This is the fourth and final (for now, at least) part of a series chronicling each year of my life as viewed through the lens of a song that was meaningful to me in some way that represents a significant aspect of my life experience in that year. This segment covers the fourth decade of my life. Be sure to catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first.
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.)
Album: One Wild Life: Body
In Brief: While Soul still has the highest concentration of my personal favorite songs from the One Wild Life trilogy, the sheer ambition of Body and the stylistic ground covered here is hard to ignore. It’s a brave, albeit imperfect and somewhat awkwardly paced, album from a band that continues to challenge the notion of what “Christian music” should be about.
Here are my first impressions of the latest releases from Bon Iver, Gungor, Trails and Ways, Green Day, MuteMath, Regina Spektor, Alter Bridge, and Sleeping at Last.
Album: One Wild Life: Spirit
In Brief: While more upbeat and rhythmic than its predecessor Soul, Gungor stumbles slightly in the lyrics department here by being a little too vague about their spirituality at times while being a little too didactic when they get more specific. I don’t disagree with anything they’ve got to say here; I just question whether this is the best way to present these thoughts in musical form.
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.