There were so many great albums that came out in 2016. I am inevitably going to be leaving out some great ones, but I wanted to at least list my top 5.
5. “We got it from here…Thank You 4 your service” A Tribe Called Quest
I remember not enjoying hip-hop until I was in college. Tribe was one of the first groups I got into. I sincerely believe they made me fall in love with the genre. This album has been rumored for 18 years, and it is said to be their final one. It feels, at once, reminiscent of their 90’s flavor and a frontier effort. There’s an element, not so much of distance, from their previous work, but one of expansion. It feels like Tribe really dug deeper into what already existed to find more room for exploration. (Be advised, the parental advisory notice isn’t for nothing)
4. “Spirit” Amos Lee
I’m seriously late to Amos Lee. The guy has been making music for a while, and it wasn’t until this album that I heard his music for the first time. I don’t regret it. The first song I heard on this album was “Running Out of Time”. It was a beautiful interplay of country, soul, and americana. The range of diversity and raw vulnerability is its strength. If you’re looking for rich, honest, feel-good-in-your-bones songwriting, look no further.
3. “22, A Million” Bon Iver
You can’t talk about new music in 2016 and not mention this album. With the release of the self-titled album 5 years ago, they took the music world by storm. In many ways, though this album undoubtedly stands on the soil of Bon Iver the album, it veers hard into the territory of experimentation and grit. For fans of Volcano Choir, this album will scratch a creative itch quite satisfactorily. However, for fans of the more polished, rainy day vibes of his previous album, it may take some time to warm up to 22, A Million. In either case, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album.
2. “BlindFaller” Mandolin Orange
On the surface, this album doesn’t scream “brilliant”. The strength of this album by the North Carolina folk duo is its sincerity. Ive been wearing this album out since its release in September. The familiar brand of subdued bluegrass Mandolin Orange creates is soothing and nostalgic. Their voices blend together better than many I’ve heard, and their arrangements are modestly crystalline. This album is especially good for road tripping.
1. “Are You Serious” Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird has always been a favorite of mine. His ridiculous skill as an arranger, violinist, and songwriter consistently blow me away. (Not to mention his pitch-perfect whistling) What really struck me with Are You Serious were the lyrics. In so many of Bird’s previous albums, the lyrics have remained mostly 3rd person, theoretical, and distant. Are You Serious draws nearer to the personal story of Bird. “Roma Fide” explores the feelings Bird and his wife had the first time they saw each other. Aside from the point of view shift, the album feels musically very similar to Armchair Apocrypha. All in all, this album is groovy, beautiful, weird, and hard to turn off.