Top 30 Albums of 2016

Staff reporter Santiago Duque takes a look back on his top album picks of 2016

Santiago Duque, Staff Reporter

2016 was a fantastic year for music– old musicians surpassed their previous projects and new artists broke new ground. There were some great highlights and a couple of low points, but these are my top 30 favorite albums of 2016.

1. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown

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Atrocity Exhibition album cover

The absolute best hip-hop project of 2016 and the best musical project overall.  Danny Brown builds a vibe throughout the album that makes it seem like he’s playing with death, teeter-tottering on the edge of sanity. It seems like Brown picked the darkest, strangest beats producer Paul White had tucked away in his vault and weaved a gritty and mind bending tale on each one. There’s no beating around the bush, no fun EDM party hits and absolutely no punches being held; Brown throws you directly into the dark, deranged depths of his mind right off the start. Packed with features from hip-hop heavy hitters Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, plus Brown’s own wittiness, the lyricism and storytelling is top-notch throughout the whole project. Brown has proven himself as one of the greats with this record and it is a must listen for any fan of good music.

2. Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

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Teens of Denial album cover

Will Toledo sonically expresses teenage insecurity, anger, angst and depression in the most beautiful and heartbreaking rock album this year. Songs like Vincent, Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales and The Ballad of Costa Concordia feel like odysseys imbued with a very real sense of pain. Cuts on this album feel like a gritty self-examination by Toledo and communicate the exact feeling of giving up after going through so much. The tiredness and teen rage of “Teens of Denial” is incredibly relatable to any average teenager and Toledo could not have a more suitable voice to put all these feelings on center stage. Instrumentally gorgeous and lyrically stunning, I’ve yet to find a better teen anthem record this year; “Teens of Denial” is a perfect listen for any “angsty teen”.

3. Plays the Music of Twin Peaks – Xiu Xiu

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Plays The Music of Twin Peaks album cover

Xiu Xiu is constantly experimenting and traveling into unknown musical landscapes. That’s why I was surprised when they did a cover album of the critically acclaimed “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. But Xiu Xiu surprised me yet again, bringing their own haunting yet beautiful take to the already great soundtrack. Going for a more in-the-studio feel the album feels almost live, and Jamie Stewart weaves her vocals seamlessly into the instrumentals and vibes the original writers of the soundtrack intended. It’s an absolute gem for anyone who is a fan of “Twin Peaks”, or anyone who hasn’t even seen the show. The album is very beautiful, and makes it seem obvious why Xiu Xiu would choose to cover such a soundtrack. Definitely a must listen, and the prettiest album 2016 had to offer.

4. Imperial – Denzel Curry

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Imperial album cover

Florida rap powerhouse Denzel Curry is easily one of the best in the game right now, with his machine gun flow over dark brooding beats, combined with intense and intricate lyricism and visceral storytelling. Curry’s opus is “Imperial,” a record that throws you headfirst into the pit of violence that is his hometown, Carol City. Gritty tales of gang violence and growing up being plagued by the police and gangsters alike feel so real, and Curry’s lyrical expertise make you feel as if you’re experiencing every detail. This is not an album that glorifies gang violence, it’s story after spine chilling story of what it’s like to grow up in the hood with seemingly no way out. The production is impeccable and the best aspect of the album is debatably the choruses that Curry writes. Every single chorus on the record is memorable and infectious, being just as valuable as each verse. Curry is an extremely talented artist holding an irreplaceable role in rap’s new generation, and “Imperial” is his landmark masterpiece.

5. Malibu – Anderson .paak

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Malibu album cover

Anderson .paak was homeless with absolutely nothing but himself, his wife, and his son. His solo project Malibu launched early in 2016 and staked his claim in the hip hop landscape, a fantastic record that fused funk, soul, R&B, and rap, among countless other influences, into a gorgeous compilation of tracks. “Malibu” kicks off with a ballad so nostalgic and beautiful that I was filled with confidence in the rest of the album. Anderson has a glorious singing voice that is matched only by his silky smooth rapping ability and storytelling. Growing up poor, being in love, following dreams against all odds: these are all topics that Anderson puts painstaking detail into singing and rapping about, not to mention that the great, groovy production and instrumentals by big names like Madlib and 9th Wonder are irresistible and infectious. Groovy, danceable jams to confidence soaked rap songs and everything in between, “Malibu” has something for everyone. 

6. Nonagon Infinity – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
7. Black Star – David Bowie
8. The Sun’s Tirade – Isaiah Rashad
9. Blank Face LP – ScHoolboy Q
10. Untitled Unmastered – Kendrick Lamar
11. The Glowing Man – Swans
12. 3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies
13. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest
14. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson
15. Bottomless Pit – Death Grips
16. Blue & Lonesome – The Rollling Stones
17. Do What Thou Wilt – Ab-Soul
18. Telefone – Noname
19. A Seat At The Table – Solange
20. Yes Lawd! – NxWorries
21. Emotional Mugger – Ty Segall
22. Lil Boat – Lil Yachty
23. Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino
24. Lemonade – Beyonce
25. “Jeffery” – Young Thug
26. Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
27. The Divine Feminine – Mac Miller
28. Blonde – Frank Ocean
29. Big Baby D.R.A.M. – D.R.A.M.
30. 24K Magic – Bruno Mars