Best Albums of 2016/The Best Best-Of List
1/11/17, 8:01 EST
By John Corry
For all its faults and appendages, 2016 was a pretty crazy /> crazy-awesome - year. There were ups and downs, criminals, liars, and rape culture, and to top it off, it was the second year the Hamilton soundtrack was out. If you’re anything like me, this shit retains its status as a pretty big deal *TheBiggestDeal… because the Hamilton soundtrack is insanely badass, but, unfortunately, it came out in 2015, and, as we’ve all heard a million times (…on the backs of CDs and records), it is 2016 now, and 2016 was one for the history books.
In an attempt to lighten the situation, and bridge the gap between why this year was great and why it may be necessary to attempt to make it made great again (with this list #RealFakeNews(OpinionsxD), I’ve made this list to shove this in your faces: that music (art) is the best shit ever /> and nothing - nothing - can ever change that.
*P.S.A.: Please keep in mind that this list is partial, and is subject to (very likely) change, even though it is clearly the best list ever #TheBestListEver #TheOnlyList #THEBestList. I listen to more far metal, rock, jazz (ish), and hip-hop than anything popular or on the radio; I’ve recently gotten very into Old Man Gloom (metal), Cult Leader (metal), Bob Dylan again, and I really do think the Hamilton soundtrack is the coolest fucking thing ever (after MetallicR’s StAnger (metal) (spelled correctly)) of course XD). Triggered by my opinions? Wildly disagree? Then it may do you well to close this ‘fake-news’ window so dependent on making ‘prejudiced’ jokes and jabs, because there are more than enough assholes shoving metaphorical (toxic) glue up our asses anyway (including me?), and subliminally in the media.
**Just another quick additional Note on: How I came up with the rankings: (in no particular order) my personal preference, technical quality in-itself, emotional quality in-itself, emotional impact on both potential personal and societal scales, originality, potential musical importance generally, potential societal relevance, diversification, simple ‘god-given’ talent, album as a whole, album taken as individual parts (songs, musicality, lyrics, production etc.).
15. The Glowing Man by Swans (Epic Art-Rock) (Released: June)
I’m new to Swans. They’ve been around since the mid eighties and lately, they’ve been doing intricate, long, EPIC, and very interesting quasi space-rock operas (also: what they’ve always been doing, or at least alluding to might be a better way to put it). Think Godspeed You! Black Emperor with some vocals and much more of a Pink Floyd vibe. I was introduced to them by this album only a few weeks ago (honestly: by one of these lists =D), and I’m not disappointed, at least not like I was with some other, more political things that happened this year… (Kanye and The Life of Pablo :P). The Glowing Man goes for over two crazy hours, but it’s felt shorter with every listen, and it’s certainly gotten me inspired to do what new albums should do (aside from being awesome of course): check out the band’s other shit. Unfortunately, Swans has announced that this will be their last release with this line-up, but if you’re into music that pushes boundaries, or bands that have made a helluva career doing so (Godspeed owes a shit-ton to them (it may seem…)), Swans is certainly not one to miss out on (in-my-opinion), and The Glowing Man is another great reason why.
14. Transcendence by The Devin Townsend Project (Metal) (Released: October)
Another one that got me into this band, I have yet to get past it. Prior to hearing Transcendence, my only exposure to Devin Townsend was ‘that cheeseburger song’ that sounded like a metal version of Frank Zappa and had that badass Fredrick Thordendal solo on it (what!? Yes, you read that correctly). Transcendence holds onto that quality to a point, but more so only in its basics. The songwriting is more focused than what else I’ve heard, and the lyrics a well written inspiring spiritual journey through to the heavens (!) - far from what I was expecting from a band hailed by the pussy progressive metal community #StillSuckin’OnDreamTheater (sorry, guys I just haven’t found it yet #Petrucci,Though#Duh). The title track and ‘Offer Your Light’ are my current two favorite examples of this, although the album is filled with surprisingly good lines, catchy verses and fun riffs, without feeling at all mainstream or sold-out; in fact, it feels like the opposite: a nice ‘fuck you’ to the mainstream, while doing it better than they do without being obvious about it in any way. It kinda feels like it should be a sell-out, before I realize that it takes three songs to really kick off, and that I didn’t notice that at all until I’m at the very end of the (a little less than an hour long) thing; that, in fact, I wasn’t noticing anything but what I was thinking about the record throughout that whole time! Trust me, this is pretty big deal: like all who think I do, selling out is a gigantic offense: it’s (clearly) the only reason one could ever not be into MetallicR after …And Justice For All. Like Swans, Townsend’s back catalogue has now officially begun its influence on me.
13. Magma by Gojira (Metal) (Released: June)
This one came out of nowhere for me. I loved 2006’s From Mars to Sirius, and one of the reasons I found that album so cool was that it did a nice job of introducing interesting, almost ‘trippy’ guitar parts and leads, seemingly coming almost out of nowhere sometimes, without taking away from the heavy aspect. The same goes for the way they were able to be simple without losing their inherent air of complexity. Magma does this even better, and still retains that ‘classic’ Gojira sound almost even more than From Mars to Sirius (by ‘classic’, I mean that groove, the vocals, and the aforementioned heavy aspect (especially in the riffing) and/or lead guitar style). It’s definitely far more simple than their other shit, by quite a bit actually, but I think the riffs and the grooves make up for it, and the album as a whole doesn’t sound like any kind of retreat in their sound in any way (which I can’t say completely for some of their other recent releases :/). Topping it off are the lyrics, which are definitely the best I’ve heard from this band yet, and: arguably the best of any metal release this year (quite a feat (seriously)). A high point for sure.
12. Day Breaks by Norah Jones (Jazz) (Released: October)
If you were alive in the early 2000s, you heard it, and you couldn’t get it out of your head: Norah Jones’ ‘Don’t Know Why’ off her 2002 debut Come Away With Me. She’s had a interesting career since then, mostly straying off into indie jazz territory, but never losing that base that made some people call her pop. Day Breaks goes far further than ever before in this (in straying form pop/rock), yet it cements her far more as someone ‘ain’t nutin’ to fuck wit’ (#Wu-Tang). This thing is jazzy out the ass; her sweet, collected voice only adding depth to songs and performances already on the brink of swaying my head like I’m on molly at the club at 3 AM, even on just the first time I’d heard them! I’ve always liked her lyrics, almost as much as her voice and musicality, and the way she’s somehow able to walk that fine line between real (sad ;( ) and inherently hopeful. ‘I lost my nerve, yet peace surrounds, so carry on,’ she sings on ‘Carry On’. You keep making records like this, girlfriend, and I’ll lose my nerve at every second of every day, and never be able to help but never stop =D.
11. Black America Again by Common (Hip-Hop) (Released: November)
Hip-Hop is in an interesting place in 2016. It’s been a long time now since the glory days of Wu-Tang and Biggie being on the radio all the time, with that insanely depressing gradual loop toward the point where people actually give a fuck about certain ‘rappers’ in the mainstream right now (hip-hop is mostly about the lyrics (what you’re trying to say), and the flow of the rhyme scheme; it’s much easier to make money off of something that makes people forget about their problems than from something reminding people of them - I have no idea if someone may have some stance to profit from this type of expulsion of ignorance #Sarcasm XD, so I don’t know why I’m mentioning it /> should I take it out? -No). Still, this hasn’t stopped some rappers - a few new and others: veterans - from speaking the truth, doing so artistically, and not getting themselves chastised for it (it must be offensive!!!).
Chicago’s Common is such a rapper, and for good reason. Since his debut in 1992 (Can I Borrow a Dollar?), he’s been the perfect rally between the mainstream and the underground. Never to shy away from important subject manner, he’s also able to take the pain away when it feels like it may be getting to be too much, seemingly totally on accident. Black America Again is his best as far as these qualities go (in-my-opinion), even as it’s also his most polished, and his most political (as may be inferred from the title :/). He’s never been angrier, more on-point, or subconsciously soothing at any other point in his impressive career, and in a year that seemed to never stop (…coming out with great new music releases ;), this arguable career-topper was a very welcome addition to the music world as a whole, let alone to the horrible mainstream and impressive underground hip-hop circles, especially given his unique place in the genre, and the unique place the genre has (as an art) in the music - and even the general - world, currently.
As a quick note here, just as a break: this was a very hard list to make. 2016 was filled with great new shit, and I spent a long time switching around these rankings, and figuring out which releases to include (honestly: way to much time…). The way it’s come out is not only meant to be a representation on what my opinions are on the year in music as a whole (because my opinions are the only opinions that matter #FuckYou), and what it says about, or the way it’s reflected, anything else that may or may not have happened this year, but, also, more so: to comment on some of the diversity we’ve been seeing only more and more of over the previous few years /> and 2016 has been the best yet!
Even some reissues and previously unreleased classic rock records released this year have been fantastic (see: Bob Dylan’s The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert! (Live) and the stellar conclusion of Jimmy Page’s Led Zeppelin reissues)! Eminem released a remixed version of his first single ‘Infinite’ from 1996 that feels almost like ‘new old Eminem’ if one’s barely heard that first record (and if you’re an Eminem fan, it’s hard to beat ‘old’ Eminem *TheAbsoluteFuckingHardest). Despite Zack De La Rocha’s non-involvement, Prophets of Rage released two cool songs in an EP, and the concept of that band as whole is pretty badass - which isn’t to mention how fucking awesome Run the Jewels is (which I mention because Zack De La Rocha has a great verse on their newest one (Run the Jewels 3: the hardest record for me not to include on here :( ). The new one from Kid Cudi, Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ is very cool, and if you’re into Aerosmith, Steven Tyler’s first solo country album actually came out satisfying. I know that’s quite a jump as far as genre goes, but as far as I’ve seen, this is probably one of very few of these lists where metal is actually considered just another genre in the same general vein as pop, jazz or hip-hop (absolutely crazy, right!?!?!?), once again: just another reason this is the best *TheBestFuckingList THE best list ever/> so whatever, fuck off-
Is there a reason so much cool shit is coming out? We can potentially look forward to a new Mastodon album next year, another from Mutoid Man, St. Vincent, and a possible collaboration from Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole (and a new one from: Tool!!! #ForgetTheFuckingPolitics,DudeXD), not to mention many more, and the many more I obviously don’t know about yet. I would like to argue that this is simply the long-awaited rise of the musician-over-the label, and the return to true musicality in the mainstream, but, being a ‘musician’, to a certain extent myself, I may be a tad biased against music made by computers and one-liners written by dozens of different people. If it’s good, it’s good, right? It shouldn’t matter how it was made, or how people got there… :o Or if there’s anything to learn from history…
Let’s move on…
10. Great is Our Sin by Revocation (Metal) (Released: July)
2016 was a great fucking year for metal. Revocation has been on the up-and-up since 2005, and they barely take any time off at all. Everyone in metal knows who they are, and I doubt many of us took very long to ‘bow down’ to their still-guitar-beating feet. I certainly didn’t #Suckin’OnRevocation #StillNotSuckin’OnDreamTheater #HaveYouHeardDaveDavidson,Dude#Duh. They’ve gotten better on every album, most notably so from their 2013 self-titled to their 2014 Metal Blade debut Deathless. That album (Deathless) was their last one before Great is Our Sin. Revocation has always been praised for their musical technicality, especially in the guitars, and this release continues their trend of only ascending it higher (‘Arbiters of the Apocalypse’, ‘Theater of Horror’, and ‘Communion’ having arguably three of the coolest guitar solos they’ve ever done), but what’s also only going up are their riffs. ‘Arbiters’ sparks an absolute high point, and the bridge riff in ‘Only the Spineless Survive’ (and the solo right after it) is the closest thing to Pantera greatness since Down #Joke. Revocation is, and will likely (hopefully), continue to be one of the best bands in the genre, and are one of the biggest reasons why it’s so ridiculous that metal is so ignored by so many ‘music enthusiasts’ who claim to be ‘diverse’, but refuse to recognize that just because something is angry doesn’t mean it’s not as technically satisfying or emotionally diverse, or should be written off as worth anything less than what’s ‘popular’ (‘deplorable’ ?XD), or more accessible to a mind who listens to music as nothing more than an emotional escape, or may have more complicated emotions. Wake up Rolling Stone, this is where rock n’ roll lives, bro <3.
09. Fires Within Fires by Neurosis (Metal) (Released: September)
I’ll admit: Neurosis is an acquired taste #Allegedly. Even those into metal oftentimes have a tough time getting into them, despite their status as major veteran contributors to the advent of the post-metal genre. Fires Within Fires, though, for all intents and purposes, may be their most accessible since 1999’s Times of Grace (arguably, their best record (that or Through Silver and Blood (1996), of course)). The riffs are more in-your-face (see: ‘A Shadow Memory’ and, especially, ‘Fire is the End Lesson’), and they’ve seemed to more seamlessly merge that riff oriented metal with industrial, noise, and ambience, more so than on anything since Through Silver in Blood. This is especially true for ‘Bending Light’ and ‘Reach’, more so for the former however, which boasts cool riffs, a very interesting intro, and a unique song structure. I’ve heard people complain about the production, which I can understand, but I don’t think it takes away from the songs, and, after hearing it a few times, only adds to the album’s originality as a whole, making some purposefully conflicted moments even more conflicted.
08. The Violent Sleep of Reason by Meshuggah (Metal) (Released: November)
It’s hard not to put this higher on this list, the best-of list, *TheBestBest-OfList *THEList #THEList. Meshuggah (fucking legends in metal, their first album came out in the eighties, and was considered abstract at the time even for extreme metal standards) has always been so good (if you don’t know them, they’re known for being very, very technical *TheMostTechnical, but not like most metal bands, in that Meshuggah has made a unique thing out of the way they put polyrhythms and other rhythmic exercises to use). I didn’t like Koloss (2012) as much as ObZen (2008), although I don’t think I like anything as much as ObZen, to be honest, after thinking about it, however, The Violent Sleep of Reason is far from disappointing. ‘Clockworks’, ‘Nostrum’, and the title track are all in at least Meshuggah’s all-time top ten songs, and they’ve never done an album this riff-oriented, or with more guitar solos/leads. All of the music was written by the drummer and the bassist (as opposed to a much more diverse mix on previous Meshuggah records), and it comes off while listening to it. It feels heavier, and hits deeper than anything they’ve ever done, and is, of course, technically fucking ridiculous (see: “By the Ton”).
Not only that, but it was all recorded live! Those fucking bastards!!!
07. You Will Never be One of Us by Nails (Metal) (Released: June)
This was another tough one (so much good shit came out this year!!! #WHYYYYY!?!?!?) not to put in the top five, just because Nails is so fucking cool - it’s unfair! This is their longest record, at a full, insanely staggering 21+ minutes. Upon first listen, the thing goes by like in a dream, but it gets longer every time. A song may be less than a minute long, but it does have structure, and even a certain degree of emotional complexity (‘Parasite’) #MetalHasEmotionalComplexity???#NoFuckingWay. In a way, it feels like they sometimes slow time (!!!) =OO, which is something no other hardcore band has ever done for me - not even close - and it absolutely feels like a full album, and a great one at that (in-my-opinion). A metal classic for sure, by a band that is quickly building its reputation to be amongst that same classification for some time to come.
06. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead (Art-Rock) (Released: May)
I’ve got to get off my chest. I love Radiohead - absolutely love ‘em - and I’d love to put this at number one just because of how great it is for Radiohead fans, and because of how #CrazyInLove I am with it, and will likely continue to be /> as well as because of how consistent, focused, and precise it is. 2011’s The King of Limbs was good because it was Radiohead doing something Radiohead had never really done before (a more true-to-form concept album), but A Moon Shaped Pool is cool because it’s Radiohead summing up Radiohead better than Radiohead has ever summed up Radiohead (in-my-opinion xD).
Radiohead’s always been consistent, without ever giving up artistic integrity - they almost thrive on that conflict. As with all the records in this top five of this list *THEList, and many in the rest of it as well, every song on A Moon Shaped Pool is perfect-o, but only adding flame to fire is the fact that most of these songs have been around in Radiohead myth and folklore for years. ‘Burn the Witch’, ‘Ful Stop,’ ‘Identikit’, and the glamorously beau-ti-ful ‘True Love Waits’ have all seen a modern update on A Moon Shaped Pool, all arguably better than their previous incarnations, and they fit perfectly within the context of the album (meaning: it doesn’t just feel like a ‘best-of’ record or anything like that (even *TheBestBest-Of *TheBest *TheBest). Obviously, Jonny Greenwood’s epic dissociating orchestra is a welcome new concentrated addition, not to mention a seemingly reinvigorated Thom Yorke, both in his lyrics, and his vocal performance. Radiohead’s always been the coolest band ever (and I mean that quite literally), and A Moon Shaped Pool has once again cemented that fact, as all of their albums continue to do, as they continue to get better, and more distinct, at a time in their career when any other band would be slowing down. I can’t get over it, don’t think I ever will, hoping I won’t.
Again, to reiterate here, these were extremely hard to rank, and especially these top five. These rankings have switched around what felt like a billion times, as have my emotions in regards to the election (…between Bowie or Prince as the all-time king (fyi: it’s both)), and these top six or seven have been especially difficult to classify. Some more that came out this year I wish I could have put up were Animals as Leaders’ The Madness of Many (it’s not as consistent as I would have liked /> nor did it hit me right away, because I still find myself turning it on somewhat frequently o.O), The New Deal’s Mercury Switch, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra’s debut, Opeth’s Sorceress, Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered, as well as, of course, Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker (admittedly, I have yet to get really into Leonard Cohen :’( ). Again, this year has been an amazing year for music (as it has for other things… New Star Wars movie, Westworld etc.), and picking out the best in order to write this list would have been the bane of my existence if it weren’t for all the fun I’ve ended up having. Music is totally cool *TheMostCool, and regardless of its impact and/or capacity for influence or reflection on what’s going outside of it, it has, is, and will always: be.
**Disclaimer: I did not like the new MetallicR album XD. At least when Asshole Dave Mustaine rips off his own riff, he’s had a cool drummer playing behind it (and he’s never done it on one album nearly as much as MetallicR has on their latest). This isn’t to say that Hard Wired… To Self-Destruct is absolutely terrible - I did like two or three songs and an original riff here and there - but it’s a huge step down from Death Magnetic (2008) and (yes, I’m going here :/), St. Anger (2004). At least St. Anger felt somewhat genuine… and not just genuinely ‘for-your-money’ ($$$) (#PoliticalMetaphor?) XDDD -
Suck it =P.
05. Dissociation by The Dillinger Escape Plan (Metal) (Released: November)
If there has been one disappointing thing to happen in 2016 (aside from all the awesome people we’ve lost), one thing at which we will look back at in the future regarding 2016, and say to ourselves: “Well, that fucking sucks,” one thing that may be the worst fucking thing in the world /> it’s the break up of one of the coolest, most enjoyable, and most original bands in the history of metal, and music in general: The Dillinger Escape Plan. The shit these guys have been able to produce over the course of their almost twenty-year, six-album career have been mesmerizing to watch in real time - not to mention their live shows (seriously, check out footage; if you’ve never seen them, you fucked up) - and something that most people I don’t think have really grasped yet. No band sounds like this, or does nearly what they’re able to do as far as the combination of musical technicality with raw human emotion goes - nobody.
Topping off this particular piece of heartbreak from this now horrible year (newsflash: the new Tool album still hasn’t come out :’( ) is the fact that Dissociation, Dillinger’s alleged last record, is probably their best, in the sole opinion of the guy responsible for your wasting your time in getting this far into his shitty best-of list (shitty? I-don’t-think-so, try: *TheBest *TheFUCKINGBest *THEBestList *TheBestBest-OfList *THEList XD). Many Dillinger fans have always wished for a return to the band’s prospective technical heyday of Calculating Infinity (1999), and, though they will occasionally admit to a certain amount of limited continuance on certain tracks on the three albums between that album and Dissociation, they’ve been much quicker to on this latest and last (because, overall, it may be considered to be more technical (than anything since Calculating Infinity)). It may also be because Dissociation is the best they’ve been at seamlessly combining those two elements that have divided Dillinger fans ever since the recruitment of singer Greg Puciato (unrelenting technicality and raw, powerful emotion), but, again, I think that’s part of the reason they’ll be so lasting, and why Dissociation is so good. No band swings between so many things in the way in which this band does, none even come close; Dissociation is the best example of why.
It always takes a while for albums like this to completely sink in (most of the records on this *THEList do, and for certain the top ten), but the fact that it comes off so good so fast, without being too overwhelmingly immediate, is a good sign. Everybody in the band kills it throughout this whole thing (possibly a career topper for each of them), and, again, it’s probably the most technical-meets-emotional thing they’ve ever come out with (arguably their coup-de-etat) - meanwhile masking said confliction by its overwhelming technicality (or emotion?) - and I really am extremely depressed that I may never see them live again.
It may be a sad day, but at least the soundtrack is good.
04. We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest (Hip-Hop) (Released: November)
Like Dillinger’s Dissociation, but for different reasons, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is another swan song from a group that not only helped to define a genre, but to also break it free. A Tribe Called Quest has been one of the premier rap groups since the mid eighties - also one of the most musically original, interesting, and lyrically on-point - and, prior to 2016, their last release was a crazy eighteen years prior! When founding member Phife Dawg passed away in May, there seemed, unfortunately, no way that number wouldn’t only go up, despite a few tiny rumors that perhaps the group was able to record one last album before it happened. Everyone knows: rumors are never true /> just a tool for fake bitches to make money off ‘fake news’ and dishonest reporting…
These rumors indeed proved true a few months later, and A Tribe Called Quest came out with the best surprise of the year, in a year full of (musical) surprises. We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is Tribe’s best since their prime, and possibly ever (in-my-opinion). The beats are fun, technical and catchy, the flow and choruses in the same boat, and the lyrics are fresh, angry and hopeful at a time when that was especially needed (in the weeks following November 8th; I have no idea why that date has any importance in this, just btw…). ‘We the People’ is a great indicator of this, as is ‘Kids’, ‘Melatonin’, ‘The Killing Season’, ‘Lost Somebody’, and ‘Ego’. The whole thing is full of bangers, not one song is worth skipping, and ‘Enough’ might be the sexiest true-to-form hip-hop song to come out all decade.
A perfect hip-hop record, at the perfect time, from the perfect group.
03. * by David Bowie (Art-Rock/Jazz/Jazz-Fusion) (Released: January)
And this is where it gets tough…
All year, since it came at the very start of 2016, my number one was *. I was sure of it *TheMostSure. I was amazed it held its leg up on A Moon Shaped Pool, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, and all the great metal that I knew was going to come out all year. Every time something else came out, and temporarily took over *’s unshakable lead, time would go by, and I would be forced to switch it back. It’s original, it’s emotional, and it’s only been getting better for me as time has gone by, which is really the ultimate test.
* is unlike almost anything that’s come out in decades, continuing a trend thrown into overdrive with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015, where avant-garde jazz is made not-so-avant-garde, without losing out on its overall ‘avant-garde-ness’. *’s jazzy as fuck, but it never doesn’t feel like a Bowie album. He’s always been incredible at combining a unique emotional quality with technicality throughout his career, but Bowie’s never done in this way before, and I’ve ever heard someone sound so comfortable doing something so new. This isn’t even to lightly comment on much of the lyrical content (which I’m not going to do… this one’s deep), though I will say that, in regards to that, it has a insanely unique place in the history of modern music (the reasons being somewhat obvious #TheBestSwanSongEVER), likely in all of music itself - or art. David Bowie has been making music for over fifty years; he’s seen the coming and going of so many different genres through both the mainstream and the underground, and he always seemed one step ahead of it all, as he’s constantly shown, through his music and lyrics, how inspiring it all was, and, almost more so, how inspired he was by all of it (apparently, To Pimp a Butterfly was one of Bowie’s biggest influences just before he started making *).
Many will call his classics his best, and it’s hard to argue with that given what those classics are (Ziggy Stardust, The Man Who Sold the World, Low, “Heroes”, Scary Monsters etc.), but, fifty years from now, when there are barely any people around who were alive in the seventies, * will be remembered, at the very least, as the ultimate artistic cap, and one of the greatest commentaries on death - in any field - ever produced or conceived. As far as simple ‘pieces of art’ go, or if art is simply a pinpoint of that unavoidable commentary on death and/or of that inevitable confliction between hope and helplessness, * is the number one of the century.
02. 4 Your Eyez Only by J. Cole (Hip-Hop) (Released: December)
I was sure this was it…
As I said, all year long, I was only more gradually convinced that Bowie’s * was the best record of the year, as the year went on (it beat everything!). Then, out of the blue (as did, ironically, now that I’m thinking about it, a good several of the albums listed here), J. Cole came out and announced that he was releasing a new record in just a week, with less than a month to go in the year. I was a huge fan of his last album, 2014’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive; I don’t think any other hip-hop record has ever grown on me the way that one did, while still hitting me a lot at first. All the sudden, several months after the initial fallout, I just found myself knowing all the words to it, though I remembered how good it was the moment I got it.
I’m currently overwhelmed by that latter feeling this time around (with 4 Your Eyez Only). What was so good about 2014 was how personal and sensitive it was, without turning J. Cole into any kind of a bitch. In fact, he only became more of a badass, and not just because of that ‘sensitive dudes are so badass’ thing that we all know exists :p. He’s got the perfect balance between sincerity and standoffishness, and this mixture of that with vintage meets somewhat modern production and beat value has only gotten better, and come more into focus, on 4 Your Eyez Only. To top it off, he’s arguably got the coolest flow in hip-hop right now, and, again, one of the coolest tastes for awesome beats, made even better on 4 Your Eyez Only by the newfound emphasis on jazz (not exactly in the way Kendrick did To Pimp a Butterfly, though that definitely might have been an influence; it’s more subtle here, it feels more like old school hip-hop, but if you really listen to most of it, it is definitely something more than normal).
He and Kendrick are probably the two coolest artists in the genre right now, and they just keep pushing, almost like they’re even pushing each other. It seems obvious to me that 4 Your Eyez Only will grow on me in the same way that 2014 did (I still have yet to get very into some of the more obscure tracks), and, because of that, it may be beneficial to write some type of follow up to this list in a few weeks or months, just to see how it all ended up playing out after some of these latter releases have had some time to sink in.
Until then though, all I know is that since hearing 4 Your Eyez Only for the first time, I haven’t been able to turn it off, and that I was amazed that something could challenge Bowie’s * for record of the year, as far as it goes with an emphasis on a profound specifically-musical gene.
I was sure of it when I first heard it (4 Your Eyez Only), even more sure the time after that, the time after that, and then going into writing this essay. It was absolute. Nothing could take its spot; there was no time for anything new to come out and blow me away anymore!
And then I started writing…
01. Lemonade by Beyoncé (R&B/Hip-Hop/Art-Pop/Pop-Fusion) (Released: April)
I’m not one for pop music.
My R&B intake has always been primarily Prince, P-Funk (if that’s R&B?) and Earth, Wind and Fire, and I’d rather not disclose myself on the modern pop end. Despite what I’d heard, I never wanted to buy Lemonade /> certain other artists could use the money a little more, and the only way to get the audio for Lemonade is to buy it with the visual for a minimum of $17.99 (I pay just a little more than that to see bands I’m in love with #TheRealDifferenceBetweenTheUndergroundAndTheMainstream:HowMuchMoreTheStockholdersCareAboutMoneyThanTheyDoArt???) Finally, when I started writing this *THEList to ABSOLUTELY RULE over all other #Best-OfLists *TheBestList *TheBestList #TheBestFuckingListEVER, I decided, ‘you know… there’s only one way to do this Right here (writing this essay): by listening to as much as I can, including anything I’ve heard to be very good, and getting it all as it was intended, otherwise, how do I really know what the deal is?); plus I’d heard that it was supposed to be fantastic anyway, my own biases aside…
Response with biases:
Lemonade is tha shit. It’s rare to have so many different genres all on one album and have it actually make apparent creative sense, even rarer for each of those tracks to hold up so well on their own without taking away from the overall cohesiveness of the album as a whole. She’s also mixing genres within the individual tracks themselves. ‘All Night’ is a good example of this; it’s got a noticeable mix of hip-hop, R&B and indie theatricality with a slight rock vibe underneath it. Much of the record goes on with this trend. I’m sure we’ve all heard about the lyrical content (are she and Jay-Z okay!?!?!? I can’t think of anything else that’s happened in 2016 more important to talk about…), but as much as I may have been expecting that, her emotional delivery is, as always, fucking ridiculous, and the lyrics themselves as well, being far more nuanced than I may have come to expect from modern pop. In other words, the expectation didn’t take away from it in the slightest. I’ve always been a critic of an artist who’s main squeeze was her/his singing - who doesn’t write her/his own songs (from what I understand: Beyoncé was heavily involved in the writing and producing processes of every one of these tracks; and I’d argue that she’s a kind of modern-music-conductor in a way that no one else in the industry even comes close to right now) - and who occasionally uses autotune (or: more so an industry that says that’s okay, and who then wonders why the industry’s been in such a shitter (you’re liars! =HH)(I’m not sure if Beyoncé actually uses autotune), but, as I said before, sometimes, shit’s just good shit #GetOverYourself #Don’tHurtYourself.
Really, it’s retarded awesome, far better, in my opinion, than anything else she’s ever done as far as a full album is concerned (except for 4 (2011) of course ;), and I have a strong feeling that it will only grow on me over time.
Response without biases:
Lemonade is the total fucking shit *theBestOfAllTime *TheBest *TheBest *TheBest #TheAbsoluteFuckingBest #THEList #TheOnlyFuckingList #THEList *THEList *THEList. Every moment of every track is perfect on its own, as part of the whole, they always move things forward, while keeping things grounded. It rolls over R&B, hip-hop, jazz, rock (although does this warrant a Grammy nod in that category? Probably about as much as one for BABYMETAL in hip-hop xD), country, indie, soul, and even spoken word (however especially on the visual end, which has a ton of spoken words, and rearranged songs to better fit the visual narrative, which I found very cool). The singing is fucking amazing (and not autotuned, from what I can tell :/), and it starts and ends in seemingly no time. The song structures are even occasionally borderline progressive: “Hold Up”, “Sorry”, and “6 Inch” all boast progressive-style extended endings and bridges, and I dunno what the hell’s going in in “Formation”, or on any of the songs in the visual component.
And as cool as the music is, the lyrics are even better: holding to an honest representation of love-on-the-rocks, the psychological steps of love and romantic relationships, whilst addressing some more political themes in a way that compliments, and almost even works off of, and for, that aforementioned ‘love’ thing it’s got going. It may even have an emotional quality similar to Radiohead records, though obviously its center coming from a very different place; there’s an album-wide emotional progression here (very emphasized, which is great) that reminds me of Radiohead’s The Bends, Kid A, and In Rainbows, though, again, there is a big difference in where they’re coming from (Beyoncé and Radiohead) (and especially in the way they end (Radiohead is kind of like a calming-of-the-storm, on Lemonade, the end is the coming of the storm). Obviously, this is only emphasized by inclusion of some of the more political themes (notably in “Daddy Lessons”, “Freedom” (with a killer Kendrick verse), and “Formation”).
But what may the most impressive thing about Lemonade is the fact that it didn’t have to be good in order to sell, or for most people to call it such - ye it’s fucking great, and everyone knows it. Beyoncé is a fucking queen right now, and she could easily continue to produce normal, mindless pop-crap that makes our youth think that thinking is the enemy (who could profit off of that, again?), and make tons of money doing so (probably even more). Instead, she’s challenging what it means to be a diva in this world in 2016, and only getting better and better artistically, proving that comfortably doesn’t necessarily mean a fall-off in musical quality or emotional integrity. Whether you dig her style or not, you can’t deny the balls it takes to do some of the shit she does on this record (“Freedom”, her ‘spoken word/borderline rapping in the visual component, as well as the record’s other visual aspects (especially in “Sandcastles” and “All Night”) in particular), and she puts them out on full display, in a well presented manner, with full honestly.
Just when you thought pop music had nothing good to offer other than *NSYNC (so: nothing good to offer XD), Beyoncé comes out and reminds everyone that, once again, good music isn’t ascribable to genre - as nothing in life is - and that the best stuff *TheBestStuff can come from right where you were expecting it to /> or completely out of nowhere.
I know I’m missing about a hundred more; every time I’ve seen one of these over the past few weeks, I end up getting into at least three new bands I’d never previously heard of (as was even the case for some of the picks on here! #OMG), but I guess that is probably the main point of making these lists: to get people into new shit that they otherwise most likely wouldn’t have discovered /> unless it’s really just so that people have something to write about because otherwise they won’t make money #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #MakeADonation,Please? #THEList*THEList*THEList .
Whatever the case, and with joking and satire as ‘on-the-side’ as America’s apparently ‘for-sale’ popular musical conscious, I found this year to be one of the best for the art form (music), in every genre, and in every emotional niche, and if the current musical political climate (…good music xD) continues down even just a sidewalk of this main road so gradually building since the nineties, it would seem as though we still have a lot to look forward to…
Like war #It’sOver! #It’sOver #OhNo #It’sTheWorstYear! *TheWORST #EverythingIsEitherHorribleOrWonderful #NoInBetween #NeverAnyInBetween…