top ten albums
10Charles Bradley: Changes
The man’s voice is a national treasure, and he works with high quality personnel. I seriously owe him one for prompting me to revisit a Black Sabbath song I’d always found pretty boring as a younger man. “Changes” is an inspired cover. Charles Bradley is also great as the voice of Krampus, the Christmas demon, in a few episodes of American Dad. Krampus is the Santa 2016 deserves.
09Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love!
I didn’t think too highly of Donald Glover’s previous musical offerings and had pretty much written him off as a comedian confusing himself with an artist, but this year he wrote, produced, and starred in the critically-acclaimed Atlanta and that has earned a second appraisal. Awaken, My Love! is not a perfect album by any means, but it’s pretty damn funky and he doesn’t hold back. Previously Childish Gambino was adolescent and Drake-derivative, but this is a departure, and as with Atlanta, Glover is taking a stab at something unique and impressive. As with Atlanta, he largely succeeds.
08Solange: A Seat at the Table
Solange suffers in comparison to her sister, which is unfortunate, though I think she benefits from the association more than she loses. A Seat at the Table is bold and political, and it takes chances that a less well-connected artist might not have the clout to risk.
07Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
A haunted, grieving elegy of an album.
Daddy Lessons is bad. Really bad. But I guess she wanted an album that defied genre, and the surest, quickest way was to include a terrible country song. There are a lot of winners though, and the hurt and anger that animates the best of this album sets it apart from her other recent work. I’m glad Jay-Z cheated on her because it gave us this. In fact, Shryll and I want to start a GoFundMe to hire John Mayer or Colin Farrell to seduce Jessica Biel, so that Justin Timberlake will finally give us the sequel to Cry Me a River that we’d all be willing to break his heart to possess.
05ScHoolboy Q: Blank Face LP
Q’s got some demons, and on his sophomore album, the demons seemed to have beaten him. He admitted as much in interviews, that the album sucked and his head hadn’t been in the game. But Blank Face recaptures a lot of what made his debut so creative and exciting. Great sampling, solid featured guests, the true, and the scary. Though he’s exorcised a few of them, those demons are still putting up a fight, but when he can channel the struggle into good work like this, the result is something to hear.
04Car Seat Headrest: Teens Of Denial
Apart from Solange, Car Seat Headrest is the least established artist to make this year’s list for me, but Will Toledo has paid his dues with 12 previous albums released on Bandcamp. He writes with a sense of humor and rambunctiousness reminiscent of The Kinks or The Strokes.
03David Bowie: Blackstar
We lost a lot of talent this year. Sometimes artists die, and we say that music has lost a great deal even when the fruit has been fully juiced, but this year we lost artists who were still evolving and still producing. They had unrecorded albums left in the tank. Blackstar shouldn’t have been the last, but it is. Nevertheless, it bears the extra scrutiny well, resembling at times the greatness of earlier periods at the same time moving forward.
02A Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
Few can have expected this to turn out so great, but it is–no nostalgia needed. We got it from Here is not about reliving past glories, but an energetic offering from a team with something yet to contribute.
01Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
Unlike Blackstar, You Want It Darker was meant to be a last album. I’m pretty sure the last two or three Leonard Cohen albums were meant to be last albums. He gave up on the zen monastery and even started smoking again, but still God wouldn’t take him, and Cohen interpreted that as a message that, apparently, He wanted it darker. I guess this one earned the divine stamp of approval.
similarity to overall top ten: 50.5%, 5 matches
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