Fred Armisen tells us his favorite drumming albums of 2016
The great Fred Armisen is a man who really requires no introduction. But he's getting one anyway. Armisen became a household name thanks to a seemingly endless menagerie of oddball characters and memorable moments during his tenure at SNL from 2002 - 2013. Seven seasons of his show Portlandia, which debuted in 2011 and was co-created with Sleater Kinney's Carrie Brownstein, has allowed Fred to create deeper, more profound characters that have recurred and evolved without ever really going stale from season to season. It also gave his impeccable writing chops an arena where they could thrive and be pushed to the outer limits. His most recent IFC series Documentary Now!, co-created with Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas, is one of the most brilliant takes on the mokumentary genre I have ever seen. This program is absolute perfection on every conceivable level; from the promotional materials like subway posters, to the costumes, to the hair and make up, to the film and video quality of each episode, Documentary Now! lampoons and mimics famous documentary programming with a deft expertise and attention to detail that is absolutely peerless. And the actor, comedian, voice artist, screenwriter, producer, director, and singer just celebrated his 50th birthday with a star-studded bash, the instagrams from which set off a series of serious jealousy traps for your man Klaus.
Fred is also no stranger to music. He played drums in punk bands on Long Island in the early 80s before moving to Chicago in 1988, eventually becoming the drummer of Trenchmouth. In the 90s, he played drums with Blue Man Group. You can hear Fred play drums on three tracks from Les Savy Fav's Let's Stay Friends as well as on tracks from Matthew Sweet's 2011 album Modern Art. And who can forget Armisen's pitch-perfect technical drummer spoof Jens Hannemann and his Complicated Drumming Technique videos from 2007? I had the audacity to ask Fred for a 2016 year-end list and he had the audacity to oblige me with an awesome, drum-centric list. Take it away Fred!
These are my favorite drumming albums of 2016. I have to categorize this as my favorites as opposed to the best, because I am not familiar with enough records this year from different genres to make a fair list. It may seem limited, but this is just in my listening experience.
I wouldn’t know where to begin with jazz. I’m sure there are some incredible drumming performances out there. Same goes for salsa. I tried to find something that was timbale/conga heavy, and only came up with singers accompanied by light percussion. If there's a remarkable salsa album out there, please let me know. I’m sure there are all kinds of drummers in more categories. I wish I knew more about tabla players, too.
This is in no particular order, and the drumming on these albums just stands out right away. Whenever I see Maxwell perform on TV or on YouTube, the drums are always beautiful and at the center of everything going on. Death metal drummers should get honorary Olympic medals. Always impressive.
I thought there was a new Japandroids, but maybe it’s just a new song I’m hearing recently. If anything on this list is actually programmed/sequenced, that’s fine with me.
Fred Armisen - My favorite drumming albums of 2016
Kodama - Alcest - Winterhalter
BLACKsummers'night - Maxwell - Jermaine Parrish, Darryl Howell, Hod David, Mark Colenburg
Heads Up - Warpaint - Stella Mozgawa
Blackstar - David Bowie - Mark Guiliana
Bottomless Pit - Death Grips - Zach Hill
Paradise - White Lung - Anne-Marie Vassiliou
The Catastrophist - Tortoise - John Herndon, John McEntire, Dan Bitney
Pussy’s Dead - Autolux - Carla Azar
Whatever Forever - Oozing Wound - Kyle Reynolds
And here's a little bonus reward for reading this far. - Klaus