The music industry in 2016 has seen a lot, the loss of beloved musical icons Prince and David Bowe, Beyoncé’s shutdown of the Superbowl with her halftime performance, Kendrick Lamar winning big at the Grammys, and the Dixie Chicks headlined their first tour in 2016. I could keep going, but in the midst of all these events, artists were still making music for their fans.
I believe the best album should not be based on sales, even though the industry is about making money and marketing. Instead I focused on reviews and ratings from some of the top regarded music critics of today. Placed in no particular order, here is the top 5 albums of 2016:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Skeleton Tree
This was the bands’ 16th album, recorded over two years and produced by Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, and Nick Launay. During the making of the album there were changes to it, largely due to the death of Cave’s the topics of death, loss and personal grief were incorporated into the album. “The dean of literary gothic song-craft, a master of wordplay, symbolism and irony” is how Rolling Stone, reviewer Kory Grow described Nick Cave. The album also becomes the bands highest charting album in the U.S opening up at 27 on the Billboard 200.
Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
“A Moon Shaped Pool, has a unique grasp on how easily profundity can slip into banality”, said Jayson Greene of Pitchfork. The bands ninth album included several songs written years earlier; “True Love Waits” was said to go back to 1995, “Burn the Witch” and “Present Tense”. Topping charts in several countries, “A Moon Shaped Pool” becomes Radiohead’s sixth number-one album in the UK, and a bestseller on vinyl; for the icing on the cake it was certified gold in the UK on June 24.
A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
The legendary rap trio came out of a hiatus since their last studio album in 1998. “We Got It from Here”, featured some of the game’s biggest artist like André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Elton John, Kanye West, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli, Consequence and Busta Rhymes. Phife Dawg, the groups third member was a respected and talented artist, passed away earlier this year in March so the album features contributions from the late- lyricist. “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 135,000 copies of their album.
Leonard Cohen- You Want it Darker
The late Cohen album, “You Want it Darker” was created while Cohen was dying and taps into death, God, and humor. The album was recorded in the comfort of his home due to physical incapability’s. In Canada, “You Want It Darker” debuted at number one on the album charts, in the US it opened up at number ten on the Billboard 200 and in the UK it debuted at number four on the UK Albums Chart. It was given “universal acclaim” with a rating of 92 based on music reviewers.
The only female in this category, Queen B through the decades continues to create some of the best music we have the honor of hearing. Lemonade is her sixth studio album, and Beyoncé decided to release it with a one-hour film aired on HBO, featuring music from her album. AllMusic writer Andy Kellman said about the album “the cathartic and wounded moments here resonate in a manner matched by few, if any, of Beyoncé’s contemporaries.” The Formation World Tour was used to promote the album, ranked at #1 and #2 on Pollstar’s 2016 mid-year Top 100 Tours chart both in North America and worldwide; the tour made $256 million having 49 shows being sold out.
If you haven’t given any of these albums a shot, do so over the holiday break. Each one represents fantastic work by a dedicated group of artists and should be a part of any music lover’s vocabulary.