[It's Guest List Week! The best week! You've heard my thoughts on the year in music, now let's hear from some other people who have equally great taste in music (but somehow have the ability to express their opinions in under 10,000 words)! Guest List Week continues with Marisa, who is probably horrified at the Kanye-themed album art.]
One good thing to come out of this absolutely horrendous year was the music (aside from the fact that we lost some legends). I stuck to a Top Ten this year because otherwise we'd be here all day, though I did list some honorable mentions at the bottom. Here's to 2017 being even a fraction better than this waste of 365 days, and to more great music in the new year (Magnetic Fields! Fleet Foxes!).
10. Nice As Fuck - s/t Thank god for this album. It was exactly what 2016 needed - positive, fun, and a reminder that it'd be nice if we could all get along and love each other. That might be a tall order at the moment, but it's nice that someone is putting the idea out there. Favorite Track: "Door"
9. Jesu/Sun Kil Moon - s/t It's certainly a blessing when one of your most beloved artists is also so prolific it can be hard to keep up. Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon) partnered with Jesu for this album, so its definitely heavier than his usual style. But he's still Mark Kozelek, still complaining about international travel and rambling about his daily mundane activities, all the while somehow making it sound like poetry. Favorite Track: "Last Night I Rocked the Room Like Elvis and Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor"
8. Angel Olsen - Woman Can Angel Olsen do any wrong? Four albums and counting and it seems like the answer is a definite no. Favorite Track: "Never Be Mine"
7. Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam - I Had a Dream That You Were Mine Another question: Is it ok to prefer Leithauser's solo work to his work with The Walkmen? Probably not? (Asking for a friend) Favorite Track: "In a Black Out"
6. Shearwater - Jetplane and Oxbow Jonathan Meiburg is the missing link of my favorite band, Okkervil River (see my somewhat overzealous review of Away, my #3 album of the year). Much like how solo Morrissey just wasn't the same without Marr, Sheff just isn't the same without Meiburg (again, see #3, this will make a little more sense). So while I would give anything for Sheff and Meiburg to someday join forces again, at least we have Shearwater, a band that is all the dark and literary goodness that Sheff-Meiburg's Okkervil once was (they also definitely deserve to be appreciated sans Okkervil references, but I can't change who I am). I hate to be super obvious and choose the album's single as my favorite track, but honestly I've been obsessed with that song for a solid year now (however runner up for favorite track goes to "Backchannels"). Favorite Track: "Quiet Americans"
5. Preoccupations - s/t Formerly Viet Cong, the newly christened Preoccupations came out with an even stronger album than last year's offering. More melodic, still bleak and beautiful, think a heavier Joy Division. Just goes to show a name isn't everything. Favorite track: "Memory"
4. Whitney - Light Upon the Lake OF COURSE Whitney is on my year end list. This album is one of the few truly wonderful things that happened in 2016, and its joy and wonder is one of the few things that people seem to actually agree on this year. If you missed out on this album this year be sure to remedy that immediately, and then google "things that listening to Whitney is like". Favorite Track: "Golden Days"
3. Okkervil River - Away Buckle up guys, because I have A LOT of feelings about this album. It is so beautiful and it's exciting to have it so high up my list, as the last two Okkervil albums... well, they had their moments (see "Hanging From A Hit" on I Am Very Far, and "All The Time, Every Day" on Silver Gymnasium) but overall were disappointing. Which is a hard thing when it's your favorite band. I was convinced Okkervil would never be the same after the departure of Will Sheff's (singer/songwriter for Okkervil) musical soulmate Jonathan Meiburg (see my review for Shearwater's Jetplane and Oxbow). And here's the thing: it's not the same. It never will be. There will never be another Black Sheep Boy or The Stage Names (two albums I highly recommend if you want to live your life to the fullest). But Sheff created something pretty fucking next level and beautiful with Away - something, quite frankly, I wasn't sure he had in him. Do I sort of wish it wasn't an Okkervil album at all? Yeah, I do, a little bit. It's a little weird to see Sheff's current live interpretations of Okkervil Songs. He may be ready to move past the Okkervil we've all known and loved... me, not so much. That's the shitty thing - if this had been a Will Sheff solo album, I think it would have been my number one. But it's hard to let go of the expectations for something that has meant so much to you and that's had such an impact on your life. So here we are. Music fandom is real hard sometimes. Favorite Track: "Mary on a Wave"
2. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw Kevin Morby has the potential to go down in history as one of the great singer-songwriters of our time, and Singing Saw really showcased his abilities and took his writing to the next level. It was no surprise to learn that Leonard Cohen was one of his biggest influences, and the tribute he posted to Cohen on instagram following his death made me sob (I took that one hard). If you haven't listened to Kevin Morby I really encourage you to check him out - I have a feeling he has a long and beautiful career ahead of him. I hope I'm right. Favorite Track: "Water"
1. Big Thief - Masterpiece My number one album of the year sure came out of left field. As of July I'd still never even heard of Big Thief, and I only discovered them when their Tiny Desk concert caught my eye while scrolling through Facebook. So while it's probably not exactly cool to discover a band via your mom's social media network of choice, I'll take it. This is the album I returned to the most throughout the second half of 2016, and while I suppose it may not be groundbreaking, it's beautiful and heartbreaking and all the things I love in an album. It also has a sense of intimacy I haven't felt in a long time. I feel like I know singer/songwriter Adrianna Lenker, yet at the same time I feel like she has a lot more to reveal to us. I'm definitely listening. Favorite Track - "Randy"
Honorable mentions!: Thao Nguyen, Andrew Bird, case/lang/veirs, Chairlift, Frankie Cosmos, Local Natives, Beach Slang, Solange, American Football, Leonard Cohen (RIP), Sia, P.s. Eliot, Radiohead, Japanese Breakfast, Porches