To be honest, I’m kind of glad this year is over because 2017 is already shaping up to be much more awesome. Still, 2016 isn’t without some good and even great albums, but I hope 2017 kicks its ass. However, it must be said that this year’s list was on of the tightest in the history of our fine blog. A few notes about this year’s list: releases were considered from December 2015 up to the end of November 2016. The final list was chosen by the Earbuddy Senior Writing Staff (Nick Krenn, John Downey, Ryan Rogers, and Chris Foster) and contributing writers Constantino Christou, James Downey, and Sami Rahman. No more delay; check out our picks for 100 – 36 below.
100. Two Inch Astronaut – Personal Life
99. Troye Sivan – Blue Neighbourhood
98. Lionlimb – Shoo
97. Told Slant – Going By
96. TEEN – Love Yes
95. Springtime Carnivore – Midnight Room
94. Living Hour – Living Hour
93. Faun Fables – Born of the Sun
92. Operators – Blue Wave
91. Mind Spiders – Prosthesis
90. Yoni & Geti – Testarossa
89. Yak – Alas Salvation
88. Night Moves – Pennied Days
87. Soft Hair – Soft Hair
86. Wilco – Schmilco
85. Momoiro Clover Z – Amaranthus
84. Dalek – Asphalt for Eden
83. Moonface and Siinai – My Best Human Face
82. Fear of Men – Fall Forever
81. Denzel Curry – Imperial
80. Animal Collective – Painting With
79. How To Dress Well – Care
78. Chivalrous Amoekons – Fanatic Voyage
77. Okkervil River – Away
76. Puro Instinct – Autodrama
75. Guerilla Toss – Eraser Stargazer
74. Wye Oak – Tween
73. EZTV – High In Place
72. Keaton Henson – Kindly Now
71. Xiu Xiu – Plays The Music of Twin Peaks
70. Junior Boys – Big Black Coat
69. Cian Nugent – Night Fiction
68. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
67. Dinosaur Jr. – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
66. Dave Harrington Group – Become Alive
65. Jessy Lanza – Oh No
64. Julianna Barwick – Will
63. Drive-By Truckers – American Band
62. Moderat – III
61. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust
60. Daughter – Not To Disappear
59. Tacocat – Lost Time
58. NOTHING – Tired of Tomorrow
57. Mutual Benefit – Skip a Sinking Stone
56. HINDS – Leave Me Alone
55. Quilt – Plaza
54. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea of Noise
53. The Notwist – Superheroes, Ghostvillains & Stuff
52. Babymetal – Metal Resistance
51. Porches – Pool
50. The Range – Potential
Perhaps one of the most interesting electronic albums that we missed talking about (via a review) is Potential from James Hinton, aka The Range. For Potential, Hinton scoured YouTube for potential vocalists to lend their singing and sometimes just spoken word to Hinton’s mesmerizing arrangements. It worked out much better than it should have to create an album with moments both exhilarating and emotional.
49. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
A song like “Dorothy” can’t help but put a smile on your face, with its elegant, shuffling rock and roll, and when you learn Morby wrote it as a tribute to his guitar, it becomes even more charming. Though some of the more somber songs tend to really push their longer lengths, it is moments like “Dorothy”, or when the titular instrument pokes its head through the murk, swaying gently as it beckons the album into existence, that Morby’s songs exhibit real staying power.
48. Band Of Horses – Why Are You OK
Well, isn’t this the pleasant surprise of the year? Band of Horses have spent the past decade squandering the goodwill of their debut album to such a degree that it is hard to fight the temptation to label them a fluke act, but BOH’s tally of good albums ticks to two with Why Are You OK, in which the band remembers how to rock. Granted, they had enough people behind the boards that it’d be shocking if the end product wasn’t some degree of respectable—Jason Lytle of Grandaddy produced the album, and the credits include Jenn Champion and J Mascis—but the results speak for themselves as this brand of indie rock takes little whimsy tolerance to get through.
47. Heron Oblivion – Heron Oblivion
Heron Oblivion is a spontaneous combustion of sorts — all of the right elements coming together to create this chemical ignition of fantastic music. Sprawling, gorgeous, and downright earth-shaking at times, Heron Oblivion’s self-titled debut is a welcomed surprise. Headed by the vocals of Espers’ frontwoman and solo artist Meg Baird, Heron Oblivion’s seven songs pair the folk whimsy of her singing with arrangements that are equal parts progressive and psychedelic.
46. Weezer – The White Album
At this point, no one is expecting Weezer to break new ground. We know what they are capable of, and we know when they miss the mark. Starting off with the slow fade-in of beach sounds (and Beach Boys sounds), “California Kids” kicks the album off strong, a gentle verse leaping into one of the best choruses on the album. From here, the hits just keep popping up.
45. Kaytranada – 99.9%
It may not be Jamie xx’s instant classic, In Colour, but Kaytranada’s music is kinetic enough. There’s enough variation in the compositions to make listening to it as structured an easy task, and the album’s length is just under the upper threshold of a tolerable duration for dance records.
44. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
Tennessee TDE recruit Isaiah Rashad, much like Frank Ocean in Odd Future, operates in his own personal realm in terms of style and songwriting. On his sophomore record The Sun’s Tirade, he is addressing his vices and demons related to a bout of depression he had over the last couple years. The Xanax-addicted Rashad comes to terms with work ethic, women, and an depressing outlook on life that only changed up until recently according to several interviews. The album shies away from his first record Cilvia Demo, which felt like Kendrick’s grittier early work, with a jazzier mellow vibe, Rashad admits that this album is for the “vibers” (stoners) on “Rope / Rosegold”. Before A Tribe Called Quest came back from the beyond, Rashad and co. delivered some of the most buttery smooth beats this year like the melancholic “4 Da Squaw”, his lead single “Free Lunch” and the overly hazy “Stuck in the Mud” (be prepared to melt into your couch akin to the girl in that anti-marijuana ad when listening). The Sun’s Tirade is a masterful work in atmosphere, redemption and hope laced with some of the best choruses and production in TDE history.
43. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Freetown’s best segments make up some of the finest music of the year (I dare anyone to knock its first third). That said, its few stumbles in the middle third are incidental enough that it can be difficult to not turn the damn thing off before it recovers in its final third. It is an album that tries to be too much. But there are plenty of worse problems to have.
42. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION Side B
There are no fantastical explanations as to why this EP is good. It is good for the same reasons Emotion was good: a nonstop flow of fantastic electropop over subversive little narratives. The trimmed fat and tightened focus on the artist’s strengths make this the second-best pop album of the year, provided that Lemonade counts as pop.
41. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
It’s refreshing to see a band, who at this point have no need to keep releasing studio albums, return with a newfound sense of reflectivity and subtlety. The instrumentation is richer, with slithering piano notes plinking away between washes of acoustic guitar and icy synth cascades, but the always driving nature of Explosions’ writing remains. The Wilderness feels weighty with cosmic significance and big emotions, but Explosions in the Sky have managed to get at the tiny feelings that linger afterwards.
40. Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven
Yes, there is still some of the glam sonic showboating on Down In Heaven, but Twin Peaks is now doing it there own way. In Wild Onion, they were clearly steeped deep in T. Rex binges, but now they’ve expanded their sphere of influence to bluesy, boozy rock a la the Stones’ Exile era. In fact, there is a ton of Stones influence on Wild Onion, but they still stay above the hard deck of simply copying the Stones and keep it their own.
39. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
Those that adored Frankie Cosmos’s Zentropy will find Next Thing a promise fulfilled. It’s smart. It’s loose. It’s engaging. Next Thing isn’t even that particularly catchy. The melodies that command your attention are all stacked into the second half of the record, but at that point, they’re hardly necessary. With an authorial voice as clear and charismatic as Frankie Cosmos, who needs melodies?
38. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
With Human Performance, Parquet Courts have made a stunner of a record. It shakes, throbs, screams and shouts all over the place. The band has tweaked their style just enough to remain fresh and exciting in a well-worn genre. Rather than potentially being a marker for a downslide, Human Performance suggests these four have much higher left to go.
37. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
Though Thee Oh Sees’ penchant for punctuating incomprehensible verses with the one-two punch of a “woo!”-riff chorus reaches apotheosis on “Dead Man’s Gun” and “Plastic Plant,” Exits’ real payoff lies in its final fourteen minutes. Perhaps we have Robert Beatty’s surrealist landscape album cover to thank for the excessive mental imagery evoked by the album’s last two tracks, which offer an exponentially weirder exit(s) to an already very strange journey.
36. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
Who knew the scientific experiment to combine The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend together would yield a positive result? Indeed, that is what happens on I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, the collaborative album between The Walkmen’s frontman Hamilton Leithauser and Vampire Weekend’s MVP Rostam Batmanglij. It may not be the instant classic that some publications have declared it to be, but this is still a fine album. Hopefully, this project isn’t just a one-off.
And that’s it for today! Be sure to join us tomorrow as we take a look at our best releases of 2016: 35 – 26.