There was great music that was brought to us in multiple other genres in 2016, but in order to not make extensive lists from every genre, I just decide to do two, and hip hop gets its own since I listen to more hip hop albums than anything. However, these are also amazing albums that came out this year. No honorable mentions for this list since I’m expanding it to 15 to cover more music.
15. DIIV – Is The Is Are
The Brooklyn band DIIV returned with their newest record this year, blending shoegaze, indie rock, and grunge rock into one cohesive album. The vibes this album gives off is perfect for a night out and Zachary Cole Smith’s vocals go over well on the ears. Favorite tracks: “Under The Sun”, “Dopamine”, “Valentine”.
“Under The Sun”
14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
This album was the first album released from Nick Cave after the tragic death of his 15 year old son last year. You can hear the pain and sorrow coming from Nick’s vocals all throughout the album, especially in “I Need You”, which is a heartbreaking song knowing what happened with his son. Nick also delivers his vocals in many different ways, sometimes singing but sometimes even coming across as more of a spoken word or rap delivery. Favorite tracks: “Rings Of Saturn”, “Girl In Amber”, “I Need You”, “Skeleton Tree”.
“I Need You”
13. Angel Olsen – My Woman
Singer/songwriter Angel Olsen brought us some of her most punchy material on this record while still showing her capabilities as a songwriter. Her vocals also range from sweet and somber to something more fast and hard hitting depending on the feel of the song, and it all fits together so well. Favorite tracks: “Intern”, “Never Be Mine”, “Shut Up Kiss Me”, “Sister”.
“Shut Up Kiss Me”
12. Regina Spektor – Remember Us To Life
Regina Spektor surprised me a bit with this album. Ever since I first heard her songs in (500) Days Of Summer (which is great if you haven’t seen it), I was never really moved to hear what else she had to offer in her future records. Remember Us To Life, however, shows us some real lush instrumentation. The wide range of emotions and sounds on this album definitely make it worth a listen. Favorite tracks: “Bleeding Heart”, “Older And Taller”, “Grand Hotel”, “Black and White”, “The Visit”.
11. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
First heard of Conor Oberst when one of his songs came out in Stuck in Love (another movie you should watch), and was hooked to the lyrics and his voice. With this record, it’s more apparent why I was drawn to his music, especially since his style of folk music draws a lot of comparisons from Bob Dylan, who I also love. These comparisons aren’t bad however, since Conor makes this music his own, and delivers his own personal touch on each track on this album. Favorite tracks: “Barbary Coast (Later)”, “Gossamer Thin”, “Counting Sheep”, “Next Of Kin”.
“Barbary Coast (Later)”
10. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
Car Seat Headrest came through with such a damn good album with Teens Of Denial. The personal stories contained in here along with a raw feel from the recordings and the progression each song takes make this one of the most enjoyable projects to listen to this year. One is always wondering where the songs will go next since they sometimes deviate from the norm when it comes to song structure. Glad that punk rock can still come through with great albums such as these. Favorite tracks: “Fill in the Blank”, “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, “1937 State Park”, “Cosmic Hero”.
“Fill in the Blank”
9. Solange – A Seat At The Table
When the 2 Knowles sisters drop great albums in the same year, you know it’s been an awesome year for music. This was my first time really diving deep into Solange’s music, and the buzz around the album was high when it came out and I was not disappointed after hearing it. Solange touches on some amazing themes on the album, one of which was seeing the beauty in being black. How being proud of your black heritage comes across as “anti-white” to some, when it can not be further from the truth. Solange brings her A-game in the vocals and in the songwriting and meshes them together to make a great R&B record. Favorite tracks: “Rise”, “Weary”, “Cranes In The Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “Where Do We Go”, “F.U.B.U.”, “Don’t Wish Me Well”.
“Cranes In The Sky”
8. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead gave us an album that has me interested in their music now more than ever. A great album that also surprised me this year that takes a more subtle and intimate approach for the listener. The content that the band brings into this project is very introspective and a satisfying listen once you finish it all. Favorite tracks: “Burn The Witch”, “Daydreaming”, “Decks Dark”, “Identikit”, “Present Tense”, “True Love Waits”.
7. Weezer – White Album
A lot of bands that I grew up loving came back in a great way this year, and Weezer definitely was one of them. Their past few releases weren’t anything to write home about, but on the White Album, we see a return to form for the band. The Los Angeles band brings us a set of tracks that reminds us why we fell in love with them in the first place. Favorite tracks: “California Kids”, “Thank God For Girls”, “Do You Wanna Get High”, “King Of The World”, “L.A. Girlz”.
6. James Blake – The Colour In Anything
James Blake’s fusion of electronic music which he produces and his amazing vocals that he layers on top of them always draw me to his projects whenever they come out. With this album, James provided some interesting sounds in his instrumentals, having included beat drops in some tracks as well as more quiet songs that got its message across as being a sadder song, yet the production was still top notch. There’s not a moment where you won’t want bop your head back and forth. Favorite tracks: “Radio Silence”, “Points”, “Timeless”, “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.”, “My Willing Heart”, “I Need A Forest Fire”, “Modern Soul”.
5. David Bowie – Blackstar
David Bowie is just another example of one of the artists that left us too soon in 2016, and he passed away pretty early in the year. A legend in his own right, even before this album, Bowie pioneered his own style of music, changing it every so often as he released different albums as to not stay in one lane but rather branch out into many, and dominate as well. This album is no different, and it’s a special one because as you listen to it, the lyrics, and the instrumentals, the tone set by the songs makes it seem like Bowie knew his death was near. I still get an eerie feeling whenever listening to this album, hearing Bowie talk about death and looking down from heaven. A jarring album that definitely deserves all the recognition. RIP Bowie! Favorite tracks: “Blackstar”, “Tis A Pitty She Was A Whore”, “Lazarus”, “Dollar Days”, “I Can’t Give Everything Away”.
“I Can’t Give Everything Away”
4. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Probably the most out of left field album I heard this year that I ended up absolutely loving. Donald Glover, otherwise known as Childish Gambino, dropped this funky, soulful album which is a big departure from his past hip hop releases, as we see him singing in every track. Glover definitely takes us back to a time when this sound was huge, and updates it with his own twist and with a crisper sound. The way that he wrote songs for his child to know how much he loves him, and to know how him and his mom came to conceive him, are just way too good. I love how Glover also takes different approaches to each song in terms of his singing, it gives each song a different character and feel to it. Also, if you haven’t checked out his show Atlanta on FX, what have you been doing this year? Favorite tracks: “Me And Your Mama”, “Boogieman”, “Zombies”, “Riot”, “Redbone”, “Baby Boy”.
3. Beyoncé – Lemonade
Beyoncé’s Lemonade was a really personal look into her love life with her husband, Jay-Z. Bey articulated her thoughts real well and one can easily feel the pain she’s feeling knowing that her husband might be cheating on her after she had done nothing but treat him well. From the opening track, with the somber piano notes and Beyoncé’s soft voice knowing that he’s spewing dishonesty. I love how she went into different sounds on this album too, which included a rock song with Jack White and a country song, which made racists come out of the woodworks when she performed it at the Country Music Awards. Favorite tracks: “Pray You Catch Me”, “Hold Up”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, “Sorry”, “Love Drought”, “Sandcastles”, “Freedom”, “Formation”.
2. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Bon Iver is another one of my favorite artists, and one that I actually thought was not going to be releasing any more music ever. I always hoped he would come back and release new music, and my hopes were fulfilled because this album is amazing. And to top it all off, seeing Justin Vernon and the rest of the band perform the entire album back to back at the Hollywood Bowl was nothing less than spectacular. Just like the album, it was an experience to remember. In 22, A Million, Justin continues experimenting on what he can do with folk music, and I think he blended new and old perfectly, especially with some songs feeling like they were from his For Emma days, then others from his Bon Iver, Bon Iver days, and the rest with an updated sound that he perfected in this album. With more than its fair share of heartbreaking lyrics, 22, A Million is a damn near perfect album and one of my favorites this year. Favorite tracks: “22 (Over S∞∞n)”, “715 – CR∑∑KS”, “33 GOD”, “29 #Strafford APTS”, “666 ʇ”, “8 (circle)”, “00000 Million”.
1. Frank Ocean – Blonde
My most anticipated album of the year, that I actually wasn’t sure was even going to come out, definitely lived up and exceeded my expectations. Like other Frank Ocean fans, I was patiently waiting to see how he would follow up his debut album Channel Orange, which I also thought was amazing. After being trolled last year, thinking it would be dropping in July of 2015, I was not really on the edge of my seat waiting for this to drop. But when it did come out, it put me on the damn floor. Frank really grew on this album, with his vocals being insanely improved, and the songwriting even better than ever. Frank touched on themes of nostalgia, first loves, first heartbreaks, the preference of being alone, and relationships in the 21st century. All while delivering some of the most beautiful vocals on top of minimal instrumentals that blew me away. And let’s not forget André 3000’s crazy verse on the reprise of Solo. Damn, 3 Stacks. Favorite tracks: “Ivy”, “Pink + White”, “Solo”, “Self Control”, “Nights”, “Close To You”, “White Ferrari”, “Seigfried”, “Godspeed”.