My Favorite Music of 2016

It’s that time of year again, oh friendy friends!  Time for my favorite music of the year blog!  For those who haven’t slogged through these before, allow me to get these perfunctories out of the way:

  1. All music on this list is NEW music that was released in calendar year 2016.
  2. A mix CD of songs from my list can be easily obtained by messaging me and asking.  Those on my “mailing list” will receive one without asking.
  3. I am not saying this was the “best” music of 2016.  I used to say that but people got their undies in a bunch.  I’m just saying it’s my “favorite”.
  4. If you’re interested in lists from years past, they can be found here:
    My Favorite Music of 2009My Favorite Music of 2010My Favorite Music of 2011

    My Favorite Music of 2012

    My Favorite Music of 2013

    My Favorite Music of 2014

My Favorite Music of 2015

And before I proceed with this year’s list, I’d like to address what was probably my biggest disappointment of my music listening life: this year’s Band of Horses release.  When I heard of the album, and learned it’s title, and saw the artwork and read the tracklist, I was perhaps the most excited I’d been for a new release since the height of my Pearl Jam fandom.  I fully anticipated making it the number one album on my list this year.  Instead, it does not even appear.  The reviews were very mixed–some were ecstatic whereas others reacted quite like I did, and many were very neutral.  So obviously it can be heard many ways.  I personally, after listening about ten time during it’s first month of release, may never listen to it again.

I’d also be remiss if I did not mention Prophets of Rage, a supergroup combination of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.  Again, many detested it and many loved it; I loved it and thought it was beyond the bee’s knees.  However, for the most part, it was not new music, and it does not make the list, but it formed a very important part of 2016 for me.  In addition, Neil Young+Promise of the Real released a live album, Earth, that felt as fresh and vibrant as a new studio album and I listened to that thing like crazy, but again: not really new.  Now: my list!

15.  Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness”

14.  Ray LaMontagne, “Ouroboros”

13.  Public Enemy, “Man Plans God Laughs”

12.  Kiefer Sutherland, “Down in a Hole”

11.  DJ Shadow, “The Mountain Will Fall”

10.  A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”

The Tribe’s triumphant return was well worth the wait, with lyrics poignantly reflecting the temper of the times and thankfully light on misogyny.  And the beats are dope.

9.  M83, “Junk”

thqjx379jnM83’s new album is a kind of throwback space funk jam-off, like a ride in a technicolor elevator, with purple felt walls.  Impossible to dislike.

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Warpaint, “Heads Up”

Warpaint have now built upon the dark, groovy introspection they created in their first two albums with more intricate jams and a subtle pop sensibility; their musical landscape is now a universe all their own.

7.  Mexico City, “When the Day Goes Dark”

This powerful Australian band hadn’t released any new music for six years.  Their return when-the-day-goes-dark-1-600x600was worth waiting for, as they morphed from terrific bar band into a piledriver of country and blues rock.  A potential classic.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Jim James, “Eternally Even”

The mastermind behind My Morning Jacket didn’t connect with me on his first solo album a few years back, but this year’s “Eternally Even” tickles my Jacket bone.

5.  Paul Simon, “Stranger to Stranger”

Simon is never bad.  But as he ages, I seem to keep thinking he is getting better and better; his lyrics become more adventurous (from The Werewolf: “The fact is, most obits are mixed paulsimon_strangertostranger_rgb-640x640-e1460038643460reviews./ Life is a lottery, a lotta people lose./ And the winners, the grinners, with money-colored eyes/ they eat all the nuggets, and they order extra fries./  But the werewolf is coming.”), his music more modern, playful, daring.  “Stranger to Stranger” is a delight from start to finish, but especially for those familiar with his full body of work; his evolution is a bewildering achievement.

 

 

4.  Emily Wells, “Promise”

Wells is an astonishing talent, and “Promise” proves she’s an artist worthy of canonization.  Eschewing her previous catchy violin hooks and hip hop undertones, here she digs deep–the level of introspection at times becomes hard to watch.  But ultimately, while not an album of happy, singalong songs, “Promise” proves instead to be a key addition to any music library concerned with–frankly–the meaning of life.

3.  Radiohead, “A Moon Shaped Pool”

What’s still to be said about Radiohead?  They are as good as everyone says, as is this album.  Including a studio version of “True Love Waits” (re-worked for piano) nearly broke me in half.

2.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Skeleton Tree”

Cave’s son died tragically while the band was recording the album, and it can be heard in every sound.  It’s a quiet, low-tempo, mostly spoken-word collection of songs, and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is brave, and it is terrifying, but it does not wallow.

1.  Bon Iver, “22, A Million”

bon-iver-22-a-million

I haven’t said much about this album online, as I grew into it slowly, and it came out shortly after a few albums I’d been talking about at length, so I figured I’d stop clogging up everybody’s feed with my music stuff.  But as I kept listening, and listening, and listening, it became clear this album was not going to go away. It is an album of absolutely confounding elements–it incorporates so many genres, styles, and influences, it’s amazing it is coherent.  And it sometimes approaches unlistenable, as vocalist Justin Vernon simply sings through a synthesizer without any music for long lengths of time.  But ultimately it’s not about being catchy, or easy, or even “artsy”.  The album is a true experience, and one that is deeply felt.

 

One Response to “My Favorite Music of 2016”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    New Tribe Called Quest is pretty phenomenal. I look forward to this year’s mix. I’m gonna have a (much smaller) year end music blog too this year.

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