2016, you cruel, sadistic beast: you took frequently and relentlessly, swallowed legend after legend whole, no remorse. Yet some might argue (read: this guy) that you’ve plugged as many holes in our as our hearts have sustained. Which is to say, the love you took was almost equal to the love you made. Actually, never mind all that. 2016, with the exception of the notes that poured out of your wounds, you were absolute garbage. And we deserved better at the onset of a new regime that happens to be led by one of the most hateful orange men to have ever walked the planet. Luckily, our favorite artists gave us heaps to heal with.
And they did so with more nuance/less regard for conventional album formats than ever. Between Kanye’s concerted chaos, Frank’s mountain of mixed media and Beyonce’s audiovisual bomb, the album as we know it is simply no more. Stripped of its crown, and its limits. Three of the most commercially successful releases of the year were brought to us by independent artists, another sign that the landscape is shifting and revealing new paths for the modern musician, free of corporate strings. The church proved to me a reliable, self-replenishing source, and no one was shy about tapping in.
So, needless to say, 2016’s got us in a funk. And the sad reality of it is that 2017 probably won’t be the cap on it. But with the sheer breadth of quality releases the year’s seen, our year-end superlative process is as complicated as ever (discussions that already demand the full tank of our emotional capacities) And seeing as how it’s best albums o’ clock across the internets, pulses are racing at the prospect of duking it out over who did what and which was better. But we’re not here for blood. So this year, as you’ve seen from my comrades Kevin Clark and Elijah Watson already, we’re introducing another first to our end-of-year programming. Namely, individual staff picks for best albums of the year.
None of these lists (including our forthcoming group list) are meant be taken as anything definitive. That’s a hard sell no matter the outlet. Rather, these are the albums that got us through the perpetual heartbreak of 2016. Only because if there was ever such thing as a truly transformative year, 2016 you were it. And for that we have to thank you, though we won’t miss you for a second. So on to 2017, a year poised to be somehow even more devastating than the last. A year where I stop telling you things you already know about records you’ve already heard. This list reflects precisely that promise. These are my favorite albums of the worst year in modern human history. They fortified me, helped me feel. Hope you’ll find that solace.