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Top 25 Albums of 2016

Top 25 Albums of 2016

 

 

While it's true that 2016 took many icons away from us, it also blessed us with a surprising amount of really good new music.  So much so that a Top 10 list just couldn't do 2016 justice in my eyes, so I give you my picks for the Top 25 albums of 2016.  Lots of genres to be found here, so if variety truly is the spice of life, hopefully you will find something to like in the below list.

Cheers to a great year of new music in 2016.  Behold:

 

Semi-honorable mention - The Mountain Will Fall – DJ Shadow

This record is kind of a dud, and definitely ranks in the bottom ½ of Shadow’s catalog, but, it’s not bad I guess.  Just disappointing/underwhelming, but there’s a few tracks that will get your head bobbing, so, it’s got that going for it.

 

#25 – Bottomless Pit – Death Drips

I feel like I should like Death Grips more than I do.  They’re abrasive and loud, so that’s good, but they’re also kind of tacky, unfocused, and, uh, not that good basically?  There’s usually a song or two I like on every DG album, but on Bottomless Pit, there’s actually 3-4 I like, so, they’re getting better to my ears. 

 

#24 – Revolution Radio – Green Day

Yeah, I know, there’s way too many cringe-worthy teeny ballads on this album, but there’s also an almost equal amount of that classic Green Day spunk to go around too.  That’s kind of always been the case with Green Day.  You take the good with the bad/corny.

 

#23 – EP1 – Past Life

I stumbled on this EP, and for whatever reason, a few songs really struck a chord with me.  It’s tailor-made for dejected suburban kids pouting in their bedrooms, so it’s embarrassing that I like it, but, kind of takes me back in a way.  

 

#22 – Wildflower – The Avalanches

I like this album a lot better in the summer.  It’s kind of too cute for its own good, sounding like a playful psych-tinged mixtape collage of beat-driven electronica/hip-hop…it wears a little thin towards the end, but worth checking out if you’re into neo-psych hip-hop flavored electronica with a sunny disposition.

 

#21 – Odd Entrances – Thee Oh Sees

This is the mellow/trippy companion piece to “A Weird Exits” released earlier this year.  Folks seem a little dismissive of this album because it feels like an afterthought, but it’s good for what it is: psychedelic space-rock for the 21st century.

 

#20 – Serenity of Suffering – Korn

Can we just give it up for Korn making a legitimately pretty good album for the 1st time in literally 13 years?  This doesn’t erase all the ineptitude of those years, but it’s at least nice to hear them sounding like Korn again.  A quality step in the right direction for a change.

 

#19 – Gore – Deftones

The Deftones worst album of their career (that’s right, I said it) is still better than Korn’s best album in over a decade.  Gore has a few highlights, but as a whole, it’s definitely their weakest effort to date.  It’s too sedate and dull for my tastes, but mediocre Deftones is still better than most everything else in my book.

 

#18 – Mangy Love – Cass McCombs

I like Cass McCombs in small doses, but on Mangy Love, I have to say the whole album is pretty listenable and inviting.  A few tracks are a bit too pretentious/lavish, but for the most part, this is a very intimately chill and pretty little album.  Silky smooth.

 

#17 - Give a Glipse of What Yer Not – Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. are the kings of making adequate riff-heavy fuzz-rock for slackers, and they’ve turned in yet another quality album here.  This one feels a little bit better than their more recent efforts.  It goes down smooth and delivers the crunchy goods just as a good Dinosaur Jr. album should.

 

#16 – Monolith of Phobos – Claypool Lennon Delirium

Maybe it’s just me, but when I saw that Sean Lennon and Les Claypool were making an album together, I automatically assumed it would be disappointing, but Monolith of Phobos is actually pretty good.  It’s groovy, funky, playful, and occasionally amusing/trippy…basically like a psychedelic Primus (which makes too much sense if you think about it).  Good enough to hopefully warrant more releases from the duo.  “You outta try it, you really outta try it”.

 

#15 – A Weird Exits – Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees yet again deliver another rousing album of invigorating psych-punk here, and they branch out a little on the back half with a few psychedelic numbers to boot.  Most everything great about Thee Oh Sees is on display here, and although their records never can fully convey the ferocity of their live shows, A Weird Exits actually comes pretty close overall.  This one belongs in the top ½ of their extensive catalog.

 

#14 – Gold – Whores

Move over METZ and Pissed Jeans, you’ve got company!  There’s a new sludge-punk band in town and they’re just as ferocious, and perhaps even heavier given they sport more of an alt-metal flavor to their assault.  Best heavy album of the year?  Perhaps.

 

#13 – Post Pop Depression – Iggy Pop

If this is indeed Iggy’s last album, Josh Homme and company sure helped him go out on a high note.  It channels the vibe of his Berlin-era recordings, and as a result is probably his best album since Lust for Life for my money.

 

#12 – Cheetah EP – Aphex Twin

More-so than anything he’s released since the Richard D James Album, Cheetah captures that mid-tempo, beat-driven, comfortably numb, melodic vibe best.  Cheetah might be his most accessible/listenable work in years, and personally gives me that certain indescribable feeling of existential bliss that only the best Aphex Twin music can provide. 

 

#11 – High Bias – Purling Hiss

This is a great example of some high-quality, resounding, and vital indie-rock that’s worth your ear in 2016.  The passion and urgency in their music is married up nicely with their more melodic/chill tendencies to create a pretty infectious listening experience.  High Bias is a little shaky/unfocused at times, but for the most part it delivers the goods in emphatic fashion.

 

#10 – The Getaway – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I was initially fairly disappointed in this album, but it’s grown on me.  Although there are a few filler tracks, there are also some undeniably good songs on here.  It’s actually a pretty good chill summer album, and considering the band’s age, and the fact they’re Frusciante-less, it’s a not a bad effort by any means.  It’s the Chili Peppers.  I love them, so I’m inclined to be patient with them and learn to like what I hear.  That was a tough task on I’m With You, but The Getaway makes it much easier.

 

#9 – Head Carrier – The Pixies

I understand the cynicism most people have towards the Pixies in 2016 (especially after Indie Cindy) but Head Carrier is actually a pretty damn good album.  It’s a highly listenable, friendly, and warm record, with a surprising amount of catchy and often mildly affecting songs.  It reminds me of autumn and it’s gracefully well-executed.  While most folks met Head Carrier with a collective “shrug”, I think it’s a legit comeback for the band.  Lot’s to like here, and occasionally, lots to love.

 

#8 – City Club – The Growlers

I was initially turned-off by the seemingly tacky, overly-synthy, and trendy sound of this album, but it has grown on me considerably since the first couple of spins.  Once you get passed the band’s change in sound, there’s actually quite a lot to like on City Club.  It’s a catchy album, and kind of cool in an icy 2016 sort of way.  And that trademark Growlers despondency and heart are there, just buried ever so slightly beneath all the sleek production.  This album is often stuck in my head, so, although some of it makes me feel old, I can’t help but enjoy it.

 

#7 – GØGGS – GØGGS

If it weren’t for the fact that Ty Segall releases so many good albums at a dizzying pace, I think GØGGS would have made a bigger splash than it did.  This is Segall’s heaviest project to date, largely because of Chris Shaw helming the mic, which gives these songs an added punch.  This is a nasty, ripping little beast of an album that hits hard, fast, and dirty.  It’s over before you know it, but it’s one hell of a fun ride.

 

#6 – A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

Radiohead offers up 2 of their best songs in years to lead off this album, before they subtlety and gracefully settle into a dreamlike spell for the rest of A Moon Shaped Pool.  This album sounds like being in the womb, or in a coma, or in a half-awake state of being.  It’s peaceful and warm for the most part, but as with most Radiohead albums, the pervasively dreary vibe can start to wear you down as it progresses.  Overall though, it’s a really good Radiohead album that reveals subtle new layers upon repeated listens.  A modest evolution in their sound.  Impressive.

 

#5 – Blackstar – David Bowie

If you just take this album on its own accord, as a piece of art, it is pretty GD impressive.  Never mind the baggage of Bowie’s death that people associate with this album, just in and of itself, it’s his most experimental album in decades.  It’s compelling, dense, and often graceful (not to mention inspiring and profound).  So yes, his death certainly adds a certain weight to this album, but I feel it would be just as highly regarded if Mr. Bowie were still with us today.

 

#4 – You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is very mood-specific music.  You have to be in the right headspace to appreciate it, or at least I do, so it took me a few weeks to garner up an appetite to fully absorb this album.  But when I did, I found it to be a deeply affecting listening experience, not only because the man had just died, but also because it’s that good.  For my money, his best two albums are his first, and now this one, his last.  It’s just a beautiful and heartfelt swansong from one of the greatest poets of our time.  A spiritual album.  Moving.

 

#3 – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – Tribe Called Quest

I have made some casual efforts to get back into rap over the years, but aside from a couple of songs a year (at best) I’m usually left disappointed in whatever the latest hyped-up trend is in the hip-hop world year after year.  That is until the greatest east-coast group of all-time got together to release their first album in 18 years.  I had modest expectations for it, but TCQ really knocked it out of the park on this one.  Aside for a couple of tunes, every song on here is really good, and the entire album is a highly satisfying and smooth listening experience.  Since most of my favorite rappers are either long since dead (2Pac), washed-up (Snoop), or have gone Hollywood (Cube), TCQ coming back from the grave is like a gift from ghost of 90s hip-hop past, and what a gift it is.  Personally, best rap album I’ve heard in many many years.

 

#2 – Hardwired to Self-Destruct – Metallica

My head almost exploded trying to compare Tribe and Metallica, but Metallica and I go way, way back, and this is their best album in literally 25 years.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is maybe better than the Black Album.  What it lacks in catchy songs it more than makes up for with loads and loads of high-quality, thrash-centric riffs that will certainly bring a smile to any true Metallica fan’s face.  This is a very well-rounded album, and features the best production I’ve heard on a Metallica record since the 90s.   You can tell Metallica went to great lengths to deliver a high-quality product for their fans, and they succeeded with flying colors in that regard.  Granted, this album isn’t really in the league of their classic 80s material, but it at least can be put in the conversation as far as I’m concerned.  It’s far from perfect, and as is customary for Metallica albums, a little long-winded, but there’s really no filler to be found here.  Just a lot of good, hard-hitting songs that feature that certain swagger that only Metallica can rock.  All the more impressive considering the band’s age, etc.  A borderline great album from the masters of heavy-metal.

 

#1 – Emotional Mugger – Ty Segall

There’s always been a malevolent side to Ty Segall’s music, but on Emotional Mugger, he fully explores that idea and the results are delightfully twisted.  This album takes a derisive look at our modern day, hyper-digitized, instant-gratification loving society, and it doesn’t like what it sees.  Ty and his band (the Muggers) slither through the sleazy fuzz and hammer-away with dingy riffs, warped synths, arrhythmic beats, and feedback-laden noise, all delivered in a decidedly decadent and perverse style that adds up to a pretty compelling listening experience.  It’s unpleasant, yes, but that's the point. It’s rare these days for an artist to create such an unflinchingly contemptuous sound and pull it off in such an original and provocative fashion.  This is a wicked little album that has something to say, and it’s not pretty.  It’s a discreetly chaotic record, but as my boy Marilyn Manson (who somewhat comes to mind with this album) once said “when you create chaos, ideas are turned upside down, and everybody looks at things in a different way”.  In the world of music, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.  Whatever the case, the tone and originality of Emotional Mugger are compelling and powerful enough to make it my pick for album of year.

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