This year had a lot to offer in terms of music, from January to the month of December. The IATI staff got together to discuss some of the best that this year had to offer. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve come up with a list of 15. From folk, hip-hop to alternative, to soul to pop. Here is a list of our 15 picks for the best albums of 2016.
15. We Move
After being lost behind James Blake and Bon Iver, McMorrow made his own path with We Move. His extensive vocal work mixes excellently with the perfect arrangements. “Evil” is one of the best songs of the year.
14. Disappear Here
On the follow up to their brilliant debut Language & Perspective, Bad Suns knew they had to take chances. They took a lot of them on Disappear Here. They didn’t all land perfectly but they did turn into a great album. It maintains the fun and excitement of the debut but has its own identity, and is equally as catchy.
13. 22, A Million
22, A Million is wholly different than any other Bon Iver release but it’s still wholly Bon Iver. Justin Vernon has created another masterpiece. It’s not quite on the same level as albums Bon Iver and For Emma, Forever Ago. That’s more a testament to the quality of those albums than a knock on this one.
12. 24K Magic
Raise your hand if 2016 was crap on a stick. That’s the general consensus for many people. 24K Magic released November 18, 2016, ten days after one of the most divisive, bogus, maddening elections America has ever seen. The year was full of unrest in every sociopolitical area, and most everything in our faces has been extremely exhausting. Bruno gave us a break at the end of the year with an album that sent us back to a simpler time, where dancing meant sweating and love meant pursuit.
Their breakout debut album was fun and rustic. Cleopatra, is something completely different. The producing and songwriting is some of the best you will ever hear. This album gets better every time you listen to it.
So many people still do not know who Anderson .Paak is and that is a shame. His sophomore album Malibu is definitely one of the best R&B/hip-hop projects you’ll hear all year. It’s no wonder that it has received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
9. And The Anonymous Nobody…
De La Soul saw a project of theirs debut at number one on the Billboard charts for the first time with And The Anonymous Nobody…. The kickstarter-funded album was streamed 2 million times in the first week, and for good reason. This is 17-tracks of passion and great hip-hop, with some great features from Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott, Usher, 2 Chainz and more.
8. A Seat At The Table
Very few albums this year are discussing the things Solange talks about on A Seat at the Table. For that reason alone, this album is very special. Solange has always been highly slept on, but hopefully with this album, her audience will continue to grow and expand. It’s not only one of the best albums of 2016, it is also one of the most important.
7. Coloring Book
Chancelor Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper, is a force to be reckoned with. One of the brightest stars to come out of the city of Chicago recently. Coloring Book is one of the best hip-hop albums to have come out this year. With its gospel-inspired melodies, it’s quite infectious and will slap a smile on your face. Also, it shows growth from Chance’s second project Acid Rap.
Childish Gambino really shocked fans with this one. Many were still anticipating a straightforward hip-hop album. What we got instead was classic, vintage soul and psychedelic funk music. Awaken, My Love is the perfect example of letting an artist branch out into other genres, and seeing if they succeed. Gambino absolutely pulled it off with this one.
Here is another one of the best hip-hop albums to be released in 2016. A Tribe Called Quest have made an incredible comeback with this project. It’s almost as if they never really left the studio. The production, features, lyrics and content are firing on all cylinders. Coming out just after the election, the album holds that much more importance.
4. I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It
The 1975 returned with their sophomore album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, after their debut self-titled album in 2013. Not only are their live shows one of a kind, but this album has some of the best to offer with rock in 2016. The album stretches across so many different sounds, from dance-pop, to dance-rock, indie rock, jazz, pop, pop punk, R&B and soul.
Frank Ocean had so many impatient people waiting for such a long time, with so many delays in between. With Blond(e), Frank traded in that more lush, full sound that Channel Orange embodied for more ambient, modest production. However, it really paid off in an incredibly entertaining fashion.
This is easily Rihanna’s best album to date. The production on this thing is pretty immaculate and nearly every song hits strong. She’s also showing off her great vocal skills, never sounding better than she does here. It’s easily one of the best albums of 2016.
This had to be the biggest surprise of 2016. Beyonce has entered a new phase of her career, having done so with her previous 2013 self-titled album. It’s clear that being a wife and a mother has changed her, and she has completely embraced her identity as a Black woman. This and more is all showcased on Lemonade. With some of the best production you will hear all year, with the help of Jack White, Just Blaze and others. “Formation” is simply undeniable, and so is the power of this album – and its visual component – overall.
Some of the honorable mentions include Freetown Sound, Telefone, Blank Face, Drive North and Introverted Intuition.
What do you think of our list for the best albums of 2016? What are your top 10 picks for this year? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below.