Suffice to say that this inaugural year of Albumism’s existence has been a blast, and we’re so grateful for all of our fellow music obsessives who have joined and enriched our global community of album lovers. So first and foremost, THANK YOU!
We’re also thankful for all of the amazing new music that has surfaced over the past eleven months, the highlights of which we’ve compiled here in our year-end review of 2016’s best albums. Now we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but this list—as with most “best of” lists, mind you—inevitably reflects our team’s biased perspectives and critical dispositions, so it’s absolutely and unabashedly a subjective assessment. Hence why we would love to know what YOU consider the best albums of the year to be, whether they appear on this list or not.
And without further ado, here they are in all of their aural glory…Albumism’s 30 Best Albums of 2016.
#20 | BRITTA PHILLIPS | Luck or Magic
Our Two Cents: Luck or Magic makes a damn fine first impression, and it’s the kind of album destined to reveal new treasures and reveries galore upon repeated listens. Contrary to the album’s title, the excellence of Phillips’ debut derives neither from luck nor magic, but rather from her proven penchant for crafting songs that are nothing short of sublime.
#19 | FANTASTIC NEGRITO | The Last Days of Oakland
Our Two Cents: Introspective, aggressive, and downright inspiring, The Last Days of Oakland is one engrossing statement—an enthralling piece of work that could only derive from its bruised, yet redemptive hero. Perhaps Negrito has established his resolutions while confessing the inner-workings of his own struggle, however, there is one key element of why this is a stunning achievement—it all derives from Negrito’s own authenticity. This is not watered-down, substance-free music tailor-made for easy consumption. This is warrior music that demands your full attention. While the musical approach may not be completely original and varied, its powerful dialect communicates directly and convincingly to the People and our desolate times. It’s the glory of the Blues after all, and we’re all the better for it.
#18 | ROSIE LOWE | Control
Our Two Cents: In our 2016 new music preview in January, we wrote that Control is “unequivocally the debut album we’re looking forward to the most this year.” Much to our delight, Control not only lives up to our expectations, it transcends them. It’s truly a divine album and surely a harbinger of many more wonderful things to come from the supremely talented, undeniably charming Rosie Lowe.
#17 | HONEYBLOOD | Babes Never Die
Our Two Cents: A noticeably more confident record with a more palpable sense of immediacy and purpose than their debut, Babes Never Die contains echoes of ‘90s indie/alt-rock vets (think Belly, Breeders, Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt) and shoegaze icons (My Bloody Valentine, Lush). However, despite these more obvious musical reference points, Tweeddale and Myers’ songs unfurl in refreshing and original ways, never sounding derivative or dated in the least. “People think little girls are precious, like they need to be looked after,” Tweeddale recently explained to The Guardian. “We wanted to turn that on its head. Girls fending for themselves, with superhuman strength.” And in the case of Babes Never Die, superhuman songs in abundance.
#16 | BAT FOR LASHES | The Bride
Our Two Cents: The follow-up to 2012’s The Haunted Man, The Bride is a sonically inventive, lyrically poignant concept album centered around the tragic yet redemptive narrative of a bride whose fiancé unexpectedly dies on their wedding day. Moreover, The Bride is unequivocal evidence that four albums in to her ten-year recording career, Bat for Lashes is curating a remarkably strong discography indeed, one that continues to evolve in thrilling ways.
#15 | DE LA SOUL | and the Anonymous Nobody…
Our Two Cents: and the Anonymous Nobody… doesn’t sound like any other De La album, but it is an unmistakably De La album in every way possible. It’s unmistakably different from much of what’s on the market, but embodies the depth and maturity in spirit that De La fans are accustomed to. And for the many “investors” that contributed money to ensure that this album was completed, De La demonstrates that their money was well spent.
#14 | SOLANGE | A Seat at the Table
Our Two Cents: One thing is undoubtedly clear about this album: whether it is the resistance to passive micro-aggressions of “Don’t Touch My Hair,” the loss and regret of “Where Do We Go,” or the gently bristling defiance of “F.U.B.U.,” Solange’s humanity and intelligence shine through, a lighthouse in a sea of 21st Century despair. This is bold, beautiful and vital soul music from an artist hitting her stride perfectly.
#13 | A TRIBE CALLED QUEST | We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
Our Two Cents: We Got It From Here… sounds like the album that Tribe would have made in 2016, even if they had never stopped making music together. It has the distinctive vibe of their previous works, and the beats feel like a logical progression of the group’s sound over nearly two decades. Q-Tip, Phife, and Jarobi share the same magnetic rhyming chemistry, and in many cases, have grown as emcees. We Got It From Here… is likely their best album since Midnight Marauders and in the upper echelon of albums released in 2016. An album that is fearful for the state of the world, yet confident that the people will find a way to conquer the obstacles that stand before them. And, most of all, they created an album that honors their enduring legacy as hip-hop legends. Any group that hasn’t recorded music together in nearly two decades should be so lucky.
#12 | LISSIE | My Wild West
Our Two Cents: In light of Lissie’s previous work and upon listening to My Wild West over the past few days (on repeat, mind you), we remain baffled as to why she has not morphed into a global superstar. She certainly possesses all the makings of one, with amazing songs to boot. But then upon more focused reflection, My Wild West reminds us that perhaps Lissie doesn’t even covet such rarified status, preferring instead to create songs for the listeners who will discover true meaning, redemption, and solace deep within them. A noble calling, and one that Lissie continues to embody with dignity and passion in no short supply.
#11 | MAXWELL | blackSUMMERS’night
Our Two Cents: The beauty of blackSUMMERS’night rests on the fact that Maxwell continues to pursue progressive territory, without missing a beat. In the third decade of his career, he remains indebted to the pursuits of romance, soaking up the full depth of its varying attributes. Instead of relying on the traditional musical flourishes of its predecessor, SUMMERS’ finds Maxwell crafting music from an impressively explorative space, making it his most musically expansive and invigorating album since 1998’s Embrya. Every composition has its own respective canvas with broad strokes and intricate detail, largely because of the passionate instrumentation and pacing of the music. It’s what suits the narratives of love that Maxwell conveys.