It’s been a few months since the beginning of the year, and with that in mind it’s only fitting that we look back. While I’ve grown and matured in ways I only realize in hindsight, there was a part of me that noticed my musical tastes evolve in a particularly noticeable way. Pop punk will always have its place for me, but the world of music found itself opening more this year than ever before. I don’t think I’m a perfect music listener by any means, but this year was filled with releases on all ends of the spectrum that could convince anyone that they have a fantastic music taste. Being at an age where things tend to change more than stay the same, it’s not the worst thing in the world to see your taste play those same tricks on you, and this year was a testament to that. Here’s the list of the music that separated itself from the pack this year, so let’s hope that 2017 can live up to this year’s array of good vibes.
1. Beyoncé – Lemonade
It wasn’t quite a surprise drop on iTunes (aka a slightly less surprising drop on Tidal), but Beyoncé took over the world once more with the release of her sixth studio record/second visual album. Pushing the hype aside, Lemonade brought a bigger fist to the fight than her 2013 self-titled. In expressing the anger of being cheated on with the power of black womanhood, she blows things up to a new level, maintaining a grand degree of sonic consistency while treading the lines of blues, rock, R&B, and more.
2. David Bowie – Blackstar
Looking critically at Blackstar, I’m put in a bit of an uncomfortable position. This was my first experience with a Bowie record. Because of this, the weight of Bowie’s death wasn’t nearly as profound as that of the millions of Bowie fans who truly understood his iconic status. Maybe some of power behind his expansive and spellbinding compositions that take from rock and jazz in such a curious manner is lost by this lack of context, but the fact that they stand so well in isolation may be just as telling.
Considering how unabashedly direct and straightforward their sophomore record was, it was a natural move for The Hotelier to try and explore space on its follow-up. Both broadly abstract and personally introspective, Goodness sees the band using its strong foundation as a means of pushing forward. This record is the band exploring the realm of the unknown that emo doesn’t traditionally consider, just like Brand New did a decade ago. It’s a notable album that has put the band into quite special territory.
J. Cole went double platinum with no features, but Chance The Rapper made it to the top with no iTunes. In a mixtape that carries the weight of an album, the off-color, colorful raps of Acid Rap turn into big productions that appeal to the casual listener and bold listener, alike. The sprinkles of soul and gospel tie in seamlessly with a variety of beats and features that capture the energy behind all fronts of modern hip-hop. This is a united force from all ends, fighting to carry the game its shoulders.
5. Touché Amoré – Stage Four
Fueled by the death of his mother, Jeremy Bolm and Touché Amoré could’ve easily made a record of the punishing post-hardcore that they do so well. Instead, the band employed melody, nuance, anger, sadness, even a bit of singing as opposed to yelling, in writing a record that is as vulnerable and straightforward as the band has ever been. It doesn’t feel like a band trying something that they’re uncomfortable with, as Stage Four is as strident as you could expect, coping with loss in a distinctly powerful way.
6. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
7. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
8. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
9. From Indian Lakes – Everything Feels Better Now
10. Solange – A Seat At The Table
11. Frank Ocean – Blonde
12. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
13. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It
14. Tegan And Sara – Love You To Death
15. Kendrick Lamar – untitled. unmastered.
16. Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
17. Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
18. Maxwell – BlackSUMMERS’night
19. Loretta Lynn – Full Circle
20. Amber Arcades – Fading Lines