Being a dad means less time listening to music. Well, that’s not true, I listened to the “Busy busy busy busy/there is so much to do” song on my son’s Stand and Play table about 500 times this year. Definitely my most listened to track. The music below is what I had time for and enjoyed, in between that song and all the nu-metal I listened to over here. I echo similar sentiments from people like Al Shipley and Steven Hyden with my list this year. I didn’t get to hear as much as I wanted to, and sometimes even then I didn’t get to listen to some things more than once. As a snapshot of my 2016 listening experience, this is pretty accurate.
- The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
This has been a trying year for us Kanye-Stans. We’ve had to weather the outbursts and the delays and the album rollout and the Trump supporting statements and then actually meeting with Trump; it almost broke us. But we still had these songs. As an album it is certainly Kanye’s messiest since Late Registration but the peaks are so high, and the lows aren’t really that low at all. I ride for “Facts”, but hey, I’m a Kanye-Stan.
p.s. The Pablo tour was flames before it imploded.
- A Seat at the Table by Solange
I never thought I’d become obsessed with a Solange album but 2016 was a year of surprises both good and bad. Solange finally crafted a piece of work that felt distinctly her own, not cribbing from obvious sources, instead fueled by a passion and point of view that is shatteringly personal. All of Solange’s previous work never sounded like it was necessary, while A Seat at the Table sounds vital and needed.
- Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Danny Brown reviews always talk about how he’s melting down and his songs show a side of him that is wild and off kilter. I certainly see that, but I think the great thing about his albums is that the dude is just rapping hard. Front to back, his albums are just power raps, mowing down the competition. And I don’t even care about the competition. Beats: fire. Lyrics: crushing.
- Crazy Eyes by Filter
Filter frontman Richard Patrick has been rotating and replacing bandmates pretty regularly since 2008’s Anthems For the Damned with mixed results. The albums were never terrible, they just sounded patchy and conceptually weak and with 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight, I was convinced that I could expect about half an album of solid tracks with a decent amount of filler every couple years and I was totally fine with that. Patrick got his groove back with this one, you guys. Basically front to back fury, with Patrick indulging in dance floor grooves, industrial blast beats and that wonderful strained yarl that all us Filter-heads live for. Easily their best album since 2002’s The Amalgamut.
- SEPT. 5TH by dvsn
I heard a lot of R&B this year that either was too sleepy and languid for my tastes or too indebted to old sources without adding anything new. dvsn was the group that really surprised me, with a strong, passionate and seductive sound that I hadn’t been hearing in these other albums. The vocal on “Try” is some oh shit oh shit level quality.
- Power Under Control by Islander
I first heard of these guys while researching bands that are considered to be nu-metal in 2016. They have co-signs from P.O.D. and Korn, but their sound is a mix of the hard charge of nu-metal with the melodic lightness of pop-punk. I know, I was skeptical too. This is Islander’s second album, their first falling into that emo/punk sound with little need for strong hooks. In between albums the lead singer basically ditched the whole band and started again from scratch. They’re now in that P.O.D. lane of being almost explicitly a religious band with songs like “Beelezbub” but they mostly stick to kick riffs on “Bad Guy” and “Better Day”. Terrible haircuts tho.
- We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
No one expected this album and I don’t think anyone expected it to be pretty great when they found out about it. But Q-Tip is some kind of casual genius and having everyone record in studio together clearly worked, because this album is alive and vibrant. That said, there are plenty of albums made by people in different rooms who never meet, but let the mystique be. Having the title be something that Phife liked but never explained to anyone is the perfect ending to it all.
- Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
We’re now three albums deep into Ariana Grande’s career and each album is better than the last. She packs it with a couple of all timers (“Into You”, “Touch It”) and just creates a real fun, high energy pop package that isn’t dumb or embarrassing. And girl can sang.
- Into the Vanishing Light by Night Verses
I found out about these guys because famed nu-metal producer Ross Robinson worked on and produced this album, one of six(!) albums he did this year (his work on De La Tierra’s II is also a highlight). For whatever reason, Night Verses and their emo/post-hardcore sound resonated with me this year, and Ross did a great job organizing the cacophony of their sound and having them branch out into other areas as well, like prog and shoegaze. I guess this one was divisive in their fan base, which could mean their next record is some “back to basics” BS. I hope not.
- The Serenity of Suffering by Korn
While I was definitely excited to hear this new Korn album I don’t think I expected it to be this good. It’s not even like it’s the best album they’ve ever done, but it is certainly the best album they’ve made in at least 13 years. The band members hyped this thing up as a back to basics, let’s just rock record, and the fact that it actually is the thing they said it would be is pretty mindblowing. 11 tracks, just Korn being Korn, big hooks, crunching riffs, no complaints from me!
- Gameshow by Two Door Cinema Club
These guys came back real strong after their second record turned out to be an actual sophomore slump. Dedication to light, fun dance pop/rock and good hooks make this the kind of breezy listen that sounds too easy, though I’m sure it was hard as hell to make.
- Operator by MSTRKRFT
MSTRKRFT’s last album Fist of God is an all timer for me, a front to back album of hard dance bangers, released in 2009 just as the whole blog house sound was dying out(much to my chagrin). They have let a couple trends come and go and come in the time since that record, and with Operator they sound like they’re in a transition mode of still knowing how to do the big hooks if they want to, but burying them in distortion and punk screams. It was initially disorienting but it is a definite grower with plenty of bangers to be found.
- Prima Donna by Vince Staples
Vince is the realest, and he sounds so disdainful half the time, and I love it. I listened to this the same week as that Travis Scott album and it only cemented the fact that that album is a piece of trash.
- Cashmere by Swet Shop Boys
Swet Shop Boys had the best song of 2014 and they now have an album that is almost as good. Heems continues his post-Das Racist run of success with more sharp/lazy sounding rhymes while Riz MC has apparently gotten even better and is spitting with a venom that is invigorating! 30 or so minutes of fire right here.
- Anti by Rihanna
When this came out, the talk was that Rihanna had finally made a cohesive album and not just a playlist of singles, which is the kind of thing you say when an album doesn’t sound like it has any big hits on it. I think this is about as consistent as Loud or Rated R, but without a big monster dance floor number, instead you have “Work”, which still sounds dumb and unfinished to me but I’m not upset about it. Most of the album is great moody numbers like “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better”, and if I don’t think it is that much different from her other albums, it at least feels confident for an album that was being pushed back and retooled for over a year.
- Hit Reset by The Julie Ruin
It would be a shame if the only thing people remembered about Kathleen Hanna this year is that terrible song she put out with a (briefly) reunited Le Tigre. Thankfully, history should record this excellent Julie Ruin album, filled to the brim with strong rockers about standing up for yourself, getting over your past wounds and kicking ass.
- Beyond the Fleeting Gales by Crying
Writer Ian Cohen put these guys on my radar when he tweeted an enthusiastic endorsement of their first single from this album, “Wool In the Wash”. He said “Van Halen” and I’m always dying for more vintage Van Halen so I did not walk, I ran, to hear this band. And y’know, at first I agreed with a lot of the internet people who said that making the Halen comparison did not do this band any favors, because your mind goes to David Lee Roth in a codpiece doing kick flips, not a soft voiced woman singing over guitar solos and enthusiastic keyboards. But the guitar is shiny and glittery, the riffs are potent and the momentum never lags. It sounds like the future.
- Lemonade by Beyoncé
I think this is only her fourth best album, but it’s still pretty good and the visual element is an all timer. I also believe that the whole storyline is just for the album and has little to no actual basis in fact. I will accept the facts as they are presented.
- Gore by Deftones
Has a fair share of rippers along with the spacey, sensual stuff that I always expect from Chino. I’d say it’s a lesser work by them after the great run of Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokon but it still crushes where it counts and the finale is a classic.
- A New Wave of Violence by Head Wound City
I have spent a lot of time listening to the Johnny Whitney post-Blood Brother’s projects but this was the first Jordan Blilie and Cody Votolato project I checked out, and I am glad I did because it is 24 minutes of fury, the closest to Blood Brothers we’re probably going to get. Along with members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Locust, and produced once again by Ross Robinson, A New Wave of Violence is thrashing guitars and screeched vocals in the Blood Brothers vein, but with a punk efficiency. One story about Ross Robinson is that he likes to throw things at the bands while he records them, to get them to be alert and awake in the moment. Head Wound City sound like they would be ready to throw something right back.
1. Crying: “Wool in the Wash”
2. Ariana Grande: “Into You”
3. Primal Scream: “Where The Light Gets In” (feat. Sky Ferreira)
4. Kanye West: “Father I Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”
5. Filter: “Nothing In My Hands”
6. Kwesta: “Ngud'”
7. Tegan and Sara: “U-turn”
8. Deftones: “Doomed User”
9. Beyoncé: “Formation”
10. Tokyo Police Club: “PCH”
11. Islander: “Bad Guy”
12. Chance the Rapper: “All Night” (feat. Knox Fortune)
13. A$AP Mob: “Yamborghini High” (feat. Juicy J)
14. Noname: “Diddy Bop” (feat. Raury and Cam O’Bi)
15. Chance the Rapper: “No Problem” (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)
16. Justice: “Randy”
17. Desiigner: “Panda”
18. Korn: “Take Me”
19. Rae Sremmurd: “Black Beatles” (feat. Gucci Mane)
20. John Mayer: “Love On the Weekend”