Our favorite albums of 2016
Let’s be honest – 2016 was a bona fide annus horribilis, but there were still some pretty kickass records released in the year that shall be forever forgotten. We had the RPM contributors compile a list of their favorite albums of the year.
Each RPM contributor picked three. They are:
Bowie’s parting shot to the world he helped define is simply one of his best. Its release just two days before his death – combined with the absolutely incredible “Lazarus” video – makes this the easiest choice of all. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy is laughable.
Bowie may have made a more significant album, but Plague Vendor’s Bloodsweat spent the most time on my turntable. If you haven’t discovered the twisted genius of this California quartet, you’re missing out. Expect big things from this band.
Rival Sons is such a fun damn band. They may be the only contemporary rock ‘n’ roll band whose music you can add to a playlist that includes Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Free and it fits perfectly. They’re not derivative – they’re just that good. I defy you to name a better rock voice than Jay Buchanan.
Weezer meets Pavement meets Zeppelin. Power trio of the year.
First album in 12 years. Gorgeous melodies, great songs, shouting. Perfect.
Probably the greatest band of all time with the greatest EP of all time.
[[editor’s note: Josh Weller is indeed the frontman of the Kenneths. Well played, Josh. Excellent humility]]
Rivers Cuomo heads to the Beach to find the perfect balance between his dueling addictions – raw emotional bleed-out and pop diabetes. Praises be to His Holiness, Brian Wilson. Long suffering fans rejoice.
A few months before the Netflix phenom of the same name took over everyone’s Facebook feeds and Halloween costume plans, these ’90s nostalgia darlings proved they were more than a flash in the indie pan with this indelible batch of alt-pop nuggets that feel right at home next to the greater moments from Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo and other grand deities of the 120 Minutes Generation.
Like the Dark Lord’s very own Jeff Lynne, Josh Homme wrangles our greatest living hard rock icons with such respect and generous enthusiasm one can’t help but wish he’d produce projects like this much more regularly. Even some of Pop’s more potentially awkward lyrical reaches are balanced nicely in a sonic bed of depravity in which the end most certainly justifies the means. By the time Iggy is yelling about laptops and lattes over the album’s closing Homme chant of “Animals do what they goddamn do”, you’ll be a believer too.
With Adore Life, Savages approach the serrated edges of a single concept: love. The emotional toll of love weighs heavily upon the music without burying it. The darker the music, the harder singer Jehnny Beth punches and claws at the shadows. It’s time to discuss Gemma Thompson’s guitar work with the same reverence bestowed upon Johnny Marr. Her ability to create textures around Beth’s lyrics are on par with some of Marr and Morrissey’s finest moments. As a year full of goodbyes turns towards an uncertain future, Savages deliver a monumental post-punk album that reminds us that perhaps the one thing that will never tear us apart is love.
A few months ago, the last of the rock and roll giants met in the desert to have one final rave up. Thankfully, Public Access TV gives us pause before lighting the funeral pyre. “They say the kids don’t like rock and roll anymore” sings John Fatherly on “End Of An Era” and the New York band makes this their rallying cry. From The Beatles to The Cars, the band has been smoking the good stuff and its apparent in their detail rich arrangements. Uplifting, fun and well crafted, Never Enough is true to its title.
It’s been a strange trip for Sturgill Simpson. Rather than continue the outlaw country revival he ignited a few years ago, he shifts musical gears and writes an album to his wife and son from the perspective of a a sailor in the Navy (which he once was). It’s a bold move and it shows the integrity and courage of Simpson. Mixing country, soul, R&B, blues and rock, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is the American musical experience distilled into one song cycle. Delivering Nirvana’s “In Bloom” as a slow burning Marvin Gaye jam is the sort of stuff few artists would think of, let alone put on wax. The Album of the Year nomination from the Grammy Awards is a nice tip of the hat to an artist who doesn’t need an ounce of acclaim to know his path is a righteous one.
Teaming up with Danger Mouse, Kiwanuka delivers a stunning sophomore album that is a marriage of Enmio Morricone, and Hot Buttered Soul era Issac Hayes with the emotional heartache of Al Green. Yeah, it’s THAT good, no, it’s that BRILLIANT.
The follow up to her equally amazing debut, Sing To The Moon, taps into the personal and the political; anchored by music that recalls Bacharach, Brian Wilson and Nina Simone at the peak of their creative powers. She is the REAL.
After delivering one incredible album after another for close to 20 years, no one would’ve been mad if Radiohead had phoned an album in. Instead, they put together a work that somehow serves as both a summation and a continuation of their brilliance. “True Love Waits” will reduce you to mist. Exceptional work by an exceptional band.
Good things come to those who wait 18 years + Q-Tip + social commentary = the most important record of 2016.
Dr. Dre + Sa-Ra + Schoolboy Q + Talib Kweli = soulful & sincere soul/R&B/hip-hop opus.
Moody lo-fi pop (ala Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices) + killer melodies + the Cars = one of the most exciting new indie rock bands around.
We’ll see all you crazy kids in 2017…