As crazy as it feels, we are now officially in the middle of 2016. And while most people do not really reflect on the year in music until the end, which I will still be doing, I thought it would be great to write about which albums I have enjoyed the most this year. Since this is my first year reviewing music like this, I have been exposed to so much great music that I might not have gotten to experience otherwise. This has been so incredible for me, and I hope someone will be introduced to a new album or artist thanks to this list. I also would like to throw out this is not a ranking of these albums, they are simply in alphabetical order. I am not ready to start picking favorites just yet. My original reviews to each of these records are hyperlinked in the titles so feel free to read more into any of these. I hope you all enjoy.
If you told me that Beyoncé would create one of the best and most emotionally satisfying albums of the year I would not have believed you. But between the excellent production, use of samples, and guest features, this is definitely the best pop record of 2016.
Chance proves that he is one of the best young rappers out there once again with this new mixtape. The fusion of gospel and hip-hop is excellent, most of the features deliver, and Chance shows how talented he truly is.
As everyone now knows, early this year we lost David Bowie who was secretly battling cancer for 18 months. What he left us was an album that dealt directly with the topic of death while paying homage to Bowie’s career. While it is sad that we lost one of the greatest artists arguably of all time, at least he was able to leave us with one more great record. This was the first album I reviewed this year and might possibly end up being the best.
The best country album of the year, Dave Cobb assembles 13 great artists together to create one of the most emotionally impactful records of 2016. Themes about family might be overdone in country music but these artists make it feel extremely personal and coming from a genuine place in their hearts. Also, which country fans do not want to hear Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and more on one album?
Another abrasive and energetic record from Death Grips, as they tackle their image amongst their fan base and their unlikely fame. Fans of loud and heavy music like this will simply love the aggression on display while other will get joy out of dissecting the deeper lyrics. And if you want to get started with Death Grips, this is surprisingly accessible, at least by their standards.
While lyrically this album is a little simple, it is so much fun to listen to Elton and his touring band back together creating happy, high spirit pop music. This is exactly what Elton John fans want to be hearing from him at this point in his career.
Flume has created an excellent soundtrack for the summer. He has fused popular genres like indie pop and hip-hop with his wonky production style in a way that is fresh and helps bring unique electronic music to a more mainstream audience. The solidly electronic tracks here are great as well.
When we all thought he was done making great music, Iggy Pop recruits Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Dean Ferita as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders to create a new sound for his aged voice. Full of introspective lyrics about a life of fame and living with the music industry, this is a great return for Pop.
After writing my initial review, I did not want this album anywhere near my best albums list. After the new mix came out, “Saint Pablo” was added as the album closer, and many, many listens, this album has really grown on me. Are there lyrically terrible moments here still? Yes. But a lot still works and the production is phenomenal and even at his worst Kanye makes his music interesting and worthy of discussion.
Only Kendrick Lamar could take a collection of unused demos and turn them into one of the best albums of the year. Even with a blank cover, and 8 untitled songs, this album uses its various sounds to create a record that is focused and full of personality.
Call it a gimmick, but the idea of making an album that can be played on loop forever without any noticeable cuts is truly amazing to me. Outside of that, I really do love the dark lyrics, the rapid instrumentation, just the whole vibe of this record. Definitely on of the most inspired albums of the year.
For those looking for country music that sounds like “the good ol’ days” of country, with artists like Loretta Lynn, well this is perfect for you. There is some great production that keeps a traditional feeling throughout, as well as deep, personal lyrics from Price and her journey trying to make it as a musician. This album deserves more love than it has been getting.
PJ Harvey might be a little past her prime at this point, but she is still making some great and clearly personal music. She uses this album to showcase her abilities not just as a musician but as a journalist as well. Her experiences in Washington D.C., Afghanistan, and Kosovo were engaging and vivid, as if written by a professional journalist.
One of my favorite bands of all time is back and with one of their greatest records to date. I am so glad they were able to take so many of their old, unreleased songs, and rework them to fit this emotionally powerful and well produced record. Radiohead continues to prove they are always evolving while also staying in touch with what their fans.
They’ve still got it! The Red Hot Chili Peppers have started a new chapter of their career, one without longtime producer Rick Rubin, in a subtle and beautiful way that I could not see coming. While it is a breakup record for the most part, it keeps the levels of fun that the Chili Peppers are known for.
This album was delayed after the death of the band’s bassist Benjamin Curtis died of lymphoma in 2013. Lead singer, and Curtis’ former girlfriend, Alejandra Deheza was able to complete this record on her own and brand it as a tribute to Curtis. Aside from this, the album sounds great, combining synth-pop and electronics, two notably artificial sounds, and using them to breathe life into this unintentionally dark record.
Simpson is an artist that while definitely country, pushes his sound in a way to appeal to a broader audience. This does not means he makes pop music, but instead adds so much unique instrumentation, while still having traditional country influence, that it is easy for people who do not like country to like him. He does this again here, with horns and electronics making this concept album, teaching his young son about the world, all the better.
Weezer continues to show that they have restarted their career after 2014’s excellent Everything Will Be Alright In the End. While staying close to what has made them work in the past, this record is still a blast from beginning to end and definitely becoming one of the most played albums of my summer. It shows me why this weird little band has lasted for longer than anyone would have expected, and I am so grateful for it.
Bloated, full of arrogance, and a little pretentious, this record should be terrible but these moments feel self-aware making it work in an odd way. The brighter indie pop sound mixed with darker lyrics about self-destruction come across as a genuine cry for help at times, making this a wildly affective album.