It’s safe to say that a lot of ways, 2016 was the worst. Absolute worst.
But I was able to find solace and a silver lining in the world of music. This was a good year for music, especially for message-driven, political music. There were so many albums I enjoyed this year, and here are my thoughts on the year of music in 2016.
So I’m going to breakdown my Top 10 Albums of 2016… these are the albums I loved and spent the most time with (and there are a few you might not expect from me and some surprises as to which album was my absolute favorite of the year!).
And the Top 10…
Travis – Everything At Once
When it comes to the guys from Travis and Fran Healy, I’m always a fan. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time, and was glad to have an album from the lads in 2016. Sadly, they didn’t tour the US, which was a bummer as it’s been a few years since I’ve seen them and really itching for a show. Hopefully in 2017! The albums opening track, “What Will Come” is one of my favorites and instantly reminds me of all the reasons I love Travis. My favorite song on the album is an unusual one, it’s a song called “Idlewild” and is a duet with Josephine Oniyama, who has a phenomenal voice. It’s such a strange and haunting track, with a catchy chorus – it’s a weird one, and I love it.
James Blake – The Colour In Anything
This album just took my love of James Blake to a whole new level. I couldn’t stop listening to the album, especially “Radio Silence.” I really think that James Blake is in a genre all his own – he has such a distinct style and voice. Really dig this album and was super bummed I missed his LA shows – I heard they were amazing. Next time.
OneRepublic – Oh My My
If you know me, you know I’m a massive fan of Ryan Tedder and OneRepublic… but I have to admit I absolutely HATE the album title and cover art of this album. Oh My My… it’s just terrrrrible. But that’s really the only major fault I can find with this album. I really love the singles from the album, “Wherever I Go” and “Kids,” and really think they deserve to be bigger pop hits. The first time I heard “Future Looks Good,” I was a fan within the first 10 seconds of hearing the song – the acoustic guitar into is an instant winner for me. “A.I.” with Peter Gabriel is superb, with it’s 80’s synth vibes. “Human” is another favorite track, as is “NbHD” with Santigold… which I trust we’ll hear in commercials everywhere soon! I was lucky to have seen the guys live a few times this year, and they’re still one of my faves. But seriously, OH MY MY… ugh.
Sia – This Is Acting
Some of my favorite songs of the year are from Sia’s latest album, This Is Acting. Several of the songs have been songs I’ve drawn strength from during this confusing and difficult year. The opening track, “Bird Set Free,” “Alive,” which was co-written with Adele, and “Unstoppable” have been power songs for me. I love the positive message in the songs, and of course, Sia’s voice is superb! I was extremely lucky to see Sia twice this year, it was magical! I was only a few feet away from her during her set at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, and had a spectacular time at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. Hearing her sing, watching the production is just next level. I know it was a highlight of the year for me! Oh, and she sang “Breathe Me” which is from a previous album at the Bowl.. if you don’t know that song, you’re really missing out! Go listen to it… now! Back to “This Is Acting,” I also really love “Broken Glass,” “Space Between,” and “One Million Reasons.” The album also has some upbeat tracks, including the mega-hit, “Cheap Thrills,” and “Move Your Body,” which I enjoy, but I prefer the slower, powerful, emotional ballads. My one small gripe with the album is that the first half of the album is so strong that I kept repeating it, often neglecting the second half. Oh, and I have to recommend her Spotify Session… one of the best! That live version of “Bird Set Free,” “Elastic Heart” and “Alive” are top notch. Just incredible.
Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend
Aurora is just whimsical, etherial and otherworldly. I don’t know how else to describe the Norwegian singer-songwriter. Her music transforms me to another world, one that is equally serene, angelic yet dark and mysterious at the same time. Songs like her hit single “Conquerer” are catchy and light,. “Running With The Wolves” is the track that first captured my attention, with it’s intense drum beat matched with the urgency of the lyrics, and the angelic chorus, it’s simply perfect. It’s catchy and one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s in the dark and haunting songs that where Aurora really shines – songs like “Home,” “Winter Song,” and the haunting “Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)”… yes, the 20 year old had a song called “Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)” and well, you should really hear it.. it’s amazing. Especially the acoustic version. I had the pleasure of experiencing Aurora’s live show three times this year (two nights in a row at The Fonda), and each time it was truly an experience. You don’t just watch or hear her sing, you are transported to another world. I can’t really describe it… please listen to her album. She’s amazing. And, as seen above, she came out and greeted her eccentric and enteric fans before the show – she’s the real deal and I HIGHLY recommend you listen to her album!
Panic! At The Disco – Death of a Bachelor
Pop-Punk at it’s finest! Admittedly, with the past two albums I’ve become a Panic! At The Disco fanboy again! I was obsessed with their debut album, and consequently disappointed with their next two album. But with “Too Weird to Life, Too Rare to Die!” and their latest, “Death of a Bachelor,” I’m a massive fan. Do you Brendon Urie! I’ve been lucky to see the guys live a few times, and their one of my favorite live bands – they’re so energetic and Brendon is one of the more charismatic lead singers. This album though, is packed with great songs. It was one of my g0-to albums, especially for working out. It just got me pumped and ready to tackle my workout and day. There are so many songs of this album that I love, including “Victorious,” “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” “Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Good, The Bad And The Dirty,” though my favorite is “LA Devotee.” They put on an incredible live show (oh, if anyone has hookups to their LA date… hook it up!). I was super luck and got to see them at The Mayan for a taping of Artist’s Den and saw them perform a medley as Panic! at the Sisqó with actual Sisqó.. and yes, they did “Thong Song.” What. A. Moment! While I couldn’t make it out to see their set at The Village during iHeartRadio Music Festival in Vegas, the band was on my flight back to LA, and it was really really hard not to fanboy while waiting for our much delayed flight…
James Vincent McMorrow – We Move
“We Move” by James Vincent McMorrow is next level. It’s a classic 10-cut album that’s difficult to categorize as it’s effortlessly mixes genres, moods, and aesthetics, while maintaining a cohesive sounds that’s grounded by James’ incredible voice and superb production. Much like Aurora’s album, this album just makes me FEEL. I am just moved by the lyrics, the poetry, the production and James’ voice. It’s an album I can listen to from start-to-finish without skipping a track. The two singles are amazingness, “Rising Water” and “Get Low.” I also love the two last tracks on the album, “Surreal,” and “Lost Angels.” But my absolute favorite is “Killer Whales,” which is just stunningly beautiful. Oh yeah, you should also check out his covers of “Wicked Game” and “Higher Love” — ugh! Incredible. I also got to see, no, experience James Vincent McMorrow at The Wiltern a few weeks ago and wow! It was otherworldly! I was so moved and taken by the music, and the production. It was minimal, but impactful! I love this album and hope you all give it a listen!
Beyoncé – Lemonade
I can admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Beyoncé, that is, before she dropped Lemonade. I was always a fan of her voice, performance, and artistry, but I never thought of her as an album artist. She has had amazing singles, but they’ve mostly been written and produced by other people- there’s nothing wrong with that, but I just wasn’t the biggest fan. And that changed the night she premiered Lemonade on HBO. I sat and watched it three times in a row, caught up in the visuals and music. It was phenomenal. And it’s one of the albums that surprised me and that I found myself going back to and listening to it in it’s entirely. There’s maybe a song or two that aren’t massive hits, but the rest, wow, excellence. And the visuals are so strong that I visualize them every time I hear the songs – which might be why I love it. The standout tracks for me are, “Pray You Catch Me” – massive shoutout to the writers Kevin Garrett, James Blake and Beyonce! “Daddy Lessons” is a standout track in that it’s very different from the album, but also great. Loved the performance with Dixie Chicks! I also love “Forward” with James Blake… again, I think he’s amazing. “Freedom” with Kendrick Lamar and “All Night” are excellent tracks. I really love this album, and now fully appreciate Beyonce.
Bastille – Wild World
Everyone who knows me knows that Bastille are one of my favorite, if not, my FAVORITE band of all time… but, most of you will be surprised that their sophomore album, Wild World, came in as #2, and not my favorite album of 2016… let me explain. I really really love the album. In fact, I was surprised at how much I loved the album – only because they took their time with it. I feel like they pushed it back several times and took their time, which typically is not a good sign. But thankfully, I was wrong. They took their time because they released an impressive 20 track album! Yes, the deluxe version of the album has 20 tracks (ok, 21, but one is a live version of a song… so it’s really 20 actual songs). And I genuinely love them all – if anything, it was almost too much music to drop at once. I love that it more closely resembles their mixtapes in that it’s slightly experimental, and includes quotes from movies. Seriously, if you haven’t heard their mixtapes, you’re really missing out and only getting a glimpse of the greatness that is Bastille. As was necessary this year, most of the tracks tackle the weirdness and instability of the year. There are too many tracks to shoutout, but I really love “The Currents,” as it’s a commentary on Brexit/Donald Trump and everything that is wrong with the world. I love that Dan and the guys wrote about this. I also love “Glory,” “Power,” “Blame,” and so many more! Shoutout to Rationale for his contribution to “Fake It.” The first time I heard “Two Evils” was live during their iHeartRadio Theater show, and I was FLOORED by it – it’s just a simple yet creepy dramatic song. A definite standout. Some of my favorite lyrics from the album come from the song “Way Beyond” and are, “If we don’t post it, does it happen”… and “movies and news on television, sometimes it’s hard to tell the differences. When real life’s more fucked up than fiction…” SO good!
(Also, the reason this was my #2 and not #1 is because it was released in September… the #1 album was released in January, and I had more time with it, saw the artist live twice, and each time was captivated by his performance and his amazingness. They are both amazing albums that I highly recommend and will be listening to and obsessed with for years to come…)
Jack Garratt – Phase
I called it in February!! Here’s proof!
Jack Garratt is a GAME CHANGER. This album, his DEBUT, which is insane is unlike anything I’ve heard in a while. Much like James Vincent McMorrow’s album, “Phase” is diverse and difficult to categorize. But suffice it to say that it’s just amazingness. And he’s got all the accolades and awards to support it. Oh yeah, he’s also got a massive fan in Aaron Paul, and Jack’s even performed in Aaron’s living room! I’m sure my invite got lost in the mail.. maybe next time.
So the album has so many killer tracks. The lead single is a song called “Worry” which leans towards the pop side, with an electric vibe. It’s just incredible – it slowly builds and just gets insane. Especially live. And it’s all Jack.. he’s a one-man band – using loops, synths, a drum-kit, and guitars. “Breathe Life” is another standout track that’s similar to “Worry.” The two songs that I absolutely love are on the slower side and have strong messages: “Surprise Yourself,” which is about pushing yourself and achieving everything you thought you weren’t capable of. “Weathered” is another amazing track, slow and somber, about love and death. I’ve seen Jack twice this year, and this is always a moment for me – especially as it turns into a massive emo sing-along, and I turn into a weeping mess.
This album came out in early February, and it’s the album that’s had songs that have had the most profound impact on me, it’s the album I’ve been obsessed with for 11 of the 12 months, the cd that’s never left my car. I’ve seen Jack Garratt’s shows twice, and in the front of the pit, losing my shit each time. And he’s incredibly humble, a cool lad, great dress style, and one of my favorite laughs (Seriously, check out his laugh.. it’s amazing and contagious!). He’s got a crackin personality. He plays numerous instruments, and puts on a killer live show, all by himself. There’s no doubt that Phase by Jack Garratt is my Favorite Album of 2016! Thanks Jack!