- David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia Records)
It’s hard to believe Bowie’s been gone for almost a year now. It’s also hard to believe that just days before he left us he put out his most artistically satisfying album in close to 40 years. Blackstar was highly adventurous in its mix of theatrical rock, heavy jazz, and ambient textures. It was also a rare instance where an older artist tries to sound current and totally pulls it off. He is missed.
- Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Continuing down the same path as Push The Sky Away (my #1 album of 2012), Skeleton Tree finds The Bad Seeds keeping the instrumentation sparse, and Cave’s calm-yet-haunted meditations on life and death more open ended and free-form than ever before. A textbook lesson on how to age well as an artist.
- Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)
It’s been a long time since the last Iggy Pop album I liked. In fact the last one – Lust For Life – came out in 1977, four months after I was born. Collaborating with Josh Homme was a great idea, but the real stroke of brilliance here was revisiting the sound and style of Iggy’s Berlin-era albums (Lust For Life and The Idiot). If this is truly Iggy’s last album, then album-closer “Paraguay” will go down as one of the greatest kiss-offs of all time.
- Exploded View– Exploded View (Sacred Bones)
A new band, Exploded View’s album is a captivating brew of krautrock/dub/no wave made from first takes and improvisations. It’ll have you thinking of Can, Portishead, Silver Apples, but it has its own vibe. I’m shocked and disappointed this album didn’t make a bigger splash. This is exactly the kind of new band we need right now.
- Mick Harvey – Delirium Tremens (Mute)
Mick Harvey’s third album of Serge Gainsbourg covers was great. The songs are a bit more obscure than the first two volumes, but no less impactful. Thankfully the fourth volume is scheduled for release in early 2017.
- Brigid Mae Power– Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square)
Irish singer Brigid Mae Power’s latest has a slow, hymnal quality to it. She’s usually accompanied by one or two instruments, playing a few chords and notes bathed in a heavy organic echo. But that’s all you really need to compliment her ethereal voice, which produces the same emotional effect as listening to Slowdive, without sounding anything like them.
- Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Dead Oceans)
I was a little hard on this album in my review. But I can be the bigger man and say I was wrong. Even if there’s an occasional duff lyric, this is a great album start to finish and Walker’s guitar playing is something to marvel at.
- Higher Authorities – Neptune (Domino)
Does anyone else even know this album exists? Higher Authorities are a side project of Clinic’s Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley, who gave these songs over to producer/mixer Adrian Sherwood to add all kinds of swirling dub effects and weedy noises. Like Clinic, with the punk removed and the psychedelia turned up to 11.
- The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Third World Pyramid (A Records)
Another album I was kind of hard on in my original review (boy, I can be a jerk sometimes). Third World Pyramid wasn’t very cohesive, despite just nine songs, yet there’s some great songs within all that musical schizophrenia. I find myself frequently revisiting the title track, which features Tess Parks on vocals.
- Radiohead – Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
I’m still pretty confused by this album. Thom Yorke’s vocal range is diminished, it’s hard to get a sense of who’s playing what instruments (assuming this wasn’t all made by computers), and there’s some lesser material that probably should have been cut. But hey, it’s Radiohead so even a lesser album is worth listening to, so….um…#10?
Some other interesting albums from 2016:
Charles Bradley – Changes
Tobacco – Sweatbox Dynasty
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service