The Best Albums I’ve Heard (So Far) in 2016

Fantastic Negrito, The Last Days of Oakland
The most powerful album I’ve heard in along time. An epic concept album that takes in the economic divide, gentrification, racism, sexism, and virtually every other issue consuming the U.S. right now, and drives it home with an incredible stew of blues, funk, R&B, rock, and gospel.
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
From the mind-melting opener of “Burn the Witch” with its frantically sawed strings to the mournful “Daydreaming” to the rest of this mournful, moody and occasionally uplifting collection, this is just a superb work of musical art.
Heron Oblivion, Heron Oblivion
One of those bands whose name perfectly captures its sound, although I couldn’t tell you why: when you hear them you’ll get it. Haunting vocals interrupted by screaming guitar lines.
Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Continuing to breath new life into country music, turning the genre on its head, whether with philosophically rambling lyrics or a surprisingly moving cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”
Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial
Less than a year after 2015’s excellent “Teens of Style,” Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo) has topped himself with this churning, alt-rock masterpiece. Songs sprout and swing in all directions with juicy slabs of guitar noise, rolling bass lines, and his lo-fi slacker voice.
Ben Watt, Fever Dream
Watt was one half of the ‘80s/’90s duo Everything But The Girl – but this album sounds nothing like that. It’s a striking blend of jazz, folk, and rock anchored by solid songwriting and Watt’s subtly emotive voice.
Anna Meredith, Varmints
Experimental music can be taxing: it’s hard to be truly original these days without creating something that’s almost unlistenable. This album manages to be experimental and highly listenable, if only because there’s a sense of playfulness throughout.
Kyle Craft, Dolls of Highland
In the year in which we lost David Bowie, this album serves as a kind of tribute album to his ’70s glam period. There’s even a song called “Berlin” that wouldn’t be out of place on Ziggy Stardust.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway
I would have expected the Chili Peppers to flame out and/or disappear years ago, but they’ve stuck in there and are aging surprisingly well. This is an exceptionally well crafted collection of often soulful funk-rock.
Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
He’s alive! At this point, Iggy is up in Keith Richards territory for longevity in the face of bodily abuse. This album is a good reminder of how influential Pop has been across his long career and multiple musical genres. His voice has aged well, vamping along on top of a high series of glam and hard rock songs.
ANOHNI, Hopelessness
Driving by a yearning, pleading, and entirely lovely voice, this is a highly moving group of neo-soul torch songs. “4 Degrees” is a standout.
AURORA, All My Demons Greeting Me As Friends
Another Scandinavian wunderkind in the tradition of Lykke Li or Susanne Sundfør, Aurora Aksnes creates wintery electronic and poppy textures to support her curious and childlike voice.
Pinkshinyultrablast, Grandfeathered
A Russian shoegaze band? Check! And one that is more in the uplifting, orchestral space of, say, the Bresnard Lakes than the average morose early-1990s shoegaze band.
The Dandy Warhols, Distortland
More Brit-pop detachment and psychedelia from the Portland, Oregon quartet
Bob Mould, Patch the Sky
Angular, post-punk guitar pop
Big Thief, Masterpiece
The album title is overstating the case a bit, but this Brooklyn quartet’s debut is remarkably assured, riding on the back of guitarist and vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s strong songwriting and chewable melodies.
Misty Miller, The Whole Family Is Worried
Melodic, grunge with a decidedly feminist twist
The Nobility, Ashford Castle
Sunny indie-pop with sweet harmonies
Parquet Courts, Human Performance
Sharp, jagged, punk-pop with quirky instrumental choices (e.g., a flute solo) and occasional Beck-like chant vocals
Highasakite, Camp Echo
Isn’t it enough that they’ve already got the highest quality of life and happiness scores in the world? The Scandinavian countries are slowly taking over the world of indie pop and rock. Highasakite is the latest example of this, a Norwegian band producing synth pop with awesome hooks.
Esmé Patterson, We Were Wild
Playful rock ‘n’ roll and R&B, fun and tuneful
Kevin Morby, Singing Saw
Exceptionally thoughtful, moving and emotive singer-songwriter whose songs are often pushed along by simple piano figures


Leave a Reply