Now that 2016 is well and truly over, it’s time to take stock of the best albums of that endless slog of a year.
#100: Greys – Outer Heaven
A gloriously blown out pile of noise, akin to …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead before they lost the wordiness and the busted speakers.
#99: Classixx – Faraway Reach
Chrome-plated funk like it was meant to be played, all groove and white decor, clothing and furniture picked to match the drugs.
#98: Amber Arcades – Fading Lines
Sometimes I think that “hazy” is an overused adjective but in the case of Annelotte de Graaf it is absolutely warranted. These are the faded Polaroids of old summer memories, set to music. Did I ever mention she has a law degree and once worked as an assistant with the UN war crimes tribunal? She’s so cool.
#97: Minor Victories – Minor Victories
Rumbling goth-inspired rock that straddles a line between clean suburban days and squalid urban nights. Minor Victories sounds much of the time as though it comes from an alternate dimension where the Batcave gave birth to modern chillwave.
#96: Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger
2016 proved, at the very least, that the Boomers still had some creative force left in them. That Paul Simon’s best album since Graceland was merely one of them shows the strength of this. He still has that particular bouncing groove, the one that lends a sense of urgency to his marquee-light poetry.
#95: Sonny & The Sunsets – Moods Baby Moods
Contemporary New Wave with a seriously demented bent. Is “Dead Meat On The Beach” the weirdest track? “Well But Strangely Hung Man”? Either way, it’s a fractured fever dream set in the 1980s and populated with the bizarre.
#94: Dam-Funk – DJ Kicks
Electronic funk so party-ready you’ll find a drink in your hand two songs in. If it reminds you of listening to a party set over the radio, there’s a reason for that.
#93: Marissa Nadler – Strangers
Ghostly folk by a living siren, with better production values than before and a better sense of the space that Ms. Nadler’s voice can occupy. Also contains one of the (!) best Black Sabbath covers of the year.
#92: Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven
A swampy mix of T. Rex, CCR, and the Stones, an album out of time and yet completely in step with the contemporary garage scene. Perfect for the curmudgeonly skeptic of modern music on your list.
#91: Skepta – Konnichiwa
Once upon a time (2002? 2003?) they were holding grime parties in Kensington Market as a sort of cutting-edge hip hop night and Dizzee Rascal was winning the Mercury Prize with jacked Playstation beats. Now Skepta is winning the Mercury Prize with professionally thick production and having Pharrell and A$AP Nast guesting alongside old grime luminaries like Wiley and Novelist. 2016, everyone.
#90: Kyle Craft – Dolls Of Highland
Glam was always an English phenomenon at it’s heart, but in the year of Bowie’s death it’s heartwarming to see people taking up the torch (or the eyeliner, as it were) and transplanting it to their own personal experiences. Kyle Craft takes it to the American South and uses it to channel the heartbreak of the dissolution of an eight-year relationship, and it’s every bit as sneering and emotionally impactful as anything Bowie, Bolan, or the boys of Mott The Hoople ever came up with in the early 1970s.
#89: Susanna – Triangle
22 songs in just over an hour shows both an ability to be prolific and a wisdom that leans toward brevity. Also of note: soaring songcraft, highly textured production, and a voice like a more experimental Joni Mitchell.
#88: Moderat – III
German electro-pop that grew out of minimalist traditions and brought along a skeleton crew of jungle, glitch, and throbbing bass music. Ambient, to be sure, but also fully-formed and ready to chart an interior soundtrack.
#87: Teen Suicide – It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot
A sprawling collection of lo-fi garage pop – 26 songs of ambient, stoned ramblings, like as though Robert Pollard broke out of the British Invasion or Pavement lost the literary pretensions and recorded in a storage room.
#86: White Denim – Stiff
The album with a clear lead for “worst album cover of 2016” is also a soulful, groovy little rock ‘n’ roll album from a band that has forged an identity around delivering exactly that kind of good time.
#85: The Body + Full Of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
The best summation of this collaboration between The Body and Full Of Hell is that it’s a bunch of P U R E F U C K I N G N O I S E.
#84: Young Thug – I’m Up
Thugger is most of what curmudgeonly old heads and rockists hate about modern hip hop – the sing-song flows, the off-the-wall style, the break away from menacing beats that nod your head for you. There’s something simultaneously bone-headed and intellectually esoteric about the music present on I’m Up, a hard-to-nail-down quality that marks Young Thug out as an artist, rather than just another rapper.
#83: Underworld – Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future
A surprise, in that twenty years after Second Toughest In The Infants and “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” there is still pounding electronic music that still drives you like you’re in a sketchy dimly lit warehouse chasing glowing lights and little pills and friendly people with neon hair.
#82: Junior Boys – Big Black Coat
The Hamilton, Ontario electronic duo’s big black coat is, like so many n’er-do-well Canadian kids have found over the years, perfect for jacking things and smuggling them out. This particular Big Black Coat contains a wide array of pilfered items: 70’s-era disco-soul, early German electronica, the ghost of Detroit Techno, microhouse, and late-80’s machine-funk. The real secret behind the duo’s strength is that it’s all blended in the smoothest fashion possible, giving you the funkiest milkshake you’ve ever had.
#81: Shearwater – Jet Plane And Oxbow
Eclectic, bombastic, and possessed of a fully modern vitality, Shearwater claims the best parts of pop music from the last three decades to make something akin to U2, but without all the pretentiousness.