Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Tensomething Albums of 2016

It's that time of the year again.

Like I did in 2010201120122013, 2014, and 2015, I'm providing my top ten albums that came out this year. After the top ten, there's a list of albums that deserve honorable mention. 

In the past, I've usually had twentysome albums on this list, but this year I didn't buy as much music as I usually do. It was not some kind of concerted effort to save cash. Rather, from my perspective, this was a down year for my musical tastes. Maybe I'm missing something. 

So if there are other albums you would recommend that came out in 2016, please let me know in the comments section.

1. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Mr. Simpson had a tough draw trying to follow up Metamodern Sounds in Country. But he did so in an excellent fashion. At first listen, I was surprised by all the horns and strings. After the second or third listen, I was addicted. It's a stunning album with a strong Americana backbone. From the rocking "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)" to the poignant "Breakers Roar," from the standard "Keep It Between the Lines" to the wonderful cover of "In Bloom," this is just a fantastic album. 

Favorite Songs: "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)," "Keep It Between the Lines," "In Bloom," and "Sea Stories"

2. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Let Me Get By

I'd really like to see this humungous band in concert because I don't think their albums give a person a full realization of how good this band really is. Tedeschi's voice sounds great as ever, and the arrangements are spot on. Just another strong TTB album for our listening pleasure. 

Favorite Songs: "Laugh About It," "Don't Know What It Means," "Let Me Get By," and "Crying Over You"

3. Drive-By Tuckers, American Band

I liked English Oceans, and I like this offering a lot too. There was all kinds of press touting this album as the band's best in a long time. I don't know about that. The lyrics and topics on a number of tunes certainly got the attention of people because of what was a rhetorical shitfest of an election, one that saw a second coming of George Wallace (crossed with P.T. Barnum) winning the presidency. Scary times and an album with political lyrics. Dislike the former--enjoy the latter. 

Favorite Songs: "Ramon Casiano," "Guns of Umpqua," "Sun Don't Shine," "Ever South," and "What It Means"  

4. Dawes, We're All Gonna Die

Dawes is a band that has filled the musical hole that R.E.M. once occupied. I wouldn't compare the band's sound and lyrics to that hallowed band. Dawes is more straightforward, and the band's lyrics are understandable--not the language poetry Stipe spun. Dawes is a rock band with a slight pop sensibility. We're All Gonna Die is another solid offering from these dudes. The lyrics of "Quitter" might be my favorite lyrics of the year. 

Favorite Songs: "Roll with the Punches," "Less Than Five Miles Away," "Picture of a Man," and "Quitter"

5. Metallica, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

To longtime Metallica fans, I don't think any new album will ever live up to the early ones, but this one reminds me of ...And Justice for All. The album has the fellas going back to their speed metal roots. There are some really good arrangements and as usual solid guitar work. For those pining for straightforward metal, this is probably the go-to for 2016. 

Favorite Songs: "Moth into the Flame," "Confusion," "ManUNkind," and "Spit Out the Bone"

6. St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sea of Noise 

These fellows from Birmingham, Alabama followed up their breakthrough debut album quite nicely. Like we saw two years ago, they offer no nonsense soul/R&B. 

Favorite Songs: "Is It Me," "Brain Matter," "Waves," "Midnight on the Earth," and "All I Ever Wonder"

7. Weezer, White Album

I desperately want the 90s back ... in so many different ways. This band is still putting out its alt-rock stylings. There's a lot to be said for just a rock band doing its thing and not getting caught up in some art-house, funhouse shenanigans. Just play something that rocks. And Weezer did that. 

Favorite Songs: "Thank God for Girls," "Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori," "Jacked Up," and "Endless Bummer" 

8. Jack Garratt, Phase

About the last thing you'd think I'd buy is music that could be labeled "electronica." But I saw this guy perform on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and I was impressed. I guess his stuff could be categorized as pop music. He's a Brit. I shut down my prejudices against electronic music and enjoyed the ride. 

Favorite Songs: "Breathe Life," "Weathered," "I Know All What I Do," and "Chemical" 

9. Ben Harper, Call It What It Is

After his fabulous collaboration with Charlie Musselwhite, I was sort of expecting a more bluesy offering. "Call It What It Is" provides that vibe with a obvious political statement: "Call it what it is ~ Murder." This is not one of my favorite Harper albums, but it's worth your time. 

Favorite Songs: "Call It What It Is," "How Dark is Gone," "Shine," and "Dance Like Fire"

10. Luther Dickinson, Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger's Songbook), Vol. I & II

The front man for the North Mississippi Allstars put out his own solo affair with some songs on the album from the NMA canon. The whole affair is stripped down to the basics with a couple of guests. 21 songs on this bad boy. 

Favorite Songs: "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down," "Ain't No Grave," "Highwater (Soldier)," "Ol' Canonball," and "Mayor Langford Birmingham Blues" 

Honorable Mentions

Quaker City Nighthawks, El Astronauta

Elizabeth Cook, Exodus of Venus

Mount Moriah, How to Dance

Bob Mould, Patch the Sky

Amanda Shires, My Piece of Land

Hard Working Americans, Rest in Chaos

Lydia Loveless, Real

Regina Spektor, Remember Us to Life

Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent

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