2016: the year that fake news, an election from hell, and a steady parade of celebrity deaths finally killed our collective attention span. These following twelve albums might not fit the “best of” mold, but they’re certainly worthy of your undivided attention.
1. Beach Slang ‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings‘
The angst James Alex captures here mirrors what many of us felt this year. May this album help us all get back in touch with our inner, sneering teenager and channel some of that raucous energy into something good in the coming year.
2. A Tribe Called Quest ‘We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service‘
ATCQ holds a mirror up to America, showing what it means to be a person of color today in an impactful and authentic way. And the story behind it is as real as the album itself.
3. Local Natives ‘Sunlit Youth‘
The California quintet can simply do no wrong. Three records in, their songwriting and harmonies are fast approaching Brian Wilson/Beach Boys territory.
4. Bear’s Den ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain‘
You hear “British folk rock from London” and immediately think “Mumford & Sons,” right? Don’t. These guys are more Bruce Hornsby, and I mean that in the best possible way. Synth-driven folk pulsing through an album rock vein.
5. RY X ‘Dawn‘
If you listened to the Bon Iver album released this year and thought: “Man, I wish this Bon Iver album sounded more like the first two Bon Iver albums,” then this is for you. RY X takes Justin Vernon’s foundation and builds a most beautiful, haunted mansion.
6. DJ Shadow ‘The Mountain Will Fall‘
Fitting that in the same year Josh Davis marks the 20-year anniversary of his debut masterpiece ‘Endtroducing…..’ he would release an album on par with that excellence and energy.
7. Wye Oak ‘Tween‘
First few listens earlier this year: “Yeah, this is good. Standard Wye Oak fare.” Revisiting while making this list: “Wow, this was the seventh best record to come out last year.”
8. American Football ‘American Football‘
Emo Band’s Only Album Achieves Legendary Status, Band Waits Sixteen Years To Release Follow-up And It’s Really Fucking Good
9. Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop ‘Love Letter For Fire‘
Sam Beam always seems to turn in his best work when he has someone to play off of, and that’s what’s happening here: good songs become great as Sam and Jesca dance around them.
10. Face To Face ‘Protection‘
Twenty-five years on, these SoCal punks released an album that was better than the albums released by two of their more popular contemporaries this year (looking at you, NOFX and Descendents).
11. Day Wave ‘Headcase/Hard To Read‘
Jackson Phillips has mastered the art of bedroom pop, crafting songs that straddle both genres and decades. This “album” combines two of his best EPs to date.
12. Bob Mould ‘Patch The Sky‘
If you have anyone in your social/musical circles that says things like “There are no more good rock bands/records, etc.” just give them a copy of this and watch them shut the hell up.