Earbuddy’s Best Albums of 2016: 25 – 11

earbuddy best albums of 2016-2

Today continues Earbuddy’s countdown of our choices for the 100 best albums of 2016. Check out what we ranked for 100 – 36 HERE and 35 – 26 HERE. No more stalling; let’s reveal 25 – 11.

frank ocean blond

25. Frank Ocean – Blonde

One of the many albums that just kind of dropped suddenly and caused mass hysteria. No, not The Life of Pablo; I’m referring to an actual finished album. Frank Ocean’s Blonde took four years to arrive after the excellent channel ORANGE, but it was totally worth the wait. Ocean’s status has only grown bigger with this release, and it’s no wonder why. His experimental R&B and hip hop continues to mesmerize, unveiling new layers with repeated listens.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


death grips bottomless pit

24. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Bottomless Pit represents the Death Grips I’ve always wanted: confrontational, absurd, angry, and challenging. They’re so far post hip-hop that they’re practically punk these days. The resulting music is freaky and likely off-putting to many, but those who are able to engage with it will be rewarded with some of the most exciting music of the year. I wrote a column for this site about how I’m fed up with Death Grips, and Bottomless Pit is my second-favorite album of the year. Go figure.

John Downey

Purchase: Amazon


whitney light upon the lake

23. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

Whitney’s debut album, Light Upon The Lake, made it clear that the demise of the much adored Smith Westerns might actually be a good thing. Nevermind that Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori released his own album this year because former members Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich made more of an impact. Though Ehrlich was just the drummer in Smith Westerns, he’s a revelation as the voice for Whitney. His heartfelt singing gives these songs emotional resonance while Whitney’s other members fill the songs with multi-faceted instrumentation. Top it off with dusty production to give this a warm vinyl sound that you can’t get enough of.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


andrew bird are you serious?

22. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious?

Yep, Andrew Bird still whistles. But he also still pens some damn good lyrics. Are You Serious? is arguably the chamber pop musician’s best album in years and is highlighted by a duet with Fiona Apple (“Left Handed Kisses”). If you haven’t given Bird a listen in years, now is the time to start paying attention again.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

21. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music signalled an awakening of sorts. Popular country music had been in a downward spiral over the last decade, finally settling in a lowest-common-denominator trough of “bro country” — no substance, just beer, pickup trucks, America, rinse, repeat. Gone were the outlaws that had made country music dangerous and wild. With Metamodern Sounds, Sturgill Simpson reminded music fans that country music could be something nebulous, something weird. Simpson’s 2014 effort was most definitely country music, not alt-country or jam-band music (though it touched on both styles). It was deeply-rooted in the tradition of Waylon and Willie and Hank (Sr.).

So lo and behold, Sturgill Simpson gets a big shiny record contract (Metamodern Sounds was self-released for all intensive purposes) with Atlantic. After years of playing to near-empty rooms, Simpson hits it big then pretty much goes underground to work on the next album. What do most people do when they hit it big? Figure out the formula that got them there, alter it slightly, and keep at it. On 2016’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson says f$#@ that and does precisely what he wants. He adds horns (big horns, Big Dap-Kings Horns!). He makes it so deeply personal, it could be a tour diary. He produces the crap out of the thing. He covers Nirvana. He does all the stuff that you do on your fifth or ninth album after you’ve made it big and just want to do The Album You’ve Always Wanted To. The best part is: he does everything you’re not supposed to when you sign a big contract with a major label, and he completely totally nails it. Sailor’s Guide is both perilously deep and immediately catchy. It has mass appeal without the targeted marketing strategy. It’s barely the country music we recognize and yet still so familiar. This is an album that blossoms under repeated listens, but still has immediate impact. And it proves that only God knows what Simpson will do next.

Chris Foster

Purchase: Amazon


swans the glowing man

20. Swans – The Glowing Man

The Glowing Man caps off a trilogy of some of the most exhilarating and not to mention lengthy albums in the history of Swans. The Glowing Man in particular is 2 hours and 5 minutes long, which should no doubt keep listeners satisfied when Swans returns in its new form that mastermind Michael Gira has promised. Where The Glowing Man excels, much like The Seer and our 2014 pick for album of the year To Be Kind, is its ability to make us ponder the meaning behind these enormous songs. Is it a statement on life, death, and the beyond? Possibly. Or maybe it’s just some badass complex progressive rock that allows us to lose ourselves for long periods of time. Or maybe it’s both. What’s for certain is that it’s one of our favorite albums of the year.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


19. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.

Some artists stream themselves making their work. That’s crazy to me. Imagine being in the editing room as your favorite film is getting chopped together, how what you view as near-perfection comes from a place of a million imperfections. It humanizes the artist as it ruins the myth of the work, a notion that the market seems to be okay with these days. Lamar can’t let us in, he’s not that kind of person. untitled unmastered is likely the closest he’ll ever come to letting us in on his process, and it is a credit to him that this, his worst album to date, is as listenable and ferocious as anything he’s ever put out. Dammit, Kendrick, it really isn’t doing much for you when your outtakes are better than entire albums made by your peers.

John Downey

Purchase: Amazon


jenny-hval-blood-bitch

18. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch

I remember when Earbuddy’s John Downey first turned Earbuddy’s scarce writing staff onto Jenny Hval in 2011. Although she made our Best Albums list that year, some of us were scratching our heads over the pick. Wow…how opinions can change over time and Downey gets to smile (does he smile?) even bigger. Possibly her most experimental album yet…and that’s saying something, Blood Bitch is an eerie, enchanting listen that leaves us giving up our necks for Hval to drain. The album’s about vampires, right?

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


solange-a-seat-at-the-table

17. Solange – A Seat At The Table

I don’t believe another album has captured the identity discussions that swept social media in 2016 quite like this one did. A Seat At The Table is a powerful record showcasing Solange’s pride in her identity as a black woman and it is inspiring to witness. As expected, the production is flawless throughout, creating an intimate yet grand feel. Though there aren’t pop moments on the level of “Losing You” or “I Decided”, what we do have is by far Solange’s most cohesive body of work to date.

Constantino Christou

Purchase: Amazon


beach-slang-a-loud-bash-of-teenage-feelings

16. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings

Last year Beach Slang finished in our Best Albums of 2015 at number 32 with The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us. In a year’s span, they’ve only seemed to get louder on A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings and digging further into our angsty feelings of yesteryear. And apparently we needed that much more this year. The guitars are loud, the drums hit like an earthquake, and the lyrics are packed with emotion.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


pusha t king push – darkest before dawn the prelude

15. Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude

Ahem: “Leave your conscience at the door / We done hid the monsters in the floor”; “As a God amongst men / Rinsed drug money, I done paid for my sins / Books and the lawyers, I done paid for my friends / Still held back, I done paid with my skin / The only thing missing is a cape on me / You niggas wanna tag a late, great on me”; “I’m watching this three ring circus / Old lions don’t roar, so the clowns ain’t nervous / Even you fools serve purpose / Let ’em run amuck until the king resurface / Then it’s off with your heads / Wear your little jewels, you could floss when you’re dead”. All of that is from the intro.

John Downey

Purchase: Amazon


14. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Compton is a place where some of the best rappers of the west have spit politically charged gangster rap from the early ‘90s with Dre, Tupac and Snoop Dogg to modern day rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, YG, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock. When I heard that Anderson .Paak was making music in the same location, hot off his work on Dr. Dre’s last album, my expectations for Malibu were for a loud, in-your-face, police-berating record. Instead, Malibu is more Innervisions than The Chronic and delivers some of the most revolutionary, earth-shaking soul music of this decade. Anderson .Paak marches to the beat of his own drum and leaves the Compton bite in his lyricism rather than on the mixing boards. In such a politically motivated year, .Paak stands his ground and cries for injustice in his community and the world at large. Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes described records like Joanna Newsom’s Ys as being worlds that you enter into once you put on your headphones and Malibu has that same transportative quality. Whether it be the soundbites talking about being washed up in the riptide, the colorful orchestration, or .Paak’s rusty but assuring voice, the record commands your attention with passion and fury. Wise beyond his years, .Paak still has a lot to give to the world of music.

Ryan Rogers

Purchase: Amazon


ANOHNI hopelessness

13. ANOHNI – HOPELESSNESS

2016 has been a very rough year. We’ve had to deal with a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band-cover amount of musicians’ deaths. We’ve had to deal with mounting international crises. We’ve had to deal with an election season that left pretty much everyone pissed off — even before the outcome. 2016 was a time to realize that music can be more than just pretty sounds, and ANOHNI’s heartbreaking Hopelessness is the precise emotion that so many are feeling right now. Antony Hegarty had been releasing very art-heavy music for years under the moniker Antony and The Johnsons, but only with a name change to Anohni and her latest release, Hopelessness has she found the perfect balance between biting (and specifically-targeted) socio-political art and entirely absorbable music. Hopelessness does the impossible by acting as a touchstone for many of our current global issues while still remaining an album that anyone can appreciate. No one is safe from Anohni’s scorn — Obama, climate change deniers, those in favor of capital punishment — and yet Anohni never comes off elitist or unapproachable in her music. Hopelessness is a truly beautiful album about some very ugly topics.

Chris Foster

Purchase: Amazon


chance the rapper coloring book

12. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper has came from the depths of datpiff.com to Kit-Kat spokesperson in a little under three years. Keeping his joyous optimism throughout, Chance 3 offers a more ambitious take on his first tape Acid Rap. This time around, his collaborators seem to rub off on him, matching the flow and style of each guest rapper. Jay Electronica’s bible-swearing pedanticism, Young Thug and Lil Yacthy’s soulful mumble, Future’s codeine-tinged drawl and Collegrove’s energetic swagger are all replicated with the precision of a mockingbird. The production is more expansive and goes in creative directions that his previous works lacked such as Mount Kimbie on the lights-low slow-dance “Juke Jam” and Francis & The Lights/Bon Iver on infectious “Summer Friends”. Chance has pioneered himself to be the first streaming grammy nomination or in his words breaking down walls like Samson. “Smoke Break” really encapsulates the stage in Chance’s life where he doesn’t have time to smoke and party so much because of his child and he sounds more mature as a rapper because of it. At this point, Chance can steer his success any which way he pleases because he already garnered a grassroots hip-hop audience watching his every move.

Ryan Rogers

Purchase: Amazon


avalanches-wildflower-album-artwork

11. The Avalanches – Wildflower

For me, the best album of the year was The Avalanches’ nearly hour-long Wildflower. However, it was a very hard choice to arrive at Wildflower as my “best” album, considering its competition (many which have yet to appear in our coverage thus far). Still, what put over The Avalanches sophomore album for me was its warmness and celebration of life — particularly the good parts like hanging with your friends or enjoying a bowl of cereal in the morning. Much like Wildflower‘s predecessor from 16 years ago, the new Avalanches album has lots of samples, pulling from classic songs, obscure songs, and sounds of life. The guest spots from musicians like Danny Brown, Toro y Moi and Father John Misty are all the money. If you just appreciated this album on its technical feats alone, it’s worthy of being in our Best Albums list. But when you step back and really examine its worship of music’s history and appreciation of different cultures, you understand there’s more layers to this album than the samples comprising its songs.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


And just a look back at the list so far:

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
35. Big Thief – Masterpiece
34. Anna Meredith – Varmints
33. Preoccupations – Preoccupations
32. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
31. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
30. Savages – Adore Life
29. Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being
28. Clipping – Splendor & Misery
27. Warpaint – Heads Up
26. DIIV – Is The Is Are
25. Frank Ocean – Blonded
24. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
23. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
22. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
21. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
20. Swans – The Glowing Man
19. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.
18. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
17. Solange – A Seat At The Table
16. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings
15. Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
14. Anderson Paak – Malibu
13. ANOHNI – HOPELESSNESS
12. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
11. The Avalanches – Wildflower


And that’s it for today! Be sure to join us tomorrow as we take a look at our TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2016.

About NK

I founded Earbuddy to turn you onto excellent music and give fair, unbiased, and honest music reviews. Hit me up on Twitter @earbuddy if you want to chat about music, disagree with what I’ve written here, or talk about anything else.