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.
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.)
Artist: Andrew Bird
Album: Are You Serious
In Brief: While Bird’s unique blend of violin, guitar, whistling, and live looping still has a tendency to hint at brilliance more often than he actually demonstrates it, the solid string of performances at the front of this album and the intriguing songwriting throughout remind me why he’s continued to pique my curiosity for over 10 years now.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Esperanza Spalding, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Gungor, M83, The Gray Havens, and Andrew Bird.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from The Secret Sisters, Sleeping at Last, Linkin Park, Umphrey’s McGee, Ed Sheeran, Andrew Bird, and Parker Millsap.
We returned to California in July to find summer in full blast. Maybe it was the sudden change of environment, or maybe it was just a sense of “What now?” after fulfilling that lifelong dream by going on the Alaska trip, but I got sick and rather depressed for most of July, and I felt this general sense of weakness and unidentifiable malaise most days, especially if I put off eating a meal. It took me a while to figure out that it directly correlated to mealtimes, but I also think there was an emotional/spiritual component to it that led me to make more of a deliberate effort to reconnect with friends in my faith community, and especially with my wife, with whom I celebrated two years of marriage that summer.
In with the New:
Andrea Corr (as a solo artist – appears previously with The Corrs)
Out with the Old:
In late June 2007, I finally achieved my lifelong dream of taking a trip to Alaska. I had been obsessed with the far-flung corners of our country since first learning about the 50 States as a child, and being with Christine had given me ample opportunity to explore Hawaii, but this far-off northern land eluded me due to the logistical difficulties of getting there. We finally took the plunge and flew into Anchorage (with a few days’ layover in Seattle to hang out with Jennie and her husband Dave), rented a car, and took a road trip throughout the southern and western parts of the state – excluding the Panhandle, most of which you can’t drive to. The trip still dominates my memories of that summer, as one of the absolute most superlative places I’ve ever laid eyes on.
In with the New:
Out with the Old: