In Albums Of The Year, A.V. Club staffers write about a record that defined 2016 for us. Maybe it isn’t the year’s absolute best record—or even our No. 1 favorite—but it’s one that, without it, music would have been a whole lot less interesting.
Exploded View, Exploded View
From its unplanned founding to its improvised, single-take recording process, Exploded View is a band built on chance. Initially uniting to flesh out solo shows by Berlin-based singer Anika (of Stones Throw, BEAK>) while she was on tour in Mexico City, the four-piece sparked to an energy and aesthetic they knew they wanted to capture on tape.
The result is a debut album that has been compared to Can’s Ege Bamyasi and Portishead’s Third and that staggers with urgency from beginning to end, from drilling jump-start (“Lost Illusions”) to stoned dissolution (“Killjoy”). Exploded View is a splintered amalgam of post-punk, krautrock, psych, and funk—all of it drenched in dub echo and driven by the aim of staying engaged. Anika’s drawl crisscrosses the album’s frenetic grooves unfazed, like a searchlight seeking a ship in a storm, eyes wide open in vigilance.
Addressing heavy topics like war, self-destruction, and the disconnect of modern life, Anika (whose background is in political journalism) avoids preachiness by being as sympathetic as she is critical. “Don’t be scared of trying… most of what you fear is just a tale anyway,” she offers gently on “Stand Your Ground,” alongside the startling directness of songs like “Lark Descending”: “Mothers weep in misery / At sons lost in the field / You sit and play your games / And jerk off at the screen.”
In a year of such political upheaval, a year literally defined by the word “post-truth,” Exploded View’s debut feels immediate and cathartic. It’s a call to arms, to “stop, look, and observe” hard realities and question what we may blindly accept as normal, both individually and collectively. It’s also a reminder that we are all much more nuanced and complex than perhaps we appear to be.