1. Cleopatra by The Lumineers – Every year there’s a handful of albums that break through firm demographic boundaries in their ability to blow minds and pierce hearts. Over the past year, Cleopatra undoubtedly served as that album. The collection of folk-rock hits was the ultimate source of warm cohesiveness for a nation seeking comfort wherever they could find it. While powerfully swaying between drama, mysteriousness, and a constant cozy homeyness, Cleopatra remains immensely intimate to the point of ominous comfort. There are no missteps, there are no points of disinterest, and every song is special. As a close friend was quoted saying on the first day that the album was released, “One thing’s for sure: if the Lumineers are singing a song with a girl’s name in the title, you can count on that song being absolutely incredible.” Personal Favorites: Angela, My Eyes, Ophelia, Sleep On The Floor, Patience, Cleopatra, In The Light.
2. Blonde by Frank Ocean – The 21st century’s Golden boy of contrasting originality and apathy has taken another critically acclaimed run at the best album of the year. The true magic that defines Frank Ocean comes out swinging in Blonde, as the album stresses his inability to sit back and let his virtually flawless voice do all the work. Instead, interesting voice distortions, significant production value, and poetic rapping make Ocean’s inclusion of pristine and meaningful vocals that much more remarkable and appreciated. The concoction of soul, pop, and hip-hop throughout the majority of the album’s songs is simply incomparable, while Blonde‘s figurative cherries on top lie within its captivating interludes riddled throughout the album in short bursts controversial social opinion. Personal favorites: Pink + White, Self Control, Nikes, Solo, Ivy, White Ferrari, Godspeed.
3. Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka – The first generation Brit and multi-talented musician made his awaited 2016 return in presumed style with his second feature-length album Love & Hate. Truthfully, my interest in the album bloomed late, as “One More Night” gained the bulk of the initial marketing support and radio playtime despite being subjectively sub-par in comparison with the rest of of the album. Upon a follow-up listen, I found Love & Hate to be a goldmine of cinematic treasure. Song after song has been bluntly described as “very cool” by the majority of casual listeners, and rightfully so; Michael Kiwanuka is a unique musical breed. He has garnered comparisons to some of the most impactful voices the past century has to offer, including Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and Otis Redding. Kiwanuka’s true success with this album was found in the risky parting from an acoustic beginnings to test the waters of heavy electric guitars and an extended band at his back. Personal Favorites: Love & Hate, Rule The World, Father’s Child, The Final Frame, Cold Little Heart, Black Man In A White World.
4. Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper – Chance the Rapper continues to innovate the increasingly broad genre of hip-hop with pervasive thoughtfulness and enlightenment. Only one year out from his groundbreaking pseudonym-masked album “Surf”, Chance remains refreshingly experimental. Distinguished artists galore are flocking to Chance for an opportunity to feature alongside the young musical mogul, as Coloring Book includes plenty of household names such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, and Future. At the same time however, Coloring Book makes it apparent that no matter who the influence, Chance is still steering the creative ship. That figurative vessel shows no signs of slowing down, as Chance recently teamed up with Jeremih to release an unexpected Christmas rap jingle, while he has also been seen with Anderson .Paak in a surmised collaboration for another fresh upcoming single in 2017. Personal Favorites: Blessings, Same Drugs, No Problem, How Great, Angels, No Problem.
5. Dancing With Bad Grammar: The Director’s Cut by L.A. Salami – The Burberry Acoustic product has been propelled onto the main stage over the past 6 months with his effortless set of elegiac rants. As aforementioned in the post “SOTD – When The Poet Sings by L.A. Salami“, the artists title is no pen name. Unfortunately for the young British maestro, he has attracted a fair amount of disregard and ridicule over his life’s course given that his literal name is Lookman Adekunle Salami. That ridicule seems to calmly spark Salami’s songwriting fodder, as each song on Dancing With Bad Grammar: The Director’s Cut is a fascinating fulmination from a truly talented balladeer. Personal Favorites: The City Nowadays; & Bird; Day to Day (For 6 Days a Week); I Can’t Slow Her Down; My Thoughts, They Too Will Tire.
6. The Party by Andy Shauf – Andy Shauf enters this year’s elite group of ten with one of the more peculiar set of intonations and pronunciations of the lot. Even more confusing is the artist’s derivation from Saskatchewan, Canada, one of the world’s plainer landscapes and cultures that lacks any significant accents other than the typical Canadian drawl. Shauf uses his distinctive voice to his advantage however, as audiences frequently get caught off guard by his accent, then absorbed into the intricate storytelling adventures that encompass each one of his songs. This particular 10 song album surrounds a series of mere hours in a recollection of an awkward party’s scarring nuances. The Party does especially well in capturing the difficulty to break social barriers with a fringe friend group. Those who find commonplace in communal ineptitude and seek life’s mini social victories will certainly find a slew of anthems on Andy Shauf’s latest record. Personal Favorites: The Magician, To You, Early To The Party, Begin Again, Quite Like You.
7. American Football LP 2 by American Football – Despite its lower position on this list, American Football LP 2 is arguably one of the easiest albums to listen to from front to back without one single moment of distaste. Not every song is a hit, yet each one serves as an essential puzzle piece in American Football’s conglomerate riddle. The flow of the album is superb, as listeners might as well be listening to one 30+ minute song rather than 9 separate segments. The way the band is constructed, similar B-side-less albums seem apparent for any future ventures. Personal Favorites: My Instincts Are The Enemy, I’ve Been So Lost For So Long, Desire Gets In The Way, Where Are We Now?, Home Is Where The Haunt Is.
8. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – The lead singer of esteemed indie-rock band The Walkmen joined the well-regarded former Vampire Weekend producer Rostam Batmanglij to create one of 2016’s more contemplative albums. The palpable codependency within I Had A Dream That You Were Mine visibly wafts through the air, as Rostam had never paired with someone stressing such exhausting vocal patterns, nor had Hamilton Leithauser partnered with someone that could match vocal direction with supporting instrumentals so precisely. The album promises much more for Rostam going forward, as the producer’s prowess has been boasted with a much wider array of talents within differing genres on top of his already impressive solo releases. Personal Favorites: In a Black Out, 100 Times, When The Truth Is…, The Bride’s Dad, Peaceful Morning, Sick as a Dog.
9. Sailor’s Guide To Earth by Sturgill Simpson – Sturgill Simpson may have been a surprise inclusion to the masses for his “Album of the Year” Grammy nomination, but the alternative community saw it coming from miles away. The voting committee likes to include an off-brand genre in their “Album of the Year” nomination, and from A Sailor’s Guide To Earth‘s initial release it was clear that Simpson provided a prominent paragon that fit perfectly into the committee’s voting template. Conversely, I vehemently object to the album’s nomination for “Country Album of the Year”. Just because an artist has a southern accent and uses a slide guitar in some songs doesn’t mean that they should automatically get categorized as “country”. In actuality, I think Simpson’s conventional songs that could be classified as “country” don’t even come close to the twangy excellence that emits from his brass-filled songs like “Keep It Between the Lines”. Simpson’s voice is a thing of beauty when presented loudly and soulfully, and I’d hope his next album follows those footsteps. Personal Favorites: Keep It Between The Lines, Breaker’s Roar, Brace For Impact (Live A Little), In Bloom, Sea Storm.
10. Young Mister by Young Mister – This year’s list is wrapped up in expected fashion: A breakthrough, no-name, hidden gem artist with a complete album that beckons for the slightest bit of attention. Young Mister’s self-titled debut reminds me of the supposedly lost alternative 90’s style, as several songs seem to fit into an odd bubblegum indie bracket that helped originate the “alternative” music title when no other genre made sense as a descriptor. As many would remember with a sizable chunk of 90’s bands however, Young Mister can be in danger in reveling their successes and failing to produce future content that sounds any different from the songs they made a name with in their inception. Personal Favorites: Pasadena, Everything Has Its Place, Carolina, American Dream Come True, Anybody Out There, The Best Part.
100 songs and 10 albums later, the fun still isn’t over! The top 10 music videos of the year, to the next best 100 songs that barely missed the cut, and many more the posts in the upcoming weeks are bound to blow your mind with musical knowledge from the year in review. As always, like, comment, and share to show support and spread spread the wealth to the masses. Be sure to subscribe to get the latest updates on musical news and releases. Additionally, be on the lookout for some major FeenyFresh branding changes in the upcoming weeks!