2016 in music: some brightness for dark days
December 13, 2016 11:09 AM   Subscribe

There’s been no shortage of pessimism about 2016—a year that was plagued with fear, hatred, and confusion.... There was plenty to mourn over within music itself, as we said farewell to David Bowiepreviously, Princeprev., Leonard Cohenprev., Phife Dawgprev., Sharon Jonesprev., and too many others. But nevertheless, we found comfort in song: Solange’s meditationsprev., twice, Chance the Rapper’s spirituality, Bruno Mars’s throwback levity. Frank Ocean resurfacedprev., and the Avalanches finally returnedprev.. For the most part, music in 2016 remained good. The 50 Best Albums of 2016 from Spin, or you can go to Album of the Yearprev., twice to see an aggregated list of top albums or browse individual lists, listed alphabetically.

To make browsing that ever-growing list of lists easier, I've pulled a few and sorted them by publication type, and then listed alphabetically. And to help your sampling, I'll also note what streaming services, if any, are linked in the lists.

National publications:
  • The Atlantic: The 10 Best Albums of 2016 (random out-linking, no audio samples)
  • The Guardian: The Best Albums of 2016, 40 to 4 [top 3 to be published in the coming days] (links to reviews + one lone YouTube video embedded at the end)
  • New York Times: The Best Albums of 2016, three individual lists from NY Times music critics John Pareles, Jon Caramanica and Nate Chinen (Spotify links + links to other full album reviews)
Major music publications/ sites: With the exception of some of the longer lists, at some point many of those albums become expected, so let's wander.

Pitchfork has some genre-specific lists: NPR, The Observer and Rolling Stone also got genre-specific:
posted by filthy light thief (26 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Related and recent: Best of Bandcamp 2016 (it's currently the top Related Post, but for posterity, I'll re-post the link here).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:11 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, I was looking for more regional and country-specific lists, but it seems those tend to come out closer to the end of the year (Okayafrica's Top 15 Albums of 2015 came out on Dec. 27, 2015; Sounds and Colours Best (South American) Albums of 2015 came out on Dec. 16, 2015).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2016

Bitter Southerner's Best Southern Albums of 2016. The list is farther-reaching than you'd expect, as "Southerner" is taken literally, including all manner of Southern-born people, not simply southern white folks. (also a "previuosly")
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:16 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

My #1 this year is a clear Lizzo. Good as Hell got me through so.much.this.fucking.year.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

posted by photoslob at 11:21 AM on December 13, 2016

I know I'm out of it when I only recognize 5 of the artists "The 50 Best Albums of 2016 from Spin", but is that because I'm getting old, or is it just because I only listen to Nickelback on repeat?
posted by Metro Gnome at 12:02 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Glad to see Devin Townsend at the top of Loudwire's top 20 metal albums. I don't listen to a great deal of metal, but Transcendence is one of the most uplifting and optimistic albums I've heard in years, and sometimes you just need that.
posted by vverse23 at 12:24 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pitchfork has also debuted their best singles and best albums lists as of today. P4K and Spin agree that "Seat At The Table" is the best album of the year. I was momentarily pleased by the fact that I'm on trend, since I got it for my boyfriend for Xmas. Then I remembered that no one who buys physical CDs is on trend.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:25 PM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm really surprised at the kind of middling critical reception to Childish Gambino's new album and its lack of presence on these lists. I was not expecting him to drop a modern Funkadelic and Stevie Wonder infused funk and soul opus and it was delightful.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

What about classical releases? This year I really fell in love with both of Mason Bates' releases, The Anthology of Fantastic Zoology and Works for Orchestra (especially Liquid Interface: III. Crescent City).
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:55 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the lists.

Getatchew Mekurya r.i.p.
posted by nikoniko at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2016

everybody had matching towels: What about classical releases?

Thanks! I forgot to look for such lists: posted by filthy light thief at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Colin Stetson's Sorrow is definitely my number one of the year. Incredibly powerful. Autechre's elseq 1-5 is also a strong contender, probably one of the most ambitious albums i've heard in 2016.

Also thanks for this round-up!
posted by sapagan at 2:10 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm thrilled to see Solange recognised. Her music is excellent.
posted by Braeburn at 2:15 PM on December 13, 2016

Great roundup!

A few niche lists I'm particularly interested in:

Passion of the Weiss: Best Albums of 2016 (hip-hop oriented)
The Quietus' Spool's Out: The Top Tapes of 2016
Tabs Out: Top 200 Tapes of 2016
Anti-Gravity Bunny: Top 30 Drone Records of 2016
FACT Magazine: The 20 Best Bandcamp Releases of 2016
posted by naju at 2:29 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a great post, thank you so much for this. Glad that almost all of them (damn you Pitchfork) have finally eschewed with multi-page (multi-click) lists and thrown them all together on one easily scrollable page.

Since my particular taste in punk rock is always ignored on these lists (I'm not sad), I'll just add that I've been obsessed with Jeff Rosenstock's new album WORRY., and I bet there'll be some folks here who will share my love of it. Is it the best album of 2016? I doubt it. Is it my favorite? Altogether probably.
posted by General Malaise at 4:14 PM on December 13, 2016

If you need some Rap, here are many of my top songs from 2016. If you only listen to 3 songs, make them Time Tunnel, Mystic, and Red's Maybe You Should Go Back Home (:55-2:10)

Ron Bon Jovi - Time Tunnel [Ron Bon Jovi is Casual & Phat Kat)
Zion I - Saving Souls
NamasteHumble - Zig Zag, and The Youngest Lord
John Forte - Gong Guru
Prodigy - Mystic (ends at 2:50)
Sleepy Hollow People - Klaus Layer ft KAAN
Wait, Dope, and America off of Royce da 5'9's Layers.
Dis Generation, Melatonin & Ego off of Tribe Called Quest's new one.
GDP's verse (1st verse) on Dinner8
Red - Maybe You Should Go Back Home (:55-2:10) (previously on metafilter)
posted by cashman at 5:33 PM on December 13, 2016

My favorite 2016 music fact: Guess who sold the most CDs?
The answer is: Mozart.

Same trick worked for The Boss; his 1986 live album is *still* the second best-selling US live album.
posted by Twang at 7:23 PM on December 13, 2016

I was surprised and pleased that Spin recognized both Ornassi Pazuzu and Vijay Ayer/Waddada Leo Smith. (The former played at Roadburn and I just enjoy their whole deal, the latter played an absolutely transcendent set at Big Ears.)

In celebration, I shall play both albums very loudly back to back to confuse my neighbors.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:03 PM on December 13, 2016

here are my favourites of 2016, including MP3s from each.

If you don't want to download the tracks, here is the list of just my favourite albums:
Beaunoise - Buchlaworks: Module I
Anohni - Hopelessness
A Tribe Called Red - We Are the Halluci Nation
Rae Spoon - Armour
Mykki Blanco - Mykki
White Lung - Paradise
Frightened Rabbit - Painting Of A Panic Attack
Beyoncé - Lemonade
Califone - Insect Courage
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Daniel Schmidt - In My Arms, Many Flowers
posted by Theta States at 7:23 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

My list: Existentialism by the Mekons. There were probably other things, but as ever, I mostly live and die by the Mekons.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2016

I generally dislike this time of year, but all the best of music lists are a bright spot.

As always, I make a massive list of my favorite tracks of the year on Spotify. My rules are: no artist repeats generally, unless the repeat is a cover or a collaboration with another artist.

And my rankings (it was hard this year - there was a ton of great music):

Top 10, non-instrumental:

10. James Blake - The Colour in Anything
9. LIGHTS - Midnight Machines
8. Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack
7. Conor Oberst - Ruminations
6. David Bowie - Blackstar
5. Beyonce - Lemonade
4. Seinabo Sey - Pretend
3. Kishi Bashi - Sonderlust
2. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
1. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Super awesome albums that deserve honorable mentions:

The 1975 - i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful...
Adult Jazz - Earrings Off
Anderson.Paak - Malibu
Frank Ocean - Blonde
Bat for Lashes - The Bride
Beth Orton - Kidsticks
Various - Day of the Dead (Grateful Dead Tribute)
Chairlift - Moth
Dyan - Looking for Knives
Emily Wells - Promise
Gallant - Ology
Gordi - Clever Disguise (EP)
How to Dress Well - Care
Lake Street Dive - Side Pony
Japanese Wallpaper - Japanese Wallpaper
The Jezabels - Synthia
Kanye West - Life of Pablo
Laura Mvula - The Dreaming Room
Little Scream - Cult Following
case/lang/veirs - case/lang/veirs
Okkervil River - Away
Regina Spektor - Remember Us to Life
School of Seven Bells - SVIIB
Solange - A Seat at the Table
St. Lucia - Matter
Tedeschi Trucks Band - Let me Get By
Tegan and Sara - Love You to Death
Wet - Don't You
Mitski - Puberty 2
Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye

Top 10 instrumental:

10. Colin Stetson - Sorrow
9. Max Richter - Sleep (Remixes)
8. Fennesz - Mahler Remix
7. Lubomyr Melnyk - Illirion
6. The Westerlies - The Westerlies
5. Steve Reich - Duet
4. Explosions in the Sky - The Wilderness
3. Olafur Arnalds - Island Songs
2. Kaityln Aurelia Smith - EARS
1. GoGo Penguin - Man Made Object

If I had to pick two records that I felt were really overlooked in the top lists that people should listen to, it would be Seinabo Sey and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:28 PM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here's my end-of-year mix, based on the list i made for Bandcloud (under the name Vapor Lanes).

20 tracks and 1hr40min, so settle in. I also make you work for any payoff, as you're immediately hit with a noise track and then ~12 minutes of violin drone. DEAL WITH IT

1. roly porter - mass
2. sarah davachi - soi-meme comme la matin
3. anna meredith - something helpful
4. second woman - 100407jd7
5. kaitlyn aurelia smith - arthropoda
6. beaunoise - piano iii
7. charles barabe + roadside picnic - untitled 9
8. sound of ceres - dagger only run
9. via vegrandis - jazz trumpet
10. katie gately - lift
11. princess nokia - brujas
12. underworld - nylon strung
13. danny l harle x carly rae jepson - super natural
14. kero kero bonito - trampoline
15. his name is alive - silver arc curving in the magnetic field
16. andrew pekler - theme from tristes tropiques
17. mica levi & oliver coates - barok main
18. james ferraro - ten songs for humanity
19. quicksails - faith feel
20. poor vacation - young folks
posted by naju at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lutoslawski - your list has some overlaps with a lot of what I was listening to. I agree with you on Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, but my #1 instrumental was Loscil's Monument Builders, and Mogwai's Atomic was a close second. (I'm a huge fan of both of these artists) I actually just discovered Colin Stetson, and probably listened to Never Were the Way She Was more than anything else this year - even though it was released in 2015. Well that and Taylor Swift (I have 2 pre-teen daughters).

I'll have to check out some of the stuff on your list I haven't heard.
posted by sauril at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2016

Found an interactive infographic compilation of album of the year lists:

Medium: "Turning Album of the Year Lists into a Music Discovery Tool"
Tool: http://www.diegoolano.com/robmitchum/endofyear/

by Rob Mitchum with d3.js tool by Diego Garcia-Olano
posted by czytm at 10:06 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

« Older Watson, come here!   |   A show about clinical depression... with laughs‽ Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments