Artists list their top albums of 2016
In addition to posting our top 45 albums of 2016, the 20 best emo/punk albums of 2016, the best metal of 2016, the 15 best new(ish) rock bands of 2016, and 10 overlooked albums of 2016, we’ve been asking artists, record labels, comedians, and other music folk what music they liked this year.
If you missed them, check out lists from Kurt Vile, Fred Armisen, Other Music, Fat Wreck Chords, Dave Hill, Patterson Hood, Stephen Brodsky, The Range, Ben Watt, Sorority Noise, White Lung, Chris Gethard, The Wonder Years, The Bouncing Souls, Aaron Turner, Jonathan Toubin, Kid Congo Powers, Kevin Devine, Taking Back Sunday, TOY, Julien Baker, Ultimate Painting, Twin Peaks, Walter Schreifels, Boss Hog, Touche Amore, Kristin Kontrol, Steve Gunn, Julie Klausner, Austra, Savoy Motel, Foxing, Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, Modern Baseball, Hinds, Frank Turner, Lucy Dacus, PUP, and more.
We’ve got a handful of other lists to share with you before the year ends, and here they are:
1. Rihanna – ANTI
I mean…we all know Rihanna is the best.
2. Angel Olsen – My Woman
Loved this new direction she went with this album. I think I listened to Shut Up Kiss Me and Those Were The Days like 545,697 times.
3. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Ok this album is too hot – every single song pays homage to the funk/r&b/hip hop hits of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. I’m blown away with how genuine the album sounds.
4. Mitski – Puberty 2
Man, we are so lucky to have an artist like her in music right now. Her ability to illustrate her musical prowess is insane and it really shows in this album. Wassup Mitski you rock.
5. Unity – S/T
This album rips – really tasteful guitar interplay, and they’re also extremely good live!
6. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp
Michelle paid me $10 to be on this list…JK – I love this album a ton and having the opportunity to hear most of the songs live for a month made me feel like the luckiest person on earth. I’ve never met someone so dedicated and earnest with their work.
7. Warpaint – Heads Up
Their disco record for sure. I am in love with the dark production.
8. Deerhoof – The Magic
My favorite Deerhoof album hands down, always makes me feel like I drank 3 cups of coffee.
9. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Such a beautiful record, every song has that classic feel that lingers with you.
10. Crying – Beyond the Feeling Gales
Every time I listen to this I’m always completely blown away by the arrangements – excellent songwriting and performance from this incredible band. Hot mega turbo riffs.
Cate Le Bon – Crab Day
Sheer Mag – III
DIIV – Is The Is Are
Ulrika Spacek – The album Paranoia
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Weaves – Weaves
The Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood
Porches – Pool
Warehouse – Super Low
King Gizzard And the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It.) (in alphabetical order)
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here.. Thank You For Your Service
Brian Eno – The Ship
Brian McBride – The Effective Disconnect
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
Charles Bradley – Changes
Clique – Burden Piece
David Bazan – Blanco
Eluvium – False Readings On
Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day Of Revenge
Head Wound City – A New Wave Of Violence
Jamila Woods – HEAVN
John K Samson – Winter Wheat
Lifted Bells – Overreactor
LVL UP – Return To Love
The Mercury Program – New Myths
Mitski – Puberty 2
Mother Evergreen – S/T
Mothers – When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired
Pink Wash – Collective Sigh
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Slow Mass – Treasure Pains
Tegan & Sara – Love You To Death
Tenement – S/T
Tycho – Epoch
Emmy the Great – “Top 5 songs I heard this year that were released this year *no order*”
1. “You Want it Darker” – Leonard Cohen
At one point in 2016 I imagined the Grim Reaper, drunk, leafing through an old copy of Rolling Stone and pointing a spindly finger at picture after picture of our cherished heroes. It seemed like a painfully neat line was being drawn through the old guard of public figures – those on the side of light were taken, while the dark ones grabbed for land and power. Through it all, I clung to the work that those great artists left behind. Leonard Cohen’s back catalogue saw me through the winter, and this song, where he seems to be addressing death directly, strikes right to the heart. I’ve never heard anything like it.
2. (Unknown Title) – Jens Lekman
I went on tour with Jens Lekman this year and he played some songs from an upcoming album. I think they contain some of the best lyrics I have ever heard! He began each song by telling stories that led into it, and there was one about going to weddings as a guest singer which particularly struck me. I guess I should wait until the record is out before announcing the lyrics on his behalf but I still think about it constantly. Let’s meet back here when it’s out and discuss.
3. “The Werewolf” – Paul Simon
Paul Simon’s album, Stranger to Stranger, was one of my highlights of the year. He sounds like he’s given up making sense, but also like he’s offering the answers to everything. This song, which I first heard in March, sure sounds prophetic now. “Ignorance and arrogance/ The national debate/ Put the fight in Vegas/ That’s a billion-dollar gate/ Revenue: Pay-per-view/ Should be pretty healthy/ The usual deductions/ Then it all goes to the wealthy.”
4. “Don’t Touch My Hair” – Solange
A Seat at the Table has contributed to my mind expanding as much as any book I read this year.
I can only imagine the protest music that the next period in culture has in store for us, and to me, Solange was the first person to draw the line in the sand.
5. “History Lesson” – Nicholas Jaar
This song is extraordinary for the amount of space it leaves, while still being drenched in melody and harmony. I listen to it with other people, squinting and trying to figure out what magic he sprinkled and where we can get some.
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AMBER ARCADE’S TOP 10 OF 2016
5 favourite records:
Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth
Elegant, weird, and comforting, classic and modern at the same time.
Chris Cohen – As If Apart
An endless subtle musical puzzle I never get tired of.
Ulrika Spacek – The Album Paranoia
Most excellent soundtrack for night time driving on tour.
Quilt – Plaza
Great songwriting, subtle catchiness and lyrical excellence.
Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
Magical voice, powerful message, creepy and fascinating music.
5 favourite other things
Best thing: Releasing my debut record!! Because if that hadn’t happened many of my other favourite things mentioned below also would not have happened.
Best day off: Horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville on a day off on our first US tour, amidst the intensely yellow and red coloured trees and a bright blue sky. Perfection.
Best meal: One we made ourselves while we had a day off in Bristol and were told by the person hosting us to “please eat everything in the fridge”. The result was an improvised Coq Au Vin which I still dream about occasionally.
Best gig: Playing my favourite festival (Le Guess Who?) and sharing the stage there with my buddies Quilt and then having Shane from Quilt join us for the last song <3
Worst night sleep: Sneaking into a tiny Motel 6 room with five people (one of whom was sick and coughing intensely) to then discover the wall was covered with streaks of blood. It’s a good story now though and it feels kinda bad ass in hindsight.
DOOMSQUAD’s Top 10 Musical Moments of 2016 (As Subjectively Experienced By Us)
Our Top 10 list is actually a collection of 5 Top 2 lists: one from each of us. Together they form our most cherished and impactful moments in the ever varied annals of popular music in 2016. Dig or die.
Frank Ocean – Blond
During Frank’s disappearance of 4 years, he was beginning to feel like a lover that had left us and eventually it was easiest, less painful, to stop bringing up his name. Then in late August he returned and wearily we listened to his explanation of where he had been all this time. 2 minutes into “Nikes” I forgave him and fell back in love.
RONiiA – Sisters
I have the deep pleasure of counting Nona Marie Invie as a dear friend. The night I met her, I also met her voice. Which moved me in ways that I can’t actually write.
As beautiful as her singing is with Dark Dark Dark (and many other wonderful projects), laid over the dark genius of Fletcher Barnhill’s synths and Mark McGee’s programming, it’s some of the most exciting music I’ve ever heard. Live, they prove they are masters of their art.
Track: HELL – http://roniia.com/track/hell
Rihanna‘s “Kiss it Better” featured in Meriem Bennani’s “FLY” 2016 at MoMA PS1
In this multimedia video installation, Bennani made cultural commentary on technology and the way digital media seeps into our lives and overtakes, distracts, informs, and touches everyone like an excited insect. A buzzing digital fly basically doing karaoke and jamming hard to “Kiss it Better” by Rihanna was maybe the most entertaining and stimulating visual art experience I had all year. It was wry, exciting, and gorgeous.
Solange – A Seat at the Table
I am in love with everything about this album. It is SO powerful and beautiful and I am moved by it everyday. The production is insane and the choices are brilliant not to mention the videos for “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch my Hair” are visually astounding with primo palette, composition and movement concepts. Her voice is always in my head. Yes yes yes!!!!
Peaches live @ Het Depot, Leuven, Belgium, Nov 19, 2016.
Peaches is the modern day philosopher who turned her back on the shadows of Plato’s cave. Her new album Rub is like the explanation to the cave people about life beyond the shadows. We had the pleasure of playing with Peaches in Leuven, and even though I know you are never supposed to worship idols, I did and always have sorta worshiped her. I had super high expectations for her live performance, but not high enough, I guess. She blew my mind with a show that was so well balanced artistically and spiritually. The show was visually mesmerizing with negative space that was created in her costumes against back lights. The message behind her songs became more real when she delivered them to her audience in such a personal way, or physically walking on top of them screaming.
This track – “Free Drink Ticket” –
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I just about lost it when she performed this song. I felt like Peaches came all over us that night. And I loved the rollercoaster of the pleasure.
Anohni – Hopelessness
I think this record is so fucking important. I’m so grateful to Anohni for making such a beautiful album. To go into the depths of a personal experience and find a way to bring us all together, writing about the environment, life transitions, and identity / responsibility in this time. Every track on the album is awesome. “Drone Bomb Me” was the first track I heard and the video is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUEoic7ro_o
The choice to collaborate with Hudson Mohawke and Oneotrix Point Never is a 2016 high point on its own. The lyrics, the accompanying art, and the intimacy of it all is so powerful.
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
This album is the spirit of 2016. As a music listener, I like to think of myself as a hungry fish, wading at the surface to bite at any worm that comes my way. And I bite a lot. But I only really seem to swallow and get caught by the lures with substance: sounds that seem real enough and induce a primal response. This album did that for me. Having been a fan of Dev Hynes for years, it’s such a treat to follow an artist and be rewarded by their continual growth and momentum. This is the hope that anybody has when they begin to identify as a “fan” of any artist. The gift of reward and surprise. A spiritual investment in their gospel. Preach to me. Freetown Soundmanaged to occupy this deeply transcendent space that is both historical, contemporary, and futuristic. In a meta-poetic sense, it’s the well-wrought urn of contemporary music. It reflected the hero’s journey of this year: the tragedy and comedy of it all. It made sense when there was none; saved grace when there was none to preserve. It is the mirror and the gaze at the same time. (Pooff – mynd blown) Track: E.V.P.
Oneohtrix Point Never / Jon Rafman – “Sticky Drama” music video
This is basically self-explanatory if you’ve seen the video. Also, by extension, the album Garden of Delete, the corresponding live tour, and the unearthing of Kaoss Edge. A 2016 Gesamtkunstwerk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td-e4i2BL_Q
Dolly Parton – Pure and Simple Tour
When I was 19 I started a tradition of taking myself out on my birthday and going to see live music. This year, I saw Dolly Parton. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about her? Her voice sounds like the warmest sunbeam hitting the highest mountain on the coldest day of the year; it’s simply angelic! The way she commands the stage and the audience, telling stories of how and why each song was written … telling highly politicized and feminist jokes like a true fucking legend … it wasn’t until the whole show was over that I wept and realized the power of her voice.
Angel Olsen – Live at Lee’s Palace
Maybe there is something to be said about my decision to list two strong womyn as my ‘powerful musical moments of 2016′. Maybe it says a lot about where my mind’s been at lately, but this is the truth. Womyn are the voice of reason, and the voice of the future and the voice of raw power. I don’t really know what else to say about seeing Angel Olsen live other than that I hope that you have the chance to see her too. Her performance is way more awe-inspiring, extreme, humbling, confrontational, and powerful than I ever could have expected or wished. Track: Woman – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JDJ-fGSfjM
Mykki Blanco + Jungle Pussy @ Arboretum Festival, Ottawa, ON – Aug. 20th, 2016
DRUGDEALER – TOP 10 artists of 2016
SideOneDummy Records staff
Slothrust – Everyone Else
Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me
Har Mar Superstar – Best Summer Ever
The Thermals – We Disappear
Pinegrove – Cardinal
Marching Church – Telling It Like It Is
The Growlers – City Club
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Weezer – White Album
Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow
Band Of Horses – Why Are You Ok?
Bleached – Welcome the Worms
Mikey Erg – Tentative Decisions
Dead To Me – I Wanna Die In Los Angeles
Wow, what a great year for music and a terrible year for literally everything else! I’m lucky to have many great talented friends who made a bunch of amazing records. Here they are in no particular order except for #1:
Jeff Rosenstock – Worry
Brian Fallon – Painkillers
Against Me – Shape Shift With Me
Camp Cope – s/t
AJJ – The Bible 2
Hurry – Guided Meditation
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales
Diners – Three
1. Chris Farren – Can’t Die
Bob Nanna (Braid, Hey Mercedes, etc)
10. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
09. David Bowie – Blackstar
08. Aloha – Little Windows Cut Right Through
07. Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
06. Pinegrove – Cardinal
05. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
04. Beyonce – Lemonade
03. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
02. Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
01. Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me
Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat)
Hamilton Leithauser – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
Devendra Banhart – Ape in Pink Marble
Dr. Dog – The Psychedelic Swamp
Of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
LA Priest – Inji
Soft Hair – Lying Has To Stop
Destroyer – Poison Season
The Zolas – Swooner
Hawksley Workman – Old Cheetah
Ennio Moricone – Crime Movie Themes (2016 compilation)
Derek Archambault (Alcoa, Defeater)
1. Fury – Paramount
2. Bob Mould – Patch The Sky
3. Culture Abuse – Peach
4. Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate
5. World Be Free – The Anti-Circle
6. Nice As Fuck – Nice As Fuck
7. Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle
8. Cruel Hand – Your World Won’t Listen
9. Vinnie Caruana – Survivor’s Guilt
10. True Love – Heaven’s Too Good For Us
1. Mindset – Nothing Less
2. Praise – Leave It All Behind
3. Free At Last – Embrace You
4. Dag Nasty – Cold Heart
5. Glory – Three Song Promo
Tancred (no particular order)
Beyonce – Lemonade
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Noname – Telefone
Yucky Duster – Yucky Duster
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Forth Wanderers – Slop EP
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom EP
Mothers – When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired
Lisa Prank – Adult Teen
Mitski – Puberty 2
1. James Blake, The Colour in Anything
2. Andy Shauf, The Party
3. Weyes Blood, Front Row Seat to Earth
4. Deerhoof, The Magic
5. Bon Iver, 22, A Million
6. Hovvdy, Taster
7. Florist, The Birds Outside Sang
8. Beyonce, Lemonade
9. Jenny Hval, Blood Bitch
10. Hazel English, Never Going Home
Sierra Kay (Neaux)
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Blonde Redhead – Masculin Féminin
L.A. Witch – Drive Your Car
Polyenso – Pure in the Plastic
God Alone – Low Fire EP
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
Culture Abuse – Peach
Shana Falana – Here Comes the Wave
Angel Du$t – Rock the Fuck On Forever
John Refano (Sannhet)
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – Green Graves
Kutmah Bibaway – BLK/SMR
Black Marble – It’s Immaterial
Tim Hecker – Love Streams
Sumac – What One Becomes
Andy Stott – Too Many Voices
WIFE – Standard Nature
Wreck & Reference – Indifferent Rivers Romance End
2 8 1 4 – Rain Temple
Longmont Potion Castle – Longmont Potion Castle 12
Puce Mary – The Spiral
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Planning for Burial
1. Wreck And Reference – Indifferent Rivers Romances End
2. Miserable – Uncontrollable
3. Street Sects – End Position
4. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
5. Garbage – Strange Little Birds
6. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
7. Minor Victories – Minor Victories
8. Null – Sleepwalking Days
9. Nocturnal Habits – New Skin For Old Children
10. Suffocate For Fucks Sake – In My Blood
1 David Bowie – Blackstar
2 Leonard Cohen – You want it darker
3 Nick Cave – Skeleton tree
4 Dinosaur Jr. – Give a glimpse of what yer not
5 Mass Gothic – Mass Gothic
6 The Radio Dept – Running out of love
7 The Growlers – City Club
8 Bon Iver – 22, a million
9 Okkervil River – R.I.P.
10 Midnight Faces – Heavenly Bodies
HAPPYNESS – TOP 10 of 2016
Youth – Film by Paolo Sorrentino
When I suggested to my parents in January that this was already my film of the year and that they had to watch it immediately, I think they assumed I was making some cruel joke about their age [the film is predominantly set in a care home for the tired, elderly and occasional Miss World winner]. Despite this, the film couldn’t feel more ‘young’ and life affirming. This is Paolo Sorrentino’s second movie in english, the first being a film about a Robert Smith-esque rock star travelling across America in search of his father’s wartime persecutor and including an amazing cameo performance from David Byrne. Featuring music from Sun Kil Moon, this film couldn’t be more beautiful and moving to watch. It was released right at the start of the year and, in hindsight, feels like the perfect comment on the kind of year 2016’s been.
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
I was lucky enough to see Leonard Cohen a few years ago at his last show in London. He played a lot of songs from the album before this, ‘Popular Problems’ and they were some of my favourite songs in the set. That night, he walked on stage, confidently and completely un-aided, and announced, “I’m not quite ready to hang up my boxing gloves yet. But I know where the hook is”. This pretty much seems to sum up the sentiment of this record – executed in the most tasteful, sexy and forgiving way possible.
Mulatu Astatke – at Caught By The River Festival
Mulatu Astatke, the father of ‘Ethio-Jazz’, is almost exclusively responsible for me wasting my life away on Skyscanner.com, searching for the cheapest flights to Addis-Ababa [where he’s from]. He recently opened ‘The African Jazz Village’ there, established in the basement of the Ghion Hotel, where he regularly appears on stage to perform with other members of the Ethio-Jazz community. I was lucky enough to catch him slightly closer to home over the summer at a new festival by the River Thames in London. His backing band features a cello player who was going from Montmartre-ish street jazz to jagged almost Jad Fair-esque noise with complete ease. This was absolutely my favourite show of 2016.
Here I Am – Jonathan Safran Foer
Ash began reading ‘Here I am’ after seeing Safran Foer speak at The Barbican this summer. This is what he had to say about it – “There is probably a certain cultural significance in this book which is only fully understood by those brought up in the religion (even though the event was held on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calender so I was the only Jew there). Here I Am is the third novel of Safran Foer’s and examines the interrelationships of the Bloch family during the (fictional) destruction of Israel by an earthquake. Like many Jewish artists, comedy and humour is locked up in the melancholy of the everyday life, exemplified in a magnificent doorhandle masturbation scene. For this line alone it became my favourite book of 2016: “Living the wrong life is far worse than dying the wrong death”.”
Tortoise – The Catastrophist
This is the latest record from instrumental ensemble, Tortoise, lead by John McEntire. Jonny & I were lucky enough to see Tortoise a few weeks back as they passed through London on this album’s world tour. Needless to say, they were incredible (& played a bunch of songs from this album). This record opens with the title track, ‘The Catastrophist’, which opens with a sequence of sounds that feel a bit like if Jean Michelle-Jarre wrote a track for Nintendo (in the best possible way). ‘Yonder Blue’, the only non-instrumental track on the record, features beautiful vocals from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley. A wonderful album.
Captain Fantastic – Film by Matt Ross
Despite ‘Captain Fantastic’ [starring Viggo Mortensen as a kind of forest dwelling-marxist-super-dad figure] enjoying a mainstream cinema release (at least here in the UK), it seems to have gone slightly unnoticed by plenty of people. I watched the movie this summer at the former home of Olympic Studios in South West London (where Led Zeppelin recorded their debut in 1968) and can happily call it my movie of the year. The film was shot in rural Washington in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings and follows the story of a family in an ‘alternative living community’ (the director’s words, not mine). It also features an awesome converted school bus called Steve.
Televsion Gig – De La Warr Pavilion
Despite a combined age of 270 years, this was really good…
Abstract Expressionist Exhibition – Royal Academy, London
This exhibition was the first gathering of its kind since 1957 and got together a whole lot of former classmates (sort of…) such as Arshile Gorky, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko among many others. Each artist in the exhibition was loosely designated a room, which went through their life and work in chronological order. Ideally, this is the kind of exhibition that you allow several days to work your way through – The Royal Academy, for those of you who haven’t been there, is fucking massive and I, sadly, only had an hour or so to check it out [after an hour of so of gazing at Abstract Expressionism, it’s hard not to let even the most visually stoic pair of eyes descend into complete exasperation.] What was perhaps most interesting about this show was the attention to cross-medium works – it featured several sculptures and photographs which, allegedly, are considered as integral to the movement as any 8′ x 17′ canvas – particularly compelling was ‘Hudson River Landscape’ by David Smith, made out of welded steel – apparently he started life working with cars in his native Indiana, so knew his way around a welder.
Perfect – Half Japanese
This is Half Japanese’s 14th studio album, which, in itself, is a bit of an achievement. What makes it more so is that it’s really good. It’s as wild and untamed as any Half Japanese record, but seems to have a sense of rhythm and soul that makes it a special record for me. Half Japanese anecdote: we were playing a festival in Aarhus, Denmark a couple of years ago when we found out Jad Fair was playing the next door venue. We had a plane to catch really early the next morning (and a long drive back to the airport), but insisted on heading to the venue to catch him play (despite the certainty of missing our flight). It turned out he was playing the following day…
Bowie/Collector – David Bowie’s Art Collection Parts 1, 2 & 3 at Sotherby’s, London
As we all know, perhaps one of the most tragic losses of this year (and there have, sadly, been many) was David Bowie on January 10th. Before this auction took place at Sotherby’s in Central London, members of the public were allowed, free of charge, to view a section of David Bowie’s personal art collection at their London exhibition space. I have never seen a more interesting, beautiful and convincing collection of artwork in one building at once. Everything from 16th century altarpieces to 20th century Milanese kitchenware was rubbing shoulders under one roof (I love the idea of Tintoretto being displayed alongside Damian Hirst – I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about). My favourite work in this exhibition was a drawing by Eric Gill called ‘Eve’ which was a small wood engraving with hand-colouring. The auction ultimately made over £33 million ($40.3 million) on the evening of November 10th.