Top Albums of 2016

Several years ago, inspired by Sound Opinions, I decided to start the tradition of making a yearly list of my favorite albums released that year (give or take a little bit). Here is my third annual list for 2016.

Honorable Mentions

AKA, a list of really solid albums that (also) should have made the top ten list.

The List

  1. Weezer – Weezer (White Album) (iTunes | Spotify) Weezer has had a career of making good albums that never quite equaled their early masterpieces. They are always good, but they’ve had a hard time recapturing a certain naivete that made the Blue Album and Pinkerton great. This one isn’t exactly equal, but it comes about as close as anything they’ve done… and it sounds like they got there by not trying quite so hard. On the White Album, I hear Weezer relaxing a bit… and pretty much finding what they’ve been trying so hard to find all these years.
  2. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (iTunes | Spotify) It’s a fitting last album to a great career. Leonard Cohen has long been a classic, and his last album is a fitting goodbye. It deals openly with his mortality. Cohen clearly knew this would be his last work and dedicated it to coming to terms with the end of his life. So, it’s stripped back, it’s raw, it’s honest… and it’s some of his best work.
  3. Avalanches – Wildflower (iTunes | Spotify) I was introduced this one quite late in the year, but it was a great find. Avalanches have a sample-based, hip-hop infused sound not unlike Wax Tailor. This album is sonically all over the map, and that’s a good thing. No two songs sound alike. Some are downright weird (in a good way) and there are some really catchy beats throughout.
  4. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (iTunes | Spotify) This is PJ Harvey’s most political work, but it’s not preachy or particularly partisan. It has a documentary feel… each song paints a visceral image of a place or situation. PJ Harvey doesn’t make the same album twice. This one is unique, and one of her strongest.
  5. Massive Attack – Ritual Sprit EP (iTunes | Spotify) Okay… so this isn’t really a full-length album. It’s just a four-song teaser from an old favorite. However, it’s solid enough to make this list even if short. With just four songs, I like this contribution even more than their most recent full-length album. It’s moody, haunting and hypnotizing.  Plus, it even features the return of Tricky with a great guest appearance.
  6. Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow (iTunes | Spotify) I have always like Shearwater a lot, but I was pretty ho-hum about their previous album. This one takes them into new and interesting territory. It doesn’t sound like a Shearwater album of the past. It’s poppier and more lush. There is a bit of guilty pleasure here, but in a good way… it goes for epic, which can be a bit cheesy if not done right, but it’s restrained enough that it works.
  7. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (iTunes | Spotify) I’m not usually a fan of country, but I definitely make an exception for Sturgill Simpson. He is, at once, a return to the roots of country and a new direction. He hops across genres freely, from the sprawling opening song to the Nirvana cover. Most remarkably, he makes country music even I can love.
  8. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (iTunes | Spotify) To say it’s been a while since their last album is an understatement. Nearly two decades have passed by since their last contribution. However, they haven’t missed a beat. They are as fresh as ever and completely relevant to current events.
  9. Warpaint – Heads Up (iTunesSpotify) Warpaint topped my list two years ago with their last album. They don’t quite top it this year, but come pretty close. Their new album shows growth, moving to a slightly poppier, more upbeat sound. It’s a pleasant follow-up to their self-titled album.
  10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (iTunes | Spotify) This year’s favorite comes from a long-time favorite. This is one of Radiohead’s best albums in a while. It’s not as accessible as OK Computer and not quite as out-there as Kid A… it’s a solid, brooding, slow-burn and just downright beautiful album. There are hints of all eras of Radiohead, but also brand-new sounds. For example, the Nick Drake-esque tracks like The Numbers or Desert Island Disk. Radiohead has never been afraid to reinvent themselves. A Moon Shaped Pool is another welcome evolution to their sound.

Thanks for checking out my list. Hope you enjoy!