It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride for 2016. Although there have been many (a few too many) downfalls this year in a variety of ways, and loss was high this year, there was still a lot to be thankful for and excited about from the past twelve months. The music world gained quite a collection of fantastic albums this year – hip-hop, electronic, rock, folk, and more have taken over this year’s Top 50 list and are cozying up to being some of my favourite albums of all-time.
But with every “Best of the Year” collection, there is also room for disappointment, controversy, and subjectivity. So don’t be surprised if you can’t seem to find The Queen B, Diary of a Sad Rich Raptors’ Ambassador, or the ex-girlfriend of a Sad, Rich Raptors’ Ambassador on this year’s list – just because you have millions of dollars invested in a record, doesn’t mean it’s a great one (especially if the lead single is the same word 79 times).
Fortunately there are 50 other albums that fit the criteria for the best of 2016 in better ways. I like to believe the best albums are those you can replay, enjoy, and proudly share with people day after day, year after year; ones that are a stamp in time, and when people revisit the music of the era, they’ll look back to most of these albums. Plus, it also helps if I’ve listened to the albums countless times because they are just too much damn fun to pass up.
Indie bands, underground bands, and major label artists are scattered throughout these picks, so some you will know and I hope others you won’t so you’ll discover some great music you might have skipped this year.
What are some of your favourites this year? Leave you comments below or on our social media pages to see if they match up or if I left out your favourite. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong.
Either way, sit back, relax, and enjoy my favourite albums of 2016…
50. Phantogram – THREE
Release date: October 7, 2016
In a genre best known for its heavy focus on the highs and lows of sound, Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel are a perfect match; Carter finds the right punches and backbeats in the bass lines and Barthel’s glowing vocals take the higher ground. And as for the middle? That’s where the poles meet, generating the anthemic alt-pop energy which gives Three it’s sturdiness and appeal. Jumping between gloomy dark-pop, electrifying dance floor hits, and moody ballads, the tracklist hits a few different angles of trip-hop, extracting varying emotions and degrees of intensity derived from clever samples and driving bass lines.
Favourite track: “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”
49. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Release date: May 13, 2016
Radiohead are undeniably a monumental name in alternative rock music. Stylistic trendsetters, this group of British rock stars have had a lengthly success in their career. With their most recent record A Moon Shaped Pool, frontman Thom Yorke is in a more pensive, experimental place, with lush qualities and hypnotic, sedative vocals overtop carefully crafted instrumentation and sonic manipulation. 2016 has had its share of electronically-twisting releases, and A Moon Shaped Pool adds to the list. As a record that requires your full attention, it can be a lot to take in at times, but nevertheless a strong release from Radiohead.
Favourite track: “Burn the Witch”
48. Future of the Left – The Peace and Truce Of Future of The Left
Release date: April 8, 2016
The Welsh post-hardcore/alternative post-punk band lead by lyricists and frontman Andrew Falkous have this weird, dark sense of humour that is unruly and cynical, but oh so much fun. From opener “If AT&T Drank Tea They Would BP Do” to finale “No Son Will Ease Their Solitude”, Falkous’ humour and confusing outlook of life makes for an entertaining half hour. Complete with odd narratives of weird reincarnation, giving your privileged daughter the boot, and mental breakdowns, the progressive structure of the aggressive arrangements met with quasi-spoken word singing gives it a one-punch gusto that hits hard and laughs in your face.
Favourite Track: “50 Days Before the Hun”
47. The Weeknd – Starboy
Release date: November 25, 2016
As one of the more highly anticipated releases of the year, Canadian nu-R&B artist The Weeknd’s latest record Starboy was certainly one for the books. Circling back to his cool-crooner style overtop slick production, most of the record stayed true to his original sound while still pushing boundaries and expectations on a handful of worthy tracks – most notably his collaboration with French electronic icons Daft Punk. Not to mention producing one of the year’s best music videos for “False Alarm”. Although it was a fairly lengthly record, which proved to be a slight fault, Starboy certainly had its moments helping it find its way into the Top 50.
Favourite track: “I Feel It Coming”
46. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Release date: April 29, 2016
Before you dive into Melbourne, Australia 7-piece King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard‘s eighth studio album Nonagon Infinity (I wish it was their ninth for terminology sake), you should be warned it can last forever (and thankfully more complex than Lamb Chop’s sing-along “The Song That Never Ends”).
Yes, they were not joking about the “infinity” part of the title. Each of the tracks seamlessly transition into the next, and the final track blends perfectly into the first to ignite an infinite loop of 47-minute cycles of colossal sized psychedelic alternative rock. Even my press copy was given to me in a single file, with no track listing – just the album as a whole. Elements of art-rock, psychedelic, and a thick coat of experimental creativity are sprinkled throughout the riff-driven album, making Nonagon Infinity a messy, colourful canvas covered in the paint flung around sporadically from flailing instruments and hammering percussion.
Favourite track: “Gamma Knife”
45. Animals As Leaders – The Madness of Many
Release date: November 11, 2016
Instrumental progressive-metal trio Animals As Leaders make math fun. Blending together metal, jazz, and math rock into a seamless medley of melody and rhythm, their latest release The Madness of Many takes shape from a variety of directions. Lead by crunching bass solos, clockwork percussion, and perfectly synced guitar melodies, the band have an impeccable degree of musicianship that puts jaw-dropping talent and digestible and graspable songwriting in the same quarters.
Favourite track: “Transcentience”
44. Plants & Animals – Waltzed in From the Rumbling
Release date: April 29, 2016
With their fourth album Waltzed in From the Rumbling, one commonality that has stayed true throughout their discography: the band’s rich, melancholic style. Their songs are often layered and detailed, with explosive conclusions and lush melodies, made dense through layers of guitars and steady percussion. Waltzed In is no different; the majority of the album plays out with passion and pensive detailing, as the record sits comfortably in the listener’s mind, with subtle complexity that only adds to the appeal.
Favourite track: “Je Voulais Te Dire”
43. Paper Lions – Full Colour
Release date: September 16, 2016
Charlottetown, PEI indie pop band Paper Lions have been in the industry for a decade or so now, charming fans with their glowing, infectious blend of folk and pop, packaged in homegrown storytelling and songwriting. Their latest record Full Colour brought of the band’s vibrance and energy in a new way, moving just slightly away from their folk roots and into the lively world of pop.
You can almost picture the buzzing energy of their live shows coming to life on the record.
Favourite track: “Believer”
42. Yak – Alas Salvation
Release date: May 13, 2016
The debut album Alas Salvation from London alternative rock trio Yak is all over the place. One moment the band reminds me of Oasis, the next The White Stripes, and later on, Foals-meets-Portugal. The Man-meets-The Black Keys. So when I say “alternative”, I use the word generically. There’s punk, post-punk, progressive, experimental, garage, and lo-fi blended together across the track list, like a game of Russian Roulette.
Favourite track: “Victorious (National Anthem)”
41. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
Release date: August 12, 2016
Although the band has gone through numerous line up changes, Jon Dwyer and his experimental garage rock approach remain at the centre of Thee Oh Sees and their eleventh album A Weird Exits. And weird it is, as the 8-track record refuses to take any clear shape, but none the less is explosive and dynamic, launching itself to some undisclosed finish line in just under 40 minutes. It’s quick, electrifying, and downright wild. High-flying guitars, hyper-stimulated percussion, mixed together with Dwyer’s pseudo-growls vocals on the occasional track creates a sensation like a kaleidoscopic fall through the eye of a tornado. Never straying too far from the sonically-charged psychedelic rock of the ’60s and ’70s, A Weird Exits exists off the bread and butter of energetic jam sessions, recording most of the album in as few takes as possible live off the floor. The result is a beautifully chaotic and exhilarating experience from start to finish.
Favourite track: “Ticklish Warrior”