Let’s start with a hat tip to the Pet Shop Boys. They know their niche and stay in it. Forever. Honestly, go listen to their 2016 album Super. Mix it with all their other albums and I’m not sure you’d be able to pick out which songs came from this album versus any album of the 80s or 90s.
Two albums stood above the rest this year. But first, this years Honorable Mentions. And no, Solange is not on my list. Anywhere. Her album was a hot mess I could not get into.
- A Tribe Called Quest - We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service
- Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
- Kings of Leon - Walls
- The Lumineers - Cleopatra
- Tycho - Epoch
- Sia - This is Acting
- Lucius - Good Grief
5. David Bowie - Blackstar
Genius. “Look up here, I’m in Heaven. I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” -Lazarus
4. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
I don’t remember a year like this - with two iconic artists dying and leaving us incredible works that we’ll listen to for quite some time. Cohen, like Bowie, left us final masterpieces. “I’m leaving the table, I’m out of the game.” - Leaving the Table
Quintessential Pop. And I love every bit of it. It reminds me of every great thing about 80s music. Is that what The 1975 was hoping for? Not sure. But this is a fun album. I put them in the same category as Bombay Bicycle Club and Two Door Cinema Club, two bands I really enjoy listening to. Potentially a boy band in the making, but honestly, I don’t care. After the weight of Cohen and Bowie, this is a needed pop of joy.
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Finally. This is the Radiohead I love. With similarities dating back to OK Computer and Kid A, this album is both dream-ish and nightmarish. Is it easy to understand? No. But is it a joy to listen to? Absolutely. True Love Waits, is a song that’s been around since 1995. It gets a refresh on this album as the last song, and it is gorgeous.
And true love waits
In haunted attics
And true love lives
On lollipops and crisps
1. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
As good as A Moon Shaped Pool was, 22, A Million was other-worldly. For the Bon Iver haters that think this is another falsetto laden snore fest, you should listen. You haters should start on track eight, 8 (circle). You get Justin and his simple voice. No falsetto. Just him singing. It’s a beautiful song.
This isn’t the folksy Vernon/Bon Iver you’ve become accustomed to. This is experimental. And odd. And weird. It’s art. It’s disjointed. In some places the lyrics make sense and tell a story as you nod your head in agreement. In other places you almost want to pull the car over and scream - it makes no sense.
Musically you won’t find another album this year that can compare. At one point I thought the record player was skipping, or had dust on the needle, only to find that what I was hearing was actually in the song.
Listen to the last song, track 10, 00000 Million, over and over. Watch and listen to Bon Iver’s video for the song.
And then listen to this cover - by Gordi.
Haunting. And beautiful.