The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2016
“Can 2016 just stop already?” You’ve probably said that, or read that somewhere on your social media timeline. Typically I see it in reference to the heartbreaking celebrity deaths of 2016, from David Bowie to Prince, Sharon Jones to Leonard Cohen. But this year has also contained the most divisive political season in generations. There have been tragedies at home – mass shootings like the one at Pulse Orlando, floods in Louisiana, the fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship arts community – and abroad – the conflict in Syria being a major one that not enough Americans are talking about.
But framing it all up as the unhappiness in the world ending along with the year, unfortunately, misses the point. Beloved celebrities are going to die in 2017. The political tone of the country is, in all likelihood, not going to improve. Catastrophic things will happen all around us, and all around the world, and there’s little we can do to stand in the way.
I don’t say all this to be a massive bummer this holiday season (honestly, though, parties and presents do feel more trivial than ever). Rather, it’s to underscore the importance of music in or lives. I’ve said it before: music can be an escape, sure, but more importantly, music can be a means of processing, a vehicle for healing, and a call to better ourselves and our world.
This is something that just about all of the albums that The Key’s top fifteen albums of the year have in common. Japanese Breakfast‘s Psychopomp transformed personal tragedy into a thing of beauty. Various releases — Abi Reimold, Mitski and Car Seat Headrest, to name a few — meditate on the feelings of insignificance and uncertainty felt by those of us in our twenties when our job prospects are bleak, our friends are getting laid off and we’ve got mere months left on our parents’ health care.
On a bigger scale, intolerance and injustice are dissected in stunning records by Michael Kiwanuka, A Tribe Called Quest, Solange and Beyonce – the latter of whom has rightfully been topping year-end lists everywhere. Bey ranked fifth in our list, but our scribe John Morrison’s thorough dissection of the album could be an essay unto itself. And one absolutely brilliant record, Chance the Rapper‘s Coloring Book, bundled all of those feelings and observations and emotions into a single set and infused it with hope and optimism for a brighter future…even if we’re not talking about the immediate future.
Turbulent times result in poignant art. And we encourage – nay, we insist – you listen to what these fifteen pieces of art have to say. – John Vettese
15. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate (Interscope) – Who would have thought that the most divisive XPN song of the year would come from Michael Kiwanuka? But the powerful (and powerfully catchy) “Black Man in a White World” brought up some complicated emotions all around, in our social media feed and elsewhere, and ended up being a barometer of how the country has been feeling these past few years. The rest of the album isn’t as provocative, but there is an uneasy feeling to tracks such as “Falling,” and the epic opener “Cold Little Heart,” that embodies the discomfort of not being able to trust those around you. This album stands out among other soul albums released recently in the way that it hearkens back to the past but gives those really listening something other than nostalgia. – Maureen Walsh
14. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse) – It doesn’t take long — just enough time for the first verse of opener “Fever Queen” to kick in — till you realize “Damn, these songs are really pretty.” It’s not what I first expected to say when listening to Nothing’s sophomore LP, but it’s what I kept thinking as the album went on. Buried under the heavy distortion and reverb are a bunch of melodies that, if paired with more piano or less gain, could easily be pop songs. “Vertigo Flowers,” the first single off the album, set the tone immediately by being a bit faster and a lot bouncier than Nothing’s listeners might have expected. Even the album artwork has a big splash of pink color. That’s not to say, though, that it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you actually listen to what Palermo is spitting out, it’s the usual nihilism and dourness Nothing fans are used to. After all, frontman Domenic Palermo had some less-than-stellar experiences to draw from. Last year, he was the victim of a vicious ambush outside of a show in Oakland, California. In that same “Vertigo Flowers,” Palermo sings, “Watch out for those who dare to say that everything will be OK.” I mean, the song even starts with “I hate everything you’re saying.” The (on the surface) painfully sweet “Nineteen Ninety Heaven” sees Palermo singing “I’m living in a dream world. Life’s a nightmare.” With “Tired of Tomorrow,” Philly’s fuzzed-out heroes managed to pull of an impressive tightrope walk between poppy rock and gut-shaking shoegaze. – Brendan Menapace
13. Santigold – 99 Cents (Atlantic) – You can’t put a price on art, no matter how many Honda Civics or Bud Lights your music helped to sell. That idea is the driving force behind 99 Cents, the third full-length from Germantown’s own Santigold. The album arrives nearly a full decade after Santogold, the debut that sealed Santi’s status not only as a creative force of nature but also commercially lucrative property. With a title referencing the actual cost of a single recording, 99 Cents exorcizes themes of art and commerce (“Run The Races”), as well as imperceptions of glamour (“Rendezvous Girl”) and self-absorption in the digital age (“Can’t Get Enough of Myself”). Collaborators such as Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek help Santigold maintain the 80’s new wave-inspired vibe that won us over in the late Aughts but she builds upon her sound with dancehall rhythms and technicolor electronica. This is a sunnier Santigold than we’re used to, but her sarcastic swagger is still strong, and with that she will remain one of the most compelling creators of our time. – Wendy McCardle
12. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp (Yellow K) – After half a decade at the front of local punk favorites Little Big League, Psychopomp is Michelle Zauner’s first full-length album under the Japanese Breakfast moniker. The work is a testament to a painful loss in her life, and we hear her trying to make sense of everything emotionally in songs like the opener “Heaven.” Not every song on Psychopomp is about this trauma, but the feeling of anxiety and heaviness surround the album. Which is not to say it’s a complete downer – the dreamy quality of the music effortlessly draws you in and sidebars like the bouncy “Everybody Wants to Love You” provide an interlude from the sorrow. – Maureen Walsh
11. Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) – The longing, aching need to find true happiness is apparent in everyone. But on Puberty 2, Mitski Miyazaki chronicles the ongoing process of self-exploration and soul searching, the need for genuine happiness that every human being yearns for. Depression and anxiety are two psychological issues that many people in our society deal with, but sadness isn’t the same — it’s almost more universal and less easy to discuss. There’s this mysterious intensity about Mitski’s search: it almost sounds like she’s questioning her state of mind and what happiness is. The record varies from mellow and upbeat, but in a haunting and introspective way that forces the listener to really become in tune with the lyrics. The 25-year-old Mitski is at a stage in life where one is trying to discover their identity — where they belong, work life, social life, and so much all at once. It truly is like going through a second puberty as the title states. On “Fireworks,” she sings about how depression can take over one’s life: “one morning this sadness will fossilize / and I will forget how to cry / I’ll keep going to work and you won’t see a change.” Perhaps the biggest triumph on Puberty 2, though, is “Your Best American Girl” — a slow-burn anthem about identity and family where Mitski sings “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I think I do.” By the time the song winds down, she realizes her mother’s part in her existence, and shifting the lyric to “But I do, I finally do.” – Lauren Rosier
10. Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar) – From the moment Angel Olsen showed up in the “Intern” video wearing a silver tinsel wig, it was clear My Woman was going to be something stylistically unique from its predecessors. And though it turns out that costume choice was more necessity than statement (“I thought it would be funny, and I didn’t have a stylist” she told The Guardian), the glistening indulgence of it foreshadowed a record that would be surprisingly cinematic and voluptuous. At the core of My Woman, though, this Olsen is still the same Olsen we instantly admired following the releases of Halfway Home in 2012 and Burn Your Fire for No Witness in 2014. She is still brutally open and endearingly sharp, but this time she paints her lovesick revelations with brushstrokes of jukebox ready rock ‘n’ roll (“Never Be Mine”), soulful jazz ruminations (“Those Were the Days”) and bubbly crooning (“Shut Up Kiss Me”) rather than the sparse folk of her earlier efforts. What Olsen has created with My Woman is a space where she can express herself in tones and styles that feel true to her story and herself at this moment in time, regardless of their connection to any preconceived notion of what her aesthetic is. And what a deeply majestic space it is. – Julie Miller
9. Pinegrove – Cardinal (Run For Cover) – Alt-country is best served with whiskey, Yuengling, or both, so the New Jersey group Pinegrove’s debut, Cardinal, does not surprise in its triggering the reflex to drink alcohol and reflect tenderly on youth, mistakes and disapparated friendships. Singer Evan Stephen Hall appears to have his finger on the pulse of millennial summer sadness, touching upon the dulled sense of losing self that comes from growing into an adult, and Cardinal is a record best played in the throes of those change-of-lifestyle moments: moving to a new town, ending a relationship, getting laid off; the kind of setbacks or changes that can make anyone temporarily feel cast astray in the middle of the universe. With a thoroughly Americana-fried twang in its instrumentation, not only does Hall make these molting moments feel like foregone conclusions — “I should call my parents when I think of them / I should tell my friends that I love them,” he shrugs on opener “Old Friends” — but he communicates them in such a way that it’s possibly alright or, just maybe, even a good thing to feel lonely and scared sometimes. Sounds like something that’s worth drinking to. – Marc Snitzer
8. Abi Reimold – Wriggling (Sad Cactus) – Philly’s Abi Reimold has released a steady amount of music over the last few years, but her full-length debut is a masterful showcase. The powerful, emotional voice that distinguishes her from her peers is amped up on this album and supported by a full band, which includes members of Philly’s Mumblr. The album evocative title, Wriggling, makes you think of something not settled, illustrated in the photo of the worms of the cover. Worms are constantly twisting and turning, but they are always moving towards something — although they don’t know what that “something” is. The whole album really has a quality of unsettled movement. The music sounds very 90s alternative rock, mixing punk tones with singer-songwriter melodies, and the vibe complements the lyrics perfectly. Reimold captures that feeling of being in your twenties, trying to navigate your life, relationships, emotions, while not always knowing where you are navigating to. “The deadline for growing up: have I missed it yet?” she sings on “Bad Seed.” Wriggling relates not simply to those twenty-somethings, but to anyone going through a struggling time. This is a record that should make Philly proud, and we’re excited to hear where Reimold goes next. – Maura Filoromo
7. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador) – Will Toledo is one of the most unassuming front men you will watch in indie rock today, should you choose to see Car Seat Headrest live. (And you should, you should!) His soft-spoken nature – driven home with slightly untucked suits, Buddy Holly-esque glasses and a sheepish smile – betray the performer he becomes onstage, an explosion of angsty wails crying out about that weird point between late adolescence and full-fledged adulthood (as far as I’m concerned, he’s reclaimed the meaning of “feeling 20-anything”– sorry, T-Swift). This year’s Teens of Denial did not disappoint as a follow-up to the band’s 2015 debut Teens of Style. Cacophonous chords howl in the psychedelic monster that is “Vincent,” which paints a bleak love/hate relationship of the band’s feelings about Seattle (where they currently reside, though they cite Leesburg, VA as a home base), homesickness and self-medication. These themes – and the catchy marriage of grunge and early aughties indie melodies – create a solid narrative throughout the rest of the album on tracks like “Destroyed by Hippie Powers” and “Not What I Needed.” Funkier keyboard sounds (or maybe video game samples?) complement Toledo’s voice, which wavers between a despondent quiver and an assertive complaint on “1937 State Park.” More accessible tunes like the southern rock-soaked “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)” gets away from the fuzzy nature of the first seven tracks but is undeniably dance-y. “Cosmic Hero” dives into more of an art rock vibe, providing an excellent segue to “The Ballad of Costa Concordia,” on which Car Seat Headrest show their chops in an 11+ minute song. This first studio-recorded LP from the band, Teens of Denial is frustration, confusion and humor in one of its best rock interpretations. – Skye Leppo
6. Noname – Telefone (self-released) – It’s easy to mistake the full-length debut from Chicago poet-turned-rapper Fatimah Warner (fka Noname Gypsy) as a lightweight affair, not just due to its trim half-hour runtime and the fact that, for whatever these distinctions are worth anymore, it’s “merely a mixtape” (initially only available on Soundcloud, though a vinyl release is in the works for 2017), but also because neither its shimmering, treble-heavy productions nor Warner’s delivery atop them present, at first blush, as particularly hard-hitting or emphatic. But there’s a big difference between low-key and insubstantial. Simply put, Telefone introduces (or, for close observers of her smattering of guest spot appearances, confirms) Warner as the most captivating, distinctive and fully-formed new voice to emerge in hip-hop since, well, her good buddy (and too-easy comparison point) Chance the Rapper. Her nimble, thoughtful, stream-of-consciousness rhymes here swirl together playfulness and poignancy, mundanity and transcendence (“everything is everything / but I still haven’t paid my rent”), the personal and political (as inextricably linked in her ruminations on abortion, slavery and police brutality as her struggles with relationships, addiction and self-motivation), joy and pain, past, present and future. There’s quite a distance between giddily sketching the carefree joys of a ‘90s Southside childhood, as she does on charming, infectious standout “Diddy Bop,” and worriedly reflecting on the epidemic of young black deaths in the softly devastating “Casket Pretty” (“ain’t no one safe in this happy city”), or envisioning her funeral on the affecting, gospel-tinged “Shadow Man,” but it all flows together fluidly here, beautifully highlighting the equal shades of sweetness, nostalgia and melancholy in Cam O’bi and Phoelix’s well-matched, lightly jazz-funky, tinkertoy production. – K. Ross Hoffman
5. Beyonce – Lemonade (Parkwood Entertainment) – When Beyonce Carter-Knowles released the song “Formation” on the evening before she was scheduled to perform during the Halftime show of Superbowl 50, there was some speculation as to whether or not she would perform this thoroughly black feminist anthem or play it safe and rely on her hefty back catalog of friendly pop hits. Sandwiched between Coldplay’s pop-rock grandiosity and Bruno Mars’ slick, populist retro-funk, Beyonce stood out sharply. Flanked by 30 dancers dressed in black leather, adorned in black berets and lush Afros, Knowles briefly turned the halftime show’s over-the-top spectacle of consumerist values into something else entirely. Set in Oakland, where the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded 50 years ago, and at the height of Black Lives Matter’s blossoming into a national social movement, Beyonce’s performance stood out as a not-so subtle political act. By intentionally bringing radical political imagery into the heart of mainstream, middle-American entertainment, Beyonce was sending a bold message of pride and solidarity for all to see. Judging from negative backlash that the performance received from white viewers, Beyonce’s message was clear to them as well. Something unapologetically black woman-centered and at least symbolically militant had been staged in the middle of the bright lights and fanfare of America’s Game — and America’s biggest pop-star was preparing to offer her audience something deeper.
It is this audacious sense of black feminine pride and personal triumph that animates Beyonce’s sixth studio album, Lemonade. Allegedly written and recorded in the midst of severe marital strife between Beyonce and her hip-hop mogul husband, Jay-Z, the album mines themes of emotional insecurity, mistrust and infidelity, transforming them soulful pop gems that are at once both personal and universal. Opening with “Pray You Catch Me”, whose synthetic, harmonically dense intro is not unlike something from the vocal experiments found in the work of avant-pop pioneer Laurie Anderson or Bjork’s Medulla, the song becomes a dark piano ballad, going for the jugular immediately: “You can taste the dishonestly, it’s all over your breath, and you pass it off so cavalier….” An appropriately wrought and melancholy opener, “Pray You Catch Me” sets the perfect tone for a song set full of drama, anguish and (eventual) triumph.
Over the course of its taut 45-minute running time, Lemonade’s cycle of songs spiral down into a harrowing trip through a relationship on the verge of collapse until we reach the album’s emotional centerpiece: “Sandcastles” a simple, gorgeous piano ballad featuring a raw vocal performance from Knowles that is perfect but far from flawless. Building on themes of broken promises, breached trust and compromised intimacy, “Sandcastles” (along with its companion piece “Forward”) encapsulates the spirit of Lemonade; an example of how one woman’s triumph over personal betrayal can reflect the universal struggle of women everywhere. Bringing the hitherto underlying political air around Lemonade to a thunderous climax, the powerful “Freedom” is emotionally clear and razor sharp — if not thematically ambiguous. With its blistering drums, fuzz guitar and distorted organs lifted from 60s Latin-Psych band Kaleidoscope’s “Let Me Try,” the song has all the fire befitting of an ecstatic breakup song or a full-throated scream for justice. Kendrick Lamar’s ferocious, and highly political guest verse puts a fitting capstone on a song that reminds us that interwoven within Lemonade’s tales of sweet love gone sour is an acknowledgement of the mean and tragic nature of the world around us.
As the smoke clears, we are led beyond the hurt, anger and bitterness. “All Night” directly addresses her husband, the source of all this private pain made public. Overtop of bouncy pop-rock groove, Beyonce sternly declares that despite it all, she is still willing to “give you some time to prove that I can trust you….again.” Using faith and love as tools to dig her way out the hurt and despair, “All Night” makes plain the ways in which forgiveness can be a two way street and a healing gift for both the victim and the offender. Emotionally gripping and musically adept, Lemonade stands as the crowning jewel in year in which pop musicians have taken on the challenge of giving us a deeper look into their world while offering room to take a broader look at our own. – John Morrison
4. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic) – In the 18 years since the release of hip-hop pioneers’ A Tribe Called Quest’s previous album, The Love Movement, hip-hop and the socio-political landscape that informs it has changed dramatically. We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service acknowledges and explores those changes with an infectious energy and careful nuance. Although it would be unfair (and downright false) to label the group’s canonical output as apolitical, the ideology and musical world that ATCQ crafted in their heydey was more heavily focused on the day-to-day life and times of second generation, jazz-obsessed black bohemia in contrast to the fiery, declarative rhetoric of peers such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. That being said, We Got It From Here… will stand as ATCQ’s most unabashedly political release. Opening with “The Space Program,” a timely and irony rich call to action, the crew tangles with the rebellious spirit of the times with Jarobi contemplating insurrection and the class dynamics of space travel while Q-Tip remains on earth, throwing a loving shout out to Bree Newsome, a South Carolina activist and filmmaker who in 2015, scaled a flagpole outside of the Columbia S.C. statehouse and took down the state confederate flag.
With it’s sleek, topical raps laid overtop a bouncy, subtly funky and familiar grooves, “The Space Program” instantly reassures us that these old masters had retained some of their old luster. More importantly, they’ve brought with them some clear insights about the world as it exists now. “We The People” is a direct response to the xenophobic fervor whipped up during the Trump v. Clinton presidential campaign. Its heavy, gnarly synth bassline ducks back behind delicate jazz piano chords and Tip’s softly sung chorus in which he assumes the role of the hateful, demagogue character, even serving as a mouthpiece for the hateful incendiary himself “All you Black folks, you must go / all you Mexicans, you must go / all you poor folks, you must go. / Muslims and Gays, boy we hate your ways.” While it is unclear just how much of the record was finished when Tip’s partner at the mic, Malik “Phife Dog” Taylor passed away this spring after a long battle with diabetes, his presence is central to the project’s energy. Long overlooked as the charismatic second fiddle to Q-Tip, We Got It From Here… features some of Phife’s most thoughtful and technically accomplished MC-ing. Despite this, the group still brings through a colorful cast of guest vocalists including Busta Rhymes, Elton John and Kendrick Lamar as well as Talib Kweli, Consequence and Kanye West, who appears on the standout track “The Killing Season.” That song is equally as soft and vulnerable as it is as dark and menacing. In a surprising twist, ATCQ’s long absent and slightly mysterious fourth member Jarobi White reemerges to spit a few solid verses that serve to compensate for Phife’s limited contributions and pay loving tribute to his fallen comrade.
Weaving together aspects of the group’s classic sound with the urgency and intricacy of modern production techniques, We Got It From Here… succeeds at establishing itself as a unique, self-contained cosmos of sound. ATCQ’s traditional boom-bap style is embellished upon with collage-like sampling, nimble, tasteful live instrumentation and clever compositional turns, like on the oddly-metered mid tempo rocker “Moving Backwards” featuring Anderson .Paak. Full of musically delightful and playful moments, yet grounded with a deep and authentic emotional core, the album finds A Tribe Called Quest delivering a fitting capstone project to their stellar 25+ year career, surmounting the odds and gifting us with the most timely yet traditional, tender but righteously outraged rap album of 2016. – John Morrison
3. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (Domino) – Freetown Sound is emblematic of a reflex in popular music in 2016. Combing through and aggregating decades of pop and R&B sensibilities with a realized global perspective and socially conscious mission statement, Dev Hynes’ third Blood Orange album feels nearly as densely layered and complicated as To Pimp a Butterfly’s graduate thesis-level self-analysis. The difference is you can shake your ass on the dancefloor to this political record. Traces of Hynes’ songwriting on Skye Ferreira, Solange and Carly Rae Jepsen albums bubble right to the surface, with slap bass, minor chord piano twinkle and Hynes’ porcelain falsetto (which, should be noted, harnesses a femininity normally considered out of bounds for black artitsts) stretched to new heights. (All of this, plus a wholly irresistible chorus, can be found on centerpiece “With You.”) That alone would elevate Freetown Sound’s ambitions, but it’s the jazz and spoken word interludes, where Hynes passes the mic to sampled and featured voices that dissect conflicted notions of identity. Woven between the Prince and Janet Jackson callbacks, these set the record apart from the greater trend of repurposing 1980s pop music as some shorthand or gimmick. Freetown Sound is the real deal. – Marc Snitzer
2. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia) – Racism and sexism don’t just exist in the severity of a hooded Klansman waving a Confederate flag, or a male college athlete sentenced to mere months for sexual assault. They also fester in the everyday moments—street harassment, stop-and-frisk, comments about “thugs” and “sluts” and “reverse racism” and “#NotAllMen”—that the oppressed must navigate in a society that routinely denies them complex humanity. Solange’s lush A Seat at the Table brims with the anger and catharsis well-known to people—most relevantly to this album, black women—that society reduces to mere demographic categories. Solange knows those feelings as well as any artist in her position—when she criticized how white writers discuss R&B, the New York Times’ Jon Caramanica not-so-subtly suggested she shouldn’t criticize white people when she has so many white fans. That incident inspired some of what became A Seat at the Table, which is filled with stories of healing through grief and rage at one’s erasure.
Some songs allow listeners the space to heal (“Rise”). Others admonish the ignorant from stepping in others’ spaces (“Don’t Touch My Hair”). Woven together, this stunning work—complete with contributions from the likes of modestly moving artists like Questlove, Tweet and Sampha—empowers the intimate moments of personal recovery into grand assertions of identity. “F.U.B.U.” recognizes that much of American creativity stems from the Black people who created rock, soul and hip-hop. With this, Solange doesn’t just ask for “A Seat at the Table”—she asserts Black America’s right to be understood on its own terms. – Sameer Rao
1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (self-released) – I, for the rest of my life, will remember listening to “Blessings” for the first time; I was in my dorm room with friends, with all of my belongings packed in suitcases, getting ready to leave for the summer. The first chorus hit:
“I’m gon’ praise him, praise him til I’m gone.”
Donnie Trumpet was screaming on his horn as only he can, Jamila Woods was crooning, and Chance cheekily interjected “Don’t be mad!” before another repeat of the hook. We cracked up. It hit me, then; Chance is the best in the game, and he knows it.
Coloring Book deserves no word other than “masterpiece”; Chance took a game where he didn’t fit the rules, and made the rules fit him. In a world that is tacitly but largely dominated by the major label, Coloring Book was a poignant outlier; Chance relishes in his independence, letting it fuel tracks like “No Problem,” “Angels,” “Blessings” and “Mixtape.” The “anti-label, pro-famous” sentiment behind those tracks has attained a virality of its own; he and his fans have propelled Coloring Book to new heights, topping Billboard as a streaming-only release, landing primetime TV appearances, hundreds of radio plays, and seven Grammy nominations. He takes no issue asking for help from his friends, letting old pros like Lil Wayne into the spotlight, but also rising stars like Towkio, Noname and Saba. Coloring Book readily embraces both mainstream production and the immense, spiritual gospel style that helped propel his mentor Kanye West to the spotlight more than a decade prior.
Furthermore, Coloring Book is the mixtape that this year needed; in a year riddled with grief, the world needed songs that wisely, systematically introspected, and helped bring to light some of humanity’s greatest traits. The world needed a voice to help keep us humble, to help us love and cherish our music, our families and our friends, to help us welcome the process of recovery, and stare down the fights we have awaiting us; Chance helped give us our sword and our crest. The water may be deeper than it’s ever been, but we’ll never drown. – Cameron Pollack