Best Albums of 2016

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With the gradual proliferation of streaming services and curated playlists, for a while it didn’t look likely that the “album” format would survive. Yet here we are, at a time where the biggest pop stars are releasing cohesive, fully developed ALBUMS, in capital letters. I will always have a soft spot for the album as a concept, whether contained on discs of vinyl or within links to Spotify pages. Smash hits lie alongside deep cuts to form one 30-70 minute statement reflecting the artist’s pain and joy, their view of the world, their quest to express the words in their head and the riffs in their gut. Here are my 25 favorite albums of 2016.

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Five Quality Tracks: May 2016

Featuring discussions of the Strokes’ career trajectory, the single most important quality of a great pop song, and more.

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1. Radiohead: “Burn the Witch”

Much of Radiohead’s music takes a while to sink in. It took me a repeated listens to fully appreciate the intricate brilliance of OK Computer and Kid A, and the band’s newest surprise album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is proving to be a slow-burner as well. There are exceptions, however. In Rainbows was an album that revealed its pleasures immediately. While most of Kid A took some time, opening track “Everything in its Right Place” was spine-tingling from the start. Similarly, the lead track on A Moon Shaped Pool, unlike the rest of the album, was instantly engrossing.

“Burn the Witch” is eerie, full of an anxious energy that boils over by the time we reach the end. The song highlights multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood’s proclivity for discordant string arrangements. Greenwood’s strings were almost like another full-bodied character in films such as There Will Be Blood and The Master. Greenwood uses the same pizzicato technique on “Burn the Witch,” and as a result, the song sounds huge, important, and cinematic in scope. It forges forward with Thom Yorke’s ethereal voice floating on top until about the three-minute mark, when it kicks up a notch and builds to a fever pitch. Jillian Mapes of Pitchfork said it best when she called it “simultaneously unsettling and gorgeous.” The lyrics match the sonic paranoia — “Stay in the shadows, cheer at the gallows,” “Avoid all eye contact, do not react, shoot the messengers,” and “This is a low-flying panic attack.”

 
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Best Albums of 2011

For some reason, Facebook decided by Best Albums of 2011 post broke some kind of copyright, so it (and all of its HTML) got deleted. For those who are interested, here was my list (with a little less pizazz unfortunately).


25. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming


24. Yuck – Yuck

23. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

22. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

21. Atlas Sound – Parallax

20. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread

19. Real Estate – Days

18. Generationals – Actorcaster

17. Adele – 21

16. The Strokes – Angles

15. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

14. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

13. Cults – Cults

12. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

11. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

10. The Roots – undun

9. Wilco – The Whole Love

8. The Antlers – Burst Apart

7. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

6. Beirut – The Rip Tide

5. Drake – Take Care

4. The Black Keys – El Camino

3. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues