Here’s one thing we can all agree on: it’s been a year. Some hate this year, others are indifferent, and a select few loved every second of it. It had its ups, it had its downs, but most of all 2016 had its sounds.
Now, I’m not giving you a best of 2016 list, I’m just giving you a list of what I think 2016 sounded like. You may disagree, you may hate the inclusions, despise the omissions, but I did my best to make mentions of the finest, the best, the brightest, and the most notable of the year. So, let’s go through month by month and check out the releases that rose to the top.
Blackstar by David Bowie
David Bowie ascended, but left us with a shining Black Star to remember him by.
Anti by Rihanna
The queen of pop Rihanna let her good taste shine through by covering Tame Impala, the highlight of her album Anti.
Opus by Eric Prydz
Finally, Eric Prydz unleashed Opus after nearly a year’s worth of anticipation and build up. Now, it didn’t hit me quite as strongly as his first Pryda compilation, but Eric Prydz never fails, and never forget that.
The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
I’ll keep this brief. Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, and ‘nuff said. Oh, and I can’t gloss over it, but Desiigner & Lil’ Yachty both decided comprehension is really rather irrelevant in hip hop nowadays.
Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar even had a release this year, not necessarily his finest, but certainly worth noting. It was his “Untitled Unmastered” compilation album, and I also included it to say Kendrick Lamar was featured in practically every relevant artist with a release in 2016...
No Fantasy Required by Tiga
There’s not quite anyone that can match the talent, wit or class of Tiga, and thank god for that. In March, he shared the well-rounded and well put together No Fantasy Required.
Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future by Underworld
Electronic music titans, nay GODS, Underworld returned to the studio after a 6 year hiatus with Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future.
III by Moderat
Moderat didn’t fool anybody on April 1st, they just decided to triology for the better of the art world with III.
Become Alive by Dave Harrington Group
If you want to know what music to listen to from April that will immerse and impress you, well look no further than former Darkside member Dave Harrington’s project Dave Harrington Group.
Prince Left Us Too
Prince also tragically bowed out. Performing up until his very last moment. Coachella did him the kindness of making all the neon palm trees glow purple. So, with that being said, here's a moment with Prince and his classic cover of Radiohead's "Creep."
Lemonade by Beyoncé
Oh, and I’ll be honest, I don’t really want to talk about Beyonce because practically everyone won’t shut up about her. Instead, I’ll just say big ups to Diplo & Father John Misty for their contributions to Lemonade.
Views by Drake
I’ll finish out April by talking about the unavoidable, but the undeniable Drake. Views certainly had a special something to it, and after these last 2 major releases, Drake made a fan out of a guy who really, really hated him. Was it the memeing? Or does this cat actually have staypower at the top?
Coachella: Rhye, GoGoPenguin & LCD Soundsystem
Quick shout out to Coachella though. LCD Soundsystem, Rhye & GoGo Penguin made my April one to remember. Definitely Rhye gets the gold though, that voice draws appropriate comparisons to Sade. He may not have had a release, but he deserves every moment in the spotlight he gets.
Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper’s star definitely rose a bit with his feature on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam”, but then he released Coloring Book, and that star skyrocketed to superstar status. Chance is gonna be here for a minute, and you shouldn’t mad at a gospel voice rising to prominence.
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Radiohead descended back to earth with A Moon Shaped Pool and that was a non-stop in rotation for a long while. I particularly enjoyed their marketing campaign though, what with them vanishing slowly from the internet and all.
The Colour in Anything by James Blake
James Blake made all of our heartaches with The Colour in Anything. He’s a master of that neo-soul, and I’ll keep tuning in whenever he has something to sing. And if you ever wondered if someone needs a forest fire, I assure you “I Need a Forest Fire.”
Konnichiwa by Skepta
Skepta snatched the Mercury Prize with Konnichiwa and Grime took a seat at the head table in the UK, and its influence bleeds the world over. Americans, don’t be basic and overlook it because of the accent, Grime’s got it going on.
Freetown Sound by Blood Orange
Blood Orange did us all the courtesy of making a special little something by the name of Freetown Sound. At first, I wasn’t too sure I liked it, but with the nuances and amazing talent, Freetown Sound took me over.
Faraway Reach by Classixx
Full disclosure, Classixx are indisputably and indelibly at the top of my 5 greatest bands of all time list. I don’t care what you say, I don’t care what you think, I just care that Classixx is my band and I 100% loved every second of Faraway Reach. I’m over the moon that I got to see them this year on a very special night, and I’m also closing out 2016 with Classixx and Lights Down Low!
Piano by Alexis Taylor
Alexis Taylor, you should recognize his voice as the lead vocalist for the esteemed Hot Chip, boldly went where few ever dare - solo behind a piano. He bore it all, and he’s just amazing enough to make it something special.
Wildflower by The Avalanches
Oh my god, I have never waited longer for a release than I have for The Avalanches’ Wildflower. It was lost in sample clearance hell, but god damn, it was worth the wait.
GenerationWHY by Zhu
The young man of electronic mystery Zhu came out with an album that shook my summer and well into my autumn. GenerationWHY was one that you had to play all the way through, but how about that “Hometown Girl”?
Stranger Things Soundtrack by S U R V I V E
It seems like everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, took a swing at remixing the Stranger Thing soundtrack. I ain’t mad about it (clearly, I’m writing about it!).
Cheetah by Aphex Twin
The elusive, the brilliant Aphex Twin unleashed a Cheetah and returned to live performance. We’re all in for it when he finally does a proper tour of the festival circuit, and I will die a happy man after I full set wherever I catch him.
Blonde by Frank Ocean
Not one, but two… Count ‘em, TWO releases from the elusive Frank Ocean. Endless was a unique visual treat, but god damn, Blonde’s been on repeat after repeat. I’d say Frank don’t be a stranger, but we all know he’ll be gone for along while again.
How to Be a Human Being by Glass Animals
Glass Animals definitely slapped around that sophomore slump. This album came quickly after their first, and it wow’d me the same way. Keep it up Glass Animals, KEEP IT UP!
Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Danny Brown took the cake for me in September with his first WARP Records release, Atrocity Exhibition.
22, A Million by Bon Iver
Bon Iver stepped in a new direction, and those with good taste followed. If you’re not a fan of 22, A Million, that’s a-ok, but I was decently into it.
Sirens by Nicolas Jaar
Now after I’ve pulled all this together, September was one hell of a month (possibly the best of 2016), and that might just be because the god gracing earth with his talent and presence that is Nicolas Jaar shared “Sirens” with us all.
Carl Cox Is Done With Ibiza
Carl Cox also retired from Ibiza. I wish I could say it was a changing of the guard, but honestly, it seems to me that the Vegas vibe has pushed itself into Ibiza forcing the true artists to seek greener pastures. If anything, Carl Cox has had an amazing run and bowed out with grace.
You Want It Darker by Leonhard Cohen
Leonhard Cohen left us, but thankfully, he had a beautiful say about it in October before he departed in November.
Outer by Dusky
Dusky did the damn thing with their album Outer. If you do one thing, definitely check out this album.
All the Right Noises by Roman Flügel
Roman Flugel went far afield from the dancefloor with All the Right Noises. It’s an album that is pensive, thoughtful, but most of all, alive.
Starboy by The Weeknd
The Weeknd locked Daft Punk in a studio until they whipped up a #1. I really didn’t like Starboy, but I dig, and I do mean DIG, “I Feel It Coming.” It’s got a whole lot of Michael in it, doesn’t it?
"Awaken, My Love" by Childish Gambino
“Awaken, My Love!” by Childish Gambino, everybody knows that’s Donald Glover, came out of the funkiest leftfield ever, and I couldn’t be more content. This man is doing it all - hit show Atlanta, having a kid, and he’s even got time to Lando Calrissian. Keep on, keepin’ on Donald. You’re doing it right, and we’re all loving it.
"Black Swan (Maceo Plex Remix)" by Sailor & I
Also, the respected Maceo Plex took his turn at reworking the burgeoning maestro Sailor & I’s “Black Swan.” If you need something to look forward in 2017, be sure to keep you eye fixed on Sailor & I for his debut album’s release in February.
Not the Actual Events by Nine Inch Nails
I’ll be honest, I’m never going to miss an opportunity to talk up anything the creative genius that Trent Reznor is involved in. Luckily for you and me, Nine Inch Nails enlisted longtime Trent collaborator into the fold and released Not the Actual Events.
Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels
It seems like it was the year of surprise releases, and Run the Jewels were not ones to be left out. So, they ran Christmas with a free release of Run the Jewels 3. It’s quite the gift, and it’s going to run right into 2016.
End of the Year Mixes: Midland's EMOTY, Joris Voorn & Lane 8
Oh, and before I go, let’s give it up to a few mixes that closed the year out so strong in my humble, and very biased opinion. Midland took home the Essential Mix of the Year title, Joris Voorn closed it out so damn well, and even Lane 8 heated up the December cold with his winter mix.