Top 10 Albums of 2016 / by Julia Walck

It goes without saying that 2016 was a pretty terrible year for the world at large. Luckily for myself, it wasn't too bad. I landed a new job at Ticketmaster, traveled, adventured, transitioned a room in our apartment into an art studio, and saw a lot of music. So I can't really complain. 

  • According to Spotify, I listened to 60,232 minutes of music this year. That's 41 days on Spotify alone! 

  • I saw nearly 100 bands (96 if you want the specifics)

  • I went to five music festivals (Festival No. 6CoachellaHARD SummerFYF, Free Press Summer Fest)

  • One of those five festivals was my first one abroad in Wales where I got to see my favorite band, Hot Chip. (This was a weekend after they headlined at FYF. And I got the set lists from both weekends!) What an AMAZING experience. 

Enough of that, let's get to the good stuff. My top 10 albums of 2016!

TOP 10 COUNTDOWN

10. Eternally Even / Jim James

Jim James of My Morning Jacket is a rad dude. He took this time of a political clusterfuck that we're in and made an activist album out of it. It talks about gun control, people in 'power', and how citizens need to speak up (directly stated in "Here in Spirit" with the lyrics, "If you don't speak out, we can't hear it").

It's a really important time right now. I mean, Trump's inauguration is in 12 days. He's not even officially president yet and things are out of control. Shit. 

Speaking of Trump in music there's a project called "30 Days, 30 Songs", (which is now 50 songs), that is "united in our desire to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump" - 30 Days, 30 Songs. 

Jame's song "Same Old Lie" is featured on the album.

9. Dolls of Highland / Kyle Craft

I was listening to KCRW on the way to work one day when I heard "Berlin" by Kyle Craft for the very first time. I arrived at my desk and immediately looked up tour dates and bought a $9 ticket to a show at the Bootleg. Best $9 show of my life! Intimate. Front row. Perfect.

My friend Emily and I got to talk to Kyle after the show. I remember he had this awesome hat he wore everywhere, collecting little knick-knack memories from shows on the trim.

His voice has this broodingly inviting quality to it. Pitchfork described it as "summoning you into its world like a carnival barker wooing customers into a funhouse." Pretty spot on.

8. The Colour In Anything / James Blake

The Colour in Anything, is the perfect album to listen to on a rainy day. 

James Blake has this really interesting quirk where he's able to be melancholy and upbeat/optimistic at the same time. I think the electronic R&B sampling in his music plays a big part in that. 

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is featured in "I Need A Forest Fire" which is probably my favorite song off the album. It sort of makes me feel like I'm in a dream when I listen.

7. Epoch / Tycho

Epoch is a collection of wordless, dreamy electronic that makes me feel like I'm floating in the clouds. 

It's the perfect zone-out music. When I'm working on a project and need to focus it helps me block everything out. That's probably why it's been a constant repeat listen for me this year.

6. Blue Wave / Operators

Operators was a band destined to find a place in my heart. They're composed of Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, Sam Brown of Divine Fits (a spin-off of Spoon [one of my favorite bands]), and a multi talented Devojka, a badass woman who plays the keys and much more.

Blue Wave is their first full length, after having released an EP in '14. It was 100% worth the wait. The gritty, echoing vocals over strong drums and twanging guitars in the background have me swooning. 

5. 99.9% / KAYTRANADA

I saw Kaytranada a couple years back at a club opening for Purity Ring. It was one of the worst shows of my life. Another shit DJ set with lyrics repeating the mindset of "fuck bitches get money". 

I feel like in the past, he didn't have the resources to team up with so many great artists to make his own album so he was playing a lot of other people's music and maybe it wasn't the best curated selection that it could've been. Some of his old singles have been good, but it's all been a maturing process with him working up to this moment.

That's why I was so surprised to find myself wrapped up in 99.9%. Like it's REALLY good. I can't even tell you how many times I've listened to it. 

The way the percussion and rhythm weaves their way through the lyrics to the foreground and background, the funk R&B feel that's having an affair with electro, and the collaborative aspect are what really makes this album for me. 

AND Little Dragon is featured on the track "Bullets"??! Sold.

4. Stiff / White Denim

I got to see White Denim at Free Press Summer Fest this past year shortly after they released Stiff. They're indie rock at it's finest. When they play live it's like one huge jam sesh. No setlist, they just do what they want.

Stiff has a forceful retro soul that hits you in the face with its sound. It's so groovy and just makes you want to get up and dance

With lyrics like "Be yourself, try to have a good time", it's really hard to not have a good time. Listen to "Ha Ha Ha Ha! (Yeah)" and try to tell me you didn't at least tap your foot...

3. Blackstar / David Bowie

David Bowie's death last year came as a surprise to all of us. I'm not gonna lie, I cried like a baby when I watched Lazarus. I had chills the whole time watching what seemed like the foreshadowing of his passing. All the songs off Blackstar have this eerie yet beautiful feeling that accompanies them.

Just today, on what would've been Bowie's 70th birthday, an unreleased track from Blackstar beamed down like a message from heaven. You can watch the video for "No Plan" here, or stream it on Spotify. 

2. Are You Serious? / Andrew Bird

Ever since seeing Andrew Bird at Coachella years ago, I've been in love with his music. Did you know he took whistling lessons at Julliard? For some good whistling on this album, check out "Chemical Switches". Also, the amount of different instruments throughout Are You Serious is impressive. Specifically the violin in Capsized. 

1. Teens of Denial / Car Seat Headrest

Earlier this year I described Car Seat Headrest as sounding like Tapes 'n Tapes infused with a hint of Modest Mouse. But they're much moodier and introspective than those two combined.

I think part of the reason I relate so much to this album is that Toledo is basically the same age as me, older by only a few days. The lyrics seem like they're maturing, becoming more aware of the real world and the issues surrounding them.

The song "Cosmic Hero" deals with what you want/need vs what you do to make it happen. How you can be your worst enemy or your most useful advocate. Powerful stuff.

2016 PLAYLIST

Have a listen to the 2016 playlist below. It includes songs off of my favorite albums of the year, as well as ones I constantly had on repeat. 

COMING UP FOR 2017

I only have a few shows queued up at the moment (Bonobo and Jose Gonzalez) but I know this year will be filled with massive amounts of music. 

  • Bonobo's new album "Migration" comes out January 13
  • I'm DEFINITELY NOT going to Coachella, (cough, what the fuck happened?), but I do want to check out some new festivals I've never been to
  • The Shins are working on new music! 
  • SPOON IS WORKING ON NEW MUSIC! 

Yeah, it's gonna be a good year.


You can find my past top 10 album roundups here: 2015, 2014