I think all of the music released in 2016 was wonderful. All of it. So, before you complain about your favourite album’s absence from my list, know that it was definitely number 11.
Well, not that M83 record, Junk. That one actually did suck.
A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
The Tribe staged its comeback at precisely the right time, because We Got It From Here… is the hip-hop record a post-Trump world needs, equal parts righteous anger and soulful celebration. Sadly, founding member Phife Dawg didn’t live to see its release, having died of diabetes-related complications several months before, meaning this will most likely be the group’s swan song.
Anohni — Hopelessness
Take that title literally; Anohni (the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons) offers no solutions on this emotional cri de coeur. There is ample power, however, in pointing out the mess the United States has made of itself and the rest of the world, and, as such, Hopelessness is a potent state-of-the-union address.
Drone warfare, global warming, torture, NSA surveillance, and capital punishment all get a look-in. And just in case you didn’t get that the album’s title is a pointed reference to the 44th president of the United States, who campaigned on a platform of “hope”, “Obama” spells out an entire generation’s disillusionment.
If Anohni thought the last eight years were bad, her outlook isn’t likely to improve over the next four.
Autolux — Pussy’s Dead
There’s a school of thought that says no one is doing anything new or boundary-pushing in rock music anymore. And then there’s Autolux, which joyously obliterates that notion on one of the weirdest rock records of the decade.
David Bowie — Blackstar
It’s tempting to include this for sentimental reasons alone—after all, David Bowie died two days after its release—but that would be downplaying its brilliance. Working with producer Tony Visconti and jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s band, Bowie left us with a sonically adventurous and lyrically enigmatic masterpiece as his final statement.
Chairlift — Moth
On Chairlift’s third full-length, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly have finally balanced their propensity for self-conscious art-school quirkiness with their capacity for crafting ridiculous hooks.
Minor Victories — Minor Victories
Given that this British shoegazing supergroup is made up of members of Slowdive, Mogwai, and Editors, the true victory is that it exists in the real world and not just in my fevered fantasies.
Mogwai — Atomic
My favourite Scottish postrockers provided the hauntingly melodic score to a documentary that is essentially just a montage of images from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. If 2016 has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I really enjoy depressing shit.
Angel Olsen — My Woman
Though she was initially pegged as an alt-folkie, My Woman reveals Angel Olsen to be a gifted pop songwriter. Mind you, “pop” is a relative concept these days. Let’s just say that “Shut Up Kiss Me” has a vintage girl-group vibe that Phil Spector would bust out of prison for, and “Woman” is the sort of quiet-storm ballad tailor-made for all your tear-stained pillow evenings.
Santigold — 99¢
Santi White proves that it’s possible to be topical (on 99¢ she tackles social-media narcissism, consumerism, and the fickleness of fame) without being a total downer. I mean, I like depressing shit, but not all the time.
The Zolas — Swooner
Vancouver’s own Mickey Mantles of indie pop knock it out of the park on their fourth album, cannily switch-hitting between synth-buzzed electro (“Molotov Girls”), guitar-driven strut (“Swooner”), and sad-boy balladry (“Why Do I Wait [When I Know You’ve Got a Lover]”). And no, I have no fucking idea why I used baseball as a metaphor either.