It’s the end of 2016 and time for my Top Album picks for the year. This was a sad year as we lost a lot of musicians, one of which made this best of list.
Streaming dominated a lot of my listening this year, but I still hung onto physical releases, both on CD and digital downloads. It’s a bit more work to do the research to find what year the music I listen to came out. Under iTunes, I simply create a playlist that only shows albums that I’ve added that came out in 2016. For streaming sites, I have to hope that the album details will show what year it came out. For the most part, all of them do, but there’s not a uniform place to find it, depending on the streaming service being used.
Regardless, it was all worth the effort. So enjoy my picks of what I deemed the best for 2016.
Blancmange “Commuter 23”
– Back in 1985… no, make that 3 years previous in 1982 when “Living On The Ceiling” was a big modern music hit and where I became a fan. Then in 1985, I went to see them live in Irvine, CA which cemented my love for this band. The next year, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe broke up. Then in 2011, they reunited. Then in 2012, it was just Neil and has been since. Last year, they released a new album “Semi Detached” which was good, but didn’t make my top list. This year, another new album came out and it was really good and better than I expected it be. Songs like “I Wish I Was You” and “Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job)” are a very progressive sound, with a bit of the throwback to their 80’s sound.
The 1975 “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It”
– This UK band came on the scene three years ago with the pot-themed song “Chocolate” It got a lot of airplay, but didn’t convince me to be a big fan. This year, their sophomore album with the long title [channeling Fiona Apple a bit here?] was very polished in the sound and songs like “Love Me” and “Somebody Else” got massive airplay and never dropped off the charts. Nor did I tire of those songs. The throng of fans that love this band and attend sold out concerts are proof that a popular band like The 1975 can also produce some great music.
– The few times I’ve seen this band live, I’ve really enjoyed their blend of electronica and goth. Two years ago, their sophomore album “Voices” made it onto my top albums list. So it should be no surprise that their third release once again finds a place on the year end best list here. The lead single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” was released several weeks before the album officially came out. The current single “Same Old Blues” is another great song from this album. I only wish I would have seen them live this year when they made a Salt Lake City stop.
Red Hot Chili Peppers “The Getaway”
– What more can be said about this band. I mean, back in 1991, I fell in love with “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” which I played a lot [it still gets at least 10 plays a year]. The band went through several changes in subsequent years, mostly brought on by extensive drug use, finally ending up in 1999 with the huge career boost of “Californication” The last few albums were good, but something was missing. Their latest takes a slightly different tone in the songs, keeping a good amount of that familiar funk in songs like “Sick Love” and “Detroit” with the lead single “Dark Necessities” claiming a nice spot on radio play and in my playlists on my digital devices.
Grouplove “Big Mess”
– I love this band. I love this band’s live and on stage personas that draw you in with their alternative slant and shared vocal skills of Christian and Hannah. Their second album “Spreading Rumors” landed a spot on my top albums for 2013. It was good, but I longed for a return to the sound of the acclaimed first album, which made my 2011 list. And this year’s release does just that. Songs like “Spinning” and “Welcome To Your Life” along with the quirky lyrics of “Traumatized” make this one a must listen for any fan.
Killswitch Engage “Incarnate”
– Anyone that knows my musical tastes, knows that Killswitch Engage has long been a favorite band of mine. And 3 years ago, they returned with greatness and original lead singer Jesse Leach to help them achieve that greatness, in both song and strength. This year, they recorded another album that got close to “Disarm The Descent” on so many levels. The song “Hate By Design” is as awesome as ever, complete with the metal core sound they perfected long ago and with that melodic junction that got me hooked many years ago. Other songs like “Cut Me Loose” and “The Great Deceit” are just as strong. Check out my review back in June.
David Bowie “Blackstar”
– Being completely honest here, I really wanted this album to top this list. And not because Bowie lost his “hidden from public battle from cancer”. Nope, it was because this was an album that came without much fanfare or notice. Released on what would be Bowie’s final birthday alive, it was some very incredible and insightful music that was created based on what would become his final album. And the songs here are very much Bowie in their sound and feel. Lyrically, they embrace all that is part of the Thin White Duke’s style and as a foretelling his end of life. I’ve listened to this album a good 40 times since it came out almost a year ago and each listen, it never gets old. Songs like “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” and “Lazarus” are strong and serve as a swan song to his musical works. Bowie’s death is still a sad reality for me, but this album and its creativity leave us with a nice send off.
Pixies “Head Carrier”
– Coming in at the same spot on my top album list that 2014’s “Indie Cindy” ended up at, the Pixies came back with an entire album of new songs. Unlike the mix of EPs that created that album of new music two years ago, “Head Carrier” is a solid effort by this long time Boston band who influenced Kurt Cobain and took the loud quiet loud format to the cheering masses. With Paz Lenchantin becoming an official member, replacing original bassist Kim Deal, it shows on the 12 songs. My favorites are “Tenement Song” and “Um Chagga Lagga” but I love the entire album and it’s found it’s way to getting played quite often.
Metallica “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct”
– The first single and the opening track to this new album “Hardwired” got a lot of plays here, starting back in August. And I mean A LOT of plays. The strong lead off song with the “We’re so fucked/shit out of luck” line that gets more aggressive as the song blazes through it just over 3 minutes tracking time.
– But this is a double album and one that has more than just a raw edged opening track. “Atlas, Rise” “Moth Into Flame” and “Confusion” are just as hard edged and have that old school Metallica sound to them. Then things slow down on “Am I Savage?” which is a damn good effort. All and all, this is great new release that followed up 2008’s “Death Magnetic”, which itself was a return to the original sound of these Bay area metal heads.
And now, here is my choice for top album of 2016….
Radiohead “A Moon Shaped Pool”
– And it comes down to this. A new album by Radiohead is always a surprise, at least that’s how it has been with their last two efforts. Loved “In Rainbows” from 2007 and “The King of Limbs” from 2011 did eventually grow on me, at least enough to make it just out of my top 10 that year. There was something about this new album that grabbed me right away. It started with the song and video for “Daydreaming” which has such a somber yet building theme to it. The visuals of Thom Yorke moving from one location to another is magical in the music video. In the song, going from the opening distortion to the ending haunting notes is equally well put together.
– “Identikit” “Present Tense” and “True Love Waits” are all slowed down tracks with little variance in their sounds. “The Numbers” is another song starting with distortion, but going into a level of repetitive motions that makes this an easy favorite for me. This album didn’t need the time of the last one to grow on me. It became an instant love for this fan. And it stayed on my playlists since its release. Which made it an easy choice for my top album of 2016.
My musical tastes don’t always match what my readers like, so if you were expecting an album on this best of list, speak up below in the comments below. Or give me a shout out on anything you like on my list.