The Telescope presents: the top albums of 2016. We gathered best-of lists from staff and contributors, crunched some numbers and came up with a list of records that unanimously wowed us this year.
The prevalent trajectory for modern American rock bands is an easy one to trace: first, a celebrated debut. Next, a flop of a sophomore record, or at best, a carbon copy of the debut. Third album, the flop, if it hasn’t happened already.
Cymbals Eat Guitars managed to forge a different path. Each of their four albums improves upon the one before, when it seemed a sure bet that those prior records represented the pinnacle of the New York band’s abilities.
Joseph D’Agostino, singer, is the group’s only constant; he’s been there since 2009’s Why There Are Mountains, watching a cast of nine other players rotate around him. You can’t understand half of what he’s saying, and that’s the best sort of album to get involved with. It may take years to fully crack this one, if that’s even possible [they kindly provide us with lyrics in the video for “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY),” above].
Just when you think D’Agostino is singing about a relationship, you catch the words “event horizon” for the first time and have to stop and wonder if he’s on about a black hole instead (or maybe the two are the same thing in his mind?). It wouldn’t be a surprising shift in subject matter; he also dives into “infinite repeat” (perhaps eternal recurrence?) and ponders the possibility of many selves across the multiverse (again, see the video above).
What does come through clearly, is that Pretty Years is about capturing memories—those few we’re each allotted that are so wild they only grow in stature as the years pass (again, see video).