20. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Release date: December 2, 2016
Awaken, My Love! is an experimentation from Donald Glover as he explores the ’70s, and their legacy of funk and psychedelic music. And for many Gambino fans, it is an extremely polarizing release. Some find it bland and disorientating, others creative and progressive. I personally find it refreshing, especially since there has been this sudden surge in the last few years of rebranding of ’70s and ’80s funk, and Glover does his part to do something different.
With enough wah-wah effects to go around, and glistening nostalgia of the early days of funk and soul, Awaken, My Love! sounds like a record you’d find in your parents’ dusty vinyl collection, but somehow from the future. Glover not only stepped out of his comfort zone and created a record he wanted to create, but did a fine, good job at it.
Favourite track: “Me and Your Mama”
19. Injury Reserve – Floss
Release date: December 16, 2016
Arizona-based hip-hop trio Injury Reserve share their hard-hitting, genre-bending sophomore release Floss. Boasting as one of the best underground hip-hop albums of the year, Floss is a momentum-building experience from start to finish, blending in jazz, art-rock, and more into 45 minutes. Even though it was a late release this year, Floss nevertheless found its way into the Top 50 due to its commanding presence and attention-grabbing energy.
Favourite track: “Oh Shit!”
18. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
Release date: December 9, 2016
As the racial discourse in the States continues, artists are sharing their experiences and stories through their music. J Cole is no different, using 4 Your Eyez Only as a pseudo concept album about the struggles and discussions of “Black America”. His lightly coated style of rapping/singing gives the album a gentle touch amongst heavier topics. Through storytelling, rhymes, and crisp production, 4 Your Eyez Only is a consistent and level-headed release from J Cole.
Favourite track: “Immortal”
17. Flume – Skin
Release date: May 27, 2016
Australian producer Flume appears to have gone on a shopping spree with music genres on his latest full-length Skin, incorporating some of the latest and greatest hit-making genres into his contemporary electronic stylings. With a handful of top-notch features, Skin is an addictive listen, making the most of the genre-fluid sound of electronic dance music.
Favourite track: “Wall Fuck”
16. Frank Ocean – Blonde
Release date: August 20, 2016
Hands down one of the most anticipated releases of 2016, nu-R&B star Frank Ocean still took his time sharing his sophomore album Blonde. With a cult-like following forming after his Channel Orange debut, the expectation and hype surrounding Blonde was higher than ever. But without letting the pressure getting to him, Frank Ocean took his soul, experimental approach, and socially conscious honesty and put them into a firework of modern music and art.
Favourite track: “Pink + White”
15. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
Release date: October 14, 2016
The Dillinger Escape Plan are nothing short of legends in the American metal world. With over 20 years of brain-bashingly powerful and melodic music sweeping through the brains of mathcore fans, their 2016 release Dissociation comes as the band’s sixth and final album. Going out with a bang (or two), the farewell album is filled with distorted shards of melody, intensity, and technicality that come together to form a puzzle of dazzling virtuosity and coarse adhesiveness.
Favourite track: “Low Feels Blvd”
14. White Denim – Stiff
Release date: March 25, 2016
Straight from the heart of Austin, Texas, southern rock outfit White Denim are alive and kicking with their sixth album Stiff. 9 tracks of full-throttle Austin heart and soul, it certainly holds the garage, DIY grittiness that propels the album’s undeniable groove forward. Their latest album is adventurous, energetic, and warrants revisiting time and time again.
Favourite track: “Holda You (I’m Psycho)”
13. Weaves – Weaves
Release date: June 21, 2016
After being named Rolling Stones’ must-watch act of 2014, there was quite a whirlwind of hype surrounding Toronto alt-rock band Weaves’ debut release. All of the hype surrounding the release has been well-deserved, their genre-defying sound accomplishes the goal of standing out, yet fitting in simultaneously. Weaves are doing something different, but make sure not to deter listeners away for being too eccentric or too indigestible (although the album artwork may suggest otherwise). The band does a fantastic job of fusing together individual parts into something bigger and easily enjoyed by many.
They’re standing out, but welcoming listeners in; they’re finding coherence through the chaos, but most importantly: Weaves are just a hell of a good time.
Favourite track: “Tick”
12. Bon Iver – 22 A Million
Release date: September 30, 2016
This is the future of indie folk.
Tasteful auto-tune, unpredictable synthetic textures, all of which are lead by a human mind and spirit. Amongst its quirkiness, 22, A Million is a fairly short album, only 10 tracks touching barely over 34 minutes, but feels even shorter because of its effortless fluidity and sweeping emotional presence (as the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun”). Nevertheless, 22, A Million is beautiful. It borrows techniques and characteristics from countless albums before it (re: James Blake or Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz), but the jigsaw style of collectiveness, along with its timing and place in music history allows it to be encompassing and distant simultaneously, lighting the match of what is to come in songwriting.
Favourite track: “29 Strafford APTS”
11. Holy Fuck – Congrats
Release date: May 27, 2016
Toronto’s Holy Fuck are a little off the map; the electronic rock outfit aren’t your traditional idea of electronic. Sure, keyboards and synthesizers are used, but for a band described as electronic, they stay clear of laptops, loops, and programming. But it works. Really, really well. Since their 2005 debut, Holy Fuck have only gotten better with each release, and now onto their fourth album Congrats, the band is at their best yet.
After all these years, Holy Fuck remain consistent with their technicality and dynamic musicality. You can hear the complexity and density found within the soil of Congrats, but it’s the same soil that grew the dynamic, dance-floor crushing work of their previous albums. Working in more psychedelic, undistinguishable vocals into the mix, Holy Fuck put a twist on the idea of being a “rock” band, as the standard guitars, bass, drums, and vocals are taken for a ride. Cyclic rhythms, impressively precise percussion, and shoegaze-esque dynamics make Congrats trance-inducing from the beginning until the very end. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and it’s different. What more could you want?
Favourite track: “Tom Tom”