I love year-end lists. I love to see what other people loved.
2016 was a fairly quiet year for me when it came to music. There was a lot of great music but there didn’t seem to be a single album that really “defined” the year for me. Nothing found its way to repeat-for-weeks level. The closest two albums for me in that regard were A Tribe Called Quest’s We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service and Heart Like A Levee by Hiss Golden Messenger.
Still, it was a year filled with great albums. Here are 30 of my favorites from this year. I have included comments that are probably not really helpful for you in you determining whether or not you would like each album for yourself. Instead, you’ll have to go and do some listening for yourself. I hope you enjoy, maybe find something new, and I look forward to your feedback.
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service by A Tribe Called Quest – The album no one expected but struck us all with its timeliness. The Tribe’s first album since 1996 avoided sounding dated while navigating the loss of Phife Dawg. The album is not just a return to form but found everyone at the top of their games. (buy)
Wildflower by the Avalanches – Their first new album in 16 years, sample kings the Avalanches create a richly woven tapestry that gives nods to its sources without ever feeling simply pieced together. (buy)
Blackstar by David Bowie – David Bowie’s final album cements his status as a sonic explorer to the end. Partnering with exploratory jazz and lyrics that seem to hint that he might have known that his end was near. (buy)
case/lang/viers by Case, Lang, Viers – The partnership between Neko Case, K.D. Lang, and Laura Veirs creates an atmospheric album which not only brings three great voices together but builds on each one to create something more. (buy)
Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper – Joyful rap is often difficult to come by. Much less rap with Christian overtones. Plus the weird noises he makes can be quite fun. (buy)
You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen – Another great artist lost this year who seemed to know what was coming. Though he didn’t need to do so, Cohen reminded us why he was one of our great songwriters and lyricists. (buy)
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not by Dinosaur Jr. – Reunited in 2007, teh band remains on a solid streak that gives you everything you want from the band, including a solid performance from Lou Barlow and J Mascis‘ guitar wizardry. (buy)
Ere Gobez by Debo Band – The 11-piece Ethiopian band incorporates funk, afr0beat, jazz, rock and nearly everything in between but never sounds cluttered and always sounds unified. (buy)
The Rarity of Experience by Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band – 70’s instrumental guitar psychedelia for the modern age. You know; if you like that sort of thing. Which I do. A lot. A WHOLE LOT. (buy)
Future Standards by Howe Gelb – Tucson’s Gelb has continually reinvented his persona and has long toyed around with classic jazz. If one were to follow him on Facebook, one would see plenty of classic jazz videos posted. Gelb has ditched the Giant Sand full-band approach and has shifted his focus towards jazz. Only time will tell if these are, indeed future standards. (buy)
Requiem by Goat – Staunchly anonymous world-psychedelic outfit Goat turns in a strong album of staunchly anonymous world psychedelia. (buy)
Eyes On The Lines by Steve Gunn – Over the course of his last couple of albums, this masterful guitar player has also proven himself to be a masterful songwriter. Lots of great guitar playing that never seems flashy and lots of songs that capture the wanderlust many of us feel but will never indulge. (buy)
Late Bloomer by Matt Haeck – PopMatters says: “Late Bloomer and it couldn’t be a more appropriate moniker, given that it took Haeck 30 years of life to really begin discovering his own voice.” Having known Matt for several years and watching his musical growth for that whole time, I am pleased to say, he has indeed found his voice. It may be late, but let’s hope he’s not done blooming yet. (buy)
Heart Like A Levee by Hiss Golden Messenger – One of my favorite bands in recent years put out one of my favorite albums of recent years. MC Taylor continues to grow as a writer and bandleader. Exploring issues of faith, family, travel and finding one’s self in the world. Definitely a standout album for me this year. Plus I finally got to see the band live. (buy)
House in the Tall Grass by Kikagaku Moyo – Some long-haired Japanese guys put their spin on psychedelic folky rock that still rocks and I dig it. (buy)
Mangy Love by Cass McCombs – On his eighth album, McCombs continues to mature as a songwriter. Though this album wrestles with themes of confusion, it does so with soul. And there’s something to be said for that. (buy)
How To Dance by Mount Moriah – Chapel Hill’s Mount Moriah continues to force many of us to ask: “what exactly is ‘alt. country'”? They have definitely found their voice as a country band, but not one you’re likely to hear on any country station. (buy)
Entranced Earth by the Myrrors – Tucson represented yet again! This time with a blistering bout of noisy psychedelic trance music for the sunbaked set. (buy)
Night Fiction by Cian Nugent – It can be a mixed bag when instrumental musicians (in this case, world-class guitarist Cian Nugent) decide to try their hand at being a singer-songwriter. Thankfully, this time around it works. Nugent adds depth to his already textured music. (buy)
Malibu by Anderson .Paak – Groovy, soulful, R&B, hip-hop, funk. (buy)
PAO! by Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra – I am a Phoenix native who loves afrobeat. How is it that I just discovered this band in 2016. Maybe because this is their first actual album and, having eight kids, we don’t make it out to as many shows as we’d like. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I found it. (buy)
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson – Following up a break-through album can be a challenge for any artist. Simpson tackles it by adding a horn section and Memphis soul to his psychedelic country sound. (buy)
Letting Go and Holding On by Shawn Skinner and the Men of Reason – Yes, I’m biased because these are some great friends. But dang it all if this isn’t a great album of sunbaked Americana. (buy)
A Seat At the Table by Solange – Exploring notions of black womanhood, this album could not have been more timely. Soulful, deep and moving. (buy)
Get ‘Em Next Time by Star & Micey – Sometimes you just need some fun rock and roll. Memphis’ Star & Micey are there with your fix. A solidly fun album 0f soulful indie pop-country. (buy)
Blue Mountain by Bob Weir – An album of reflecting on Weir’s early days in Wyoming, this album knows where it’s going and is in no hurry to get there. Self-assured and reflective, it is not only about looking back but continuing forward. (buy)
Schmilco by Wilco – Recorded in the same sessions as last year’s Star Wars, Schmilco is a more understated affair. Largely acoustic and mellow, this album reveals more with each listen. (buy)
The Ghosts of Highway 20 by Lucinda Williams – Interstate 20 cuts a 1500-mile swath from South Carolina to Texas. This swatch of highway provides the backdrop for Williams to deal with love and loss. (buy)
City Sun Eater in the River of Light by Woods – Moving away from their blissed out alt. country, Woods incorporates bits of Ethiopian jazz to surprising effect (and affect). (buy)
- Stream a two-volume mix of some of my favorite songs of 2016.