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Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2016

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2016

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10.  Childish Gambino - Redbone

I think Gambino is one of the freshest voices in rap right now.  He is a witty and clever song writer and he writes about real personal things.  Donald Glover is a super talented guy, so it should be no surprise that rather than doing another hip hop album, he decided to make a funk album.  My first 2 listens with the album were terrible.  I was not vibing with the songs at all. I was disappointed that Gambino didn’t do another hi hop album and I found the songs to be on the boring side.  A couple of months later, I went back to it with an open mind and listened to it more throughly.  I was blown away.  It is really well constructed.  The songs can be long and come off as being all over the place but there is something going on every second of the song.  The songs feel like they were made for a live stage and it is a terrific love letter to old funk music.  Gambino’s voice is at its best here and the background vocals are great.  You even have a beautiful song that Gambino wrote for his son and it is one of the highlights of the album.  Redbone is a perfect exemplification of Donald Glover’s talent.  Camp is about becoming an adult, Because the Internet is about struggling as an adult and Redbone is accepting adulthood.  He can write, he can act and he can make great music of all kinds.  He is a very special talent and I cannot wait to hear what he cooks up next.

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9.  Nine Inch Nails - Not the Actual Events

After Trent’s amazing return in 2013, the band went back to hiatus after constant touring and the future of NIN was put into question.  Was that truly the end?  Nobody was sure if Nine Inch Nails would ever come back again but in 2016 they made it clear, they’re here to stay..  Trent hinted the band returning a year ago plus new music, but as the year went by, nothing happened. Towards the end of the year, a soundtrack was announced with a stand alone single.  And then out of nowhere, around Christmas, “Not the Actual Events” is announced.  Rezone made it clear this album won't be easily accessible and that it would be rough.  He also said rather than going the album route, he is going to go more of an EP route which will allow him to release more music than giving a 10 song album every 3-4 years.  “Not The Actual Events” is its own thing as Broken was in the 90’s.  It is indeed aggressive and it has been a while where rock elements have been apparent on a Nine Inch Nails album.  The album might not be accessible for everyone but noise rock tracks all have some great melodies to them.  Burning Bright gets more epic and epic as the song goes on.  Dear World is at the perfect anthem for a dark night club.  And having Dave Navarro and Dave Grohl play guitar and drums on the album helps.  Those two are amazing at their respective instruments and you can feel that Reznor went all out for this.  It might not be one of the band’s best outings, but it is a fresh album in their catalogue that lives up to the Nine Inch Nails name.

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8.  A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

A Tribe Called Quest used to be one of my favorite hip hop groups back in the day.  Sadly, I became a fan of them after their disbandment.  I didn’t think I’d ever see anything from them again.  They did some on and off reunions before calling it quits as an opener for Kanye West but something happened.  The group felt recharged with all those reunions and created an album in secret. Phife Dawg passed away before he could finish recording the album but Thank You For Your Service wasn’t a cash cow.  It is a celebration of the group’s history.  Phife may be long gone but his presence is all over this album.  The group is having fun, their chemistry is strong.  The guest stars mix well.  The lyrics are great and relevant.  Especially We the People, that is a song we definitely needed.  The album may not be perfect and it does suffer from double album syndrome but it is a blast to listen too.  It breathes some much needed life into the hip hop scene and it is the album hip hop needed.  It is one of their strongest releases and it feels like an album they would put out on their prime.  Q-Tip said this was the perfect way to end A Tribe Called Quest and I agree with him 100 percent.  It is the perfect ending

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7.  Boys Noize - Mayday

Boys Noize is one of the few DJs that has not tried to cash on the whole “EDM” scene.  In a matter of fact, Boys Noize has constantly gotten better and pushed himself to try different things.  Mayday is a bit more poppy than the other albums but it’s still raw, is full of techno and stays aggressive.  Each and every track on “Mayday” has an identity.  2 Live is an electronic masterpiece.  The vocals are top notch and the build up and drop are high hitting.  Birthday is a fun mix of hip hop and techno with some catchy lyrics.  Starwin shows that electronic instruments can create slow melodic sounds and it is one of the most beautiful songs from Boys Noize.   Mayday is a really well put together album that does not try to conform to the industry.  It is an album that the artist made for himself.   It is loud, fun and danceable just as an electronic album should be.    

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6.  M83 - Junk

“Junk” polarized many but taking the album for what its worth, it is actually pretty good.  A huge departure in sound for M83.  Which I understand, since it had been 5 years since M83 released an album and following up, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” was a tough task to begin with. Getting past that, “Junk” is a fun album.  The songs on “Junk” are well composed but it is also a concept album.  The story here is about a network channel being broadcast throughout the day during the late 80s early 90s.  The interludes serve as commercials and the songs serve as the main programs.  Each song has a distinct identity to it, Solitude is an epic romantic ballad, Time Wind is the hit song from a romantic comedy,  Go! is the movie of the week and you have Steve freaken Vai doing the guitar solo.   Do It, Try It is an epic opener to album. Its simplicity is to support it’s building up hype for the events to come. Moon Crystal reminds me of those old product commercials and The Wizard reminds me of those late night advertisements for what is playing next.  The album brings a lot of memories of my childhood back and I enjoy every aspect of it.   That was the goal of the album,  to capture our youth and it is an experiment that I say worked well.  Reception might not be kind today but in years to come people will fondly remember it.

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5.  Moderat - III

I love electronic music and in the last few years, electronic music has managed to get a bad rep.  People tend to think EDM is the only electronic music but there are so many bands doing different things.  I mentioned Boys Noize did a wonderful job with Mayday and here is a band doing some cool things.  Moderat is a collaboration project of Apparat and Modeselektor.  I am not a big fan of those particular acts but I do like Moderat.  The second album was good and the first album was alright but III is on a whole new level.  I didn’t expect to be blown away or enjoy it so much.  The album is epic in all regards.  The sounds build up and then hit you in the face with gloriousness. It is loud, hard hitting, well sung and composed.  The best way to describe “III” is to say it is a loud rock album disguised as an electronic album.  There is not a single song that is not hard hitting on the album and it sounds amazing in a live setting.

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4.  Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

“The King of Limbs” was a very short album and a bit underwhelming coming off as the  follow up to In Rainbows.  I too was initially disappointed by “The King of Limbs” but it grew over time for me. A Moon Shaped Pool is a bigger step up from “The King of Limb’”   A Moon Shaped Pool contains a lot of reworked old songs but some new songs too.  So there was some familiarity going into the album but glad to say, it doesn’t disappoint. The band members were all working on their solo projects in hiatus and they bring their newfound experiences to the band.  Thom brings his glitchy electronic habits and Johnny Greenwood brings some of his soundtrack experience as well.  There are a lot of strings on the album that are reminiscent of the work Greenwood has done for Paul Thomas Anderson. Everything meshes so well.  The singles are outstanding, Present Tense is heartbreakingly beautiful and Identikit is a song I have been waiting for since their 2012 tour to come out.  The reworked version sounds amazing.  “A Moon Shaped Pool” is not a game changing album.  The album can be slow and dry at parts but it is a fresh sounding album from a band that should be past their prime.  Radiohead continues to amaze and I am very happy we have a band like this.

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3.  Raleigh Ritchie - You’re a  Man Now Boy

You might have not heard of Raleigh Ritchie, but you must have heard of Greyworm from Game of Thrones.  Game of Thrones credentials always elevate you, even if you’re a minor character.  That is true in the case of Raleigh Ritchie but Raleigh is more than an actor from Game of Thrones.  He is an amazingly talented musician.  He combines hip hop, alternative and r&b super well.  The songs are catchy, fun and complex but instead of opting for silly lyrics, Ritchie writes straight from the heart. His lyrics discuss identity, love, loneliness, mental illness and you cannot help but relate to the album.  It is one of the most powerful debuts an artist can have. Ritchie, cites Kanye West’s album, “The College Dropout” as an inspiration and he manages to create something as wonderful.  “You’re a Man Now, Boy” did not get much attention in the US market but the album was a hit in the UK and everyone that I have recommended this album to has loved it.

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2.  The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You’ve Come to Expect

The last Arctic Monkeys album “AM” was a terrific one and expectations were high for The Last Shadow Puppets.  Hints of a reunion were in works for a while with Miles Kane showing up at various Arctic Monkey shows. Arctic Monkeys continue to do great work and the first Last Shadow Puppets album is a beauty.  It had been many years since their last release, the indie scene changed, the world changed, and Miles and Alex Turner both changed. Could they recreate that indie magic from so many years ago?  I had my doubts after hearing the singles but I was blown away by “Everything You’ve Come to Expect”  It was nothing I came to expect. “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” incorporates all the things Alex Turner & Miles Kane learned in the past years. The western sounding elements from from album 1 are in there but the album pushes the orchestra sounds further than the debut.    The songwriting is a more mature, the melodies are different & complex but familiar.  It really is a fun album that stands toe to toe with their debut but also compares with some of Arctic Monkeys’ best work.

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1. David Bowie - Blackstar

David Bowie is one of my all time favorites, so there might be some minor bias here.  It’s tough to say that now he’s passed away and the cool thing to do is become a fan after the musician passed away but my history with David Bowie goes back all the way to middle school.  I was glad to see Bowie return with “The Next Day” but the album didn’t do much for me.  I was a bit disappointed, it was alright but I would hardly put it with Bowie’s best work.  “Blackstar" is an album worthy of David Bowie’s caliber.  Bowie at 68 is still trying new sounds and reinventing himself.  Bowie goes for a more jazz, orchestra sound with soft percussions on “Blackstar” which works very well.  The songs are long and don’t follow a consistent structure,but they fail to lose you.  It grasps your attention from the beginning to end.   On a first listen, “Blackstar" is a weird album to listen too.  It is not something familiar from Bowie and barely anything like “The Next Day.”  But with repeat albums, the experience gets better and better.  For an album that doesn’t truly follow structure, it is irresistible and soothing.  The album is very well written and its themes of old age, regrets and death are no coincidence, as Bowie passed away a couple of days later making this album even the more hard hitting and emotional.   And I’ll clarify another thing, the album didn’t get better for me with his passing.  It did get deeper and more emotional but I was amazed when I heard it.  I was traveling when it was released so I had it on my iPhone on constant rotation and bought it on vinyl, a couple of hours before his passing.  Ziggy Stardust went on a high note and it is the perfect album to close out a special successful life

Honorable Mentions: 

Solange - A Seat at the Table

Bon Iver- 22 A Million

Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered

Kanye West - Life of Pablo,

Crystal Castles - Amnesty

Previous Lists

2015

2013

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2015

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2015