Earbuddy’s Best Albums of 2016: The Top Ten

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, 35 – 26 HERE, and 25 – 11 HERE. No more stalling; let’s reveal OUR TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2016.

danny-brown-atrocity-exhibition

10. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Atrocity Exhibition isn’t the highest-ranking rap album on our list, but it might be the riskiest. Brown, fresh off of proving to his haters with Old that he’s a bona-fide artist rapping about his life rather than a stoner trying to pass himself off as an artist (remember when XXX ranked so low on our 2011 list?), returns to the well of gnarly, nasty hip-hop that he initially made his name on, choosing to rely harder on sonic cohesion than introspective thoughtfulness. The ensuing music could have come across as regressive in a lesser artist’s hands, but Brown makes this weirdo package work, navigating his way through the best beats of the year to prove his worth as one of the best rappers going today. That there’s any hip-hop above it on our list speaks not for decencies in AE but in how good this year was for the genre.

John Downey

Purchase: Amazon


A-Tribe-Called-Quest-We-got-it-from-Here-...-Thank-you-4-your-service-cover-art

9. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service

There are some eerie similarities between many of our picks for 2016’s best albums. Some of them arrived unexpectedly, seemingly out of thin air with no press. Some of them arrived after huge gaps between albums (Wildflower, member?). Some of them were affected by death. A Tribe Called Quest’s album, We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service, checked the box for all of these categories. Arriving during a tumultuous US election week, the new album found the group in tremendous form; making it even more tragic that group member Phife Dawg is no longer with us. Political but promoting a message of peace and compassion, Tribe’s legacy ends on an incredible high note.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


angel-olsen-my-woman

8. Angel Olsen – My Woman

This right here is an album of two halves. The first half consists of more experimental, more pop-rock moments such as the fantastic “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Not Gonna Kill You”. But then a shift occurs mid-way through, which sees Angel revert back to the sullen and reflective chanteuse we know and love. That’s not to say that My Woman is a regressive step. Angel’s artistry is still growing with every release and it’s so exciting to watch.

Constantino Christou

Purchase: Amazon


Bon Iver - 22, A Million

7. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Before 22, A Million even dropped, it was clear that Justin Vernon’s latest incarnation as Bon Iver was going to be different. After a five-year period between albums, a tracklist that was more hieroglyphics than song titles appeared alongside a bizarre marketing campaign that signalled an abrupt 90-degree turn. The album itself is a weird, glitch-filled, autotuned arrangement that’s more experimental music than folk. While Vernon’s delicate vocals still remain, the rest of Bon Iver evolved on 22, A Million into something that is both a throwback to the autotuned days of Imogen Heap in the ‘00s and somehow a look at the future ahead. Though this album has a few singles that work by themselves, 22, A Million is one of the entirely complete Albums that exist best as an entire movement and begs to be played straight through. Though Bon Iver may be difficult to recognize in 2016, their metamorphosis in 22, A Million was precisely the right move.

Chris Foster

Purchase: Amazon


baroness purple

6. Baroness – Purple

Well, shit; it only took Earbuddy five years to finally get Baroness in one of our Best Albums lists. That’s insane considering they’ve consistently released great albums for their entire existence. Purple, which arrived last December, was probably forgotten by most because of the whole 2015 thing. However, Purple is arguably the band’s best album in the color spectrum. Their songs continue to bring the monster riffs and John Dyer Baizley’s James Hetfield-style vocals but twist them in a way where these songs are catchy as anything in the pop genre. Now if you’ll excuse me; some metal fans want to kick the shit out of me now.

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial

5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Will Toledo, the guts of Car Seat Headrest, has been carrying the indie rock load for a few years now. The story is familiar: guy releases tons of unsigned work, finally gets in with a strong indie label (Matador), and hammers out a killer release (2015’s Teens of Style). The understated, but perfectly catchy release gets attention from all the right people, and in 2016 Toledo continues his prodigious output and puts out Teens of Denial. With his sophomore Matador release, Toledo stretches out his wings, slows things down, and proves he can make good music over and over again, quickly. To further prove that there is no one more indie than Will Toledo, he kindly samples The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” (The Cars? Car Seat Headrest? See what he did there?) on the track “Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed”. In turn, The Cars’ Ric Ocasek proves that it’s easy to forget where you come from, freaks out, and forces Toledo to remove the track, forever dooming thousands of CSH vinyl records to the fires. But in the end, the controversy is a non-issue as Toledo quickly re-records a new track, cementing the fact that as good as Teens of Denial is, there’s still more amazing material to come.

Chris Foster

Purchase: Amazon


radiohead a moon shaped pool

4. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead dominated music in the last two decades with hyper-produced paranoia-inducing rock, so over 20 years removed from Pablo Honey. We have seen many versions of the band much like the masks from T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock. From Brit Pop to IDM (and Thom Yorke’s DJ stint), there’s little the band can’t do in terms of genre and sound. The one thing they haven’t done is completely give into hopelessness and melancholy, and Moon Shaped Pool is the record that does just that. Of course, they manage to weave their sadness in the most beautiful way possible throughout the record: orchestras, synthesizers, tape loops and Thom’s aching falsetto glue this thing together from falling into utter solipsism. “Daydreaming”, “True Love Waits”; (they saved this one since 1998’s Romeo + Juliet), “Present Tense” bring the band on a new emotional level making the rock legends more vulnerable and humble than ever before. I was a fan of The King of Limbs, but I feel like fans were waiting for something like this record to come along and greet us with its drooping face and somber eyes.

Ryan Rogers

Purchase: Amazon


Beyoncé Lemonade

3. Beyoncé – Lemonade

WHAT?! THIS ALBUM AGAIN! I THOUGHT YOU GUYS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE AN INDIE MUSIC SITE! I’m sure that’s a reaction many people are having when visiting sites like Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, and Pitchfork and continuing to see Beyoncé’s Lemonade popping up in the top ten (and many times at the number 1 position). Hey, it was just THAT good of an album. It arrived unexpectedly carrying loads of baggage and twisted the pop genre in all different kinds of directions — she even got nominated for a Rock Grammy. So while this album may only be “based on a true story” rather than telling the full truth, it’s heartfelt, angry, rebellious, and empowering for women (says this male reviewer).

Nick Krenn

Purchase: Amazon


david bowie blackstar

2. David Bowie – Blackstar

There’s likely some index of rules of “objective critique” we’re violating here. We “have” to only celebrate the music that is, “objectively”, the best, removing all context surrounding its release and judging it in a vacuum. When Bowie sings “Look up here, I’m in Heaven”, we’re supposed to turn on our inner Arlene Croce and shake our heads and wag our fingers and just ignore the prescient context that phrase is loaded with. Is Blackstar the “objectively” the best constructed and executed rock album of the year that takes the most risks? There’s an argument that it isn’t. All I know is that, in this crazy, sad year, Bowie’s swan song was the rock one I kept coming back to the most. There’s no way to objectively measure emotional impact a work has on an individual, the proverbial “bucket of tears” notwithstanding, and I think that’s as good an argument as any to shake our heads at the notion of objective critique. You think Bowie ever gave a shit how many stars Rolling Stone gave any of his albums?

John Downey

Purchase: Amazon


mitski puberty 2

1. Mitski – Puberty 2

Through an array of guitar-driven confessional ‘indie rock’ tracks, Mitski Miyawaki was able to rise to the very top of what is a genre often dominated by samey straight white men. Puberty 2 is a powerful, honest and bold record. From the epic chorus of “Your Best American Girl” to the crushing sadness of “I Bet On Losing Dogs”, every song is a moment. Whether you’re an identity-confused teen in need of comfort or someone so settled in life that you need 31 minutes of heartstring-tugging, Puberty 2 is an essential listen.

Constantino Christou

Purchase: Amazon


And just a look back at the entire list:

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
10. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
9. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service
8. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
7. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
6. Baroness – Purple
5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
4. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
3. Beyonce – Lemonade
2. David Bowie – Blackstar
1. Mitski – Puberty 2


And those are our picks for the year! Thanks for reading!

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.