Every year I create a list of my favorite albums and this year I almost made a separate list of singles because there’s so much I want to share! My Spotify playlists are broken up by year and you can listen to all the tracks I’ve saved from 2016 on a playlist called: 2016. This was the first year I didn’t check out random albums based solely on them being new albums; I relied on word of mouth and the intuitiveness of Spotify’s “Discover” section. The albums are listed in descending order because I personally hate scrolling to the end of a list to see what ranked #1.
1. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever
Let me be clear, this album will not have universal appeal. I think people who generally trust my recommendations will not necessarily enjoy this album, so let me reiterate that this is a list of my favorite albums of the year. That said, there are many reasons to like this album – it’s so high on my list because I feel that high school Clint, college Clint, and post-college Clint could all agree on listening to this album. It sounds like Ben Kweller decided to make Radish sound like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. I like the long, travelling tracks. I love the quick hits; “Soaked In Sleep” is in high rotation because I can’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, the band has already broken up. I read a review of the album that said it was too sprawling, but I think of it as a complete artifact of a band.
2. Wild Nothing – Life of Pause
The album cover features a room conceived to “house” the album. The artist has a clear concept for this album and though several tracks stand out, it’s clear this is a work the listener is supposed to “live with” or “visit” for some duration. Under “related artists” on Spotify, I agree with: Deerhunter, Twin Shadow, and Real Estate.
3. Jim James – Eternally Even
Jim James really found his footing with Eternally Even. James’s previous album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, opened strong with two wonderful tracks [State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.), and Know Til Now] so that same feat on Eternally Even wasn’t a surprise — the real surprise is that the album continues with the same level of quality only (arguably) dropping in the last two tracks. If you give this one a listen, don’t jump around; go straight through.
4. Anderson Paak – Malibu
I would love to put this album higher — several singles off this album have real staying power and will still groove a decade from now — but I think it ran too long. Joey Bada$$ made the same mistake last year with B4.DA.$$. He didn’t want to trim the fat. In the case of Malibu, I wouldn’t say Paak needed to “trim the fat” as much as “release the directors cut later.” The live track I linked below is from his Ellen Show performance where they censored the language, but when he jumps on the drums it really livens up the performance — the best I’ve seen of this song.
5. Bad Suns – Disappear Here
Every year I find new albums in last few weeks when I’m sitting down to make my top album list. Disappear Here is one of them. It’s hard for me speak much on an album I haven’t had as much time with, but so many tracks stuck with me in such a short time. I was listening to new music over Thanksgiving and “Maybe We’re Meant To Be Alone” got stuck in my wife’s head upon first listen.
6. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
On first listen, Modern Baseball is a more accessible Front Bottoms. Wedding Singer psyches me out whenever it pops up in my playlist because I expect it to be Funny You Should Ask. That said, I think Modern Baseball’s lyrics are less cryptic and just as poetic. The only thing that might hold you back from getting into them is if you can’t listen to Emo music. In a short documentary about the album, both songwriters were clear that the music came from dealing with death and depression. Still manages to be pretty upbeat, though!
7. Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light
Back in September or August I was tasked with learning the words and melody to a new song that would lift my mood. I reached out to my Facebook friends for new songs and my friend Daniel (who makes his own year end list) sent me a playlist that included “Absolutely,” by Ra Ra Riot. And verily, it is cheery — in fact, even though several songs aren’t necessarily positive (e.g. “Bad Times,” “Instant Breakup”) the whole album is really cheery on the whole.
8. Santigold – 99 Cents
According to Spotify, “Chasing Shadows” is the top hit from this album. To my ears, the album doesn’t really start until that track (Exception: the first track “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” sets the stage for the album). Tracks 5-9 are solid hits, and the album ends without quashing that high. This album was quite a surprise for me — while Santigold’s 2008 self-titled album was a phenomenal debut that hooked me immediately, her sophomore release Master of My Make-Believe was almost wholly lackluster (the exception is “Disparate Youth” which is the best track she’s ever recorded).
9. Warpaint – Heads Up
I like this album, but the single that’s been getting play, “New Song” isn’t the cream of the crop. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out if there’s some common thread between albums where I feel this way. Last year I picked Toro Y Moi’s What For? as my top choice, but the track that got the most play, “Empty Nesters” was probably the weakest on the album. Why aren’t “By Your Side” and “Dre” getting play? Why can’t I find a decent video of the band performing either to link to?
10. Allah-Las – Calico Review
Reminds me of Velvet Underground and the Eels. Really, this album’s placement is a complete surprise to me. I don’t get any of the tracks stuck in my head, but I also don’t reach out to skip any tracks. Just a solid offering that I don’t understand why I like.
11. Autolux – Pussy’s Dead
I don’t know the meaning behind the vulgar title. I think a more apt title would’ve been “Songs to Cry and Die To.” Several of the albums above hide sadness and pain in upbeat pop. This album embraces it. Unlike previous Autolux albums, this one finds cohesion. If you liked Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, but wish they sounded more like Joy Division, then this album is for you.
12. Deftones – Gore
It was going to be damn hard to follow-up Koi No Yokan, and Gore certainly suffers because of that. However, to my ears, The Deftones have yet to release a bad album. They have yet to release even a mediocre album. I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed when Gore was first released, but it has some real staying power. And of course keeping in line with falling in love withe the wrong tracks, I’ve reviewed three live concerts on youtube and still can’t find a live version of “Xenon,” “Hearts/Wires,” or “Phantom Bride.”