Published on December 30th, 2016 | by Jon Robertson9
The Best Albums of 2016: 50 to 2 (You Already Know Our #1 Album)
This is part two of two of our Best Albums of 2016. In case you missed part one (The Best Albums of 2016: 100 to 51) you can catch that here.
Our top 10 this year may not be as original as it has been in the past, but it is still pretty solid. Also, there’s a ton of diverse albums on here with a huge range of genres and styles. You will not find this kind of variety in an Album of the Year list anywhere else. I’m telling you.
If you noticed in the title that segment only goes to #2 then you haven’t been paying attention and you missed the fact that we already picked our number album. If you don’t know what that is you’ll have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find out.
In case you missed the first segment…
There’s a a few things that I want to point out about our list that I think makes it unique from the thousands of year end / best of lists out there.
- We actually wait until the end of the year to compile our list (not the beginning of December like most sites) so we have actually voted on and included some of the year’s late releases.
- A lot of these albums included on the list have input from a couple of different writers, so you get a couple of different perspectives as to why a certain albums is great.
- We actually have a sense of humor about this type of thing and while we may drop some mild shit-talk on some of these albums that doesn’t mean that we don’t love the music and the people that have made this amazing music. So try not to take our back and forth banter to seriously.
- Our list has a ton of variety and I promise you will find a bunch of albums that aren’t included on other sites and albums that you probably haven’t heard this year.
So without further delay here is part two. Thanks for reading! Happy New Year! Here’s to another amazing year of music in 2017.
The Best Albums of 2016: 50 to 2
The gold standard of United States Black Metal returned in 2016. The mysterious Ash Borer arrived in the dying weeks of this year and created a reminder for how the frigid, unforgiving expanses of black metal can be altered to force introspection. Their long-form approach makes for personal journeys into not only the quartet’s music but into the listeners themselves. The Irrepassable Gate sees Ash Borer tinker with their formula a bit, bringing a darker flair to their music than on prior releases. It pays off in heaps as this new album is their best work yet. – Cody Davis
One of my favorite metal bands of all time decided to secretly release another chapter in their flawless discography and it may be their best album yet. Closest in sound and style to their previous album Drought, The Synarcy of Molten Bones is a satanic odyssey through their distinct brand of blackened, post-metal complete with their snarled vocals that seem to just bubble up through cracks in ceiling of Hell. Why this wasn’t on our Best Of Metal and Noise Rock List of 2016 is criminal. – Brandon Perras
The lead singer and mastermind behind Portland’s beloved and many-membered Typhoon, Kyle Morton, finally released his own work this year under his own name. Bridging the gap since Typhoon’s last album in 2013 and in the face of Morton’s boughts with a chronic and life-threatening illness, What Will Destroy You follows the silence with a resounding rallying call to life and finding meaning while living it. Simple song structures are layered upon with Morton’s hallmark vocals and heartbreaking lyrics, about love, its physicality, and fleeting nature. “If I couldn’t have your heart, I would have your body,” Morton sings in “Perverse Fascination,” addressing an all too familiar element of 21st century romance. Yet he follows with an aching reminder: “But each time I possessed you in the dark, I possessed nothing.” This singer-songwriter’s album centered in guitar and flowing melodies had me captured from beginning to end with its first listen, and since he released it in September no other album this year has surpassed it. No, it’s not a Typhoon record. It’s something less and something more. While Morton’s vocal tambre and basic compositional elements are present, What Will Destory You is his creation alone, dreamt up walking around Portland and in the moments before sleep. An everyday companion, Morton’s music from this year will keep you company for the rest of your life. (Note: Kyle is on tour this January in select cities and I highly recommend you see a show. Typhoon is still working on their next installment, likely to be released in 2017.) – Kelsey Simpkins
This duo might have appeared finished after 2013, when member Benjamin Curtis died at age 35 from a rare form of cancer. But recordings from the summer of 2012 have made their way to the future in the form of SVIIB. Alejandra Deheza faithfully completed the vision of the record, their best yet and one of the best released this year. It’s bursting with love, with light, with dedication and songs that betray loss and grief only in their lyrics. The tunes are fast-paced, upbeat, arranged to move the listener through dark moments and back into dancing and daylight. And in a year that has lived under many shadows, Deheza delivered us a series of poppy and perfected anthems to push through the bleak and the bland. It’s just too bad they had no choice but to quit while they were ahead. – Kelsey Simpkins
While Paradise Gallows emanates many hues of the Heavy Metal spectrum, it should be known as just such. This is not just what Post or Sludge or any subgenre of Metal should be, this is what all of Heavy Metal should strive to be. A diverse, holistic album that radiates with vibrancy and ferocity from beginning to end. Every song is orchestrated in such a powerful and precise manner, that these pieces make an absolutely satisfying whole. Inter Arma have crafted a truly captivating album that fans of any kind of Rock or Metal can love and appreciate. Paradise Gallows is a marvelous plumage of musicianship, intelligence, and creativity that rivals anything that has been released this decade. It stands to be the Richmond group’s opus until they decide to top themselves again. – Cody Davis
On the surface The Shape You Took Before the Ache may sound like just another hardcore record, but it is so so so much more. First of all the chops from every person in Exalt is off the charts, secondly the little nuances that are included in each song just launch each track into the stratosphere. This album deserves so much more love from any person out there that loves heavy, complex, and creative music. The music is straight up brain pounding as the album begins, but as it progresses it becomes more nuanced and adds in a lot of post-metal / post-rock / post-hardcore/ post-whatever moments. It just owns. I am new to Exalt and I am glad I started here. Such a great album! – Jon
Yeasayer have a unique voice. As a fellow B.G.M. writer (a certain Earth Human Name) once told me, if you hear a Yeasayer album you know it is Yeasayer. Similar to Liars. That is an awesome talent to have considering how sonically different each of their albums are. Amen/Goodbye may be my favorite from this New York band’s solid discography. – Matt Jamison
The ominous beauty of “Nebula” immediately dragged me into my personal introduction to Barwick’s music. When it comes to contemporary ambient artists, many dominate the spotlight with lush textures and minimalistic styles, but Julianna Barwick was admittedly a gaping hole in my listening habits until now. Luckily, her back catalog spreads into the past now four releases deep, so there’s plenty of work to go around, and widespread acclaim to show for it. I’ll officially dub Will the “warm blanket and cup of coffee” album of the year, just because it’s so cozy and warm. Winter is here after all, so bundle up! – Daniel Carlson
Every time TNAF release an album I have to stand back and simply marvel because they have never spared any excellence and third album Simple Forms is no different. Alisa Xayalith has got to be one of the most captivating frontwomen in modern music, each note delivered resonating with passion that hits you right at your core. Musically, the band continue to evolve, resulting in a record that although nuanced, fully deserves to be received as such. “Higher” is an effortlessly bombastic indie pop banger, “Laid Low” builds up to a staggeringly wonderful crescendo, whereas the beautiful “Falling” quite literally oozes heartache. There are only three things that are certain in life: Death, taxes and The Naked And Famous releasing brilliant music. – David Dring
This album is like that videotape from The Ring; once you listen to it, you will forever become haunted by it. Sisters Clementine and Valentine Adams, who make up Purple Pilgrims, will come crawling out of your speakers and into your soul; at times unnerving you and at times inducing a euphoric bliss. Eternal Delight is a flawless album and I want the rest of the world to be just as spellbound as I was. here is my. – Brandon Perras
Don’t call them leftovers. This collection of odds-and-ends, issued first as a digital EP – physical copies are only available through her website – shows her going deeper into the 80s influences. It opens with the pulsing “First Time,” which owes more than a little to “Into the Groove.” Meanwhile, she says she doesn’t want love (it’s too much pressure, natch) against a slinky, dark groove (“The One”) and dips into electro-balladry on “Cry,” the year’s best mediation on toxic masculinity. On one hand, this is more of the same stuff she did last year on EMOTION. On the other: who’s complaining? – M Milner
Carly Rae Jepsen is truly the gift that keeps on giving. As if 2015’s surprise pop masterpiece EMOTION wasn’t enough, Jepsen decided to follow up with some odds and ends that didn’t make the original album. “Higher” and “Body Language” are just terrific and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more unashamedly joyous pop release this year. My favourite track from EMOTION: Side B has to be “Store” however, a track literally about Carly making up going to the store as an excuse for her being terrible at goodbyes. The kind of songwriting that is frankly lost these days. I guess I Really Like You EMOTION: Side B. – David Dring
It’s easy to dismiss James Blake and his overwhelming emo-ness. “We need a forest fire.” he sings, forlornly (cuz that’s what he does). And you’re like, “Why?.” But then you realize he’s talking about World War III and you’re like, “Fuck bra, that’s dark.” –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
TDE is batting 1.000. Schoolboy Q sounds raw and focused on this album. There are plenty of rad features on this album but none made me happier than E-40 making an appearance. This album is straight fire. – Matt Jamison
For the past 50 years Iggy Pop has blasted songs about drinking, fornication, and doing very bad things that feel very good, but at 70 years old his energy is wearing thin. He has hinted Post Pop Depression may be his last album, and with songs about catching up with inner demons and closure, it just seems fitting. Josh Homme and a group of indie-rock all stars comes together in perfect harmony with Pop’s bleak lyrics and Bowie-esque baritone vocals. There’s no punk or pop to be found on the album, just the last living legend confessing what the rock n’ roll lifestyle does to one’s mind, body, and soul over the years. If this is indeed his final album, Pop leaves us with his strongest work since Funhouse. – Aaron Cooper
Look. I’ll be totally honest and tell you that I have never really listened to or given a shit about Iggy Pop or the Stooges. I don’t care, you can judge me. I decided to give Post Pop Depression a shot and I think it is dope. I know there are some Iggy purists our there who are down on this album, but whatever. Maybe that’s why I like it so much because I don’t have anything from his back catalogue to compare it to. The dude is old and he can do what he wants. Don’t hate. Plus this is basically a Queens of the Stone Age album with Iggy moaning and groaning all over it. A perfect match. – Jon
With shades of Elliott Smith and Jon Brion mixed in with rollicking Beatle-esq psychedelic pop, Canadian singer/songwriter Andy Shauf’s The Party can be looked at as a series of songs about sad, lonely people hoping to make some kind of human connection and fill the void inside. Working with both fully developed arrangements (the impressive opening track “The Magician”) or sparse fragility (the haunting closing piece “Martha Sways”) Shauf showcases what a versatile songwriter he is throughout The Party, painting evocative, identifiable portraits with each song. – Kevin Krein
No idea this album existed until the week of Christmas. It has been on heavy rotation since I got my paws on it though. Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) isn’t going quietly into the night with his retirement. He treats us to his most spaced out project of his career. Beautiful and so him. I love him. – Matt Jamison
Yasiin! This kind of reminds me of old Tricky records, but with an up to date twist. So much vibe to December 99th. Hope this album doesn’t get forgotten with it being released so late in the year. – Jon
They hated Louis Armstrong for demanding his shows be integrated. The Nat King Cole show was cancelled because he couldn’t find any sponsors. They called James Brown a racist for writing a song about being proud and black. They called Chic a bunch of fags. Ditto for Prince. They blamed Public Enemy for violence in American ghettos. They banned Jodeci for sexually suggestive lyrics. And now, they hate Young Thug just because. Notice a pattern? –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
Young Thug was not always my thing. It took a little bit of perseverance for me to get into his previous work. But once it clicked it clicked for life. This dude’s music always makes my attitude more positive whenever I hear it. He is an important voice in a genre that will continually have to endure the battle between the traditionalists vs. the new voices. – Matt Jamison
“Your Best American Girl” is one of the most important songs of 2016. Her early stuff was as little esoteric, but Mitski is really coming into her own as a songwriter trying to keep “indie rock” alive and interesting. -Kevin Krein
I love Antwon. He is my favorite MC / Hip-Hop dude out right now.His taste for beats is immaculate and unmatched. His rhymes and flow are so legit. He always claims a spot on our year end lists. Always! This year is no exception, Double Ecstasy is Antwon’s first label release and Anticon. may have wanted to play it safe by only letting him release a five song EP. Well if these five songs are a good indication at how fire Antwon really is and his new label better be commissioning an LP from him ASAP. Double Ecstasy shows Antwon flowing on cylinders with his club rhymes, tales of partying, and all around pervert escapades with the ladies. I probably sang the chorus to “Luv” out loud way too many times in social situations that I probably shouldn’t have, “Show me love in the booty club…” And the beats! The beats are so good! Antwon you my dude! – Jon
Slim TX for drummer of the century, brah. This band is killer. Make sure to see them live. You won’t regret it. – Isaac Atencio
Over the past 4 years or so it is safe to say that True Widow has been my favorite band. For me there down tempo-fuzzed-gaze is perfect for any season and any setting. The jams on AVVOLGERE aren’t downers, they are perfect. – Jon
Should I even be allowed to comment on Endless Light anymore? I think I’ve let my fanboy show a little too much on this incredible album this year. I truly think that O’Brother is on a path to greatness. I can not wait to hear what they come up with the next go round. – Isaac Atencio
Can’t we just give these boys the ‘best UK live band of the century’ accolade and just be done with it? Never have I seen such ferocity, intensity and at times bat shit craziness than at a Biffy gig. The Scottish rocker have thankfully channelled much of that power into Ellipsis, their 7th studio album. ‘Wolves Of Winter’ is a frantic stomp intertwined with Simon Neil’s trademark snarky howl. “Animal Style” on first listen sounds like a trademark rock track, however Neil gets progressively angrier with each passing chorus. “Howl” is Biffy Clyro at their most poppy and it is absolutely infectious. The standard Biffy off-kilter drum beats are back in force thankfully as is Neil’s high-pitched shriek. The band have gone on record to declare Ellipsis as the best record they’ve ever made and I’m finding it very hard to disagree. – David Dring
I attempted to write a review for this album around its official release date. Yet, every time I tried to organize my thoughts on it, I could not fix the jumbled pile of emotions and cogitations that Yodh created. This hour-long slab of “wholly doomed Black Metal” was one of my few subjectively perfect albums this year. Mizmor is the Portland-based one-man black metal project spearheaded by A.L.N. who has been creating music under this moniker for over four years now. Yodh is his second full-length album, following a self-titled LP and a handful of smaller releases. Within this beast is an intense battle with existentialism. Yodh asks the question of “why humankind continually chooses life each day in the face of adversity, pain, depression, and suffering.” A.L.N.’s massive vocal range and masterful execution of all instruments made this one the single-greatest displays of musicianship. – Cody Davis
Rock and roll means many things to many people: in the case of Preoccupations, it means deconstruction. And I don’t mean that in the sense of paring-down the instrumentation or scaling back the production, but rather in disassembling the very essence of what rock music can and should be, boiling down the component parts to their hardest elemental core, and building something new and awesome on top of that. It’s loud, intense, and a fuck of a lot of fun, not to be missed by anyone interested in refined experimentation and heavy-duty rocking out. – JP Gorman
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Unless you’re Beyonce, at which point a servant most likely does that for you. –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
Hell hath no fury like our Bey. Lemonade invokes women around the world’s deepest darkest underlying emotions; to just burn everything to the ground. – Judie Vegh
Side projects, an indefinite vacation from the toils of everyday musicianship as profession, or the last pulse of a lineup of creative minds on respirator. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but such is life for mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Although they released their swansong record Dissociation to wide acclaim in preparation to call it quits, it was Greg Puciato’s work with fellow collaborators Steven Alexander and Joshua Eustis (Nine Inch Nails) that garnered attention late 2015 sliding into 2016, when their group released a match-made-in-heaven ode to synthesizer madness and 80’s nostalgia. Beyond the exterior of synth-pop melodies and jumpy 808 drum beats, Fever Daydream proves to be much more. Featuring Puciato fully dedicating himself to clean vocals aside from his hardcore past, songs like lead single “Ice To Never” show his diverse range of belting choruses, to the tender falsetto of “The End Where We Start”. Quite the stray from shocking audiences out of their element, but snapping back to this present reality, The Black Queen trade awe in the form of entertainment to that of beautiful soundscapes of warbly electronics and piercing bass and guitar. Fever Daydream is an homage of sorts, but above all, Puciato is his standard distinct voice, and The Black Queen set their own personal soundtrack, destined to bring the extra flavor to a budding resurgence in pop music. – Daniel Carlson
Like AC/DC to rock radio, Dinosaur Jr. has remade the same album over and over for nearly 30 years. Is that a bad thing? No! It’s Dinosaur Jr.! – Aaron Cooper
It’s kind of crazy that Dino Jr. haven’t released a bad album in the 10 years since they’ve reunited. J. Mascis is still a socially awkward guitar god, Lou Barlow has settled nicely into his role of middle-aged alternative icon, and Murph is still Murph. “I Walked for Miles” and “I Told Everyone” will go done in the pantheon of great Dinosaur Jr. tunes. -Ricky Vigil
Something like a rough draft of his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, untitled unmastered shows him working ideas out, laying down tough, electro-funk grooves, and even rapping with an acoustic guitar into what sounds like an iPhone. If this was a bootleg, all the collectors would be buzzing over it. It’s not, which makes it all that much easier for you, me and everyone we know to peek into the studio. And to think: if LeBron James had not tweeted him about it, would he have sat on these forever? – M. Milner
All hail, King Kendrick. Another stand-out performance I had the pleasure of seeing live this year. Traveled all the way to the U.K. to do it. So. Fucking. Worth it. – Isaac Atencio
I love Cult of Luna. I love Julie Christmas. For me this albums was match made in heaven. If you are framiliar with eaiehr parties music, this album sounds exaclty how you want it sound. Cult of Luna’s crushing creativeness featuring Christmas’ always teetering on the edge vocals. I am sucker all day everyday for heaviness and melody and Mariner has so much of it. Clocking in at only five tracks this album still feels like a total journey. Like fellow B.G.M. writer Jasper Hesselink said, I hope Cult of Luna and Christmas make this a permanent colaboration. – Jon
If you haven’t listened to Car Seat Headrest, the best way I can describe the album is Beck fronting The Strokes doing covers of Guided By Voices songs. If you’re not yet sold with sheer curiosity, then maybe the fact Will Toledo, the mastermind of the band is barely in his early 20s, will do the trick. It blows me away someone so young could behind behind a collection of songs that completely nails everything from depression, alcoholism, and crippling insecurity, with cynical wit not even found in some of the industry’s most accomplished artists. Imaginative yet nonchalant, Car Seat Headrest are easily the most interesting indie act of the last decade. – Aaron Cooper
For a long time now, Parquet Courts have been doing their thing and never quite breaking through to a level beyond “popular with scenesters and people who read Pitchfork.” Human Performance isn’t necessarily the record that’s going to catapult them through to the next phase of whatever qualifies as rock stardom today, but it is a much better record than any they’ve made before. Previously happy to play the part of the drunk cool-guys slurring stories of pretty desperation over sloppy riffs and stumble-bum rhythms, here they kick out the jams on a professional-grade amphetamine tip with tracks like “One Man, No City” and “Dust,” while “Berlin Got Blurry” is the best Elvis Costello song the man himself could never hope to have written. Because of what they do and how they do it, it’s hard to imagine Parquet Courts ever becoming terribly popular, but the far more important thing to note on Human Performance is that they are now much better at what they do than they’ve ever been before. No more gutter for these guys: the sky’s the limit from here. – JP Gorman
Word to the wise, I’ve discovered recently that I have been mispronouncing this group’s name. It’s actually pronounced “Par-kay Courts,” so if you’re like me and you’ve been saying, “Shitty Modern Lovers Ripoff Band,” stop it! Thank you. –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
One of 2016’s more stylish releases, Oh No was a damn fine sophomore effort from technopop sweetheart Jessy Lanza. The majority of the tracks are minimalistic in nature as its Lanza’s voice that does the most work, a voice that although isn’t the strongest, still carries a hell of a lot of personality. Tracks such as “VV Violence” and “Vivica” are Vibrant and pulsating, while “It Means I Love You” is probably one of the slickest art pop tracks of the decade. Oh No cruelly slipped under the radar upon release, perhaps do to its ambiguous nature; It’s pop but you can’t sing along, it’s dance but not in the conventional sense. Conventional is boring though isn’t it? Keep doing your thing Jessy, you’ve never sounded better. – David Dring
Love this album. Its like stripped down 80s pop for the future. – Jon
Should this be a swan song for metal’s mathematical progressives, it serves as a valiant conclusion on two decades of technical brilliance. The Dillinger Escape Plan are visionaries of experimental chaos. Dissociation saw the quintet pour their hearts and minds into their final songs to construct what can be considered their greatest work to date. – Cody Davis
You know that part in Back To The Future when Marty McFly dresses up like Darth Vader and tries to tell his dad that he’ll use the Van Halen solo he’s playing to melt his brain if he doesn’t take his mom to the Enchantment By The Sea Dance? No? Oh…well this joke doesn’t work, then. –Charlemagne H. St. Lunus
This Seattle/Tacoma area trio recently celebrated their tenth year of making music together at a sold out show in Seattle. Watching them play Stillicide from front to back nearly brought tears to my eyes. I am so proud to call this band one of my local favorites and it is amazing to watch their slow and steady rise on the national scene. The nicest people, too. – Matt Jamison
This record should be called White Boy Got a Vocoder, Everybody Swoon. Instead, it’s titled some obtuse bullshit and the track names feature special characters and greek letters and quotation marks. But get through the record’s pretentious trappings and often-exasperating lack of rhythm, and you’ll find a portrait of an artist who is actually, in fact, with little regard for what it’ll mean five years from now (let alone next week), utilizing innovative new technology and modern instrumental capability to do Something Different with pop music. There’s a great deal of value in that, even if sometimes the work comes across as that of a lonely burnout in a dark house with an M-Box and a delay pedal making noise to amuse himself. – JP Gorman
Have you ever noticed there are two kinds of white people? Those who like Bon Iver and those who friggin’ LOVE Bon Iver. I fall in the second category, because I have a soft spot in my heart for baldies. –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
Rap and hip-hop are typically a genre I don’t spend a whole lot of time with, but for some reason Danny Brown has become a regular on playlists and his last two full lengths along with this one, often find themselves in rotation during my commutes to work. Again on Atrocity Exhibition, the lyrical content covers similar territory to his previous works; drugs, sex and social/political commentary; all delivered with his trademark, nasally, rapid fire, lyrical acrobatics. The feel on this album is slightly more abstract than usual; then again, he did site Captain Beefheart, Aphex Twin, Talking Heads and Joy Division as influences. I saw Brown tour on this album and the live show was charismatic and intense; he barely took a break and barreled through the set which was made up of all upbeat and faster paced tracks; by the end of it I thought they were going to have to hook him up to oxygen and take him out on a stretcher. Danny Brown has raised the bar on hip-hop once again with this album. No matter how silly his lyrics can be, he is a true artist and I’m always looking forward to how he is going to mutate and evolve the genre. -Brandon Perras
When Steve Urkel got his teeth knocked the fuck out, did he give up? No! He became a dope ass rapper! – Charlemagne H. St. Lunus
An Ol’ Dirty Bastard for the Internet age, Danny Brown never disappoints. This dude can throw pro wrestling references into his verses and have his songs used in Dragon Ball Z commercials and still be undeniably cool. The noisy, weird production from Paul White perfectly complements Danny’s tendency to switch between vocal styles on the fly and should appeal equally to people who only listen to Run the Jewels and hip hop heads who are into Dalek and Quakers. Also, the hip hop supergroup assembled for “Really Doe” is straight fire! – Ricky Vigil
I have never really been a Cass McCombs guy. This album came up on my radar when “Opposite House” popped up on one of my random Soundcloud streams. That track is literally so perfect structurally that I couldn’t help but replay it four more times. Then one morning while I was driving around I threw on Mangy Love and discovered that the rest of the album was as perfect as the song I first heard. The instrumentation on this album is flawless and McCombs really paints vivid pictures lyrically and vocally. – Jon
I was super late to the game on Planes Mistaken for Stars and only discovered their previous album Mercy a couple of years after they broke up. Thankfully, they are back together and ever more thankfully their new album Prey is just as amazing if not more than Mercy. Welcome back PMFS! – Jon
12. T – Goodness
Just as Patrick Star thought it fun to wash an old person in “Spongebob Squarepants”, so Christian Holden thought it a party-and-a-half to photograph several nudist senior citizens on The Hotelier’s latest output, Goodness. While the shock value of the cover art is quite an icebreaker, what surprised fans more was the band’s ability to kick back the energy just a little bit, sacrificing post-hardcore screams and blitzkrieg guitars for tender melody and harmony. That’s not to say that the album doesn’t rip where it needs to (“Sun”, “Soft Animal”), there’s just a careful balance of hills and peaks. Where lyricism surrounding an apparent suicide took center stage on their last album, Goodness shines truer as more the aftermath of coping with life’s tragedies. Furthermore, it showcased increasing maturity in Holden’s songwriting capability; this is indie-rock for a new day. -Daniel Carlson
The Californian band achieved new levels of excellence with their To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, their 8th studio release. A five year break between this and their last release looks to have worked wonders because Dustin Kensrue and co have never sounded better. The record is front to back a high intensity, supercharged rush of post-hardcore brilliance. While “Hurricane” and “Blood On The Sand” beat you senseless, “Salt And Shadow” shows a softer side to the band we’ve rarely seen before. Although musically there are a handful of nods to older releases on this record, with themes ranging from a wide variety of the darker aspects of social life, the tracks that center around political unrest and insecurity such as ‘Whistleblower’ do feel far beyond what Thrice had previously brought to the table. This is without doubt one of the most accomplished rock records of the year. – David Dring
With To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, Thrice have truly pushed forward their exploration of dynamic and soundscape. There is texture beyond comprehension on this record. Thrice leads your in ear and mind in one direction and then bends it in the other, all while keeping everything incredibly cohesive. So glad to have these dudes back at it making music. – Isaac Atencio
As music continues to take advantage of advancements in recording technology, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the most vital part of it; emotion. The minimal electric guitar, bass and drum is elevated by the rawest passionate vocals found on any record released this year and maybe even the decade. Songs with mundane topics such as day to day work routine as a nurse, or being picked up on my beat cops, sound equally as heartbreaking as the songs about clinical depression and death of a loved one. Despite the varied emotional topics, Camp Cope isn’t a bleak album. Instead of reveling in desperation, there’s a glimmer of hope running throughout each song that completely nails the cross-eyed optimism of someone who’s making it through their own private battle of emotional distress. I dare you to listen to “Song For Charlie” and not feel wrecked and empowered at the same time. – Aaron Cooper
Where the hell did Merso even come from?! I’m super late to the game on this record, but it is phenomenal. One of the most interesting listens I’ve heard in years. It’s progression and dynamic are off the charts. From mellow and funky to moody and aggressive, it is an amazing ride from beginning to end. – Isaac Atencio
Merso are my personal favorite of the year. I truly believe what I wrote about them earlier this year when the album was released. This album will mark the evolution of Seattle rock. Building off of their EP as Leatherdaddy (The Plague House) they continue to mash and blend numerous styles of rock. This is quite a trip. – Matt Jamison
One of 2016’s most devastating albums and Cave at his most vulnerable. Partially written in the wake of the 2015 accidental death of his teenage son, Skeleton Tree finds him mourning and processing his grief in an incredibly public way. Evocative and fragmented at times, Cave also grounds his lyrics in realistic situations– there are a lot of talk about supermarket lines. A sparse eight songs, only of two of which (for me) don’t really work, Skeleton Tree takes a stranglehold to its listener and never lets go. – Kevin Krein
The now Grammy-nominated .Paak started off 2016 by melting the icicles from our roofs through radiant energy and shimmering flow. Malibu wonderfully mixed classic hip-hop, soul, and R&B together into a sun-kissed, sandy blend of music. The 30 year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist rode the waves of his Venice album and appearance on Dr. Dre’s Compton to widespread acclaim on what is personally the year’s best hip-hop album. The hour-long Malibu paces between Stevie Wonder-esque soul on “The Bird” to the rhythmic hip-hop of “Room in Here” to the downright funk of “Come Down”. The different styles are strung together through spoken word samples and flawless production work from a platoon of talented, musical minds. – Cody Davis
This dude is incredible live. Hands down one of the stand-out performers I got to witness this year. Seriously, don’t snooze on Malibu. – Isaac Atencio
This newest installation into the Finnish, cosmic black metallurgists’ discography is deeply immersive and a stellar display of genre contortion. Värähtelijä follows up their 2013 album, Valonielu, which now sounds like a roughly recorded demo after hearing Oranssi Pazuzu‘s newest album. This is not to slight their prior efforts, but to heap praise onto how great Värähtelijä truly is. The group has taken massive strides forward in the last two to three years. The album spans seventy minutes over the course of seven separate journeys. Every moment puts massive torsion on black metal purity and stretches the genre to its outermost limits. – Cody Davis
Track five on this album, “Vasemman käden hierarkia” total bananas! – Jon
In my most contemplative moments I listen to “White Ferrari” and think about that guy from Provo who won a Lambo only to total it a couple hours later. Sometimes we can underestimate all that horsepower. Then I think about Trump and the prize he just won, and how it’s not totally unlike that lambo. But Frank Ocean keeps his cool and goes on singing shit like, “If you think about it, it’ll be over in no time, and that’s life.” In that moment, his music can be so peaceful and comforting. Still, knowing we’re gonna crash…that’s pretty terrifying. Especially when the driver doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned. –Charlemagne H. St. Linus
What is there to say about this that hasn’t been said already by very smart people? Ocean’s new album, coming after a very long wait between albums, came out paired with a visual record called Endless, which was more experimental in nature and not what I imagine Def Jam expected. Anyway, Blonde (or, Blond as he titled it), is an uncompromising record that shifts and distorts as the listener unpacks it. Songs like “Nikes” almost come apart as you try and pick them up; the record is all loose ends and things which don’t add up unless you’re willing to sit with it and unpack the intensity at work here. Something which I imagine most listeners in 2016 aren’t willing to do. They do so at their own peril: Blonde’s an ambitious work, one which for the most part succeeds on it’s own terms. – M. Milner
Angel Olsen really could have done whatever she wanted with this follow-up to 2014’s breakthrough Burn Your Fire For No Witnesses. Set her career on fire, make a sharp detour, try to recapture the zeitgeist with a note-perfect remake: any number of moves were there for the taking. So it was one of the great joys of 2016 to see she chose none of the above with My Woman, instead making a weird, fun, beautiful record, with her touring band on-hand as equal partner and participant. These songs wear their influences prominently, but at no point does the record feel like a derivative rip-off. Quite the contrary, it feels like something no one else could have made, and established Olsen once and for all as an artist of note that, with any luck (for us), will be around dropping bombs like this for a long, long time. Her voice alone is worth the price of admission, but by the time you get to the end of “Sister” you’ll gladly jump on the bandwagon to ride along wherever she’s heading next. – JP Gorman
In her third release, My Woman, Angel Olsen pairs melodramatic songs of love and loss with tinkering melodies that will break your heart in two, heal it, and then break it all over again. Her haunting vocals will echo in your ears for days after the first listen. This album has put Olsen on the map of great musicians to follow closely in the years to come. – Judie Vegh
2016 has been a turbulent year filled with a series of unfortunate events, as well as music masterpieces. It was destined for A Tribe Called Quest to drop their final album this year, following up The Love Movement, released in 1998. The hip hop legends make a come back with all guns blazing. We Got It From Here is jam packed with slick and politically fueled lyricism, surprising but refreshing collaborations a.k.a. Jack White and diverse instrumentals. Instrumentally, this album is more expansive to their previous ones with its dark synths and guitar chords combined with soulful, bass-heavy melodies. We Got It From Here has become an empowering anthem for people of colour, theming its lyrics around racial discrimination as well as tracks like “ego” relatable to anyone. A Tribe Called Quest leave a permanent mark in the world of music with We Got It From Here, making it one of the best albums of the year.- Angel Keene
With experimentation seemingly taking a backseat, A Moon Shaped Pool utilizes the heartbreaking emotion that comes with loss and loneliness. It’s a break-up album but the kind of break-up album only Radiohead can deliver. Sonically speaking, A Moon Shaped Pool is a bit on the safe side when it comes to verse/chorus structure. It lacks the alien loops and soundscapes from their previous effort King Of Limbs, but this doesn’t mean they’ve stopped moving forward. The return of live instrumentation paired with lush string arrangements enables even the bleakest of lyrics and vocal delivery to feel organic and vulnerable, something even the most dedicated fan can agree has been missing from their catalog in recent years. It’s not everyday Radiohead releases an album that can be called accessible but this record embodies something from each era of the band’s near four decade run without pandering to nostalgia. A Moon Shaped Pool doesn’t change the way we listen to music, but it is most certainly, one of this year’s finest moments. – Aaron Cooper
As someone who has tried and failed many times to get into Radiohead, I often wondered what was wrong with me. They’re clearly a brilliant band musically but for some reason it just wouldn’t click for me. A Moon Shaped Pool had a completely different effect on me than all the other records before though, not because it is altogether different than previous releases but all due to the fact that I got sucked into the pre-release drama during the lead up. In many ways this felt to me like a swansong, that perhaps Thom Yorke and co were going to bow out gracefully. I’ve seen bands come and go and true modern artisans are awfully few and far between. Radiohead may not have pushed the envelope and strayed from their nest with this record, but every now and then you experience something unexplainable and magical just at the perfect moment. My first full listen to A Moon Shaped Pool was the first time I saw Radiohead for the quiet geniuses that they were. – David Dring
It’s easy to overestimate the virtues of this record, both because of who made it and because kick-off track “Burn the Witch” is the best rock single to land from a band this big in what feels like decades. But there’s nothing revolutionary or particularly of-the-moment on A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s just a great record from a great band, a collection of moody and sad music from a group of musicians that can’t help their own greatness. Whereas many of the biggest rock bands of recent vintage have been content to skate on their legacy and do just-enough to maintain their standings and bank accounts, these guys put the time in to make and release a record of unexpected and unparalleled melodic genius that the world could believe in. And yes, it does feel weird to praise a hugely famous, legendary, all-time-great rock band for making sure their record was worth listening to before releasing it, but that’s where rock music stands today. Radiohead is Radiohead for a reason, and A Moon Shaped Pool reminded us what that is. – JP Gorman
There really is no other choice. David Bowie died for this album.
You made it this far?! Wow! Here is a Run The Jewels track from RTJ3. That album should probably be on this list too.