Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Best Albums of 2016

I sent the following to a group of music-loving friends a month or so ago and thought it appropriate to sum up the year in music.

What a year. Among the heaviness and division, I've been encouraged by the occasional glimmer of hope, usually through listening to the story of someone other than myself. And who does this better than the artist, the poet, the prophet, and the musician? I'm holding on to the joy of sharing, recommending, and discovering new music through the eyes and ears of my friends. So maybe we can all be encouraged by listening more.

Here's a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite tracks of the year.

And here are my favorite albums of the year.

10. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love
Donald Glover dropped this funk album late in the year. And it came as a surprise following his previous hip-hop and pop stuff. But it is a good one. I'm still getting into it a little bit but I respect Glover as an entertainer and look forward to hearing more about this side of him. Track to check out: "Redbone."

 9. Explosions in the Sky - The Wilderness
Okay, I primarily listen to Explosions as background music. But it's great background music while working. It calms but isn't boring. It builds and falls. Track to check out: any will do.

8. James Blake - The Colour in Anything
The third full length from Blake, it's probably his most meandering but it's still his classic electronic R&B and is beautiful in it's own way. Track to check out: "Timeless."

7. Frank Ocean - Blonde
Perhaps my (and many others') most anticipated album of the year, Ocean finally released another following his channelORANGE masterpiece. It wasn't what I was expecting. It's parse and weird but excellent in it's own right. Track to check out: "Self Control."

6. Phantogram - Three
I have a soft spot for Phantogram. They hit all my buttons: catchy electronic-pop coupled with a female vocalist. They've put out another solid release this year, good from top to bottom. Track to check out: "Cruel World."

5. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth
I'm not one to typically fall for a country album yet Sturgill has a distinct sound that's honest and comforting without falling into the beer and pick-up truck tropes of pop country. I've given the album a lot of spins this year. Track to check out: "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)."

4. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
After Radiohead's The King of Limbs mess, I wasn't sure what to expect from their follow up. But it's one of their most listenable albums. Personal and political and an overall fantastic album. Track to check out: "Daydreaming."

4. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Justin Vernon moves at his own speed, recording and releasing when he feels it appropriate. I would get frustrated but each new installment in his discovery is new and different and yet still very Bon Iver. Track to check out: "22 (OVER S∞∞N)."

2. Beyonce - Lemonade
Queen Bey. Picking a single genre to slot this album in would be nearly impossible. For most artists, this would feel disparate and messy but Beyonce holds it all together, telling a beautiful story from her point of view that feels both personal and universal. The visual album is gorgeous and only aids in creating cohesion for the album. Track to check out: "Formation."

1. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
This is the voice 2016 America needed. Chance is full of hope and joy while never once glossing over hardships. He's someone that can have a tracklist that places the song "Same Drugs" after "Blessings." He's full of multiple emotions and experiences. The album was wonderfully written about by my man David Dark on MTV and his SNL performance was just magic. I loved this album and it brought me a lot of joy this year. Track to check out: "Blessings."

Honorable Mentions: (listed alphabetically)
Gallant - Ology
The Head and the Heart - Signs of LIght
Local Natives - Sunlit Youth
Lucius - Good Grief
The Lumineers - Cleopatra
Rihanna - ANTI
Solange - A Seat at the Table
A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service

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