Disclaimer: There's a lot I haven't listened to in 2016 (see: I still haven't listened to all of A Tribe Called Quest, ANOHNI, and Danny Brown albums from this year, to name a few), and the following aren't necessarily the best albums of 2016, they are simply my favorite albums out of all of the music I have listened to. This is no way a definitive representation of what was released in 2016. (this is, like, the same disclaimer as last year! whoa.)
10. Told Slant - Going By [Double Double Whammy]
Highlight Track - Tall Cans Hold Hands
Ever feel like a relationship is going to end but you can't quite place your finger on exactly when? That is the feeling portrayed here, insecurity, insistence, and nothing neatly wrapped up. It's a sparse album, giving the lyrics and vocals even greater weight behind them.
9. PUP - The Dream is Over [Royal Mountain Records]
Highlight Track - If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will
Hovering at around thirty minutes of raw energy, The Dream is Over isn't a record drenched in irony so much as reality. And really fucking loud guitars and group vocals. This album is an autobiography of playing show after show after show and what that does to you, and is intimate and angry.
8. Stove - Is the Meat that Fell Out [Exploding in Sound Records]
Highlight Track - James and the Giant Moth
All things Stove/Ovlov are cult if you are familiar with certain music scenes in the Northeast. This release is no different, in the sense that it's churning, crashing, and droning all in one package. Is the Meat that Fell Out is a record not afraid to bang away at the same thought or chord for a while just to make a point.
7. Margaret Glaspy - Emotions and Math [ATO]
Highlight Track: Somebody to Anybody
Part folk, part country, part Joni Mitchell, Emotions and Math swings back and forth between distorted guitars and somber melodies. The one point of consistency, however, is the frankness of the lyrics and feelings of self-doubt, former lovers coming and going, and everything in between. Margaret Glaspy compiles her experiences and distills them into one great album.
6. Attic Abasement - Dream News [Unsigned]
Highlight Track - Show Up to Leave
Along the same veins as Pavement, Silver Jews, etc., Attic Abasement write disarmingly obscure lyrics that have much more meaning than their face value. This band has been around for a while now, and while there's a bedroom quality to the recordings, the instrumentation is tight and controlled chaos.
5. LVL UP - Return to Love [Sub Pop]
Highlight Track: Spirit Was
A bit more abstract in the songwriting than their debut album, Hoodwink'd but a great album nonetheless. This band, composed of members who play in a million other bands and also the folks who run Double Double Whammy Records, write amazing lo-fi music. Seriously, somehow they know play a chord change into a turn of phrase in their lyrics and then let it fade into the abyss. Return to Love, if nothing else, is an album about getting older.
4. Camp Cope - Camp Cope [Poison City Records]
Highlight Track - Flesh & Electricity
This album came out of nowhere (and from Australia!) and is an intensely personal album at times. Equal parts coming-of-age, questioning authority, and figuring out yourself one step at a time, Camp Cope is an album which will hopefully make a splash state-side. The level of self and social awareness is off the charts and this is an album which could probably, in some ways, be qualified as "emo".
3. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry [SideOneDummy Records]
Highlight Track - I Did Something Weird Last Night
JEFF ROSENSTOCK IS IMPORTANT. BOMB THE MUSIC IS INDUSTRY IS IMPORTANT. THIS ALBUM IS IMPORTANT. Seriously. If all your punk idols weren't complete and total assholes and instead an amazing person who made ridiculously self-aware music, this is what it would be. It's energetic, has an "album within an album feel" at some points, and has choruses that you will scream along to. Or at least ones that I scream along to.
2. Keaton Henson - Kindly Now [PIAS America]
Highlight Track: Alright
This album hurts. It's too personal, it's too intimate, there's too much self-doubt and crushing realizations about love and how to forgive yourself. Let everything go, let it burn, play a bit of piano, and you end up with the album Kindly Now. It's beautiful, it's a mess, and there's something about it that's hard to let go of. Maybe it's talking about never being able to love, or worrying about everything, but either way this album is one to listen to carefully.
1. Mitski - Puberty 2 [Dead Oceans]
Highlight Track - A Burning Hill
This is the single best record of 2016, hands down. On her fourth album Mitski somehow creates an album even better than Bury Me at Makeout Creek. If you're in your mid-20s then this is especially for you. It's an album covering everything from a sense of self and gender/ethnic identity to just trying to be fucking happy for once, you know? There are so many things to say about this album but the most important thing is to just to go out and listen to it. Beginning to end. No interruptions.