Happy New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of a controversial year and it’s all been a blur. In the music world alone, we lost many influential artists who have shaped music in astounding ways. We said goodbye to George Martin (The Beatles’ producer), Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Phife Dawg (of A Tribe Called Quest), Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), and Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire) to name a handful this year. As the world seems to crumble around us, let’s seek comfort in music, shall we?
I didn’t get to any other music festivals this year, but once again the Winnipeg Folk Festival was one of my musical highlights of 2016. I had the pleasure of meeting The Staves, San Fermin, The Paper Kites, and a few other wonderful artists that came through the stage I volunteered on.
Another musical highlight of mine is a personal one. This summer, I finished recording my own album that I can’t wait to share with you. It is in its final stages of mixing, so after that, the real fun can start. Stay tuned.
Anyway, let’s get to the list. I enjoyed the following albums and found myself listening to them thoroughly over the course of 2016. As always, feel free to recommend your favourite albums from this year that I may have overlooked or missed out on. Cheers.
MY TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2016…
20. AURORA // All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
At 20 years of age, Norwegian Aurora Aksnes packs a mean electro-pop punch. Her crisp, clean vocal presence drives each pacy tune and charming lullaby.
19. The Avett Brothers // True Sadness
These colourful folk rockers will have you stomping your feet and singing along in the car down the winding highway.
18. Hannah Georgas // For Evelyn
Hannah Georgas’s soundscape takes us over a mountain’s waterfall with a contemplative current. Don’t ask me what that means.
17. J. Cole // 4 Your Eyez Only
J. Cole’s got a lot of feel and flow. This album is smooth, bold, explicit, and real.
16. Hiss Golden Messenger // Heart Like a Levee
Southern gritty folk rock with a sweet tea refreshing after taste. You can’t ignore their blues feel.
15. James Vincent McMorrow // We Move
James Vincent McMorrow is one hell of a falsetto king. He builds an electronic wall of sound in an epic manner as well.
14. Andrew Bird // Are You Serious (Deluxe Edition)
The maestro fiddler with a knack for dynamic hooks and gleeful instrumentation.
13. Andy Shauf // The Party
Andy Shauf’s a man who keeps to himself and channels all his emotion into his music. The Party takes us through a night’s affair for Shauf… he’s forlorn, wistful, and anecdotal. It all ties in nicely for an emotional album.
12. Bon Iver // 22, A Million
With the most creative track titles I’ve ever seen, Justin Vernon’s artistic abilities never cease to amaze me. 22, A Million‘s abstract sound is off the charts but it beautifully works as a whole. Vernon intricately meshes autotune melody with glorious brass and synths to create a magnificent sound.
11. Radiohead // A Moon Shaped Pool
A steady, eerie album, but not eerie enough to turn away. When I listen, I’m in a trance and I don’t want to break out of it until the album is over. It has a fantastic frightening sound.
10. Francis and the Lights // Farewell, Starlite!
“The whole damn world is a cage.” Aye, I feel you, Francis. Just listen to this synth hook on “See Her Out (Thats Just Life).” “Friends (feat. Bon Iver)” is one of the best music videos of the year.
9. Dawes // We’re All Gonna Die
Dawes’s songwriting and melodies leave me scratching my head in wonder after every listen of every album. May they continue to creatively produce solid, thought-provoking albums.
8. Phantogram // Three
When listening to Three, you start to nod your head at first, but then realize three minutes later you’re aggressively kicking to the beat and moving uncontrollably. Although, Phantogram does throw in a few slow jams in this one.
7. Aidan Knight // Each Other
Soft vocals and a soothing beat. Aidan Knight’s swells make you swoon. A soft and short album with a shimmering tone.
6. BadBadNotGood // IV
Jazz and Hip-Hop? Yeah, I dig it. I’m jealous of the musicianship and raw talent these guys have.
5. Donovan Woods // Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled
Donovan Woods is a spectacular songwriter. If you see him live, he’ll tell you about the time his song was number two to that Gotye fellow’s. You know the one. Get this song stuck in your head instead:
4. Porches // Pool
A yearning voice and a warm electronic sound. Greta Kline of the group Frankie Cosmos features with backing harmonies on the best tracks to complete the magic. Each track is distinct yet perfectly connected… I obviously can’t get over it.
3. Benjamin Francis Leftwich // After the Rain
A feel-good album for chilling by the bonfire late at night. Leftwich’s wispy vocals could sing anything and I’d consider it tender and sincere. Maybe I’m only hypnotized by his dreamy music and utopian album art.
2. Jack Garratt // Phase
A pulsating, introspective album of hope and overcoming self-doubt to become confident in yourself. It’ll move you (and not just in the dancing sort of way). He also writes, produces, and performs all of his music by himself… Impressive.
AND MY #1 ALBUM OF 2016 IS…
1. KAYTRANADA // 99.9%
Louis Kevin Celestin, the Haitian-Canadian producer/DJ known as Kaytranada, has an oozing funky groove and an electric, smooth flow. He deservedly won this year’s Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album with 99.9%.
The bassline groove of “WEIGHT OFF” featuring BadBadNotGood is straight fire. The bass piled on with the track’s driving beat is so satisfying. “BUS RIDE,” “BREAKDANCE LESSON N.1,” “BULLETS,” and “TRACK UNO” have also given me a permanent rhythmic twitch throughout my body. The resulting effects of listening to Kaytranada’s beats are almost crippling. GIVE IT A LISTEN.
I found it extremely difficult to rank my list this year. Spotify’s made it harder for me to attribute the deserved amount of time to specific albums because my listening is spread over so much more content—a blessing and a curse. Here’s another list of honourable mentions from 2016. Consider these on the fringe of being my favourites.
MORE WORTHY ALBUMS OF 2016:
Andy Hull & Robert McDowell // Swiss Army Man
ZHU // GENERATIONWHY
The Head and the Heart // Signs of Light
Blood Orange // Freetown Sound
Bear’s Den // Red Earth & Pouring Rain
A Tribe Called Quest // We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
M83 // Junk
James Blake // The Colour In Anything
Sam Roberts Band // TerraForm
Jordan Klassen // Javelin
High Highs // Cascades
The Lumineers // Cleopatra
Lucius // Good Grief
HONNE // Warm On A Cold Night
Childish Gambino // Awaken, My Love!
Gallant // Ology
Wild Nothing // Life of Pause
John K. Samson // Winter Wheat
Frank Ocean // Blonde
I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve. See you in 2017.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!