I told you I was back. Since my first blog post of the year back in July, I’ve blogged a total of 0(!) times. Yes, baby! We did it! Despite my lack of “stick-to-it-iveness” and my inability to “get right,” I’m back for my annual end-of-year list. I know, you’re probably like, “Damn, what makes Dago’s list better than all the other lists out there. It’s almost like we’re at list critical mass, and Dago’s a nobody. Why should I listen to him?” I’ll tell you why — also, ouch, that’s mean. I’m probably your friend, and if you had an end-of-year list, I would read it. Honest. I would. Mhm.
2016 has been a wild ass year. The earth continues to burn up. Our heroes are dying at an alarming rate. Unarmed people of color kept getting shot by police with no consequences. The Warriors, Cleveland I-words, and Hillary Clinton all blew a 3-1 lead. I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon, which was probably hard for a lot of you. One of the few redeemable things about this godforsaken year has been its music.
What follows is a list of my 20 favorite albums of the year ordered by release date. To clarify, these are my favorites. If you disagree, tight. Let me know how much you disagree by following me on all social media and @’ing me once about it on Twitter. I’ll fave that tweet, and I probably won’t respond.
At the end of this list, there’s a Spotify playlist with selections from my Top 20 and songs from the other albums that didn’t make the cut but loved anyway. The extra tracks were on albums that were really great, but choices have to be made for the sake of the blog.
Anderson .Paak Malibu
I hadn’t heard of Anderson .Paak until this year, but AP has been releasing music for the better part of 4 years now. Malibu is one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year and for good reason. Anderson .Paak is a musical polyglot who strips down his varied influences to create something beautiful, heartfelt, and well crafted.
Kanye West The Life of Pablo
Saying Kanye has had quite the year is an understatement. I hope he gets well as soon as possible. My first experience with this album in its entirety came from a bootleg of the MSG show. I was out on a walk when I found the Soundcloud link. I hit play and almost immediately started crying. Those first 8 tracks are legendary. TLOP has its highs and lows, but it sure as hell was not dull.
Who knew emo country was a thing? This is my favorite non-Beyoncé, non-Chance the Rapper album of the year. A lot of the storytelling on this album reminds me of my tumultuous early-20s navigating my way through relationships and trying to figure myself out. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. Lyrical content aside, the musicianship on this album is really noteworthy. I would kill for these dudes’ guitar tone.
Young Thug Slime Season 3
Discussing Young Thug on Twitter is just asking for a fight. Some people want him banished from the planet and others, like me, admire his music, brashness, and playfulness. Young Thug is the gift that keeps on giving in a growing world of one-hit wonder rappers and artists. Slime Season is packed with quotables and incredible production.
This one time Beyoncé decided to be the best at EVERY GENRE. One of those genres was country. The Country Music Awards invited her to come on and with the help of the Dixie Chicks, Beyoncé solved all of our life’s problems for 6:15. This album’s been dissected to death, but it deserves all the praise and dissection tbh.
The last time grime was hot this side of the pond, I was too busy trying to be the most obnoxious college freshman of all time to know what the hell was going on. In 2016, grime has made a resurgence on the back of Skepta and his BBK brand. Konnichiwa is a frenetic album that’s half anthology of tracks that had been floating around for a while and new stuff. Konnichiwa is a triumphant album that set Skepta apart as not only one of the best grime artists out now but one of my favorite rappers.
Hey, your boy just loves to vibe out sometimes. Kaytradana provides a really great blueprint for that with 99.9%. I tend to not listen to a lot of dance music, but Kaytradana does a really great job of mixing genres, feels, and features to create a more diverse and interesting album that many of his counterparts.
Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
So much has been written about Chance this year. I don’t have much to add. Here’s a couple of things. 1) TLOP and Coloring Book both out at the same time made me question my lack of faith for enough time that maybe a little bit of the Holy Spirit slipped in. IDK! 2) My favorite line is the one where he talks about giving Satan a swirlie.
This is a message to those of you who don’t like Coloring Book: YOU HAVE TO TELL ME IF YOU’RE A COP IT’S THE LAW
The Hotelier Goodness
this is emo af fam lmao
PUP The Dream is Over
The moment I realized that maybe I wasn’t some washed up old piece of crap was when one of the kids from Stranger Things turned out to be a PUP fan. I was way too excited to hear that news. The Dream is Over is a nearly perfect mix of their already established punk as fuck sensibilities with fun as fuck gang vocals and catchy as fuck riffs and melodies.
YG Still Brazy
YG unwittingly gave us the political anthem of 2016 that we thought we wouldn’t need past early November. In my heart, YG is the other Bing of Balifornia alongside Bendrick Lamar. I know YG relies heavily on a nostalgic west boast sound at the moment, but I feel like he has the tools to break out of that and give us something different the next time around.
Sidenote: I like to think YG is such a goddamn G that no one had the guts to tell him that the word is bollected instead of bollective.
Blood Orange Freetown Sound
Blood Orange is probably one of the most surprising artists to end up on my list. I think it speaks to the influence the internet has had in expanding my musical taste. I don’t think I would have listened to this album at all let alone fall in love with it 5 years ago. This album is a treat front to back. Shit. It’ll make you dance AND think. Hmm.
Gucci Mane Everybody Looking
Gucci Mane hit the ground running after his release from prison. He’s spit heat all year even landing himself his first #1 song with his feature on “Black Beatles”. Being completely honest, I didn’t listen to a lot of Gucci before this year. I could never get into his stuff, but Everybody Looking changed my outlook on the dude. I’m glad he’s out, and I wish him nothing but the best.
Field Mouse Episodic
THE DREAM OF THE ’90S IS ALIVE AND WELL WITH FIELD MOUSE
Angel Olsen MY WOMAN
Another genre I had no business listening to many years ago “psychedelic country,” according to the internet. I love Angel Olsen’s haunting voice, her storytelling, her songwriting. MY WOMAN is a true display of Angel Olsen’s prowess as an artist.
Solange A Seat at the Table
Solange’s Seat at the Table is on everyone’s best of list this year, usually somewhere between #1 and #5. It’s a thoughtful, well-crafted album. A Seat at the Table feels like a love letter to black women in a time where it’s very understandable to feel overwhelmed and undermined by a society and government designed to silence your voice. Solange is magic.
Joyce Manor Cody
Joyce Manor is probably one of my favorite bands at the moment. They mix all of my favorite things. Guitar, songs about growing up/relationships, weird music videos, a dude that sounds like Kermit the Frog. But that’s none of my business.
Jeff Rosenstock Worry
Lowkey Jeff’s been dropping gems for years with his various projects and solo stuff, but Worry might be the first time he’s put it all together at the same time for me. Worry is full of fast and furious songs about what a fuck up he is. Same. I will be listening to it well into 2017.
You Blew It! Abendrot
There were times during my first few listens of this record that I was super pissed at You Blew It! for releasing better American Football songs in 2016 than American Football. Abendrot is a welcome addition to an already impressive body of work.
Bruno Mars 24K
This is about as pop as it gets, folks. Everything on this album is a sweet little nuggets of nostalgic pop goodness, and I’m not mad at it at all. 24K borrows a lot from the current trend of funk-infused pop that felt like it hit its zenith with Mark Ronson’s most recent album and “Uptown Funk”. Going further, Bruno Mars’s 24K draws in influences from ’80s and ’90s R&B and pop to create a 9-track tribute to beautiful women and overspending.