David Goldfarb: Top Albums of 2016

Philadelphia, PA

top ten albums

10Nicolas Jaar: Sirens

Multi-genre production albums don’t have a great track record, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that half of Darkside could put it together well. But I don’t think anyone could have predicted this: this album flips competently from a seeming Radiohead/Flaming Lips mashup to driving electropop to electro-abmient to electro-Latin ballads to damn good krautrock-pop to (less good) doo wop-leaning R&B. An accomplished album.

Standout Track(s): Three Sides of Nazareth

09Car Seat Headrest: Teens Of Denial

If the rest of the album was as good as “Fill in the Blank,” this would be a top 3 album if not more. But there’s drag in the rest of the album that betrays its obvious virtues and talent.

Standout Track(s): Fill in the Blank

08Preoccupations: Preoccupations

Not quiet the virtuso effort of their debut (as Viet Cong), but this album continues to drill into the empty hole that Joy Division left behind.

Standout Track(s): Monotony

07Mary Lattimore: At The Dam

I don’t even know, man. I’m not a harp fan. My thirties have found less and less time for instrumental work. But I kept coming back over and over again to this album for its beauty but also for its looping, driving narratives. It is what it is: I fell for a harp album, and I couldn’t be happier.

Standout Track(s): The Quiet at Night

06Savages: Adore Life

I found my sky high expectations for this album dissapointed in January, but in December I couldn’t even remember why. Their fury is all the more furious when paced with ballads as eery as “Adore.”

Standout Track(s): Adore

05Japanese Breakfast: Psychopomp

While highlights like “Everybody Wants to Love You” and “Rugged Country” were self-evident, it took me a while to fall for this seemingly slight but deceptively deep album. While this may mark the end of her delightful work in LIttle Big League and even more likely the permenant end of her residency in Philadelphia, this album is a delightful surprise.

Standout Track(s): Everbody Wants to Love You

04Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and Math

My favorite new artist of 2016 by a mile. Direct, well-made songs with playfully sludgy guitar lines and that one-of-a-kind voice that alternates between bruised raspiness, trained beauty, and meancing id. In indirect ways, reminds me of early PJ Harvey. Couldn’t be more excited about where she goes next.

Standout Track(s): Emotions and Math

03David Bowie: Blackstar

After his death, I did a chronological listen to Bowie’s discography. I have this album as his tenth best, in a tie with Scary Monsters and above Diamond Dogs. Could recency bias and sentimentality have knocked it up a few spots? Sure. But this is a top tier Bowie album, and that’s not a damn thing to sneeze at.

Standout Track(s): I Can’t Give Everything Away

02A Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

A true stunner. I had let Tribe fall from my listening rotation years ago and greeted their return with a snort. But this album is both vintage Tribe and something completely new. That “We the People” was released election week made it’s direct message even more punchy, but its grinding beat, afro-funk synths, Q-Tip chorus, and furious swan song verse from the late Phife Dawg made it an instant classic for any time. And while the rest of the album never reaches those heights, it’s full of delights and excellence. Too long? Sure. Is the worst song the one Kanye phones it in on? Of course. A surprising return to form after decades away? Hell yes.

Standout Track(s): We the People

01Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

Let there be no mistake: if there’s any band I’m incapable of objectivity with, it’s Radiohead. But after King of Limbs, a good but definitely not great album, even a fanboy has to consider the possibility that the aging slugger of your youth’s bat speed might be slowing and they might be starting to flail at offspeed stuff. But A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead reinventing itself very much in Jonny Greenwood’s image. From his best guitar solo in god knows how long (“Identikit”) to the simutaneously lush and disconcerting orchestral work (“Glass Eyes”, “Daydreaming,” this may not be Prime Radiohead, but it sure as hell as Prime Jonny. Meanwhile, while no one would mistake Thom Yorke for a world class pianist, his work beyond the keys is inventive and continually throws me for a loop. And even for a band with as many music video highlights as Radiohead, “Daydreaming” is a career highlight. Not a perfect album (I could *really* do without the “broken hearts make it rain” bridge of the otherwise excellent “Identikit”), but sometimes you just have to give your heart over to the slugger band of your youth who comes out with an album a few days before you go on paternity leave, whispering to your daughter about how the old slugger has a few tricks left for her to see.

Standout Track(s): Daydreaming

honorable mentions

case/lang/veirs: case/lang/veirs — Somehow missed this until last week. Hits so many of my sweet spots.
Woods: City Sun Eater In The River Of Light — Not as good as their last, but still a very solid effort.
Wilco: Schmilco — I had more or less given up on Wilco, but this is them back in close to peak form.
Modern Baseball: Holy Ghost — I am a known sucker for call-outs to my subway stop, and this has one of them. Oh, and also lots of other great stuff.
ANOHNI: HOPELESSNESS — If this album were shorter, it’d probably be in my top ten.
Angel Olsen: My Woman — I was very excited about this album, and enjoy parts of it a lot. But I found myself frequently bored with it overall.
Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker — A solid effort from an all time great. He will be missed.
Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP — I shouldn’t like this as much as I do.
Nice As Fuck: Nice as Fuck — The only thing more surprising than me praising a Wilco album? Me being endeared by a Jenny Lewis album, Cookie Lips.

similarity to overall top ten: 47.5%, 4 matches

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