Best of 2016: 20-6 (Tier 3)

2016. At the beginning, I would like to say that this was not a great year for me for music. I checked out 108 albums(!!) this year, and will give you the ones that I found to be top notch.

In past years, I've broken my top 25 albums into 5 album increments. For this year, I struggled with this paradigm because there were albums that felt like Tier 1 albums and albums that belonged in a lesser tier, even though they were in the top 20. So, I propose the following for this year's best of for 2016:
Tier 1 - This album/these albums are solid throughout, highly worth your time
Tier 2 - Overall, a good album.
Tier 3 - A couple of good songs.
Tier 4 - 50 (I'll post the albums I reviewed later)

When comparing these albums to past years, these scores wold not have put them in the top 20. So, with that caveat:

20 The 1975 I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
Hometown: Manchester, UK
Standout Tracks: She Lays Down, Please Be Naked

19 Leonard Cohen If You Want It Darker 
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
Standout Tracks: You Want It Darker

18 William Fitzsimmons Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Vol. 2
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Standout Tracks: Fare Thee Weel, Hear Your Heart

17 Matthew and the Atlas Temple (Acoustic Version)
Hometown: London, UK
Standout Tracks: Elijah, On A Midnight Street
While their plugged in release didn't make the list, their acoustic EP version of the big album definitely did.

16 Beach Slang Here, I Made This For You (EP)
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Standout Tracks: A Million Miles Away, Anything Anything
For an EP of covers, I was into it.

15 Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Standout Tracks: Blessings, Same Drugs, Summer Friends
Some of these tracks can stay with me for days. Really great.

14 Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Hometown: Hermann, MO
Standout Tracks: S.O.B., I Need Never Get Old, Wasting Time

13 Nada Surf You Know Who You Are
Hometown: New York, NY
Standout Tracks: Rushing, Cold to See Clear, Believe You're Mine
I really wanted more from this album.

12 Whitney Light Upon the Lake
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Standout Tracks: Light Upon the Lake, Red Moon, Dave's Song

11 Band of Horses Why Are You OK
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Standout Tracks: Casual Party, Even Still
These are some of the only tracks that could immediately calm down new baby Charles.

10 Miike Snow iii
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Standout Tracks: Genghis Khan, I Feel the Weight
Johnny would often request Genghis Khan when we were in the car. Funny stuff.

9 Bon Iver 22, A Million 
Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
Standout Tracks: 715 - cr∑∑ks, 22 (over s∞∞n)
I feel like he's fallen off his game with this album. And I get it. He also found the insert symbol thing in Windows.

8 Kyle Morton What Will Destroy You
Hometown: Portland, OR
Standout Tracks: Water Torture, Gestalt of Original Pain, Poor Bastard

7  The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die Harmlessness
Hometown: Willimatic, CT
Standout Tracks: January 10th, 2014, I Can Be Afraid of Anything
This is a studio band. That being said, January 10th, 2014 is really amazing. And be sure to read the real life story the song was written about.

6  Pete Yorn ArrangingTime
Hometown: Montville, NJ
Standout Tracks: Lost Weekend, Walking Up
Good old smooth Pete Yorn.


Best of 2015: Recap and Spotify Playlist

Here's the top 20 albums again:
  1. Mew +- 
  2. Ryan Adams 1989
  3. Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell 
  4. Twin Shadow Eclipse 
  5. Beach Slang The Things We Do To Find People Who Like Us 
  6. Until the Ribbon Breaks A Lesson Unlearnt 
  7. Mikal Cronin MCIII 
  8. Modest Mouse Strangers to Ourselves 
  9. Stromae Racine Carrée 
  10. Young Guv Ripe 4 Luv 
  11. Florence + The Machine How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 
  12. The Districts A Flourish and a Spoil 
  13. Death Cab for Cutie Kintsugi 
  14. Tobias Jesso Jr. Goon 
  15. Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion 
  16. Miguel Wildheart 
  17. Brandon Flowers The Desired Effect 
  18. Ben Folds So There 
  19. Ratatat Magnifique 
  20. Joey Bada$$ B4.DA.$$
Beyond that, I listened to a lot of albums this year. 83 from the "IN" list. Here's a full, alphabetized list of the albums that had at least one track on the Best of 2015 list:

Alabama Shakes - Sound and Colour
Alpine - A is for Alpine
BC Camplight - How to Die in the North
Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars
Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us\
Belle & Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Ben Folds - So There
Best Coast - California Nights
Bjork - Vulnicura
Braids - Deep in the Iris
Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect
Built to Spill - Untethered Moon
Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion
CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye
Cold Fronts - Forever Whatever
Dan Mangan + Blacksmith - Club Meds
Deafheaven - New Bermuda
Death Cab for Cutie - Kintsugi
The Decemberists - What a Terrible World
The Districts - A Flourish and a Spoil
Django Django - First Light
Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late
EL VY - Return to the Moon
Evans the Death - Expect Delays
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
George Ezra - Wanted on Voyage
Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin
Hop Along - Painted Shut
Husky - Ruckers Hill
James Davis - James Davis
Jamie xx - In Colour
Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
Jose Gonzalez - Vestiges & Claws
Kate Tempest - Everybody Down
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
The Knocks - So Classic EP
Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm going down...
Kyle - Smyle
Lauryn Peacock - Euphonia
Leon Bridges - Coming Home
Lianne La Havas - Blood
Lord Huron - Strange Trails
Low - Ones and Sixes
Maritime - Magnetic Bodies/Map of Bones
Mew - +-
mewithoutYou - Pale Horses
Miguel - Wildheart
Mikal Cronin - MCIII
Mimicking Birds - Eons
Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves
Mogwai - Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1.
Nadine Shah - Fast Food
Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
Punch Brothers - The Phosphorescent Blues
Purity Ring - another eternity
Ratatat - Magnifique
Rolo Tomassi - Grievances
Royal Headache - High
Ryan Adams - 1989
Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield - Elliott Smith Covers
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
The Staves - If I Was
Stromae - Racine Carree
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
The Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is Home
Tame Impala - Currents
Tanlines Highlightes
Tobias Jesso Jr. - Goon
Torres - Sprinter
Twerps - Range Anxiety
Twin Shadow - Eclipse
Until the Ribbon Breaks - A Lesson Unlearnt
Viet Cong - Viet Cong
We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness
Yo La Tengo - Stuff Like That There
Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Too
Young Guv - Ripe 4 Luv
Young Thug - Barter 6

And here is the list of albums that I checked out that didn't even have one track that I got into, 24 albums represented here:

Above & Beyond - We Are All We Need
Ariel Pink - pom pom
The Avener - The Avener EP
Beirut - No No No
Blur - The Magic Whip
Chastity Belt - Time to Go Home
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Dwight Yoakam - Second Hand Heart
East India Youth - Culture of Volume
Future - DS2
The Game - The Documentary 2
Girl Band - The Early Years
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
High on Fire - Luminiferous
Justin Townes Earle - Single Mothers and Absent Fathers
The Libertines - Anthems For Doomed Youth
Lightning Bolt - Fantasy EMpire
Lonelady - Hinterland
Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Pinkshinyultrablast - Everything Else Matters
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love
The Vaccines - English Graffiti
The Weather Station - What Am I Going to Do with Everything I know
Wilco - Star Wars

So, I listened to 107 albums this past year. That feels like a lot. In order to share the fruits of this, here is a spotify playlist you can follow/embed/check out:

Best of 2015 Spotify Playlist

Out of that playlist, there were a few tracks I would seek out to listen to over and over. Those are as follows:

  1. Clinging to a Bad Dream - Mew 
  2. Kelly, I'm Not a Creep - Young Guv 
  3. Style - Ryan Adams 
  4. Formidable - Stromae 
  5. Young & Alive - Beach Slang 
  6. Dirty Cigarettes - Beach Slang 
  7. Blank Space - Ryan Adams 
  8. Run Away With Me - Carly Rae Jepsen 
  9. Suburban Smell - The Districts 
  10. Coffee - Miguel 
  11. Slipping Away - Tanlines 
  12. I've Been Loved - Mikal Cronin 
  13. Bloodlines - Mimicking Birds 
  14. Teenage Exorcists - Mogwai 
  15. My Oh My - Punch Brothers 
  16. Should Have Known Better - Sufjan Stevens 
  17. I'm Ready - Twin Shadow 
  18. Romeo - Until the Ribbon Breaks 
  19. Nest - Young Fathers 
  20.  Ship to Wreck - Florence + The Machine

Best of 2015: 1 Mew + -

1 Mew -

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark
Standout Tracks: Clinging to a Bad Dream, Satellites, Water Slides
Mew makes cerebral rock. These Danes hole up for several years, make beautiful, emotive songs and then continue fine-tuning them into individual, nuanced masterpieces. Much like Radiohead's OK Computer, this album took a few listens until it started hitting and sticking. But when it did, man, it just stayed there and kept beckoning me back to listen to it, try to find another nuance. I have really liked their previous albums and was anxious about this album. Not only did this album not disappoint. It is my number one album of 2015. Here's the official video for "Satellites" where he intones, "My life is my own, and now I'm always home":

And here's the official video for "Water Slides", another jam from the album:

And here's the audio for my favorite track off of the album, "Clinging to a Bad Dream". There are several sections to the song, and they are all essential and excellent:


Best of 2015: 2 Ryan Adams - 1989

2 Ryan Adams 1989

Hometown: Jacksonville, NC
Standout Tracks: Blank Space, Style, Shake it Off, All You Had to do was Stay
It's Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift's 1989 album in entirety. It should feel contrived and like those Nirvana lullaby albums that somehow exist, but it doesn't. It feels honest and earnest. It almost took #1. Here's Ryan interviewing Taylor about it.:

And here's my favorite track from the album, "Blank Space":

Best of 2015: 3 Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

3 Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Standout Tracks: Should've known better, Drawn to the Blood, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
Sufjan, the guy my dad said gave him hope for modern music. Sufjan, the multi-instrumentalist genius behind a bunch of albums these last few years, gives us Carrie & Lowell, an album about his mother delivers a sweet and intimate look into his life. Enjoy this fan video for "Should've known better":


Best of 2015: 4 Twin Shadow - Eclipse

4 Twin Shadow Eclipse

Hometown: Dominican Republic/Florida
Standout Tracks: Flatliners, When the Lights Turn Out, I'm Ready, Half Life
Twin Shadow at its heart is George Lewis Jr., and this is his 3rd release he keeps his synths and adds even tighter pop hooks than his previous album. This has irked some, but finds me continually bobbing my head when his music starts playing. Here's a live performance of "I'm Ready" where he intones, "Hey, hold on to me, Don't say it's the end of me, I'm right here, I'm ready, I need this love.":

Best of 2015: 5 Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Like Us

5 Beach Slang The Things We Do To Find People Who Like Us

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Standout Tracks: Young & Alive, Dirty Cigarettes, Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
This album exudes punk rock ethos. It's anthemic. You can view the official video for "Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas" here:

And you can listen to "Dirty Cigarettes" here: