BTRtoday staff picks for the best albums of 2016.
While 2016 was undoubtedly a devastating year for music (RIP Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, Phife, Cohen, and so many others) there were some phenomenal records released, both in the limelight of the mainstream and shadows of the underground circuits. BTRtoday staffers share their favorite albums of the year.
“My Woman” by Angel Olsen. Holy shit. So amazing! I’ve always been a fan, but sometimes she gets too folky for me and that kind of gets annoying after awhile, in my opinion. However, every single track on “My Woman” is absolutely flawless. Angel Olsen really experiments with her sound and vocals in this album and it sure pays off. She does some crazy things with that voice of hers and it’s goddamn hypnotizing! – Elena Childers
The Chinese-American electronic music artist Zhu blends spoken word, jazzy tunes, and low-key beats to make a style that is uniquely his own. The album opens with Neon City, featuring sax and Maya Angelou spoken word poetry and already I’m hooked. The entire album is mysterious, bordering on dark without plunging into downright depressing. The titular single “Generationwhy” is bright and even features some good ol’ whistling straight out of 2010, yet still keeps within the noir-esque style that has made Zhu so memorable. – Taia Handlin
“Amparo” by Maria Usbeck, is one of my favorite albums of 2016. The first track on the record, “Isla Magica,” is a sonic journey through island sounds, interspersed with floating, airy, back-ups an unconventional instrumentation. The album in its entirety is a unique body of work, creating a genre init of itself. I really enjoy listening to this album while working or cleaning my apartment (not that I pretty much ever clean my apartment…) it creates that perfect mix of ambient background and engaging melodies. – Rebecca Chodorkoff
“Hopelessness” by Anohni—formerly known as Antony from Antony and the Johnsons—is absolutely in my top 3 albums of 2016. The first song, “4 Degrees,” is an apocalyptic warning to our warming planet; its energy and vibes hypnotize you out of rational thinking and throws you into a pool of emotional and angry energy–all while encouraging you to scream at the top of your lungs. Is anyone listening? The sound is a mix of optimistic electric and symphonic fury that is brighter than Bjork but darker than Prince, a perfect cathartic listen for the slightly less-than-devastating year that was 2016. – Kimberly Ruth
“Mystère,” by La Femme, is hands down one of my favorite albums of 2016. This is the second album they’ve put together and they did not disappoint. The French band has a unique psychedelic-dark-wave-pop-synth-surf explosion in their sound that gives me goosebumps every time I listen. With a whopping 17 tracks on the album, one is bound to find something to enjoy. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a 1950s noir film and other times I’m pretty sure I’m on an acid trip in the lavender fields of Provence. And if you don’t know French, I promise, their lyrics are intense with feeling and simple truth: stop wasting your time, there’s so many people dreaming of you. – Irina Groushevaia
“The Sun’s Tirade” by Isaiah Rashad. How many rappers have we seen follow up an awesome debut with a sophomore slump? After listening to 2014’s “Cilvia Demo” I had a hard time believing Isaiah Rashad would do so, and thankfully he proved me right. Rashad showcases his versatility as a lyricist throughout, with mesmerizing tracks like “4r da Squaw” and the album’s single “Free Lunch.” He also boasts a list of impressive features, including perhaps the hardest verse Kendrick Lamar spit in 2016. (Perhaps). Rashad has been on the map, but this release confirms his plans to stay on it. – Joe Virgillito
An album I enjoyed in 2016 was “Canyonlands,” by Kate Voegele. The overall message of the album is positivity and inspiration. Positivity exudes in the track “Sun will Rise.” The track, “World stops Spinning,” is comparative to the sound in Vanessa Carlton’s, “White Houses.” The reflective tune “Middle of the Night Mind,” addresses those moments when you lay in bed wondering what you will be. “Don’t count me out,” is a surge of hope that marches forward to a strong backbeat accompanied by bluegrass strings. Canyonlands is an album with a definitive focus that showcases Kate’s growth as a musician. – Cassidy Colarik
Kate Willett and Matt Ruby on Louis CK’s fall from grace. Charles Hinshaw on ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.’ Molly Knefel on the linger effects of the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape; Sneak preview of Jane Weaver’s BTR Live Studio session. | listen