Top Ten Music of 2016 – The M Report
January has been a time of reflection. There was so much great music released in 2016. Limiting that music to only ten albums is unfair. If one is interested in a more comprehensive list of the best music, visit my personal blog. It’s comprised of about 30 titles in various genres, including folk, rock, pop and R&B. Distilling those 30 titles down by two-thirds was tough but this final list represents a nice cross-section of tastes.
10. EVERYBODY’S HEART IS BROKEN NOW by Niki and the Dove – The Swedish, electronic duo consists of Malin Dahlström on vocals and Gustaf Karlöf on production. This is the second LP from the band, which has a very retro sound to music of the 70’s and 80’s. Usually, I’m not into nostalgia or nostalgic things, but one can’t help easing into this very chill music. There isn’t that much uptempo beats here, but one can still certainly groove to this record.
9. BIG DAY IN A SMALL TOWN by Brandy Clark – Nominated for Best Country Album at the 59th Grammy Awards, the 41-year-old is honest about issues like teen pregnancy, binge-drinking, football culture and poverty, but she’s never condescending. Her summer album is funny, if full of melodrama. Some of it could be confused for satire, which isn’t a bad thing. Her slight jabs at patriarchial or chauvinist men speak to a feminism that might be a little smug but nothing if not well-deserved.
8. LIGHT UPON THE LAKE by Whitney – The rock band from Chicago features guitarist Max Kakacek and drummer Julien Ehrlich. Both come from a band called Smith Westerns of which they made several albums. This is their debut as their new group. Critics describe the sound as “dulcet, vintage tones.” Others mark the bass, horns, strings, organ and choir as the backbone as well as the winsome male falsettos. The titular song while simple is one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking tracks I’ve heard all year.
7. LUKAS GRAHAM by Lukas Graham – This album, alternately titled the Blue Album, is the second from the Danish pop band led by vocalist, Lukas Forchhammer. The 28-year-old was born in Copenhagen but grew up in Cork, Ireland, and takes a lot of inspiration from rapper Dr. Dre. Forchhammer is a child actor-turned-singer who formed this band in 2011. He started by uploading videos and sharing them on Facebook. His song “7 Years” co-opts a lot from black culture but his voice is undeniable.
6. WE GOT IT FROM HERE… THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE by A Tribe Called Quest – The sixth album from the hip-hop group formed in 1985 will probably be their last album, namely because one of the original members, Phife Dawg, died after the group had started recording. From Queens, New York, the guys here have been called the most intelligent and artistic, hip-hop group ever. This album is only their 2nd, number-one album since 1996’s Beats, Rhymes and Life, which was their fourth album and arguably their darkest album. This album has been called “forward thinking” and “celebratory.”
5. JOANNE by Lady Gaga – The 30-year-old from New York City is on her fifth album. It made her the first woman to have four, number-one albums in the 2010’s. Zack Ruskin, writing for Consequence of Sound, says about Gaga’s latest, “something weird but compelling, and largely authentic.”
4. NONAGON INFINITY by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – The Australian psychedelic rock band of seven guys have released nine albums since 2012. They’re pretty prolific. This is their eighth record and it’s a concept album, which is technically made so its nine songs flow into one another seamlessly. It’s also meant to play in an infinite loop. One doesn’t know when one song ends and when another begins. It’s clever and a fun album to put on any road trip or hard-core, dance club.
3. BLONDE by Frank Ocean – The 29-year-old from California grew up in New Orleans. He released two albums in 2016 of which this was the second. It debuted at #1 after much anticipation. It was critically-acclaimed and at the apex of numerous Top Ten Lists, including Esquire and Time magazines. Due to submission rules, the album isn’t eligible at the 59th Grammy Awards but his album absolutely deserves to be there. His album is one of the few that has Beyoncé singing background vocals on his song “Pink + White.” Anyone who can get the biggest pop star in the world to sing back-up for him has got to be recognized.
2. A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH by Sturgill Simpson – The 38-year-old from Kentucky formed a bluegrass band in 2004 as one of his first acts in the music world. It took him ten years of steady work before he started getting national attention. He appeared on all the late-night, talk shows, starting in 2014. He got some award recognition as well that year. This, his third album, is up for Album of the Year, which is a main-stage boost like none other. Listening to this country record, it is absolutely the right pick.
1. LEMONADE by Beyoncé – This album is nominated for nine Grammys, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. It will most likely sweep. It is the 35-year-old’s sixth, consecutive, number-one album. Even if one isn’t a fan of the international, R&B and pop star or all of her music, this record is one to have in one’s collection.