Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Best Albums of 2016


I'm in a hurry to get this out and move on with life, though this long day of listening to the "A" albums on vinyl that I picked up throughout the year was certainly a treat, and resulted in a lot of shuffling around. I'm again presenting a top fifty this year. Actually a top hundred, though the lower reaches are down below and when you get to the eighties and nineties you're seeing some records I only heard a couple of times so it's arbitrary, but may it be known that I sampled 427 albums this year, 173 of which I heard in full multiple times and reviewed. (The sampling process is why my results skew in favor of recommendations; chances are if something's bad I won't hear all of it.)

Life moves fast and brutally -- this list contains two people who've died since their albums were released, plus one who died beforehand, and at least one band that's already broken up.

I'd like to make two quick points:
- Last year I had a bit of an identity crisis described in this space when I noticed that my favorite records seemed to skew in favor of guitar bands suddenly. This year seems to have been a major correction, with R&B and hip hop dominating my listening habits for most of the calendar year and comprising half of the top ten. Guess it was a fluke, or maybe just my mood in 2015.
- A couple of things to say about the top two here... Though the Kanye vs. Vampire Weekend showdown in 2013 comes close, this was the hardest time I've had so far making a final choice on my top record for the year, not a problem I especially mind having. I still wonder now if I was right to edge in favor of Yeezus, but I'm marginally more comfortable with my final decision this year, though it changed at the very last possible second (later than the last possible second if you remember that it's March and I should have done this in December). Both albums are extraordinary mirrors of this chaotic, terrifying time that has abruptly become even more chaotic and terrifying... both by artists who seem to have seen it coming. In the long run I suspect we'll remember them as coming around later than they did, so don't forget please that they surfaced a week apart in September and October 2016. What struck me about my top two choices from last year was that they seemed absolutely timeless; not so for Danny Brown's pure alienation and Kate Tempest's poetic deconstruction -- both are like the soundtrack to a single and specific and harrowing moment, and a reflection of times that one day we'll wish we could forget.

My golden list of highly recommended favorites (the most ever, I believe) is bolded. The top ten is enlarged.

50. Archy Marshall: A New Place 2 Drown (Matador)
49. Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL)
48. Young Thug: JEFFERY (Atlantic)
47. Joey Purp: iiiDrops (s/r)
46. Glenn Jones: Fleeting (Thrill Jockey)
45. Mavis Staples: Livin' on a High Note (Anti-)
44. Kamaiyah: A Good Night in the Ghetto (s/r)
43. Maxwell: blackSUMMER'Snight (Columbia)
42. King: We Are King (King Creative)
41. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool (s/r)
40. Rae Sremmurd: SremmLife 2 (Interscope)
39. Shura: Nothing's Real (Polydor)
38. Terry Malts: Lost at the Party (Slumberland)
37. William Bell: This Is Where I Live (Stax)
36. The Radio Dept.: Running Out of Love (Labrador)
35. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound (Domino)
34. Kyle Craft: Dogs of Highland (Sub Pop)
33. John Cale: M:FANS (Double Six)
32. Samiyam: Animals Have Feelings (Stones Throw)
31. Savages: Adore Life (Matador)
30. The Jayhawks: Paging Mr. Proust (Sham)
29. Nels Cline: Lovers (Blue Note)
28. Holy Fuck: Congrats (Innovative Leisure)
27. Tegan and Sara: Love You to Death (Warner Bros.)
26. The Wave Pictures: Bamboo Diner in the Rain (Moshi Moshi)
25. Lydia Loveless: Real (Bloodshot)
24. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam: I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (Glassnote)
23. Pity Sex: White Hot Moon (Run for Cover)
22. Pet Shop Boys: Super (x2)
21. Pusha T: King Pusha: Darkest Before Dawn - The Prelude (Def Jam)
20. Pinkshinyultrablast: Grandfeathered (Club AC30)
19. Beyoncé: Lemonade (Columbia)
18. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (Columbia)
17. Lizzo: Big GRRRL Small World (s/r)
16. PJ Harvey: The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant)
15. Flock of Dimes: If You See Me, Say Yes (Partisan)
14. Swet Shop Boys: Cashmere (Customs)
13. Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered. (Interscope)
12. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)
11. Solange: A Seat at the Table (Columbia)


10. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here, Thank You 4 Your Service
(Epic) | A- | review

9. Rihanna: ANTI
(Universal) | A- | review

8. David Bowie: Blackstar
(Columbia) | A | review

7. Anthony Joseph: Caribbean Roots
(Heavenly Sweetness) | A | review

6. Whitney: Light Upon the Lake
(Secretly Canadian) | A | review

5. The Wave Pictures: A Season in Hull
(s/r) | A | review

4. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive
(Ribbon Music) | A | review

3. Nicolas Jaar: Sirens
(Other People) | A | review

2. Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition
(Warp) | A | review

1. Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos
(Fiction) | A | review


***

THE NEXT FIFTY
100. Jeremih: Late Nights - The Album (Def Jam)
99. Bombino: Azel (Partisan)
98. Frankie Cosmos: Next Thing (Bayonet)
97. Allen Toussaint: American Tunes (Nonesuch)
96. Xylouris White: Black Peak (Bella Union)
95. Anderson .Paak: Malibu (EMPIRE)
94. Lake Street Dive: Side Pony (Nonesuch)
93. Fantasia: The Definition Of... (RCA)
92. Imarhan (City Slang)
91. Field Music: Commontime (Memphis Industries)
90. The Julie Ruin: Hit Reset (Hardly Art)
89. Tinashe: Nightride (RCA)
88. Beth Orton: Kidsticks (Anti-)
87. Tycho: Epoch (Ghostly)
86. Loretta Lynn: Full Circle (Columbia)
85. Rival Consoles: Night Melody (Erased Tapes)
84. dvsn: Sept. 5th (Warner Bros.)
83. Kaitlyn Aurealia Smith & Sizanne Ciani: Frkways Vol. 13: Sunergy (RVNG)
82. Andrew Bird: Are You Serious (Loma Vista)
81. Konono Nol. 1: Meets Batida (Crammed Discs)
80. Lapsley: Long Way Home (XL)
79. A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper (RCA)
78. Nothing: Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse)
77. Hieroglyphic Being: The Disco's of Imhotep (Ninja Tune)
76. Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits (Castle Face)
75. Underworld: Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future (Caroline)
74. Kevin Gates: Islah (Atlantic)
73. Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch (Sacred Bones)
72. Tacocat: Lost Time (Hardly Art)
71. Junior Boys: Big Black Coat (City Slang)
70. Eleanor Friedberger: New View (Frenchkiss)
69. Oddisee: The Odd Tape (Mello Music)
68. Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (Def Jam)
67. Venetian Snares: Traditional Synthesizer Music (Planet Mu)
66. Nao: For All We Know (RCA)
65. Lucy Dacus: No Burden (EggHunt)
64. Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (Interscope)
63. The Range: Potential (Domino)
62. Basia Bulat: Good Advice (Secret City)
61. Jamila Woods: HEAVEN (Closed Session
60. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (s/r)
59. The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome (Interscope)
58. Laura Gibson: Empire Builder (Barsuk)
57. M.I.A.: AIM (Interscope)
56. Gold Panda: Good Luck and Do Your Best (City Slang)
55. Elza Soares: The Woman at the End of the World (Mais Um Discos)
54. Bobby Rush: Porcupine Meat (Rounder)
53. Public Access TV: Never Enough (Cinematic)
52. William Tyler: Modern Country (Merge)
51. Poliça: United Crushers (Mom + Pop)

***

ALSO RECOMMENDED IN 2016
Weyes Blood: Front Row Seat to Earth (Mexican Summer)
Venice Dawn/Adrian Younge: Something About April II (Linear Labs)
Anohni: Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian)
Yello: Toy (Factory Floor)
Factory Floor: 25 25 (DFA)
Mogwai: Atomic (Temporary Residence)
Zo!: Skybreak (Foreign Exchange)
Sidestepper: Supernatural Love (Society of Sound)
Phonte / Eric Robertson: Tigallero (Foreign Exchange)
Esperanza Spalding: Emily's D+Evolution (EMI)
Explosions in the Sky: The Wilderness (Temporary Residence)
clipping.: Splendor & Misery (Sub Pop)
Goat: Requiem (Sub Pop)
De La Soul: And the Anonymous Nobody (AOI)
The Avett Brothers: True Sadness (Island)
BadBadNotGood: IV (Beat)
Mark Pritchard: Under the Sun (Warp)
Jessy Lanza: Oh No (Hyperdub)
Common: Black America Again (Def Jam)
Rokia Traore: Ne So (Nonesuch)
Frank Ocean: Blonde (s/r)
Mitski: Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)

EXTENDED-PLAYS THAT WOULD BELONG ON THE ALBUM LIST IF THEY COUNTED
Sheer Mag: III (s/r)
Ezra Furman: Songs by Others (Bella Union)

OTHER EXTENDED-PLAYS RECOMMENDED IN 2016
clipping.: Wriggle (Sub Pop)
Yossou N'Dour: Senegaal Rekk (Prince Arts)
Lizzo: Coconut Oil (Atlantic)
Ezra Furman: Big Fugitive Life (PIAS)

***

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