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Archive for the ‘25 Best Albums of 2016’ Category

25 Best Albums of 2016

Honorable Mentions: Flume – Skin, Kendrick Lamar – Untitled, Unmastered, Banks and Steelz – Anything But Words, The Kills – Ash & Ice

25. Rhianna – Anti

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I can’t really say I’ve ever listened to a Rhianna album until this year, and it’s shocking to me that Anti is her 8th album.  While it’s a little long in the tooth, it has probably two of my favorite songs this year in Kiss It Better and Work.  

24. Sia – This is Acting

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I have always been a huge fan of Sia as a vocalist and particularly a songwriter.  This is Acting is made up of songs that Sia wrote for other artists but ended up keeping for herself, and it’s some of her best work yet.  The songs on here are massive, and remind me a lot of another singers last album I loved, Florence and the Machine.

23. Richard Ashcroft – These People

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I’ve always been an Ashcroft fan, ever since his days with The Verve.  He is a tremendous songwriter, and he continues his remarkable career here.  Again, it’s not like he’s doing anything new here.  He’s just writing great songs which he’s always done in the past.

22. Temper Trap – Thick as Thieves

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I’m not saying The Temper Trap’s new albums feels, or sounds original at all.  There’s a ton of bands that have been riding the synth, pop sound for a while now; The Killers, Phoenix, etc.  For some reason I’ve gravitated towards Temper Trap and been a fan for a while now.  I think it’s the best thing they’ve done so far.

21. Plants and Animals – Waltzed in From the Rumbling

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Waltzed in From the Rumbling is a product of a massive catalogue of songs that were created by Plants and Animals prior to going in to the studio.  It feels and sounds like a love-lorn concept album.  Very dreamlike and ethereal.  Deep, resounding songs.

20. Minor Victories – Minor Victories

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Supergroup Minor Victories consists of members of Mogwai, Slowdive, and The Editors.  Three bands I absolutely love.  You can definitely hear their own styles coming together on this pretty robust album, and let’s face it I’m a sucker for electronic, shoegaze, dream-pop.

19. Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)

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When Alice Glass left the band it was kind of hard to say….oh man….they’re losing so much.  Ethan Kath is the heart and soul of the band.  He creates all the movements, and it’s especially hard to say that something is missing from the lead singer when 99% of the vocals are digitally manipulated.  Kath feels rejuvenated in what feels somewhat like revenge against Alice Glass for whatever reason, and new singer Edith Frances actually sounds fresh in a band that never totally relied on the vocals.

18. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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There’s not a lot to be said about Frank Ocean that hasn’t already been said.  He’s become one of the most original and talked about artists of the past few years.  His follow up to Channel Orange is maybe not as good, but it’s not far off.

17. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion B

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It’s pretty amazing the level of output from Jepsen since last year.  Her Emotion barely missed my best albums last year, and when her B-sides album came out this year I was blown away with the level of songwriting and experimentation that was involved.  It eclipses her last album only in the fact that it is a more lean experimental version of the latter.

16. Garbage – Strange Little Birds

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I’ve always liked Garbage, but at this point in their careers shouldn’t they just sound like old tired rock?  Well somehow they still sound fresh and make great music.  Shirley Manson is one of the great front-women in rock and roll and she’s the reason why this album charted so high for me.

15. School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

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The ending of School of Seven Bells is spelled out not as much as a sad eulogy to the death of songwriter Benjamin Curtis, but as a celebration of what made them such a great band.  It’s really a perfect ending to their 4 magnificent albums.

14. Foxes – All I Need

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I love synthpop, and I love synthpop fronted by a woman who can just make it all come together.  Louisa Rose Allen, who is Foxes, created a great pop album in All I Need.  I think she’s definitely one to watch as she continues on through her career.

13. David Bowie – Blackstar

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There’s been lots of death in 2016.  Bowie’s passing along with Leonard Cohen hit hard for me.  These were two men whose music spoke volumes to me, not only in my youth, but also as I’ve grown older.  Their songs resonate.  The meanings change as I’ve grown as well.  Blackstar is an amazing stamp on a career in which Bowie’s persona created so many different faces, and music took so many forms.  RIP to the Thin White Duke.

12. Polica – United Crushers

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I loved Polica’s first album Give You the Ghost, and their 3rd album is right up there.  I feel it’s the perfect blend of hard synth and pop hooks. Channy Leaneagh is one of the most original vocalists making music right now in my mind.

11. Wye Oak – Tween

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I was lucky enough to see Wye Oak a few months ago at the beautiful Thalia Hall here in Chicago, and I was blown away by how they pull their sound off live.  I was really amazed how great a front-woman Jenn Wassner was as well.  Tween is an album of castaways from the Civilian and Shriek sessions, but that doesn’t make it feel like an album full of B-sides.  It makes it feel like its own work.

10. The Joy Formidable – Hitch

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I’m a total homer here.  I’ve been a huge fan ever since the first time I’ve heard them.  Massive stadium rock riffs, and they’re getting more complex here.  They do go a little far with the composition, and this is as far as they should go in my mind.

9. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

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I’m kind of shocked myself I’m putting these guys up this high on this list.  I think their smash hit The Middle kind of does a detriment to their overall discography.  Integrity Blues is full of just great, well-produced and written songs.  Hard rock riffs, to alt/rock ballads.  Great album front to back.

8. Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack

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Frightened Rabbit is a band that I’ve slowly liked more and more over the years.  First of all they are fantastic live if you ever get the chance.  Painting of a Panic Attack is once again produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner.  So it has that thick sound that reminds you of the National for sure, but still has the sound that’s made Frightened Rabbit a band to constantly watch.

7. Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow

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I had to do a double take when I checked Shearwater’s discography.  They’ve released something like 11 or 12 albums since 2001, most of which have been self-released.  I must admit I’m only family with Animal Joy and their newest Jet Plane and Oxbow.  It’s a rich album with tons of layers within each song.  It’s a dense album that takes time to absorb.

6. Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

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Lead singer and songwriter Jack Tatum has slowly been creating is own unique vision of shoegaze dream-pop over the past 5-6 years.  His brainchild Wild Nothing has slowly gotten better and better with each release.  Their third album is easily their best effort yet.

5. Deftones – Gore

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Gore along with The Deftones last album, Koi No Yokan marks their best outings since White Pony.  They’re able to blend the heaviest of riffs along with dreamy pieces of architecture that float in between.  It’s all courtesy of lead singer Chino Moreno.

4. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death

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Its hard to imagine an album of pop gems much better than Tegan and Sara’s last album Heartthrob, but somehow they did it with Love You to Death.  Barely over 30 minutes of pop laden hooks.  The twins are streamlined and at their absolute best on their 8th album.

3. Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth

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Mystery Jets are a band that have been consistently pumping out music for the past decade.  I’ve only heard their two prior albums to their newest and never thought much of them.  Just pretty good music, but their new one is something special.  Very well written and thought out songs.

2. Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

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The passing of Leonard Cohen was the bookend of a horrible year of death for musicians and artists of all forms.  Cohen was a poet who just ended up being a musician.  He is my favorite lyricist of all time, and You Want it Darker may be his greatest achievement of all.  Deep songs of love, hate, loss, and death, and lonnnngggg life living with all of it.

1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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My love/hate relationship continues with one of my favorite/least favorite bands of all time.  Radiohead gets praised for everything they do, but not everything they do is as amazing as this.  Noel Gallagher infamously said “…if Thom Yorke shit into a f$%king light bulb it’d get 9/10…”.  Which is true, but this is definitely not shit.  It’s a pretty amazing album, and even more amazing that a band such as Radiohead is still able to create something so atmospheric and original.