From Beyoncé’s visual album and Chance the Rapper’s gospel positivity, to A Tribe Called Quest’s perfectly timed call to action, and Run The Jewels’ aggression, there was a range of moods to fit your political outrage in a year that demanded it from beginning to end.
On the other end, introspective indie rockers expanded their depth of songwriting. Car Seat Headrest graduated from a home-recorded mixtape singer-songwriter to one of the most well crafted and prolific rockers of his time. Margaret Glasby came out of the gate with a surprisingly infectious album that drew my attention for months, and L.A. Salami somehow combined R&B, hip-hop, and the lyrical fortitude and rhythm of Bob Dylan into a puzzlingly rich album.
Emo is coming back into the spotlight with bands such as Pinegrove and Pup making a big splash and drawing large crowds into an increasingly diverse genre that is poised to grow this year.
Even country continues to change. Sturgill Simpson proved the genre has more than two dials — bro and outlaw. There’s now a third acceptable strain of country that’s laden with big, loud horns and orchestral storytelling.
There have been better years in music, especially if we examine what happened in pop music this year. But in the celebration of what went right in 2016, here are the 25 albums that stood out among the fray. Read the captions in the slideshow above for individual comments on each album.
- Beyonce - Lemonade
- Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
- Lucius - Good Grief
- Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
- Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth
- Solange - A Seat At The Table
- Bon Iver - 22, A Million
- A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service
- Frank Ocean - Blond
- Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 3
- Pup - The Dream Is Over
- Anderson .Paak - Malibu
- Pinegrove - Cardinal
- David Bowie - Black Star
- James Blake - The Colour In Anything
- Kanye West - Life of Pablo
- Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing
- Margaret Glasby - Emotions and Math
- Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
- Twin Peaks - Down In Heaven
- L.A. Salami - Dancing with Bad Grammar: The Director's Cut
- Childish Gambino - "Awaken, My Love!"
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album)
- Lizzo - Coconut Oil
- Parquet Courts - Human Performance