Most music listeners like to recap the year by posting a list of their favorite albums. But since the average person in this world is just your regular, everyday working man or woman, no one really cares what they think.
I, on the other hand, have a blog. Therefore, my opinion matters .00000000000008% more.
But anyway, in 2014 I started a tradition of ranking my favorite albums of the year (also: see 2015’s ranks). Bear in mind that this is not a list of what I believe are the overall best albums — just the ones that I liked the most because they suited my musical tastes.
Unfortunately, there was no Taylor Swift album to rank, but 2016 brought plenty other good music to listen to.
So let’s do it, shall we?
I had to give acknowledgment to this girl because she’s released four quality albums but still remains relatively unknown. As someone who has seen her live twice, I can attest that she is a ridiculously talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her songs will never be heard on the radio but they are still very accessible and smooth on the ears. I think the majority of people would enjoy her if they gave her a chance.
Return to Love
This is easily one of the best indie rock albums of the year. It is extremely clean punk rock and is well produced. Their 2014 release, Hoodwink’d, was really good but with this album it seems like they really found their sweet spot — or in other words, they went a LVL UP.
There are fewer reliable bands than Wilco, where you know exactly what you are getting with every release. I’ll admit it’s not much of a creative departure from their last couple of albums, but if you like Wilco, and the simple eloquence of their music, you will not be disappointed.
Remember Us to Life
I was a bit surprised by this album’s omission from most music blog’s year-end lists. Regina Spektor is one of the best underground indie/folk rock singers of our generation, with an entire catalog of extraordinary music. This album was highly anticipated after a four-year hiatus, and it does not disappoint. I’ll admit it is a little less quirky than your vintage Regina, but it still showcases her masterful vocal range. The album has that storytelling feel, and while listening to this album from start to finish, it’s easy to get lost in the world that Regina presents to us so beautifully.
The female duo’s new album took on a bit of a darker turn, for the better, and highlights the singer’s powerful vocals. The songs are very emotionally heavy, multi-layered and make for a terrific mix of singer-songwriter and indie pop.
You Want It Darker
Hearing Leonard Cohen sing is like listening to spoken word poetry. But it’s just impossible to hear his surly growl of a voice and not become captivated by his powerful lyrics. It hits you right off the bat with the title track “You Want it Darker” and does not relent. Sadly, Cohen died this year, but he left us with one last piece of his soul.
I’ve been listening to this band for years, but did not know that they were capable of a release like this. Rather than just sticking to their usual indie rock formula, they’ve turned it each track into an amazing production of a ballad, full of different stages. Each track is like listening to a miniature performance. Some of the harmonies and instrumentals are just so good, and grab your attention so potently, that they make you stop what you’re doing to listen.
This album is just flat-out wonderful. Brian Fallon, known as the voice of the excellent Gaslight Anthem, released his first solo album in 2016, and one gets the feeling that this is the type of music he always wanted to make. It’s much tamer and stripped down than that of Gaslight, but the songs present such simple yet poignant messages about love and enjoying life. I can listen to this album every day.
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
This is definitely the surprise of the year. Margo Price sings about what she knows. Working on the farm, drinking and family. The album begins with its most beautiful track, “Hands of Stone,” and while it never returns to the level of that track for the duration of the record, it’s still a joy to listen to. Price really has a beautiful voice and it’s refreshing to hear her sing about the rawness of life as she knows it.
Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead’s releases ever since the fantastic In Rainbows have been underwhelming, to say the least. But with Moon Shaped Pool, the songs are haunting yet much more accessible, while still continuing their experimental sound that has grown more and more with each release.
Angel Olsen is no longer a secret. She is a singer-songwriter to the core, but this album definitely branches out a little bit and even shows us some new elements to Olsen’s vocal abilities. I think this album shows that she is more than just a storyteller — she can sing. Even with the evolution, the album still maintains her signature sound and confirms Angel Olsen’s rising star.
22, A Million
There likely wasn’t a more polarizing release this year than this one. Bon Iver began as a singer-songwriter with Emma, Forever Ago, and then went a little more electronic with Bon Iver, Bon Iver, but he went full experimental in this one. And while electronic music tends to turn me off, Bon Iver has managed to find that perfect mix where it blends perfectly with his melodic vocals, while still maintaining that same sense of wonder and isolation that made him so appealing to his fan base. The album challenges your mind, and asks to be listened to over and over. And that’s what makes it the best album of 2016.