This is the music I’ll remember the most when I think back on 2016. Not just the great singles (though these albums have plenty of those) or the dark horse picks buried deep in the track listings (tons of those too, though), but the way these records all flow from song to song, creating a continuous listening experience that makes spending nearly an hour of time with each artist (or more, in a few cases) worthwhile. On my most cynical days, I’d say that thanks to both terrestrial radio doing its thing and the ephemeral lifecycle of most songs and artists that go “viral” on social media, the single is a much more easily digestible and obtainable format for popular music nowadays, putting the album in danger of becoming a lost art. But from the very obscure to the decidedly mainstream, every record on this list would be here to prove me wrong.
I don’t like a lot of hodgepodge in my year-end lists of favorite albums. But sometimes the good songs don’t end up on full-length LPs, or else they do and I just don’t discover them in time to put them on that year’s list. This is where all of that stuff goes.
Here’s the stuff that just didn’t do it for me this year. With one or two exceptions, I don’t listen to these artists expecting their music to be bad… I’ve heard at least a little something I enjoyed from everyone on this list in the past. Some of them just got lazy this year, while others seem aggressively committed to being the most obnoxiously lowest-common-denominator version of themselves that they can be. Neither of those things will land you on the good side of my year-end list-making bonanza. Having said that, I’ve made a good faith effort to embed a song I kinda liked from each of these albums, just to show that these records aren’t all bad.
The final days of 2016 are upon us, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for some long lists that try (perhaps in vain) to sum up the best music I was listening to this year. As always, I’ll start with the individual songs that stood out to me the most. The in-depth reasons why I love these songs so much are mostly spelled out in the album reviews I’ve linked to from here, but in addition to the usual video evidence, I’ve also included a quick blurb for each of the Top 30 entries, just to keep it from being a long list with no explanation whatsoever, I guess.
I’ve also made a Spotify playlist that collects a lot of these highlights, if you’d like to spend a few hours following along. (That one’s ordered more as I discovered the songs, not so much how I’d rank them now, and it’s limited to one track per artist.)
Here’s the cream of the crop, folks – the list of albums that captivated me most in the year 2015. While some of these picks are likely about as predictable as the likelihood of a YouTube comments section devolving into a vicious political flamewar, there are a few cases here where I genuinely surprised myself by falling in love with an artist or even a genre that I had previously decided was “just not my thing”. I hope the music that comes out in 2016 challenges me in similar ways.
The next order of business as I relive some of my favorite music from the past year is to give credit to the odds and ends that I really enjoyed, but considered categorically ineligible for my “Top Albums” list, either because they aren’t full-length albums, they were re-releases of older material, or they were released in 2014 and I just didn’t catch up to them in time to put them on last year’s list.
Before I get to the albums that got me most excited this year, I figured I should take a quick look back at the albums that were so disappointing that it was hard for me to even muster up the courage to give them a second listen. Of course I did eventually go back to these records to see if a little time and more carefully managed expectations would change my perception of these them, but for the most part, they failed to deliver. Not everything about these records is bad, and the worst of the bunch merits a D minus rather than a hard F in my book, so I’ve certainly heard worse in previous years. I’ve also heard something genuinely enjoyable from everyone on this list in previous years (or in one case, this year). But I can safely say that all of these artists fell short of their potential this time around.