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Best Music of 2016

As always, we’re not content to just regurgitate the standard best-of lists floating around the web. We’ve spent time with all these records. They’re all Planet of Sound endorsed. Many were selections in our Record of the Month club.

2016 was an odd year in music and this, our longest list ever, attests to that. There were so many releases that we became numb to the quality. In a thinner year, some of these would stand out as clear winners, but it’s almost an embarrassment of riches that’s spoiling us here that is too good to pare down. 

Take the time to listen to each album throughout and appreciate how lucky we are. And, please play these on a good stereo! As more and more people listen on laptop speakers or earbuds you just can’t appreciate the full power and depth that is hiding. Let’s look forward to an equally great 2017!


 

 


A Giant Dog - Pile
(I’ll Come Crashing)

A scorching rock record that takes you for a ride from start to finish and begs you to hit repeat. You will.


A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
(Dis Generation)

ATCQ will receive the nobel prize for inventing a time machine. Is it 1995?


Aaron Neville - Apache
(Be Your Man)

After 75 years Aaron Neville is still pitch perfect and right on time. This is a soul/pop record to span age groups and genres. Something for everyone.


Alex Cameron - Jumping the Shark
(Real Bad Lookin’)

Channelling Suicide, Gary Newman and Brian Eno, Alex Cameron manages to create his own unique style of stripped-down balladeering.


Anderson.Paak - Malibu
(The Bird)

It was the year of Anderson.Paak. Every restaurant in the world was playing Malibu and every album for the next year tried to sound like it. A future classic hip hop album for sure.


Andy Shauf - The Party
(The Magician)

A perfect singer-songwriter album in the early Elton John, Townes van Zandt, Randy Newman vein.


Blood Orange - Freetown Sound
(Augustine)

Retro 80s R&B at its best. Listen to those 808 snares!

Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial (Fill in the Blank)

The Strokes are getting kind of old now so there’s room for some new kids to keep it going.


David Bowie – Blackstar
(Blackstar)

Blackstar is as challenging as any Bowie album ever, but if you invest the time, there are passages of incredible beauty (like 5 minutes into Blackstar) and addictive hooks on par with his best stuff. Especially rewarding if you have a good full-range stereo. You’re missing 50% of the music otherwise.


Eleanor Friedberger - New
  (He Didn’t Mention His Mother)

One of the best female songwriters going. Beyonce should hire her to write her next album.


Frank Ocean - Blond
(Nights)

A more interesting album than his incredibly popular debut. This is a class on R&B singing where the voice rules. You could remove all the music and this would still be a winner acapella.


Goat - Requiem
(I Sing in Silence)

Like Animal Collective and Akron Family, Goat seem to be like a band of merry minstrels content to experiment and absorb influences. Here Pan-African rhythms and sounds take centre stage.


Hamilton Leithauser / Rostham
(A 1000 Times)

Vampire Weekend and the Walkmen together. Yes please.


Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
(Chocolate Drops)

At this rate, Iggy is going to seriously challenge McCartney and Jagger for the longevity title. Certainly with albums like this, you could argue that he’s already won.


JEFF the Brotherhood - Zone
(Zone)

Noisy white-guy indie rock at its best.


Kanye West - Life of Pablo
(Ultralight Beam)

The guy is a train wreck and a creation of all that is the worst about modern society, but at the same time, there’s a purity in his Kanyeness that really is art. For anyone that saw the Saturday Night Live performances, it’s pretty obvious there is some genius at work here. Once again, a full-range stereo really adds the proper dimension to this recording.


Kool Keith - Feature Magnetic
(Stratocaster)

30 years going, Kool Keith is one of the most prolific rap artists and certainly one of the best linguists this side of MF Doom (who is also on the album). “JVC is nice / It's electronic / calls me Viktor

High on the scales / off the Richter”


Laura Gibson - Empire Builder
(Damn Sure)

Beautifully stripped down album allows her voice to be front and center. A really good system shows some wonderful nuance in this recording.

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (You Want it Darker)

Cohen’s swan song is just the right length, pitch and mood to cap off his legacy. Bravo!


Loretta Lynn - Full Circle
(Lay Me Down)

At 83 years old, her voice still has all the tone and power of her youth and like Johnny Cash, the mixture of young and old broadens her already incredible range and legacy.


Margaret Glaspy – Emotions And Math
(You Don’t Want Me)

A really great pop/rock record for doing laundry.


Marisa Anderson - Into the Light
(Into the Light)

Instrumental guitar magic. Half Ennio Morricone, half Luiz Bonfa with a pinch of the Animals.


Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
(Love & Hate)

Songs and sounds in the spirit of Nina Simone.

 

Michael Nau - Mowing (The Glass)

A beautiful sounding folk-rock record that meanders like a relaxing Sunday.


Noname - Telefone
(Yesterday)

This rap album is why music nerds are saying that rap is the only “progessive” form of music. Like Jazz from the 50s to the 70s, we are in the middle “free” period which would make guys like Ornette Coleman proud.


Parquet Courts
- Human Performance (Outside)

Once again, Parquet Courts bring an album that is everything that 4 guys in a garage should sound like. Simple catchy hooks with cryptic lyrics and a restrained energy that is so powerful that these songs could easily be blown up to stadium rock proportions with the addition of a few distortion pedals.


Pup - Dream is Over
(DVP)

Perhaps the best punk album in 20 years.


Rihanna - ANTI
(Love on the Brain)

Beyonce gets all the love, but as for pushing pop music forward, Rihanna has way more creativeness. ANTI is like Amy Winehouse’s Back in Black. It’s redefining soul music for this year. The variety on this album is incredible.


Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome
(Just Your Fool)

The Stones first good record in 30 years. Naturally, when the songs are covers of some of the best blues writers ever, it helps.


Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
(No Woman) 

Folky pop that’s great for reading a magazine to.

 

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