By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~
Since the deaths of seemingly immortal stars like David Bowie, Scott Weiland and Prince, many have commiserated 2016 as the year that rock and roll died. The loss of these stars is certainly a staggering blow to the artistic community.
In light of these deaths, music has continued to move forward, creating innovative pieces that will come to define the 2010s in perspective.
Perhaps the most infamous album of the year is Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. Aside from publicity stunts and questionable marketing decisions, The Life of Pablo By Hannah sgambellone Staff Writer is among the year’s best work. Kanye continues an exploration of himself and his fame in a flamboyant yet intimate composition. His skill as a producer also comes across in his many collaborations with other artists, such as Rihanna on “Famous” and Designer on “Father Stretch My Hands pt. 2.”
Overall, this year proved an excellent one for rap and hiphop: Dr. Dre released Compton, his first studio album since 1999, and Kendrick Lamar’s surprise album Untitled, Unmastered also proved a progressive work in the genre.
While rap and hip-hop have certainly fared well this year, indie music has continued quietly in the background. With new releases from The Violent Femmes (We Can Do Anything), The Front Bottoms (Back on Top) and The Fratellis (Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied), the genre has gone in the direction of raw vocals and rough cuts of recordings, as if in protest to the dreamy synth-pop that dominates the current radio scene.
A standout is Say Anything’s surprise release I Don’t Think It Is, an album that finally gives frontman Max Bemis a chance to explore the more experimental sound that the band has toyed with over the past decade.
Lana del Rey’s Honeymoon is also a highlight of late 2015, a brilliant combination of the sweeping cinematic tone of 2014’s Ultraviolence and the almost playful nihilism of 2012’s Born to Die.
While new artists have certainly thrived in 2015-16, more established artists have also released reminders of their continued success. Post Pop Depression, a release from punk icon Iggy Pop, does not show any signs of aging as the protopunk pioneer navigates through the modern music scene. David Bowie’s almost prophetical Blackstar, released only three days before his death, is an experimental, innovative eulogy of self that peaks at “Lazarus” (with an equally haunting music video to match).
Perhaps one of the most moving releases of 2015 was Kurt Cobain’s Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings. The demos, rough cuts and covers were finally made public after the release of the documentary of the same name. His characteristically dark humor is sprinkled in tracks such as “Silver” and “Been a Son,” early demos of “Sappy” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” and a beautifully nightmarish cover of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her.”
Modern music is still trying to comprehend the influence of artists such as Cobain, Bowie and Prince. Through the nostalgia and romance of rock stars past, releases such as Blackstar and Montage of Heck can help guide the way to the innovative, experimental music across all genres today.