best albums of 2016
So here we are, doing another list and my first observation is that I HATE when every publication does their list in November, HEY, we still have a whole other month of something wonderful to be added? I believe that "end of year" lists should be released in late December or early January. (Just my personal opinion).
But in saying that, there were a few records that stood out earlier this year that just kept it's place and nothing else could top them. But you still need room for others to shine. Sadly, with my illnesses and broken foot dealing with the last six months, my music research has lowered more than usual, however, I still know what's good and what stands out. Even though I missed seeing a lot of live shows this year, I can still slightly dance around my house with my cast and that's what I had to do. C'est la vie.
We had albums that came beyond the grave from David Bowie's Blackstar and Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker. But I was so happy to see that this year was dominated by women and women of all races. I think the last time that happened was the 90's bubblegum pop generation. This far surpasses that. We have albums that includes videos (hey remember those?) but on a new level of visual art that was experimental and worked beautifully. So yes, my list includes mostly women and it's not because I'm a feminist but because they deserve to be there.
10. Kacey Musgraves, ‘A Very Kacey Christmas'
Ok, I know what you're thinking. "Christy, why on earth are you including a Christmas album in your top ten?" Well, have you listened to it? Then shut it. I had this on repeat all season and it made me happy and also sad. I have always loved Kacey and her style and I was so happy to know she came out with her own version of a Christmas album. From singing with Willie Nelson and Leon Bridges, she alone also touches me by "Christmas Makes Me Cry" because my mother and I have mixed feelings about Christmas some years, this was one of those years and this song was me, singing every word (just not as good as Kacey). THEN she comes out with what I believe is the new classic Christmas song with "Ribbons and Bows" that just makes you tingle inside and wants to dance in your kitchen with your best friend knowing every word. This will be a regular rotation every Christmas, so that makes it worthy of being in my top ten of the year.
9. Angel Olsen, ‘My Woman'
When I first heard Angel Olsen's album, I was brought back to the feminist 90's folk-grunge from Alanis Morissette, but with a touch of the Indigo Girls. Her writing is great as she is struggling but she slides through the girl ballad of "Never Be Mine," to the rocking of "Not Gonna Kill You" and the amazing Mazzy Star style balladish of "Heart Shaped Face." It's something that felt familiar yet fresh. She will be making her debut at Saturn on February 3rd, I won't miss it.
8. Maren Morris, 'Hero'
First, I am one of those people that HATE pop-country. Well, I'm about to eat those words thanks to Maren Morris. She's not country but she's not pop, she's her own thing and does what she wants and says what she wants. She's kind of the doppelganger to Kacey Musgraves but in a more edgy, tight leather jacket style. She's got that Top 40 with "80s Mercedes" along with "My Church" then the sexy "Sugar", this was also on repeat since it came out and since this is her debut album, I can't wait to see what she does next.
7. Lucius, ‘Good Grief'
I've been a long time fan of the amazing talents of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Along with Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri, the form a wonderful group focused on Jess and Holly's spiritual sound and shadowing style of their own that's just beautiful. When their debut album, Wildewoman, came out and toured, I saw them perform at Workplay and it was a live show that was beyond words. They provide for 90 minutes a spiritual experience. The same comes with their second album, Good Grief, where I saw them perform at Saturn and even though I don't have many to go by this year, but it was my top concert of the year. I stayed in the front and knew every word. There's not many nights that you can just let go and sing along so loud with feeling. Lucius provides that out of body experience and for those moments, you don't care about anything, you're free of worry, anxiety, stress, anything bothering you. I suggest you listen to Lucius and see a live show, actually it's not a suggestion, it's an order.
6. Lady Gaga, 'Joanne'
My heart will always have a spot to be a little monster for Lady Gaga and I would stand by her creative flow forever. This new album is not your "typical" Lady Gaga album and that's amazing. She directed toward a new direction that worked and out came some beautiful writing with "Million Reasons" and "Joanne", her aunt who died young that she never knew. People say that what makes large artists last for so long, for example, Madonna, you have to evolve and this is what Lady Gaga has done. It's all apart of the creative process and what comes out in this record, it's not perfect, but it has it's moments and I fully support her new raw country style versus the octopus creature on her last ArtPOP tour. I would love to have a Bud Light in a Nashville bar with her anytime.
5. Bon Iver, ’22, A Million'
So yay, our first MALE artist. If you're expecting, "For Emma, Forever Ago", you'll be disappointed. However, as with talking about how artists evolve and change through their creative process, here is Justin doing the same thing. Something experimental that when I first listened to it, when it was over, I thought to myself, "wow, I don't know what I just listened to, but I love it." Also, I'll admit, I don't think any of know his strange naming of his songs, but whatever, he's always been amazing and can do whatever the fuck he wants. For a lot of us, "For Emma" got us through some hard times, some hard breakups that made you listen to that album over and over. This is another, not so depressing, but a different side to Justin that I enjoy and always look forward to what he does next.
4. Childish Gambino, 'Awaken, My Love'
Alright, I know I'm not the only gal to have had a crush on Donald Glover since Community, then Magic Mike XL, then Atlanta and now this sexy fire of an album. I'll just say it makes me happy (along with him preparing for his role in Star Wars). This album is a well executed project and to me, a listening art piece. He knows his musical history going back to Sly and the Family Stone, Rick James and Prince and more. Again, this is not a perfect album, but I applaud his effort and again, I'm so happy there are artists out there taking chances on new material instead of putting out the same thing. I think Donald is still figuring out "Who is Childish Gambino?" and I'll be here waiting to see what that is.
3. Solange, 'A Seat at the Table'
What do you do when your sister makes a historical album not only musically, but visually as well? You put out your best shit. Solange knows who she is and she's not afraid to put it out there regardless if Beyoncé is related to you. From start to finish this album is smooth like butter. It's not Beyoncé's powerful anthems, but Solange does it her own way that separates herself from such an icon. She wins. You can't even compare the albums because they are so different. This is on the same track as Erykah Badu or other slow build R&B ladies out there. I also applaud her for releasing this the same year because that was brave, but she took the chance and it worked. I'm happy to see this on other top lists this year.
2. Frank Ocean, 'blond'
When this was finally released, it was like a breath of fresh air. This album is meant to be listened to from start to finish. Frank Ocean is not a rapper. But here in 'blond', he teases us with it and I love the mix of his voice with the smooth rap. 'Godspeed' along with 'Facebook Story' are just examples of how this is not just songs after songs, but a journey through growing up. Obviously, he has grown up in the last four years and this album was worth the wait.
1. Beyoncé, 'Lemonade'
So the storm came and thunder with strong winds came and it was called Beyoncé. She basically shut everyone else down this year with this on fire masterpiece about love, rage, betrayal that expressed our own America this year of 2016. She was America's voice. NO DOUBT this is the album of the year hands down that feels larger than life but it's also intimate and heartbreaking at times. I remember when Lemonade dropped on a Saturday night surprise from HBO and it was a feeling of excitement that I hadn't felt about a music video since I was a kid or young teen watching MTV. What's also amazing is she takes us on a history lesson with her style going to country ("Daddy Lessons") to blues with Jack White in "Don't Hurt Yourself" to a Vegas show song with "Hold Up" to the of course hip-hop smashing (literally) in "Sorry." I listened to this after the election and listened to "All Night" and "Sandcastles" to try to understand everything happening. She was hurt and she put all her feelings in this album and it's times like that when artists make their best work. She built this life with Jay Z, felt safe all these years since she was so young when they were together and then realizes some of it was built on lies. Who knows if it was about their relationship, it's a moot point, because we all felt it.
But as with her magical power, Lemonade was also a sign of hope with everything in her life and in our own lives gone to shit that there is always hope.
Ashes to Ashes. Dust to sidechicks. Don't fuck with Bey.
Other albums that deserve recognition this year:
A Tribe Called Quest-‘We Got It From Here..Thank You 4 Your Service’
Drive by Truckers, 'American Band'
Amanda Shires, 'My Piece of Land'
Stranger Things Vol 1 & 2
Margo Price, ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’
The 1975, ‘I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet so Unaware of It’
Bruno Mars, ‘24K Magic’
Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book
and oh yeah, Radiohead and Kanye made a new album? Meh.
I’m a girl that likes the pork, eggs, homemade soups..vintage books and children’s books, artists who love what they do, writers/bloggers who inspire me, and good food and music with fabulous people to share it with.