I’m not going to come out and pick the records of 2016 that I most admired. When listening to music what good is “admiration”? I admire lots of records that don’t inspire me to toss them on the record player. What good is an intellectual exercise in choosing music that appeals strictly to your objective, rational thought? No. I’ve never been here to tell you which records you *should* listen to. I’m going to tell you the records that lived on my turntable and in my CD player — the ones I played ad infinitum, the ones I played without conscious requiring a conscious decision-making process.

And as usual, I wouldn’t want to disappoint with a litany of selections cribbed from Pitchfork or NPR or god forbid Rolling Stone or SPIN. I will change the channel faster than you can say Car Seat Headrest. I didn’t toss on Solange or Beyonce when I needed a groove. I found both of those records to be pretty much just sorta overrated. And I was unable to really connect with David Bowie’s final album beyond a couple of gutpunch songs. Leonard Cohen’s climbing my favorites but I just haven’t spent enough time with it. I know. I know. Heresy. But it doesn’t just get a bye because it’s Leonard Cohen’s last record either.

best albums of 2016

 

30Hz Best Albums of 2016

 

Spotify Playlist of all Records + bonus picks

 

Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat to Earth

1. Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat to Earth

No record mixed the past with the present quite like Weyes Blood’s third LP. The 28 year old Natalie Mering from Santa Monica won top billing with a layered, multi-dimensional epic of contemporary singer-songwriter balladry and added 60’s-era folk music, 70’s-era AM radio and lush, accessible soundscapes that NPR likened to Enya.

Front Row Seat to Earth also delivers Generation Why? disillusionment and an ecological imperative… if you take a moment to stop grooving and listen to her socially conscious lyrics.

Essential tracks: Seven Words, Do You Need My Love, Used to Be

 

 

 

minor victories

2. Minor Victories – s/t

Debut record from supergroup featuring members of Slowdive, Mogwai and the Editors. Shoegaze and gloomy. Because this record finds the band’s strength and resides firmly in that post-punk wheelhouse, listeners opposed to the specific frequency of Minor Victories might be turned away by repetition. Those that embrace aforementioned minor keys will be smitten.

I’m smitten. You might be smitten too.

Essential tracks: A Hundred Ropes, Scattered Ashes (A Song for Richard), Breaking My Light

 

 

3. Lapsley – Long Way Home

Holly Lapsley Fletcher is 19 years old, but sings and creates with the confidence of a season songstress. The UK teenager blends old-fashioned songwriter with electronic frequencies. Some of this results in predictability — no less listenable — merely routine in execution. Often, however, her classical music origins and her electric dreams create brilliant, nuanced imperfection.

The album rises and falls as Lapsley’s voice swells and reaches the point of fracture. At the breaking point, she finds her true potential.

Essential tracks: Hurt Me, Love is Blind, Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me)

 

 

japanese breakfast

4. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp

“Pop” is not inherently a dirty word. “Pop” gets a bad name when it’s foisted upon us during Super Bowl Halftime shows, during 30-second commercial spots, on Top 40 radio. “Pop” merely implies a music of certain accessibility. “Pop” music should be fun, but it should also not boast the characteristics associated with fleeting ephemera.

Psychopomp is “pop” music. No doubt. And while it is melodic it is also rough around the edges. It also thrills and gives itself weight. Japanese Breakfast creates drama. This means it gets slapped with the “Indie-pop.” Whatever. Some see that as a seal of approval. Others see that as a barrier to entry created by snooty critics and music bloggers… but not necessarily bl-ggers, you see. I’m a different breed. And this is essential, rejuvenating pop music for our disillusioned, fractured, sky-is-falling era. I don’t care who you are.

 

 

anderson .paak

5. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Most often compared to Frank Ocean, this L.A. rapper distanced himself from Ocean and proved himself a worthy disciple of the great Dr. Dre. The rap genre and Anderson .Paak is moving in astounding directions — spanning, of course, funk and soul, and now encroaching on psychedelia, house music and at times borrowing 1980’s neon pop. Run DMC reluctantly broke down that first wall when Aerosmith stormed into their studio. Anderson’s breaking down all the rest.

Rap music wasn’t dead as I once supposed — it’s just been slumbering and waiting for the new guard to grab the torch.

 

6. Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes

7. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

8. Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla

 …

 

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

10. Savages – Adore Life

11. Avalanches – Wildflower

 …

 

12. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

13. Yeasayer – Amen & Goodbye

14. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

 …

15. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

16. Psychic Temples – III

 …

17. BadBadNotGood – IV

18. Mitski – Puberty 2

 

19. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Vol. 1 / 2

 

20. DIANA – Familiar Touch

 

21. Heron Oblivion – s/t

 

22. GoGoPenguin – Man Made Object

 

23. Eric Bachmann – s/t

 

24. Cellars – Phases

 …

 

25. Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass

 

26. Vesuvio Solo – Don’t Leave Me In the Dark

 …

 

27. Glass Animals – How to Be a Human Being

28. Wye Oak – Tween

 …

 

29. Hoops – Tape #2 / Tape #3

 …

 

30. Beyond the Wizards Sleeve – The Soft Bounce