Editor’s note: Welcome back to our Heavy Blog Guest List feature where we give some of the bands we covered (or just adored) in 2016 a chance to publish their own Top 10 Albums of 2016. Binary Code have had an eventful 2016, to say the least. After releasing their first full-length in 7 years, the impressive Moonsblood, the band hit the road across North America for much of the rest of the year with fellow prog-heads Leprous and Earthside. In spite of all of that though, Binary Code founder and guitarist Jesse Zuretti found plenty of time to stay on top of the goings-on in metal and elsewhere this year and eagerly wrote up his top ten metal and non-metal albums for us, which you can find below!
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10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
One of the first bands in the genre I was ever introduced to as a single-digits child (by my father), and they never disappoint me. Ever. I hear the band I’ve always loved with every release, but I hear something new enough to keep things fresh.
9. Tigran Hamasyan – Atmospheres
If Tigran Hamasyan does a tour with Pat Metheny Group/Solo ever, I will cry with joy. It’s super nerdy jazz that has a bit of that all-too-familiar Jaga Jazzist sound that I love. It also touches on some 90s Sting tones that I am in love with and tend to cop when I write stuff for my band (that nobody notices).
8. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
This genre, when done correctly, has so much replay value to it. I can listen to this album repeatedly and not get bored. It reeks of early 90s grunge and adds a Junius-style post/shoegaze tinge to it that lands perfectly on the airwaves.
7. The Album Leaf – Between Waves
It’s always really cool to hear musicians who come from different genres attacking a new genre and doing really wall with it. We’ve seen that with Zedd, Friendly Fires, and now The Album Leaf. This album has such a cool vibe to it, very Jaga Jazzist-y at times.
6. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
This album would be higher on my list if it had more foundation to it. Regardless of it’s small shortcomings, it hits so hard when it grooves that it ends up being an EP’s worth of songs that I can listen to on repeat. That replay value earns its spot where it is.
5. Tycho – Epoch
This album is incredibly bubbly. The music has a vibe to it that a lot of electronic music isn’t quite doing for me. I heard it on tour while driving through the mountains from Petaluma, CA to Los Angeles, and it matched what I was seeing visually so well that it stuck with me to the end of the year.
4. Justice – Woman
I know everyone just lllllloves Daft Punk, but I strongly encourage fans of theirs to listen to this album. It has a solid disco-funk vibe to it, but leans further towards progressing towards their own thing. An incredibly satisfying and easy listen, it accompanies computer work very well!
3. David Bowie – Blackstar
When Bowie died, I had people texting and sending me messages on Facebook, asking me to tell my mom that they were sorry to hear it. Not sure what that says about me, but it says a lot about how important he was in my mom’s musical life. That said, it rubbed off on me. My appreciation for Bowie starts with his 80s recordings and up (save for a few old tunes), which I guess makes me a bit of a black sheep when it comes to his music. Blackstar isn’t so strange for me to hear because I’ve heard Bowie in this state of mind via his music long before he was sick. His Outside album has an air of coming to terms with finite existence. As peculiar as he is, I relate much to his mindset of feeling alien at times, and he’ll always connect with me.
2. Robert Glasper Experiment – ArtScience
Glasper is hands down one of my favorite R&B/jazz/funk piano players. He chooses the coolest songs to cover, but on this album, he aims straight at originals. He even does much of the singing, which is different, but works really well. His Black Radio albums are incredible if anyone wants to familiarize themselves with his other work – he does covers of Nirvana, Bowie, Sade, etc, and KILLS it. Brings new life and meaning to “covers”.
1. Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution
Esperanza Spalding is, in my opinion, one of the most important (female) musicians of the new generation. The alternate version for “Unconditional Love” is the standout, especially when they start jamming at the end. Her music isn’t muzak. Her style is throwback mixed with contemporary. Her bass playing is PHENOMENAL. Her voice reminds me of Phoebe Snow (Poetry Man fame). You take jazz, funk, and old-school rhythm ‘n blues, and add a dash of fusion, and you end up with her newest album. Some moments sound like Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum mixed with Tower of Power. It’s insane. Her music doesn’t objectify the female species. Her music doesn’t sexualize the female species. Her music, if anything, is empowering to women, and shows that natural born talent, a great personality, soulful lyricism, and beautifully crafted music can make waves without being perverse for shock value to draw in the fair-weather music fans doting the modern pop world and its icons who. Her music also seems to be free of denigration because of this. When you slap the idiocy of perverse shock to a talented musician, you wind up with people scrutinizing the facade of the music, and that in turn ends up with the music getting shit on. Esperanza is free from that, and proves to be one of the most talented musicians out, gender aside.
10. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
The Italian counterpart to one of my favorite bands: Septicflesh. While different in their own way, they have that cinematic, movie-score element to their structure and writing that is incredibly difficult to pull off tastefully. King is so over-the-top that I can’t help but listen to it while wondering “How the fuck…” Something I don’t wonder often with music, because we all know that talent can be something you’re born with or something you develop. King is a great take of a new genre: Romantic-era Death metal. Caravaggio-Metal if you please.
9. Candiria – While They Were Sleeping
I was a big Candiria fan back in the day. I loved the face that they actually know how to play jazz in the traditional way, but also knew how to throw down metallic grooves. I still listen to 300% Density and hear how ahead of their time they were. This album has some very creative and catchy elements to it, and I reckon it’s the best comeback album to come out this year.
8. Opeth – Sorceress
I am so incredibly satisfied with this record, and feel that the path that these guys have gone is the best kind of path to take: progressive. It’s so hard to figure out where they will be going each record, and while I don’t love every album they’ve put out since Deliverance, I certainly respected and appreciated their morphibility. I love the production, and I love the traditional prog tones. While on tour we got a chance to check them out in Montreal at the Metropolis (Leprous hooked it up!) and it was impressive how amazing they sounded playing this material. That certainly helped lock the album in my list.
7. Every Time I Die – Low Teens
[Ed Note: This blurb was mysteriously eaten by the infinite void of space and time prior to publishing, but rest assured, this album is great and you should listen to it.]
6. Gojira – Magma
I love this album. This is the album I wanted them to do after From Mars To Sirius. It’s the same Gojira I remember pushing boundaries with The Link and From Mars To Sirius, but mentally evolved – the musicianship is toned down in such a tasteful and ACCEPTABLE (accept it, stop competing!) manner. It’s atmospherically dark nature lingers in the background of every song, and it also has that broken-record term I keep using: replay value.
5. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Is it against the law to dislike Meshuggah yet? They are your lords and saviors, the kings of the heavy music cosmos. I’m going to use the Powers & Abilities description of the Marvel character Eternity in Wikipedia to continue to describe this album: As a tremendously powerful abstract entity, Meshuggah has no physical body but exists everywhere simultaneously. The entity can manipulate the universe to achieve essentially any desired effect, and as its name suggests, it is immortal and unaffected by the passage of time. Meshuggah can warp space and matter into a manifestation that can be perceived by lesser beings, or form avatars from another plane of existence known as the Dimension of Manifestations. On occasion it manifests by possessing the body of exceptionally spiritually strong mortal beings. There, that seems appropriate.
4. Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
This band has yet to disappoint me, and I attribute that to their willingness to not hold back their musical emotions. I hear such misery and darkness coming from this band, and they can’t seem to hide it. Gorguts and Isis should be proud.
3. Haken – Affinity
My favorite track on the album is “1985”, specifically because of the Transformers “Autobots v. Decepticons Battle” homage towards the second half of the track. As much as it may be an exact replica of the structure, tone, and “wording” of the scene from the movie, it still rips and has its own originality to it. If you’re going to rip off an animated movie composer, Vince DiCola is a great one.
2. Car Bomb – Meta
This would be my #1 of the year if Ihsahn didn’t murder so hard with his album. Meta is the most berserk album I’ve heard from this band to date – Neck-era Car Bomb included. “Black Blood” sounds like Star Wars TIE Fighters in battle. Much of the album has so many experimental elements to it that it seems to have bred a new style of music that seems like it will be copy-cat unobtainable by anyone who tries to jack their style – like Meshuggah. Many can attempt, but I assume many will fail. These guys are the nerdy physicists of metal in terms of their sound and craft. I suggest we all let them rule that land, and keep doing our things without trying to conquer.
1. Ihsahn – Arktis
Ihsahn is one of my favorite musicians in metal/black metal/whatever you want to call his styles. It’s epic, it’s theatrical, it’s proggy, it’s dark, it’s almost industrial at times, it’s mean, it’s scary, it’s impressive. This album has some of the coolest experimental elements I’ve heard from him to date. Ihsahn is also one of my favorite engineers. I miss my boys in Leprous adding their flair to the mood, but he proves that he’s in complete control of how awesome his music is.