubblegum trap — street cred bolstered by appearances from Quavo, Young Thug, and Skippa da Flippa, but it’s mostly fun. — Tai Saint-Louis

Image 6. Omni, Deluxe (Trouble In Mind)
Deluxe by Omni
As albums sprawl outward in the age of streaming, efficiency is an increasingly lost art. But not for Omni. Singer and bass player Philip Frobos builds tension in the rhythms as Frankie Broyles slices through it every time with shards of electric guitar and drums on the group’s debut album. Full disclosure, the group’s former drummer, Billy Mitchell, is a regular CL contributor. Songs such as “Wire,” “Afterlife,” and “Earrings” are prickly new wave dance pop numbers that rarely exceed three-and-a-half minutes while clicking and whirring like nifty little gadgets. — Ben Salmon
Image 5. Speakerfoxxx and Bosco, Girls in the Yard (Fool’s Gold)

A-Town homegirls Speakerfoxxx and Bosco’s Girls In The Yard collaboration arrived this year as a bass-dropping, confetti cannon-popping summer jam with a lesson in self-esteem to boot. The project is full to the brim with anthemic girl power and party songs. Think of “Shooter” as the ride-or-die chick’s club-banger lament upon realizing her dude ain’t quite the hitter he hyped himself up to be, followed by the sense of empowerment that comes from being unafraid to fly solo. With individual grinds that have established them as noteworthy Atlanta-based artists and tastemakers for years, this collective effort is fueling a heightened level of success for both. You might say they’re on some grown woman shit. — Rodney Carmichael

Image 4. Young Thug, Jeffery (300 Entertainment/ATL)
There’s no denying that Young Thug’s proper debut full-length, Jeffery, was one of Atlanta’s most talked-about albums of 2016. Through songs such as “Wyclef Jean,” “Future Swag,” and “Harambe,” Thugger, born Jeffery Lamar Williams, incorporates everything from rhythmic reggae production to the frenzied tempos of NOLA bounce. Jeffery breaks the mold for Atlanta hip-hop in 2016 and finds Young Thug thinking in much bigger terms. — Joseph Tiller and Chad Radford
Image 3. Hello Ocho, In Portuguese (Self-released)

Hello Ocho’s second proper album, In Portuguese, arrived a confident and sprawling offering from a band that’s quickly become a local fixture. The psychedelic qualities swirling inside songs such as “Tear Wagon,” “Lurky Murky,” and “Nail Tractor” are filled with magnificent sonic highs and spooky valleys teeming with mystery and hallucinatory wonders. Working alongside producer Ben Price, the group rendered an album that functions like a maze of jazz and post-rock structures where every chiming note, rhythm, and melody snakes around one another, forming a slow and glowing mass of wonders for the imagination. It’s music for taking drugs to, a soundtrack for painting beautiful works of art, and Hello Ocho’s final full-length in this configuration. At least they went out on a high note. — Billy Mitchell and Chad Radford
Image 2. Childish Gambino, Awaken, My Love! (Glassnote)

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, is fearless when it comes to trying out new things. Awaken, My Love!, the third album from the star of FX’s hit TV show “Atlanta,” and his longtime cohort Ludwig Göransson, is a collection of psychedelic soul, funk, and ’70s rock excursions. Songs such as “Me And Your Mama,” “Riot,” and “Baby Boy” carry socially and politically conscious undertones, steeped in heavy bass lines, fuzzed-out guitars, and Gambino’s wide vocal range — he doesn’t rap here, but he does croon and scream. Awaken, My Love! is a testament to Gambino’s musical and lyrical versatility. It’s a trippy, one-of-a-kind avatar that owes as much to millennial aesthetics as it does to the era that turned out Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic’s weirdest moments of perfection. — Joseph Tiller
Image 1. Gucci Mane, Everybody Looking (Atlantic Urban)

Time in the pen was good for Guwop. After a three-year prison bid, health, recovery, and mental focus weigh heavy on the Zone 6 trap god’s psyche. With Everybody Looking, Gucci, along with producers Mike WiLL and Zaytoven, crafts an album worthy of a lifetime achievement award. “Out Do Ya,” “Pussy Print” ft. Kanye West, and the brilliant “1st Day Out Tha Feds” push trap production to groundbreaking new musical terrain. Variety is thick here, and the album’s message is essentially the same as the cautionary tale Gucci delivered with 2009’s “Heavy.” But now, he’s looking at the flip side of the coin. He’s back on the streets, he’s cleaned up, and in 2016, he was unstoppable. Brrr! — Chad Radford



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