As always, I wanted to give a mention to the music I enjoyed this year that didn’t fit the traditional “album” format, or else that was released in 2016 and I didn’t catch up to it until this year. Either way, none of it’s eligible for my Top 20 list, but all of it is definitely worth checking out if anything I have to say here piques your interest.
Artist: Lisa Hannigan
Album: At Swim
In Brief: A mellow, soothing, and at times hauntingly beautiful collection of songs. Lisa’s hushed indie folk approach is subtle enough, and her lyrics are abstract enough, that her songs might not impress you right away, but they set the perfect mood for a rainy day spent curled up with a book or a late night de-stressing session.
Artist: Lewis Del Mar
Album: Lewis Del Mar
In Brief: An interesting blend of Latin-inspired rhythms and guitar parts with indie/experimental rock sensibilities that are equal parts ambient and abrasive. Not every experiment works, but the effect of these unique ingredients coming together can be quite alluring when they get it just right.
Artist: Tim Be Told
Album: Friends and Foes
In Brief: I admire Tim’s vulnerability as he takes a peek into broken relationships and tries to figure out where things went wrong and how to take the first steps toward reconciliation. But while Tim is a fabulous singer, the music on this record is often a bit too pretty and pristine to really match the conflicts that have led him to bare his soul.
Artist: Various Artists
Album: Hidden Figures: The Album
In Brief: The rare movie tie-in album that I enjoy both as a listening experience in and of itself, and as a strong reminder of key scenes in the film that inspired it. Despite a few moments that fall flat or don’t seem to relate directly to the film’s plot, Pharrell Williams did a pretty good job writing and arranging these songs, and picking the right female voices to bring most of them to life.
Artist: KT Tunstall
In Brief: It’s not as bold and inventive in the production and songwriting department as Tiger Suit, but KT wanted to make another pop album after the stark, downbeat Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, and I’ve got to admit that this side of her is more my speed.
In Brief: A remarkably solid electronica album with a bit of a trip-hop twist that strikes a deft balance between immediate pop hooks and sonic experimentation. If not for the embarrassing misstep at the end, this could easily be an A-grade record.