From Angel Olsen to Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean to Skepta, it’s been an amazing year for new music.
It’s easy to say that 2016 has been a strange year, and at least we had some good music to carry us through these hard and trying times. There’s nothing wrong with that statement, in fact it’s absolutely true, but it casts a qualifying shadow over the unbelievable musical accomplishments that we were gifted this year.
Honestly, a lot of our top picks for 2016 could mop the floor with records from previous years. The industry is constantly changing and artists are evolving and learning from each other in new and exciting ways. That’s what is so special about music today and what keeps us so captivated by each new album that drops — it’s not the chance of a surprise release, it’s the innovative surprises that we’ve been hearing in full-length releases all year.
Would Beyoncé have embraced and released such a statement album/project about blackness in America without Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” paving the way? Could Kanye West‘s “The Life of Pablo” have embraced gospel music as readily without Chance the Rapper’s infectious optimism spreading like wildfire over the last few years? Thankfully, we don’t have to experience the answers because the music community is closer and more collaborative than ever before.
2016 was full of beautiful moments and powerful releases. Here are our top 25 albums of the year.
23. Hinds, “Leave Me Alone” (Mom + Pop)
Leave it to four girls from Madrid, Spain, to release one of the best albums of the summer in January. Sunbeams, carefree wanderlust and youthful dreams spill out of Hinds’ debut album, the perfectly named “Leave Me Alone,” and delight anyone who has the pleasure of listening to it. But don’t get the wrong impression, “Leave Me Alone” is raw, messy garage rock at its finest. (Bailey Pennick)
13. Solange, “A Seat at the Table” (Columbia)
Solange is introspective — she works through things at her own pace and only speaks when she really has something to say. On “A Seat at the Table,” the songstress not only lets her voice be heard but also the underrepresented voices of black women in America. The average album cycle today is two to three years. The last time we got new music from Solange, it was 2008. It took her eight years to gift us “A Seat at the Table,” but for music as thoughtful, personal and proud as this, we’d gladly wait eight more. (BP)