After reading this list, you may think I meant to say “My Top Albums Of 2003” instead of “2016”. The truth is, as I get older, it’s really hard for me to get into new artists. I try, but something really has to stick out to me to add it to my collection. Honestly, I think the only new artists that I’ve gotten into over the last 10 years are Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mumford & Sons. I’m fine with that. I like what I like and I don’t enjoy having too much to chose from.
So here’s the music that moved me most in 2016:
1. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Full disclosure: Radiohead is my favorite band of all time and they have been for over a third of my life. But that’s not necessarily why this album is at the top of my list. It’s at the top of my list because not only do I think it’s, by far, the best record of the year, I think it’s one of Radiohead’s best records ever. That’s right, it belongs right up there with Ok Computer, Kid A and In Rainbows. From the strings featured on ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘The Numbers’ (thanks to London’s Contemporary Orchestra) to the beats featured on ‘Ful Stop’ and ‘Identikit’, this collection of songs rings with brilliance, beauty, regret and heartbreak. And it highlights what Radiohead’s best records are made of: simple complexity.
2. Lemonade by Beyoncé
Queen B had her work cut out for her after she released her self-titled album in 2013. I mean, how do you follow THAT? Well, not only did she rise to the occasion, but, she too, put her best album out in 2016. Lemonade is Beyoncé’s most musically diverse record and she pulls every style off with natural ease. The album’s genres include pop, R&B, reggae fusion, rock, country, soul, blues, gospel and bounce. ‘Freedom’, which features Kendrick Lamar, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
3. 22, A Million by Bon Iver
I believe this is Bon Iver’s best album to date. But I’ll admit, when the first two tracks, ’22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ and ’10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’, were released a month before the rest of the album, I was nervous. It sounded different than anything the band had ever attempted before: packed with electronica, void of indie folk. However, when the full record dropped in September, not only did those two songs “make sense”, they were accompanied with some of the most beautiful songs of the year and sounded like the Bon Iver we all know and love. Tracks 5-10 sound like they could have been recorded on Bon Iver’s previous album, but were a natural progression from tracks 1-4. ‘8 (circle)’ is, by far, my favorite song of 2016.
4. Revolution Radio by Green Day
In 2012, Green Day did something very ambitious: they released three records in four months. The first one wasn’t bad, but the second two were mostly filler. But that’s not enough for me to give up on them. There isn’t a current band on the planet who I’ve been listening to longer than Green Day. On August 11, they released a new single called ‘Bang Bang’ and I instantly knew they were “back”. Revolution Radio is the band’s best and most timely record since 2004’s American Idiot. It’s not a concept album, but the whole record is meant to reflect the current state of violence in the United States. It’s a stirring social commentary, which is what punk rock does best. I can’t wait to have my tickets ripped at the Revolution Radio Tour in March.
5. California by Blink-182
There isn’t a record my entire family listened to more in 2016 than this one. It’s just so much fun. Just sitting here writing about it makes me smile. It’s a true return to form for this pop-punk trio, who experienced their first lineup change in almost two decades. Guitarist/co-lead vocalist Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) joined the band after founding guitarist/co-lead vocalist Tom DeLonge left the band…for the second time. Well, I wonder what DeLonge is thinking now: California debuted at number one in the US and several other countries, was the band’s first domestic chart-topper in 15 years and their first ever in the UK. Its lead single, ‘Bored To Death’, became the band’s first number one single on any chart in a decade and the California Tour has been the biggest of the band’s career. What am I forgetting? Oh ya, they also received their first ever Grammy nomination: ‘Best Rock Album’. I love this record so much. John Feldmann’s (Goldfinger) production is impeccable and I’m eagerly awaiting the Deluxe Edition, which is rumored to drop next month.
6. Integrity Blues by Jimmy Eat World
Can you tell I was a punk rock kid yet? I honestly can’t imagine life without this band. No matter what mood I’m in, there’s always a Jimmy Eat World song to suit it.’You Are Free’, ‘Through’ and ‘Sure And Certain’ belong among their greatest songs.
This husband and wife duo have succeeded at something that many other bands have failed at: putting multiple records out in a very short period of time. They released their One Wild Life trilogy in a period of 14 months and all three records are incredible. Not only are they incredible, each one progressively got better. This collection of songs was my lifeline (especially the track ‘Walking With Our Eyes Closed’) as I went through a very beautiful and painful year of reconstructing my faith, something the Gungor’s also recently went through. Each record carries its own distinct vibe, but the collection presents a body of work that celebrates the adventure and challenges the Gungor’s faced since the release of 2013’s I Am Mountain.
You can also check out One Wild Life: Soul, the first record of the trilogy here.
9. Weezer [The White Album] by Weezer
Next to Green Day, Weezer is probably the current band I’ve been listening to the longest. They’ve sure had their ups and downs, but after about four not-so-great records, they returned in 2014 with Everything Will Be Alright In The End, their best since 2002’s Maladroit. The winning streak continues with Weezer [The White Album]. This record sounds like Pinkerton meets The Beach Boys. Yes, it’s that good.
10. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
I saw Macklemore & Ryan Lewis perform in a small room for about 150 people just weeks after 2012’s The Heist dropped. I turned to my friend after the first couple songs and said, “I don’t think they’ll be performing in a venue this small the next time they come to town.” Sure enough, they came back a year later and performed in an arena for 8,000. While this record isn’t quite as good as their last, it’s still a solid release. And ‘Downtown’ is one hell of a fun song.