It’s the end of December, and we’ve made our way through another year of music. Check out what the MEB staff has kept on repeat throughout 2016 and what we’re looking forward to in 2017! Click staff photos to see all of that staff member’s picks for the year or, while you’re at it, check out the 2016 MEBBIES. If you’re not feeling that whole “reading” thing, go judge some albums by their covers at the art clickgrid. Let us know in the comments if you agree with our picks or if we missed anything great!
Full of twangy magic and visceral lyricism, this record came out of nowhere and was more or less a yearlong favorite. Though it’s only eight songs long, it reaches a full spectrum of thought and emotion sincerely and masterfully. Pingrove pushes the same buttons all of my favorite bands do. If you’ve ever drifted away from friends, moved away from home, or really thought about death, Cardinal should resonate with you. There’s certainly no other album this year that hits me in quite the same way.
Most-Anticipated: John Mayer
The Tribe Called Quest comeback and posthumous release following Phife Dawg’s tragic death really shows the group at their best. Overcoming their personal differences beautifully late in Phife’s life, the group did what it does best: blend robust beats with the characteristic voices of the group. Additionally, the political lyrics of this album are particularly haunting as they were presumably recorded years ago, yet accurately reflect this most recent election.
Most-Anticipated: LCD Soundsystem
At first, Pinegrove confused me. Why did all these punks like this folk band so much? Then I gave Cardinal a listen and immediately “got it.” Cardinal evokes the best memories of my childhood and is a seamless record that keeps a level head on my shoulders. Nothing else came close.
Most-Anticipated: Pianos Become The Teeth
It takes a lot for an album released in February to stick around in my mind, but Pinegrove did just that. Cardinal is an unwavering masterpiece. It feels deeply personal on nearly every level, from the starkly candid lyrics to the raw instrumentation that floats effortlessly in the space between loud and quiet dynamics. Cardinal may consist of eight songs, but the amount of soul poured into its creation jumps out of the speakers and separates it from anything else made this year.
Most-Anticipated: Brand New
What makes Bon Iver’s third record such a unique listen — and my favorite album of 2016 — is exactly what made Justin Vernon an indie icon in the first place: striking, unwavering progression. Though it would have been easy to make Bon Iver, Bon Iver Part 2, Vernon took a more experimental and turbulent approach on 22, A Million. With samples, synth, and autotune taking the place of the organic instrumentation of its predecessor, the half-hour electro-folk romp stands above everything else I heard year.
Most-Anticipated: Wage War
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.
Most-Anticipated: Run The Jewels
The stigma in our society is that being sad is a choice and a weakness. But as Mitski said in her interview with Brooklyn Magazine, “What I think everyone is looking for right now is to be able to be not good or not okay, and not have that devalue them in any way.” What Mitski has taught me with Puberty 2 is that to be not okay is okay.
Most-Anticipated: Arcade Fire
Sum 4113 Voices
When frontman Deryck Whibley almost died from kidney and liver failure, hopes of a new album was pretty slim. Luckily, Whibley pushed through and 13 Voices was born. From beginning to end, the album takes the listener into Whibley’s mind as he faces the struggles of fighting addiction. Standout track “War” is a prime example of just how emotional and stressful it was for him to triumph over his demons. 13 Voices was the comeback that Sum 41 needed.
Most-Anticipated: As It Is
Gucci Mane’s sobriety put GuWop on a better music path, but apparently The Weeknd as well. The XO star’s new unorthodox sound fits the worlds of both your parents’ favorite hits & today’s electronic wave that collided at the exact same time. The throwback tempos championing Daft Punk-style production makes the album an exhilarating joy ride, which soundtracks his confident lyricism and fun anthem-like choruses. A fresh musical inhale of a sound you didn’t know existed until Weeknd cut all his hair.
Most-Anticipated: Pusha T
The individual parts that make up a Marshmello track shouldn’t work — there’s some drum and base lines serving as skeletons, candy/bubblegum pop style raises and blips, rap bars, dubstep wubs, house bloops, some 16-bit MIDI sounds, an obligatory “You ready for this?” and some classical piano sprinkled in for good measure – yet it deliciously flows so well. There’s no individual parts of a track I would take out or add in, no bits I rush over, nor parts I wish I would last longer, Joytime is a perfect blend.