MusicMusic Features

Flagpole‘s Top 10 Albums of 2016

Flagpole’s annual top 10 list of local albums is compiled by Music Editor Gabe Vodicka based on individual lists submitted by our knowledgeable, opinionated music writers. This year, more than 30 records received consideration, reflecting the overall strength and variety of the Athens scene’s output in 2016. Given that depth, this list is less definitive than representative. Use it as a starting point, but know that there is much more to celebrate.


10. Claire Cronin: Came Down a Storm

<a href=”″ mce_href=”″>Came Down A Storm by Claire Cronin</a>

A collaborative effort with multi-instrumentalist John Dieterich, best known as the guitarist for avant-rockers Deerhoof, Came Down a Storm was Claire Cronin’s first new release since she moved to Athens in 2015 to study creative writing at UGA. The eight-song record is a low-key classic, from unnerving opener “The Unnatural” to stormy closer “Dreamt the Sea.” The unexpected mash-up of Cronin’s elegiac poetry with Dieterich’s mischievous arrangements makes for strange, stunning moments, like the funereal doo-wop of “Valentine.” [Gabe Vodicka]


9. Nihilist Cheerleader: Truth or Dare EP

<a href=”″ mce_href=”″>TRUTH or DARE by Nihilist Cheerleader</a>

While a large majority of Athens’ many (MANY) lo-fi punk bands have failed to leave a mark, dance-punk foursome Nihilist Cheerleader was one the most notable breakouts of 2016. Its sophomore EP left a lasting impression. With improved sound quality and songwriting, Truth or Dare showcased Nihilist Cheerleader’s knack for mixing strong lyricism with irresistible punk rhythms. Highlights include the absolute rager “More & More” and the loner’s lament “Walk Home Alone.” [Nathan Kerce]


8. Team SS: Sawce

<a href=”” mce_href=””>SAWCE by TEAM SS</a>

Team SS dropped Sawce on Jan. 1, which, looking back, seems like a statement in itself. With its alternately playful and hard-hitting lyricism and steadfastly Southern, retro-futuristic beats, the record set the stage for a banner year for Athens hip hop. Sawce found MCs Justin “Loyal” Smith and Keefie “3ft” Johnson making the case for the hip-hop pair-up, and the album foretold stellar group outings later in the year from acts like Space Dungeon and We’re Weird. [GV]


7. Futo: Futo’s Greatest Hits

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Futo's Greatest Hits by Futo</a>

While Patrick Brick’s music continues to evolve and vary, flitting between danceable synth-pop and lilting acoustic guitar, the one constant in his repertoire is an ability to intertwine the comic and tragic to the point of ambiguity. Take “The Internet Told Me I Have Cancer Again,” the opening track from Futo’s Greatest Hits. Despite that winsome refrain and a head-bob-inducing beat, the song presents a heart-wrenching fear of death only familiar to someone plagued by loss. Thank your lucky stars we have someone in town who can write a song ruminating on the end of life and use a faux-Craigslist ad about necromancers as its hook. [Andy Barton]


6. Squalle: Black Picassoul

<a href=”” mce_href=””>BLACK PICASSOUL by Squalle</a>

Black Picassoul is as notable for its music—a steamy blend of deep bass, cloud rap and lite jazz—as for what it represents: Athens hip hop finding its voice and, more importantly, that voice being heard. While much of the local rock scene seemed to sit 2016 out, politically speaking, artists like Squalle established a dialogue that inspired slow but steady progress on the local level. “America don’t care about your stolen dreams,” Squalle intones on “Proclamation,” a reminder that in our country, and especially here at home, we’ve got work to do. [GV]


5. Muuy Biien: Age of Uncertainty

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If you caught Muuy Biien live in 2016, you knew what was coming, but that didn’t make the revisionary wallop of Age of Uncertainty any less abrupt. Shedding its hardcore punk skin, the new iteration of the band flexes a funkier muscle on its latest long-player, the majority of which was recorded live at Chase Park Transduction. Singer Josh Evans turns his lyrical focus outward, coating bassist Parks Miller and drummer Jacob Lake’s lockstep groove with unfavorable critiques of modern society’s shortcomings. [AB]


4. Four Eyes: Welcome to Earth

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Welcome to Earth by Four Eyes</a>

In 2014, Erin Lovett expanded Four Eyes from a solo act into a full-fledged band. Lovett’s decision to return to her roots was risky, but thankfully, it paid off. Reminiscent of when Sufjan Stevens followed up the ambitious Michigan with the stripped-down Seven Swans, Welcome to Earth is emotionally raw, with memorable melodies and Lovett’s strongest lyrics to date. By revisiting and revising her minimal bedroom-pop style, Lovett crafted the most impressive release of her career. Sometimes, less is more. [NK]


3. Scooterbabe: The Sorrow You’ve Been Toting Around

<a href=”” mce_href=””>The Sorrow You've Been Toting Around by scooterbabe</a>

A terrific homage to the group’s previous EP releases, Sorrow earned Scooterbabe a legion of new fans while satisfying its existing ones. Scooterbabe’s first official LP hits all the right notes—emo-influenced melodies, dance-inspiring rhythms, the steady crooning of JJ Posway, Jianna Justice and Evan Tyor—without any unnecessary filler or frills. While it’s often sentimental and melancholy (see the album title), the album also features moments of upbeat nostalgia and excitement for the future to come. [Maria Lewczyk]


2. Cinemechanica: Cinemechanica

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Cinemechanica by Cinemechanica</a>

With this sophomore full-length release coming a full 10 years after its debut (an EP, Rivals, was released a mere eight years ago), there’s no denying that Cinemechanica’s audience was built the old-school way: word of mouth. Throughout multiple tours both international and domestic, the band sharpened its rock teeth into daggers; its years-long attention to compositional minutiae became laser-focused. The nine tracks on Cinemechanica deliver the same sweat, anxiety, tension and release as the band’s live show. [Gordon Lamb]


1. Mothers: When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired  

<a href=”” mce_href=””>When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired by Mothers</a>

Mothers began to turn heads in 2013 as the solo folk project of singer-songwriter and UGA art student Kristine Leschper. Leschper’s simple, striking compositions and expressive singing gave her live show, which sometimes included a performance-art element—at one gig, a masked figure cut Leschper’s hair while she played—a quiet, awe-inspiring quality. Released in February, When You Walk… represents Mothers’ foray into full-band-ism. Rather than obscure the music’s delicacy, the expanded sound accentuates it, incorporating snaking guitar lines, rich string arrangements and serrated rhythms to underscore the defiantly heartbroken quality of Leschper’s songwriting. Mothers’ recent performances, informed by a year-plus of nonstop touring, showcase a bigger, bolder sound that we can’t wait to hear on record. Still, the band’s debut remains a defining moment, one of Athens music’s proudest in years. [GV]