The year 2016 and the words “best” might seem ironic considering all the loses we suffered in the past 365 days. Despite the death of David Bowie, we got one of his all time best albums with Blackstar but can the loss of Prince, Lemmy, Leonard Cohen and be even remotely compromised by fantastic new music in the past year? Probably not. But without sounding like too much of a sour puss, we did get some good stuff and lots of it.
Drive by Truckers (pictured above) made a crowning achievement with American Band. Glide has gathered our picks for top 2o albums for the year, followed by some rightfully chosen honorable mentions. These choices most closely reflect the tastes of our readers and the views of our writers with quotes chosen from their respective reviews. Many of these top albums are repeat Glide 20’ers including Angel Olsen, Hiss Golden Messenger and Parquet Courts. So without any more narrative – here is the 2016 of The Glide 20 – Best Albums of 2016…..
Glide’s 20 Best of the Year (In Alphabetical Order)
Aaron Lee Tasjan – Silver Tears
Silver Tears is Aaron Lee Tasjan crowning glory, one ground in tradition and yet still as clear-eyed and current sounding as anything else out there at the moment. Silver Tears may not bring him the explosive sudden success of, say, Chris Stapleton, but it is the kind of record that’s bound to get the pundits buzzing and the masses prepared to follow suit, Sharply defined and clearly confident, Tasjan’s time has come. One gets the sense that Tasjan is a knowing old soul, well aware of his obligations to follow a certain well paved trajectory.
Al Scorch – Circle Round the Signs
On Al Scorch’s Circle Round the Signs you’ll get frenzied bursts of bluegrass in each quick tune. Scorch barely comes up for air on each track, playing his heart out with an intimidating level of energy that is sure to suck you in. The guy can probably play circles around the best of them, yet his arrangements make it sound so easy and smooth, and when combined with the thrilling sense of urgency in his punk rock singing. Scorch has already mastered a signature sound and its one that is refreshingly edgy while mindfully roots.
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Funk and soul are two words when used in proper contexts and handled by apt professionals – can be the purest of musical joy. Paak has come out of nowhere to make essentially the most impressive groove fueled album of the year. What many can coin easily as hip hop, Paak sports a full on band where his drumming and on key improv makes him a dominating band leader and of the most promising new artists around. The influences range far and wide here, as Paak separates himself from most other artists that are in a blurring genre. Call it what you want – New School meets Old School -, yet one of the year’s best has resulted with this clash of the beats and grooves.
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Angel Olsen continues to make career defining work, following 2014’s breakthrough Burn Your Fire, her latest My Woman is all that and then some. The album itself, she says, is split in two; an A and B side and both show different personas of Olsen with the fiery first and the more stripped back second half. Most importantly, on My Woman, Olsen has transformed herself to a PJ Harvey/Jenny Lewis type authentic indie star where raw emotions, exuberant vocals and daring compositions make for a completely poignant album.
The Avalanches – Wildflower
Although it was predominately health issues, serious ones, that kept the Avalanches from following up sooner on their genre-bending and infectious 2000 album Since I Left You. Yet Wildflower has consumed pop cultures fads that have emerged over the past 16 years and regurgitated them, while still maintaining a common strand of DNA to older Avalanches work. With more hiphop and atmospheric samples on tWildflower, The Avalanches have maintained a whimsicality that is often missing from sample heavy artistry these days. Keeping an open mind while listening to Wildflower is imperative and for all the right reasons.
David Bowie- Blackstar
For his 69th birthday, David Bowie released what many thought would be just a brilliant offering of new music, but instead it became his parting gift as the man of many faces shockingly passed away just two days following. On Blackstar, Bowie reinvented himself with dark slinky grooves, providing an eerie mystique, offering a rousing mix of avant garde jazz, electronic, art-rock and other sounds purely ‘Bowie.” Aside from the music, the album packaging is said to reveal hidden secrets to keep us fans engaging and listening as much as the other classics in the Bowie catalog.
Car Seat Headrest- Teens of Denial
Sometimes a band can retain that very early 90’s true to form “indie-120 Minutes” sound that is some Pixies, Pavement and Guided by Voices. And what makes a great album is often so much more than the songs. In Car Seat Headrest’s case, it’s a fury of ambitious buzz that permeates this recording courtesy of mastermind Will Toledo, who might soon very well be the next Conor Oberst of overly ambitious low fi rock and DIY ethos. The 12-track, 70-minute Teens of Denial offers something new with each listen- a revolving door of rough edged rock that reveals its underbelly of topics regarding alcoholism and self-defeat – cheers!
Drive-By Truckers- American Band
Eleven carefully crafted ditties by the Dimmer Twins, aka the great Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood, inciting thought and argument from the likes of hapless, gun crazed so-called blue blood Americans, the Black Lives Matter contingent, and any other walking, breathing, cognizant human being that stops to smell the proverbial shit flower our great country is turning into. The Drive-By Truckers have made many poignant album statements in their time but this election year classic couldn’t have come at a better time and makes for a strong 2016 “album of the year” candidate.
The Frightnrs- Nothing More To Say
The Daptone label has had a difficult year with the death of two prominent members: Sharon Jones and Dan Klein of The Frightnrs. Klein’s ALS diagnosis ultimately led to his tragic passing, but heroically played into The Frightnrs making one of the most embellished Rocksteady reggae records of late. Even if the song material doesn’t pertain to the struggle Klein endured, it’s felt in spades. Band members Rich Terrana (drums), and brothers Preet and Chuck Patel (bass and piano, respectively), wanted nothing more than to honor the tragic loss of their fallen counterpart with a flawless record. Kudos fellas, Nothing More To Say is a timeless masterpiece.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee
Though it may seem, at first listen to some of Hiss Golden Messenger’s earlier stuff, M.C. Taylor has a voice suited best for quiet folk music, but Heart Like a Levee shows how dynamic an artist he really is. As a vocalist, he possesses a natural soulful tone, soft and raspy and full of raw emotion. Songs like the booty-shaker “Tell Her I’m Just Dancing”, and the simmering “Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer” feature Taylor going full throttle toward a more soul, R&B sound, and boy does it work for him. Ex panding upon musical aesthetics he only lightly explored last time around, and continuing to mine the many complexities of human experience and inner turmoil, Taylor and his stellar band have offered up something rich and compelling.
Jim James- Eternally Even
While his last record showed a strong lean toward a dreamy groove so well suited to his mystical, otherworldly singing voice. James’ sophomore release, Eternally Even, builds on that even more, delving deeper into that retro, soulful sound and even deeper into politics and the current state of our country and our world. His record could not have arrived at a more poignant time, with a stranger-than-fiction election looming. Now more than ever, we probably need some of James’ signature magic.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Overwhelming with creativity and psychedelic prog flourishes not heard since the greatest of Flaming Lips albums, King Gizzzard & The Lizard Wizard maintain an otherworldly sense of outrageousness and garage rock mindset on their tenth album. Each track painlessly warps from one voyage to the next, as punishing riffs in the form of supposedly the “world’s first infinitely looping album.” Not enough bands today let it all hang out without giving a care to radio plays or what is considering “conforming music” – King Gizzard clearly comes from another time and place and we thank them.
Lydia Loveless – Real
Lydia Loveless’ Real, may be her rawest yet, though it still packs the punch we’ve come to appreciate and expect from a Loveless record. It runs the gamut of “all the feels” from hormonal rage, lust and heart-wrenching depression, and whether Loveless is writing from her own personal experiences or slipping into character, we are right there with her the whole way, feeling it, too. With 2014’s Somewhere Else, Loveless delved a little deeper into her pop sensibilities. The melodies were sweetened and catchy, like shimmery pop rock at its best. And with Real, she pushes it even further, tapping into a retro pop sound that spans several decades.
Mandolin Orange – Blindfaller
The voices of Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin, the two members of North Carolina acoustic duo Mandolin Orange, are a study in contrasts. Frantz’s vocals are lilting, floating above the instrumentation, whereas Marlin’s are understated. Contemplative and pretty can only get you so far on best end lists, but Mandolin Orange have molded poignant lyrics and awe-strucking melodies rekindling the finest of Gillian Welch and Neko Case. Themes of loss, love and mortality are usually the driving points of thought provoking folk, but this North Carolina duo creates a uniquely elegant sparse acoustic meal.
Margo Price- Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo Price has the classic country gal sound of the greats that came before her (Lynn and Tammy Wynette come to mind), and she embraces the spirit of true country music without ever becoming a caricature. There’s a throwback sound to Price’s record, but it’s not stuck in the past. It’s refreshing to hear some legitimate country music that’s exciting and not watered down for the masses. It would not be hard to imagine any of the songs on Midwest Farmer’s Daughter soundtracking a dimly lit bar with buzzing neon, cheap cold beer and a hotter than hell jukebox, where people dance close and say things they’ll regret tomorrow.
Natural Child – Okey Dokey
Everyone’s favorite stoned out Southern rockers, Natural Child returned with a fresh batch of blissful, couch-locking grooves. Okey Dokey, the band’s fourth LP, finds the foursome from Nashville picking up where they left off with 2014′s Dancin’ With Wolves in terms of laid-back atmosphere and stylings while sounding more confident and relaxed than ever before. Fans of classic rock and garage/idie will find nods to almost everything in their record collection – an unmistakeable voyage to the best of the 70’s with a modern flair.
Parquet Courts- Human Performance
There has always been an overtly punk aura around Parquet Courts’ work despite their ability to weave through the fluxing borders of such a genre. This is perhaps because they carry the same spirit of other, more renown past artists in the 80s. Much of the time they moralize in a far more subtle vein of Minutemen fashion with a beautiful messy garage moments. This all went down smoothly in the past and Human Performance still does, but with far more time spent on owning it.
Rival Sons- Hollow Bones
Hollow Bones has grizzle and grit that is bedazzled with gems that only a band like the Rival Sons can pull off. Bones is not a polished or slick corporate production. There are rough edges, like that of a sculpture built by hand. But, that’s part of its beauty. There are no Pro Tools or studio slight of hand trickery. It’s a true rock and roll record, most likely recorded and produced like the likes of Zeppelin and the Stones must have done it. If getting the opening slot call for the final Black Sabbath tour wasn’t considered a mighty nod, than what else is?
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Sturgill’s got that old school vibe with Waylon’s masculine grit and George Jones’ cowboy romanticism. And on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, he continues to carry the torch of his heroes while bringing more of a contemporary soulful twist that reminds us not to get too comfortable with the Sturgill we already know. Simpson doesn’t shy away from full-on Memphis grooves on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. He manages to keep his country sound classic, but shift our way of thinking about it in a neat little box and amp it up with even perhaps the most original cover of a Nirvana tune yet.
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By
As the most dynamic big band in the land, Tedschi Trucks Band continues to elevate themselves as not only live must sees but also exultant record markers. Let Me Get By, their debut for Fantasy Records is more importantly, an in-house product of creativity. All the material is original, in various combinations of what’s now a twelve-piece band as the husband and wife team of Derek and Susan weave in and out in top form creating arrangements that are both complex and celebratory. An 11 piece rock and roll band that is part revival ceremony, part improvisational soul ensemble, all spearheaded by a guitarist with the sweetest tone around: makes for a no lose situation.
20 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Bob Weir – Blue Mountain
Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Cass McCombs – Mangy Love
Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
Clear Plastic Masks – Nazi Hologram
The Dean Ween Group – The Deaner Album
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Hinds- Leave Me Alone
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
The Pretenders- Alone
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Ray Lamontagne – Ouroboros
St Paul and The Broken Bones – Sea of Noise
STRFKR – Being No One, Going Nowhere
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down- A Man Alive
Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To
A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Wilco – Schmilco