Best Albums of 2016: #50-26

#50: Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers
Impeccably written and arranged gospel/soul
#49: Bleached, Welcome the Worms
Imagine The Go-Gos with guts, more punk sensibility and a sense of noise, and you’ll get a sense of what this band sounds like. Start with the opening track, “Keep on Keeping’ On” for a sample.
#48: Dinosaur Jr., Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
J Mascis and crew still crank out some of the truly grungiest guitar music around. His guitar sound is instantly recognizable as is his reedy off-kilter voice.
#47: Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pretty Years
Cymbals Eat Guitars produces dramatic indie pop that covers a range of sonic territory and styles, pulled together by Joseph D’Agostino’s slightly strangled voice and the occasional absolute ripping guitar noise.
#46: DΔWN, Redemption
One of a number of powerful musicial statements from female artists (particularly African-American artists) this year. Heavily electronic R&B with great grooves and terrific songwriting.
#45: Angel Olsen, My Woman
Great Asheville-based singer-songwriter with crunchy hooky country-blues full of yearning and melancholy
#44: Whitney, Light Upon the Lake
Low-key well-crafted ’60s-flavored pop and soul anchored in Julien Ehlrich’s expressive high-pitched voice and careful instrumentation.
#43: Kishi Bashi, Sonderlust
Sunny, fun upbeat electronic pop with hooks that are impossible to ignore unless you’re dead, and even then…
#42: School of Seven Bells, SVIIB
Recorded by Alejandra Deheza using parts recorded by former member Benjamin Curtis (who died in 2013), this is moving tribute, sad and yet uplifting – and proof that electronic music can have heart. Just listen to “Open Your Eyes.”
#41: The Thermals, We Disappear
Punky well crafted rock, short and sweet songs with nicely political lyrics
#40: Martha, Blisters in the Pit of My Heart
I’m not surprised this album ended up right next to The Thermals as it’s the same kind of high speed, punk-flavored melodic rock.
#39: Savages, Adore Life
A step up from their debut album (which didn’t quite make the cut in my 2013 albums list), this is an intense urgent effort, a worthy post-punk offering of chugging basslines and dark guitar.
#38: Sad13, Slugger
This is nothing like the guitar shreadding of Speedy Ortiz (for which Sadie Dupuis, aka Sad13, is known), this is a collection of cheeky synth-pop, including the anti-date rape “Get a Yes” and the extremely rude “Hype.”
#37: Kyle Craft, Dolls of Highland
In this year in which David Bowie died, this serves as a kind of tribute album to his ’70s glam period. There’s even a song called “Berlin” that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on Ziggy Stardust.
#36: Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
A Nashville-based, Illinois-born singer-songwriter very much in the Emmy Lou Harris/Dolly Parton tradition, Margo Price’s songs are positioned clearly in the “he done me wrong” and “I’m hurtin'” school. Fairly traditional country sound without the overblown and overly slick production of mainstream country.
#35: The Mowgli’s, Where’d Your Weekend Go?
Tuneful melodic pop-rock, not surprising for a band from that home of bright pop, Los Angeles County.
#34: Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen was a terrific songwriter but his gravelly almost spoken-word voice made it hard to get behind his own albums: he tended to be an artist whose best work was covered by othersy. This, his last album before his death, plays to his limited voice with great success based on soul and R&B flavored backing tracks.
#33: Misty Miller, The Whole Family Is Worried
Misty Miller is like a tighter, slicker Courtney Barnett. This is a great punk-pop album with terrific hooks and the occasional slow moment, highlighted by Miller’s yearning, pleading voice.
#32: The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It
This group could be called 1985 with its ’80s-inspired synth-pop, although the vocal approach and melodies definitely place the album in current times.
#31: Esme Patterson, We Were Wild
A wide-ranging collection of styles that somehow hangs together around her charming voice. The opening track is a kick-ass piece of acoustic rock with a Pretenders feel. “We Were Wild” is a slice of country-rock. There’s soul, rock, and R&B ixed in there, too.
#30: John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, Until the Horror Goes
John Congleton is known more for his higly in-demand production skills. He unlooses his quirky voice on this collection of equally quirky songs. Take something like “The White Powerless” which is a fairly straightforward piece of ’60s soul that’s turned into something quite different and almost threatening with buzzing electronics and treated vocals. And those lyrics: “I love you like a lion loves its food.”
#29: Devandra Banhart, Ape In Pink Marble
I’ve had trouble getting into Devendra Banhart in the past. It just seemed like he was trying too hard to be weird and this didn’t always produce the best music. But this balances melodicism with quirky instrumentation and the occasional musical u-turn. Recalls Nick Drake, Laurel Canyon folk, but also includes slinky almost dance numbers like “Fig in Leather.”
#28: ANOHNI, Hopelessness
A powerful set of neo-soul, torch songs featuring her incredible voice. The most emotional and moving album of the year. If you don’t feel something listening to this, you may need a heart transplant.
#27: Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
One of three artists on this year’s list that also land on my “I can’t believe they’re still alive” list (the other two being the Chili Peppers and Green Day). This is a surprisingly melodic outing with a kind of David Bowie feel via electronics, distorted bass lines, and industrial rock.
#26: The Julie Ruin, Hit Reset
Quirky and almost amateurish but with enough skill to pull it together into something coherent and quite charming.


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