The 10 Best Albums of 2016
While I spent most of 2016 buried inside podcasts and audiobooks, I still found time to listen to new and interesting music. Much like 2015, this was a year for discovering new and extremely interesting artists. However, unlike 2015, this was a year filled with nonstop bad news, from Trump, to music becoming exclusive, to the deaths of beloved musicians such as Prince, George Michael, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie. Here's hoping that the following list of albums I could not stop listening to this year will bring you some solace as we leave 2016 behind and welcome in the New Year.
Erra - Drift
Drift is Erra's third studio album in five years, and the first with unclean vocalist, J.T. Cavey, formerly of Texas In July. As a whole, most metalcore bands tend to pigeonhole themselves, and as a band, Erra has been bucking that tradition for years now. J.T. Cavey fits right in with both the harder and more melodic sounds that Erra is known for, and while it may differ sonically from Impulse or Augment, Drift is as good an Erra album as any.
Islands - Taste
Islands released two albums simultaneously this year, Taste, and Should I Remain Here At Sea? The former is more experimental and electronic, and the latter more acoustic in its sound. If any of it sounds even vaguely familiar, it's because the band's lead, Nick Thorburn, penned the soundtrack to the podcast Serial (including the mailkimp girl). Both albums are incredible, but it's Taste that stands out the most to me.
David Bowie - Blackstar
David Bowie has died many deaths over the span of his career. Everytime he has put to rest one of his many identities, another one will pop up. Blackstar is no different, other than it shakes up what we think a Bowie record can sound like. It blends jazz, pop, rock, and that familiar sense of Bowie drama. While this will have been his last LP, Bowie will live on long after his death. Rest in Peace.
Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
Black Terry Cat, Xenia Rubinos' album, is nothing short of an absolute indictment of 2016 as a whole. The album's thick beats and jarring jazz underscore Rubinos' challenging and complex lyrics. It's equal parts conversation and dance party, all held together through Xenia's flawless vocals.
L.A. Salami - Dancing With Bad Grammar
With the strum of his guitar, L.A. Salami brings the spirit of a 1970s singer/song-writer while invoking the sounds of post-modern acoustic blues. Throughout this album, you'll hear hints of Connor Oberst and Courtney Barnett in the wounded delicacy and droll observations peppered throughout the lyrics. For fans of introspective ruminations, this album is worth the 80 minute listen.
Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial
Teens of Denial is one of the best indie-rock albums I've heard in a long time, and is probably the best album I've ever heard about being a chemically dependent 20-something year old. The backing band slowly kicks in as the trip that is this album gets worse (better). It sounds like a guy walking around, sifting the bad thoughts from the good, and it works really well.
Dance Gavin Dance - Mothership
Mothership is Dance Gavin Dance's seventh studio album, and third with Tillian Pearson, and he's here to stay. No more drama, or major lineup changes. This is Dance Gavin Dance as it was always meant to be. The album was highly anticipated, and came only a year and a half after their previous release, Instant Gratification. The band comes packing, and boy do they deliver throughout all 13 of their tracks. If there's one album on this list that is a must listen to, it's this one.
Kaytranada - 99.9%
Kaytranada is a Montreal based musician, who first made his name as a dance DJ on SoundCloud. He moved to Canada when he was an infant with his family from Haiti, and within his music, you can tell that he's proud of his roots. There are heavy doses of weird and nostalgia, mixed in with catchy and incredibly inventive drum beats. 99.9% is a dreamy and mellow album to listen to, one that will take you to far off places.
Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!
Awaken, My Love! is the album in which Childish Gambino ditches rap for a lovingly produced funk inspired album. I've always been a fan of Donald Glover, especially as a musician, but his newest LP is his most enjoyable piece of work yet. The intensity of Gambino's singing mixed with his crooning falsettos work beautifully with the ripping electric guitars throught the album. It's a different kind of album, but one well worth the listen.
Tobacco - Sweatbox Dynasty
You may not think you've heard Tobacco before, but if you've ever watched HBO's Silicon Valley, then you're more familiar with him than you were aware of. Sweatbox Dynasty is as as much a Tobacco album as any, in that it's weird, uncanny, and not-quite-right-but-it-works, and while this may be a slight different take on synthpop, it's still unconventional in its approach. Much like Kaytranada's 99.9%, this album will take you places you didn't think possible.
Beyonce - Lemonade
You can't talk about 2016 without someone mentioning this absolute gem of an album. From her Super Bowl halftime show to the 30 minute HBO music video for her entire album, Lemonade was 2016 in a nutshell. The only problem with Lemonade was how it was tied down to Tidal, yet another streaming service. It wasn't until earlier this month that Beyonce made some of Lemonade available on YouTube. And it's because of this lack of accessibility to this album that it's a bonus, and not in my top 10.