Well, 2016 was kind of a shit year. Maybe not completely for you (or me) personally, but by most accounts I think it’s fair to say that things could’ve been better (to say the least). In many ways the same thing could be said for the music released in 2016. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of quality records released; but in comparison to past years, I found the music of 2016 to be more devoid of year defining standout records and a bit underwhelming in terms of genre range and uniqueness of music releases. Or maybe i’m just getting jaded and my musical taste buds are stagnating to the point I don’t “get” what “the kids” are into these days. Maybe. But, maybe not?
So while you take a second to consider whether there’s any truth to my jar jar binks like musical evaluation of 2016 take a second to ponder what were the favorite albums you heard and the musical acts you discovered in the past 12 months. Go ahead, I’ll pause for a moment…
Ok, now that we’re over and done with that let’s get to what the professional music critics liked in 2016 and see where your picks line up and where they might be some new hidden game genie album tunes to discover. Because let’s be honest, the enjoyment of music is such a subjective thing and there’s always going to be different strokes that float different boats for different folks. That’s how that saying goes,
But back to the (ball) point (pen), as is par for the course each year Metacritic has once again done a great job of summarizing each and every critic “best of” list that’s out there which is included in the handy link below for you to peruse at your leisure. There’s a lot of variety in there if you dig deep (click the links for some you like to see beyond just their top 10) but also a lot of parity in the top spots with albums from some older and bigger name artists that frankly I didn’t care for or quite understand (for the most part). But again, it’s not about who’s right, it’s about discovering some new music that you vibe with. Because really, aside from this being my personal amusing yearly tae bo (I guess we’re doing cross fight these days though, right?) musical exercise challenge that’s really what it’s all about (just like the hokey pokey).
So while I was beginning to actually organize this list towards the end of the year it stuck out to me that for the first year in as many as I can remember I didn’t have an obvious stand out top pick or two for album of the year. But not only that, I also had to work to get to 100 albums so I didn’t have to include a few albums I really didn’t enjoy and want to include (ahem…Life of Pablo, minus No More Parties In LA thanks to Madlib and Kendrick). Plus, this year there seemed to be so fewer good albums by y’know, them old school style bands that just straight up rock instruments without essentially playing some form or hybrid of electronic, dance, pop, hip-hop or R&B music. And I don’t mean to hate on fusion music at all by that, I actually enjoy it. Just not when it’s a very familiar fusion that’s already essentially been done before but a lower level. Maybe it’s just me, but where did all the indie rock and underground rap go? Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been pining for more of that kind of sound as I’ve not been feeling much of the current popular rap, pop, artsy classic rock, and odd non-melodic repetitive house and techno that seem to be getting a lot of love from the music critics. I’m all about looking to understand what it is people like about any piece of music that gets any kind of critical acclaim but in attempting to do so this year I was often left scratching my head (by the way, have you ever wondered why people scratch their head while they’re confused? …hmm yeah, me neither) when trying to decipher the rationale. Or maybe I’m just not coming to terms with the reality that (ok, I’ll say it) I’m getting old. Could I finally be becoming one of those jaded post-adults that looks down on all these new age hipsters that don’t understand music when it was good and had basic things like rhythm, melodies, and soul? The same type of musical grinch that I used to loathe because they didn’t “get it”? Possibly. But I’d like to think that I’ve not yet hit full grump mode and that maybe 2016 was just trolling me by being a little shittier than normal. Y’know like some kind of two thousand and sixteen albums one cup situation.
But let’s not take anything away from the quality music releases that I did enjoy this year (and hey, I was still able to come up 100 after all) as there were definitely a fair share that deserved the respect they’ve been getting among the critic circle jerks. Plus, I am 100% sure that there are tons of other records from artists, bands, and producers that I’m not familiar with or aren’t remotely on my radar (but hopefully will be soon!) that are going completely unappreciated by me in this trivial (non pursuit) annual post of mine.
Anyways, something that stood out to me this year which has been bubbling up in the back of my brain for a while is how much of an impact a few bad or ill fitting songs on an album can really kill my impression of the overall “best-ness” or success of the album which hurts its rank in these lists I put together each year. This inherently seems unfair to me when I purposely always title this my top “music releases” instead of albums in order to consider EPs and collections of dance 12″s and such which always have considerably less content than an album but also have the luxury to impress with a few highlight songs when there are plenty of albums that have 4 to 6 songs in them that I’d probably enjoy more if packaged just as an EP. But it’s something that I just can’t quite shake. If there are songs I generally skip or that just ruin the flow of being able to listen to an album start to finish I consider that as more negative than not having the song at all. I think maybe that’s why the best out there are great at selection, editing and the ever important quality of timing. In a way it’s kind of like DJ’ing where you can play great songs but if the transitions don’t work or the timing of the songs are off the whole vibe gets killed. I guess that’s the best analogy I can come up with off the top of my head (but really, who’s to say the bottom of the head doesn’t have all the answers?). So to all you artists putting out what should not be mediocre records plagued by those few sub par songs, get your headphones, turn the tables on your thinking and mix it up. Because then you just might do justice to your music properly. You see what I done did right there? …don’t encourage me.
But enough of the rambling on, I’ll leave that to the led zeppers. Let’s get on with it already and look at some album covers I’ve chosen to put in some loosely planned but ultimately futile order. Because y’know, orders can reorder your recorder deporter quarter for the southern border of your new order. Or something like that.
And if you want to listen to the incredible audio work of Frank Ocean’s Endless (that’s arguably as good or better than Blond) at your leisure without the full video experience, go and download it at the link that well, you just missed. Go back 22 words and look again. Because things are always hidden 22 steps away. You just have to look.