Rather then reiterate the same group of albums that are currently being exalted by the music press, I thought I would draw attention to music that needs it. Not all the albums on this list came out in 2016, nor it is always the quality of music that would merit inclusion on a best of the year list. Whatever the case, this is interesting, beautiful music that is most certainly worth your time. The list is presented in alphabetical order by album.
C’mon – Low
Subtle, sparse compositions that grow into magnificent vistas of sounds. “Nothing But Heart” grows from three guitar chords into a sonic landscape that seems to encompass all of time. “Especially Me” weaves existential horror and profound ecstasy into one rhythmic whole. All of the songs weave a similar cosmic feeling out of their simple parts, which leads to an album that is much more than it seems.
Diamond Mine – King Creosote and Jon Hopkins
This is music with a tenderness that gives all that it expresses a thunderous empathy. Creosote has a gift for images, conjuring sleepy towns, bars, and coastal places, while Hopkins bathes those images in warm synths. “Bubble” and “Your Young Voice” are desperate love songs, while“Bats in the Attic” is a haunting mediation on age and loss. Simple, but profound beyond itself.
Masterpiece – Big Thief
Simple, evocative folk rock. This is potent stuff, liable to leave you sobbing in a car, banging your head, or dancing to exorcise demons. “Paul” is the obvious highlight in how it creates the feeling of longing for love and the realization of our complete inability to deserve it, but “Real Love” is a smart, punchy, and wild and “Parallels” is grander than its scope would suggest. The album doesn’t quite function as a whole, but each piece is marvel.
No Burden – Lucy Dacus
Some of the most earnest and messy songwriting, you will hear in this or any year. Dacus’ lyrics, although occasionally awkward, are magically present. They manage to give voice to some strong, indescribable thing you’ve felt. “Direct Address” is the best song I’ve ever heard about falling in love with strangers. “Map on a Wall” seems to contain the entirety of teenage anxiety and triumph. She has a voice for the ages, sharp and witty, even while being tender. Not everything works – the structure is sometimes too loose and the production too weightless – but Dacus taps into something undeniably human.
Taco Boom Box – Fresh Big Mouf
22 minutes of searing electro-pop perfection. It starts out satirical and witty and moves to warm, human insight. “Bite Your Brains” is an instant classic, a shot of adrenaline that quits exactly the moment it is ahead. However, “Messed Up Toenail” is hard hitting masterwork of songwriting, one that is beautiful, tragic, and thrilling in equal measure. This is a record you can cry, laugh, and dance to, sometimes all at once.