Top 10 Albums – 2016

December 23, 2016

You know what was great in 2016? The music was great. This is the hardest time I’ve ever had whittling my list down to ten albums, and there are a few that break my heart to not have made the cut!

This list is full of new-to-me bands with a wide variety of genres, moods and perhaps accessibility. Old friends like Bon Over come back with exciting new sounds, my favorite band of all time is back with their first great album in almost twenty years, and Chance the Rapper literally changed my year for the better just by existing.

This year’s music review comes in four parts… I guess I’ll break these up into four blog posts. Let’s dive in.

  1. Top 10 (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  2. Runners Up
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Here we go.

10. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

Listen on Spotify

Hamilton Leithauser was/is the lead guy for The Walkman, a popular indie rock band that I was never able to get into. Rostam Batmanglij is a side guy for Vampire Weekend, a popular indie rock band that I love. He’s also in Discovery, another band that has made an appearance on this list.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rotsam is a beautiful rock band that is more Walkman than Vampire weekend, but I love it none the less. Excellent rock music for any time. For awhile, I only listened to the first song over and over again and wasn’t that impressed by the rest of the album… but it grew on me.

9. Islands – Taste

Listen on Spotify

Nick Thorburn (Or, Nick Diamonds) is the lead singer of Islands. He is also the lead singer of indie pop legends, The Unicorns. But YOU probably know his work best as the guy who wrote the score for the smash hit podcast Serial That’s fine too.

Islands has been a mixed bag of musical output in terms of quality, never bad but not always inspiring. Taste, which they released simultaniously with another album, “Shall I Remain Here at Sea”, is their best work since their 2006 debut “Return to the Sea”. Shall I Remain Here at Sea was also very good, but not good enough for this list. Clever pop music and clever lyrics. Exciting song structures. Not cumbersome.

8. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Listen on Spotify

Did I ever really taken the time to get into Frank Ocean before this year? NO, I DID NOT. Does that make me a bad person? MAYBE. But man, this album is excellent.

This album, which might be most generally characterized as R&B, has so much feeling and intention in every bit of it. Perhaps if I listened to it more, this would be higher up on this list.

7. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

Listen on Spotify
Chill pop rock. Falsetto singing. Fun for all occasions but this wins the distinguished award of “brunch album of the year”.

6. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been five freaking years since Bon Iver released his last album, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.” That album, and his 2007/2008 debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” have never really left pop culture, from their placements in movies & TV shows to YouTube covers. It’s rather remarkable for such soft spoken music.

It is easy to hear 5 years of growth in “22, A Million”. So much growth that it’s a bit startling on the first few listens if one goes in expecting more of the same. This album is sparse and weird, at the same time melodic and beautiful. I like it more every time I listen.

5. Chairlift – Moth

Listen on Spotify

This band announced they are breaking up today (December 16, 2016) which is a bit of a bummer, considering I just found out they existed in January of this year.

Fortunately, I was able to really enjoy their last album, “Moth”, and see them in concert before they broke up. This album is an infectious bit of dance pop and the album is a joy to listen to, dancing around your house and cleaning up or doing dishes or whatever. I guess they are touring a bit more in the spring before they break up, so if they’re coming to your area, go check it out.

4. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Listen on Spotify

You already have an opinion about Kanye West and I’m not going to change it. This album is great.

3. Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)

Listen on Spotify

Who would have thought that Weezer would find its way up this high on any top ten list ever again? I sure didn’t. I didn’t think they would even make it onto my Top 10 ever again. Their most recent effort, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t seem like they had enough in the tank to make a full album of really enjoyable music again. I have never been happy to be so wrong.

Weezer (The White Album) is EASILY the third best Weezer album. It it closer in quality to their two classics (Blue (1994) and Pinkerton (1996)) than it is to any of the pretty decent to irredeemable garbage albums that they’ve released this millennium.
Don’t miss this album, and if you only listened to it once, listen to it five more times. This is great California pop rock. It never takes itself too seriously, and it’ll make you laugh or be confused without rolling your eyes/pulling your hair out. It’s weird and it’s fun and it’s great.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Listen on Spotify

Apparently this has band has been around awhile making pretty great rock music with a small following. But they seem to have picked up steam and coverage this year with their incredible rock album, “Teens of Denial” as they’ve finally reached my ears.
This album is as packed with guitar riffs as it is with clever lyrics that are at times both self-defacing and outwardly eviscerating to their subject. See this stand-out line from one of many standout tracks, Cosmic Hero:

And if you really wanted to be kind,
You’d have forgiven them a long ass time ago.
And if you really wanna know how kind you are,
Just ask yourself why you’re lying in bed alone.
If you believe in rock music, you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not checking this one out.

1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Listen on Spotify

When everything else was busy going to shit this year, Chance the Rapper was out there saving the world. “Coloring Book” is the happiest, most uplifting, most life-affirming, most wonderful album of the year. The joy is infectious.
This album came with a teaser of sorts, as Chance blew up the first track of Kanye’s album, delivering the only gospel verse (and the best verse) on Kanye’s self-described “Gospel Album”.

Coloring Book is a bonafide gospel album, with choirs, hymns and God throughout. It’s also a rap album, with thrilling verses from newcomers and veterans alike.

I haven’t wanted to stop listening to this album since the moment I first heard it and I know that I’ll be listening to it for years to come. Thank you, Chance the Rapper for everything you’ve done.

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