Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best Albums of 2016 - Number 1

I pretty much knew this would be my favorite album of the year the moment I heard it. I was already way beyond on board with Deap Vally after their first album, Sistrionix and seeing them at an in-store at Radio-Active Records a couple years ago. I've said before that I think the female voice, the female perspective, in rock represents the true meaning of rock n roll as far as I'm concerned. With Deap Vally, that goes to the ultimate extreme for me, because, as Lindsey Troy sings, in "Smile More" which I consider an anthem for our times, "Yes, I am a feminist, but that isn't why I started doing this." In other words, the rock comes first and hard and in your face, leaving you dripping with Femejism.

As a drums and guitar duo, it would be easy and lazy to compare  Deap Vally to countless other such duos. And if I had to pick one, I'd probably say The White Stripes. Lindsey's guitar tones come closest to being like Jack White's, but honestly, I think the similarity ends there. Julie Edwards is more in line with John Bonham than Meg White (nothing wrong with either). And the journeys their songs take are beyond the intentional simplicity of The White Stripes. There's more of a metal and punk edge than there is a blues thing going on. There's also a whole lot of groove, which is only heightened on Femejism, in part due to being produced by The Yeah Yeah Yeah's Nick Zinner, but the truth is, the groove was there on Sistrionix as well, like an invisible third member of the band.

Femejism opens with the deceptively simple (a term that can be applied to just about all of thier songs) "Royal Jelly." By the time we get to the "ooh ooh" chorus, I'm hyped as fuck. Which is good, because then we dive right into "Julian" like a punch to the face. A punch that makes you dance. Then there's a surf/psych twist in "Gonnawanna" which is the first anthem on the album, about doing whatever the fuck you wanna do.

Every song is a standout in its own way, but none more so than "Smile More." So much is said about feminism lately, but ultimately, I think a huge part of the conversation is often forgotten. I think the real backbone of feminism isn't just about empowering women, though that is obviously crucial. But to me, the concept that resonates most is the idea of letting people, all people, regardless of how they identify, be whoever the fuck they want to be, free of prescribed gender roles. And with increased awareness of the fluidity of gender, this is a critical message. In other words, it's the quote I always go back to: "Leave everybody the fuck alone" and this song perfectly captures it. I keep calling this an anthem for our times, and at the risk of sounding repetitive, this is an anthem for our times. "Stranger in the bar tells me to smile more, I look at him and I ask, what for? I am happily un-happy man. And no, I don't wanna shake your hand." Seriously. I know women get that all the time, but not just women. And then, "I don't wanna be a reflection. I'm so bored with this rejection. I don't wanna be a reflection. I don't need your direction." Sing it, sister! Thank you, Lindsey and Julie. My daughters will thank you one day, too.

Anyway, I can't wrap this up without mentioning the aptly named, somewhat surreal "Post Funk" and the driving spy dance beat of "Grunge Bond." Remember that groove I mentioned at the beginning of this? These two songs are the most obvious examples of that. This is the type of shit that will give you visions of some sweaty club each time they hit your ears. And don't think that because I'm focusing on the groove that this thing doesn't rock. "Teenage Queen" and "Heart is an Animal" alone will melt your face. There's no way I've done any justice to this album, but the fact that it's my number one is all I got these days. I look forward to hearing more and more from Deap Vally in the coming years. Their voice is needed now more than ever and I hope they provide at least some of the soundtrack for a revolution.

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