Well it’s been quite a while since I’ve had the time and drive to sit down and write a blog post. However with 2016 (finally) coming to an end, it is that time of year again to look back at all the great music that has come out over the past 12 months and put my best of list together for all to read, ignore, take note of, criticize, whatever you wish … but most importantly, to expand your mind, break your perceptions and bring some joy to your day via the awesome power of music.
To be entirely honest, I had started a post about this a month ago and planned to start posting on December 1st. I was going to list my top 31 albums with a different post each day in December. I’m glad I waited because there’s been some albums that came out this month which would have made me totally rethink and rearrange my list. I then thought it’ll be a cool idea to put together a list with my favorite release from each month of 2016 but that narrowed my scope a bit too far. So without any constraints in place, except for my keen ear, I’m confident that I’ve finally locked down my top 10 albums of the year … plus a few others I wanted to give a shout out to … plus a couple of EPs I just couldn’t leave off.
Unlike the last few years where I’ve listed them alphabetically, I’ve decided to actually rank them this year as well. Given your taste in music there will be quite a few bands which I’m sure you expected would have made the best of list that are missing below. However you will also see that I am a man who loves and appreciates many different genres of music … except country (see Pass the (Blue)grass).
These top spots are reserved for those albums I either immediately listened to nonstop when they came out, and can still go back to at any point, or that I listened to and moved me, some because of lyrics and messages and others because of the actual music … but most importantly I base my picks on things that I can listen to whenever from front to back as opposed to albums with a couple hit songs and a bunch of filler around them or something you really need to be in the mood for.
Now there are 3 other additions to this list which I’ve never done in the past. First I’ve included a song not to miss from each album. Basically if you had to listen to 1 song from it, I think this is (one of ) the best. I also included at least 1 video or live performance from every album/band because while studio albums can be works of art, if they can’t bring it during a live performance it also doesn’t make my list. Live music is arguably more important to me than over-produced takes in the studio. The final piece of info I wanted to feature was either the person who originally turned me onto the artist or if was something I found myself then a story that went with it.
So I hope you enjoy the list … without further ado, here we go. Happy Listening!
10. Kishi Bashi “Sonderlust“
Song Not To Miss = “Who’d You Kill“
Live Performance = Live on KEXP
Shout out = It was quite a while ago that I had first heard of Kishi Bashi and it was after talking a great deal about Keller Williams who is a master of the loop … turns out Kishi is as well and does a pretty awesome job of it so a big thanks to my boy Trevor for first planting this name in my head.
Kishi, as you’ll see from the live performance, took a different approach to this album and didn’t use as many loops but let the band he put together do more of the heavy lifting and it turned out well. It’s a beautiful album from front to back and not only does his voice resonate throughout but the songs are sneaky catchy as you’ll find yourself humming them a few days later without even knowing it
9. BOB MOSES “DAYS GONE BY (NEVER ENOUGH EDITION)“
Song Not To Miss = “Tearing Me Up“
Live Performance = The Ellen Show
Shout out = While I found this band by myself (aka Spotify) I had one person in mind that when I first heard this it made me think of them thanks to some of the music they’ve introduced me to over the years so here’s to you KT
Technically the regular edition of this was released towards the end of 2015 so I’ve put the newer ‘Never Enough Edition’ on this list which includes some remixes, acoustic and live tracks on here; it’s just too damn good not to as these 2 guys have catchy, downbeat, electronica-ish, trance-y all figured out and I can’t get enough of it
8. Jesu & Sun Kil Moon “Jesu/Sun Kil Moon“
Song Not To Miss = “Last Night I Rocked The Room Like Elvis and Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor“
Live Performance = Live in Paris at Divan du Monde
Shout out = My man Justin recommended Sun Kil Moon to me a few years ago and while it took me a while to get into them I love the storytelling nature that is relatable on so many levels
This collaboration album between Sun Kil Moon and Jesu is not only easy listening but has a lot of SKM influence with the songwriting style; what makes this so interesting, to me at least, is the background of Jesu who was heavy into the “extreme” music scene by being in bands like Godflesh and Napalm Death but used the Jesu moniker to mellow out a bit and it worked in this collab which was a while in the making
7. A Tribe Called Quest “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service“
Song Not To Miss = “Solid Wall of Sound“
Live Performance = Saturday Night Live
Shout out = My shout out for this for this doesn’t go to a person who got me into the band but rather to a member of the band … RIP Phife Dawg who passed away before the album was fully completed but luckily laid down the majority of his rhymes before
From one of the most influential and formative hip hop groups of the last 30 years this album brings all the original members back together for 1 last epic album chalked full of special guests, sick beats and mad rhymes … the messages are bold and strong and the music is as good as ever
6. The Polish AmBassador “Dreaming of an old tomorrow“
Song Not To Miss = “Chill or Be Chilled“
Live Performance = Live at Red Rocks … it’s a mashup video showing scenes from his performance over 1 song but you’ll get the idea
Shout out = Another Spotify shout out so I’ve gotta mention Glenn here … TPA has been on my radar since late last year when I discovered his album collaboration with Mr. Lif and Ayla Nereo entitled “Terra Bella” which is one of my favorite albums in a long time
Yet another album chalked full of styles, special guests and catchy beats, TPA continues to straddle the line of electronic and chill which creates a listenable and enjoyable album from front to back
5. Aurora “All my enemies greeting me as a friend“
Song Not To Miss = “Conqueror“
Live Performance = The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Shout out = I randomly came across this album and while I normally am not a huge fan of female lead singers for some reason this album hooked me immediately
She’s not only got an amazing voice but short and sweet songs which are a little pop, a little indie, a little rock, a little electronica and all heart from the Swedish sensation
4. The Lemon twigs “Do Hollywood“
Song Not To Miss = “As Long As We’re Together“
Live Performance = Live on KEXP
Shout out = I would have probably missed out on this album as it wasn’t on my radar until Christine put it on while we were visiting them a few months ago in Tokyo and now I can’t stop
I’m not sure if I’m more impressed that the 2 brothers who started the band (and the other members) are all so young, 17 and 19 currently, or the fact that they sound like some sort of amazing reincarnation of the Beatles/doo-wop or the thought of the incredible musical potential they possess for years to come but I hope you enjoy this album as much as I did
3. Frank Ocean “BlondE“
Song Not To Miss = “Solo“
Live Performance = Live in London … this was the only live performance I could find from the new album sadly
Shout out = I gave this a listen initially and thought it was okay but it didn’t hook me at first, however after a conversation with Wes (and plenty of encouragement from Daniel) I decided to carve out some time to sit down and truly listen to it without doing anything else and have been bordering on obsessed ever since
I really like his last album (“channel ORANGE“) and this album may have had more hype than any other to come out this year since he’s a bit of a recluse but man did it live up to the hype; 17 songs and an hour of music and sweet sounds from the catchy ones to the songs where the music is almost minimalist so you really focus on his voice and messages
2. Chance the rapper “Coloring Book“
Song Not To Miss = “No Problem“
Live Performance = The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Shout out = I wanna give a shout out to all of those independent artists who don’t want to sell out to “the man” to peddle their records and Chance is the ideal role model here as he’s done it all by himself from slinging mixtapes to performing in sold-out arenas … also Andy loved this shit almost as much as me
This was arguably my #1 album for most of the year and one of the best summer albums to put a smile on your face and a little pep in your step; some of the songs are about as close as I’ve come in the last 15 years to going to church but he throws it all out there and doesn’t hold back, puts on a helluva live performance, has some great guest spots and if most of the songs don’t make you move you may want to check your pulse
1. Childish Gambino ““AwaKEn, My love!”“
Song Not to Miss = “California“
Live Performance = The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
BONUS Video = The Worst Guys … I had to include a video from a couple of years ago which was a collab of my #1 and #2 artists
Shout out = A few years ago I asked for some new music recommendations and my cousin Sarah can back to me with Childish Gambino who I had only known as an actor but I instantly fell in love with “Because the Internet” and later that week I saw the a live performance of “3005” which solidified it
This was the album I’ve been waiting for all year and it did not disappoint! The 3rd album from Childish is anything but, it is a grown-up, soulful, incredible journey and while there are still some of his funny and witty lyrics in here he’s focused far more on the music and the feel of the album to make a masterpiece … on a semi-related note I would highly recommend you look up some of his freestyles on Youtube as they are incredibly impressive
Here are a few more albums which could have just as easily made a spot on the list but just missed out. I didn’t go into as much detail here and they aren’t ranked but I still feel as though they deserve some recognition though so please feast your ears on these as well.
a. Jack White “Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016“
Song Not To Miss = “Carolina Drama“
b. Various Artists “The Hamilton Mixtape” and “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”
Song Not To Miss (The Hamilton Mixtape) =”My Shot“
Song Not To Miss (Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)) = “Cabinet Battle #1“
C. Jim James “Eternally Even“
Song Not To Miss = “Hide In Plain Sight“
D. Bon Iver “22, A Million“
Song Not To Miss = “8 (circle)“
E. 2 Chainz “collegrove“
Song Not To Miss = “MFN Right“
Finally here are a couple of my favorite EPs I have come across this year.
EP1. The Arcs “Lake Superior“
The Arcs had an amazing album last year entitled “Yours, Dreamily,” and when you’re led by the lead singer of the Black Keys you’ve already got an upper hand in the music game. But take that musical prowess and add to it one of the most enticing, captivating and crazy stories to be revisited last year in Netflix’s “Making A Murderer.” The Arcs took the story and made a song about it which is not only incredibly creative but pretty gritty and catchy. Also all proceeds from this song are being donated to The Innocence Project
EP2. The Lagoons “California”
If you could find a song that truly encapsulates the vibe of Northern California through both lyrics and music this is definitely it; a super chill yet incredibly catchy song with ties to all parts of CA, this song really makes me miss home
Okay I promise this is the last one but I could end this without giving one final shout out to The National for the amazing album they helped put together to honor the Grateful Dead. They brought a huge number of, mainly indie but, incredibly talented people and groups from around the world to contribute their takes on some of the best songs out there in my opinion so enjoy this last one and see you in 2017!
Various Artists “Day of the Dead“