2016 was both a wonderful and devastating year for music. Some of the greats put out incredible albums, but we’ve lost legends too. With that said, now let’s focus on celebrating great music with my top 5 of best albums of 2016.
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree
Skeleton Tree is a crushing listen. While production started before the untimely and tragic death of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old son, the completion of the record was obviously shaped by this trauma. The result is that Skeleton Tree often is quite hard to listen to – it’s so full of hard-hitting pain and despair -, but at the same time this grueling center is the album’s strength. Take “I Need You” for example: Cave’s vocals are rough, grief-stricken and cut like a knife. If this album doesn’t shake you to your core, I don’t know what will.
Definitely listen to: “Rings Of Saturn”, “I Need You” and “Skeleton Tree”
4. Beyoncé’s LEMONADE
A phenomenal record about betrayal. That’s a way to describe Beyoncé’s latest album. But that would not do justice to the rich and layered music, incredible vocals and gripping lyrics present on this album. It’s an emotional record; there’s anger here, despair, hope, sadness and nostalgia, often mixed powerfully. Listening to it you can’t help but admire both the craftmanship and strength of Queen Bey. The collaborations with other artists also add a lot to the package, especially “Don’t Hurt Yourself” which features Jack White.
Definitely listen to: “Hold Up”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “All Night”
3. The Black Queen’s Fever Daydream
Greg Puciato – who used to be The Dillinger Escape Plan’s angry frontman – usually screamed his lungs out, but amazes here with a vulnerability and tenderness not present in the work of his previous band. Joshua Eustis and Steven Alexander compliment his voice work beautifully with haunting music. The Black Queen’s sound – pulsating beats, throbbing synths and great bass and guitar work – has a pop sensibility but is very well-constructed at the same time. Because of it Fever Daydream really rewards repeated listening.
Definitely listen to: “Ice To Never”, “Secret Scream” and “Apocalypse Morning”
2. Nine Inch Nails’ Not The Actual Events
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross just released the new Nine Inch Nails EP and, boy, is it a doozy. It’s a return to the classic NIN sound, blending the anger of Broken, complexity of The Fragile and lyrical content of Year Zero. It’s a savage, short and sweet release that only contains five tracks, but its length is not a problem here: every track fires on all cylinders. What’s even more remarkable is that – despite its familiar ingredients – Not The Actual Events feels fresh and inspired, and like only a great sample of what’s still to come.
Definitely listen to: “Dear World,”, “She’s Gone Away” and “Burning Bright (Field On Fire)”
1. David Bowie’s Blackstar
His final gift to the world, Blackstar turned out to be the last album of music legend David Bowie. It’s also one of his strongest outings in his long-spanning career; a beautiful goodbye, a true inspiration and also definitely one of Bowie’s strangest and most experimental records. Here and there it evokes 1995’s 1. Outside, but what stands out most are the jazz influences, that add a playfulness and warmth to Blackstar. And let’s not gloss over its title track, a brilliant companion piece to Bowie classics “Space Oddity” and “Ashes To Ashes”. There’s no two ways about it: Blackstar is a work of sheer genius.
Definitely listen to: “Blackstar”, “Lazarus” and “Girl Loves Me”
What are your favorite albums of the year? Leave a comment below and let me know.