Come From Away Records Top 50 Albums of the Year
Well 2016, you've been a hell of a year. We've lost legend after musical legend and lots of younger or lesser-known musicians as well. It seems like we haven't been able to go a week or so without a jarring loss. And so I don't know about you, but I've spent a lot of time listening to the back catalogs of these juggernauts of music history.
But make no mistake, 2016 has also been a year with some of the best releases in a long time. Like any list like this, there will be some debate. I'll have some you don't like, I'll forget some you do. So don't take this as a definitive list. But there are a few criteria: a) It came out on vinyl, b) It came out in 2016, and c) I really liked it. We'll do a reissue list as well. All these records are on sale till the end of the year!
1. Bon Iver - 22 A Million (Buy): Some will complain about the electronic/autotune nature of this album. Some will harp for older Bon Iver, and that's fine. Then this isn't for you. For me this is an addicting and oddly complicated musical masterpiece. An artist is never obligated to repeat what you liked before, and I applaud Bon Iver for boldly taking the music in a new direction. Stream on Spotify.
2. Band of Horses - Why Are You Ok? (Buy): This will probably be a controversial pick but I keep going back to this record. Working with Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) and Rick Rubin, the band took their music in a new direction. It's what I always loved about their music being grounded in indie-rock but it also feels like a modern Beach Boys record. Stream on Spotify.
3. BADBADNOTGOOD - IV (Buy): It took Ghostface to join them for a record for the band to really breakout to the masses, but for my dollar this is a superior record. This is acid jazz meets soul with modern hip-hop flourishes. IV shows a band who've accomplished a lot in a short time, taking what they've learned and doing it their way. Stream on Spotify.
4. Preoccupations - Preoccupations (Buy): Listen, the band should not have called themselves Viet Cong. I didn't realize how wrong this was at the time, but since educating myself I do now. But with a new band name, a fresh start, and a fresh sound Preoccupations sounds like The Cure, Bowie meets Swans/Women, and even features a guest performance from Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade. Stream on Spotify.
5. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailors Guide to Earth: Before this record was ever nominated for a Grammy it was on my list. This is outlaw country meets modern soul and while that might not sound like something that works, it really fucking does. It also features a stunning cover of "In Bloom". Stream on Spotify.
6. Gord Downie - Secret Path (Buy): Putting aside for a second the year's best packaging, putting aside for a second that the Canadian music legend is dying, and somewhat rapidly, this album is still without a doubt a top-ten album of the year. It's a story that absolutely had to be told and the best piece of music Downie has worked on since Coke Machine Glow. Stream on Spotify.
7. Stranger Things Soundtrack (Buy): This year was a lot of things. It was the year of Stranger Things, perhaps Netflix's all-time top achievement to date. The soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is one of the crowning musical achievements of the year. Not just my favourite soundtrack of the year, but one of my favourite records. Stream on Spotify.
8. David Bowie - Blackstar (Buy): Oh, what it must have taken to make this record. While managing to keep his suffering silent Bowie (as he always does) found the perfect artistic way to express his pain, his hope, his suffering, and his belief in what was next. This is not a light listen, but it is a mandatory bookend to your Bowie collection. Stream on Spotify.
9. Owen - The Kings of Whys (Buy): In a year when American Football made a totally unexpected comeback and release a surprisingly very good record, it was Mike Kinsella's solo project that put out a top 10 record for me. Subtle emo-twinged indie-pop meets acoustic folk. Stream on Spotify.
10. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book: Note -- you cannot buy this through me. Sorry! I wish you could. But you can't buy the other best hip-hop album of the year (The Life of Pablo) through me either. But this one exists on vinyl! Chance the Rapper is the future of hip-hop and the future is good. Stream on Spotify.
11. Tragically Hip - Man Machine Poem (Buy): Having spent some time with Now For Plan A recently, I am convinced that Man Machine Poem would have been an album appreciated by the hardcore Hip fans and the newer Hip fans, but ultimately ignored by most. That would have been a shame, because just like Now For Plan A, Man Machine Poem holds up with anything the band has ever done while sounding more modern than any release they've ever done. Stream on Spotify.
12. Pup - The Dream is Over (Buy): Full disclosure, I'm from Toronto and I promoted shows with this band. Now that the bias is known I really have to say the band they are today and the band I did shows with are entirely different. They captured the energy and power of their live show combined with their exuberance and cynicism and it ended up resulting in a top album of the year. Stream on Spotify.
13. Nicholas Jaar - Sirens: Try as I might to explain this one, it is much better to be experienced. Just make sure you stick out past the 11-minute mark when the record takes an abrupt turn from the avant-garde experimental ambient noise that you've just experienced. Stream on Spotify.
14. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (Buy):: This feels like the right spot for me for a very strong effort from Radiohead that ranks among (but not at the top) of their releases in my books. When a Radiohead release can even compete with the hype then you know it must be a rock-solid record. Stream on Spotify.
15. Danny Brown - The Atrocity Exhibition: What a great year it has been for hip-hop. Here's the thing about telling you how strong Atrocity Exhibition is, I really can't stand Danny Brown's voice. I love his lyrics, his flow, his beats, and the experimental nature of this record--but his voice drives me and it's still #15 on the year. Stream on Spotify.
16. Nick Cave - The Skeleton Tree: One of the most universally well-reviewed and loved records of 2016, and yet a record that really wasn't/isn't spoken about all that much. Like everyone knew it would be brilliant anyhow so why talk about it? Time to start talking about it. Stream on Spotify.
17. Tuns - Tuns: Some of my favourite legendary Canadian musicians got together, formed a new band, and started playing some jangly poppy Can-Rock style songs. Tuns is the self-titled album that came out of that. If you are in your 30s and grew up on this kinda stuff it's the absolute gear. Stream on Spotify.
18. A Tribe Called Quest - We've Got it From Here Thank You For the Service: Losing Phife this year hit hard, nobody saw it coming. What it also did was reignite the fire in millions of people to visit what might be the best hip-hop act of all time. And lo and behold there was an album chock full of legit fire just about finished. Coming to vinyl next week, this one sneaks into our list at 18. Stream on Spotify.
19. Dinosaur Jr - Give a Glimpse of What You Are Not: Maybe the guitar-rock album of the year. When Dinosaur Jr decided to get back to performing and writing music/releasing records they didn't do it halfway. Instead they are putting out music in 2016 that rivals their back catalog and has me excited about their future. Stream on Spotify.
20. Mitski - Puberty 2: You'll probably have a pretty good idea if Puberty 2 is for you in the first minute of this genius indie-rock-that-makes-you-reconsider-what-you-think-is-indie-rock record. But if you listen a bit deeper, Mitski is going through a lot of things you and I do and writing songs about it. Just better than we ever will. Stream on Spotify.
21. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry (Buy):: Every year a few artists get their due. Now you might be thinking wait a second Dan, I knew and loved Jeff Rosenstock before--and that's great. But this year lots of people really found about him because of Worry. I am one of those people and am thankful that I did. Stream on Spotify.
22. Case/Lang/Viers - Case/Lang/Viers (Buy): Looking back at it, really its kinda shocking this record wasn't bigger than it was. Any of them are massively talented individually, but together some of the harmonies and vocals on this album are without peer in 2016. Stream on Spotify.
23. Kendrick Lamar - Untitled Unmastered (Buy): I hate LeBron James but I suppose I like him for his role nudging and bugging Kendrick Lamar into releasing this record. Now we wait with bated breath for the next proper studio effort from Mr. Lamar. Stream on Spotify.
24. Angel Olsen - My Woman (Buy): Labelling this a folk record sells it short. Oh sure if it is a folk album it might be the folk album of the year, but My Woman finds Angel Olsen evolving and moving beyond that folk label and into indie and even heavier genres while being very careful to continue to feature her trademark vocals. Stream on Spotify.
25. Charles Bradley - Changes (Buy): Try as it might, at least as of typing this 2016 has not taken Charles Bradley from us. For me the first jawdropping song of the year was Changes and spotify recently told me it was the 2016 song I streamed the most. The rest of the album is Bradley at his soulful best and hopefully the best is yet to come. Stream on Spotify.
26. Drake - Views (Buy): Shit I tried, I tried really hard to dislike this album. I can't. Drake does what he does better than anyone and all the copycats who've popped up in the industry are a testament to that. Stream on Spotify.
27. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity: 27th best album of the year, 342323423 best band name but who cares about that! This album is theatric without being over-the-top. It has breakneck speeds and slow grooves and everything in between. Like the crazy bastard child of American Idiot, Nine Inch Nails and Ty Segall. Stream on Spotify.
28. Leonard Cohen - You Want it Darker (Buy): For me there are some gospel-leaning elements on this record that miss. You might not agree and that's fine. But when the record peaks like it does on the title track you get to take one more waltz with one of the ultimate songwriters of all time. Stream on Spotify.
29. Against Me! - Shape Shift with Me: This must have been a tough follow-up to make after Transgender Dysphoria Blues but Shape Shift with Me is up for the task. Laura Jane Grace has some serious questions to ask and these songs try to ask and answer them while being as good as any punk album released in the year as well. Stream on Spotify.
30. American Football - American Football (Buy): This isn't the perfect record the debut was and who ever thought it would be? Emo has evolved/changed and all these band members have as well. Shit Mike Kinsella is putting out some of the best emo-charged music under the Owen moniker of anyone anywhere, and now he needs to go back and do emo anthems? But he did and lo and behold it turned out qutie well. Stream on Spotify.
31. Anderson Paak - Malibu: Malibu, and Anderson Paak in general, is right at the end of how far into the hipster world I can go musically. This isn't a definitive list, if it was then I'd be including albums like Parquet Courts which isn't for me but probably is for you. But there's just enough genre splicing, guest stars, jazz and swag to make this bizarre hip-hop album crack my list. Stream on Spotify.
32. Beach Slang - A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings: 2016 was also a year when I refound my love for Polyvinyl as a label. They helped put out a lot of great records last year. Beach Slang are raw, they are wild and they are real. The kinda record you crank up when you need to feel. Stream on Spotify.
33. John K Samson - Winter Wheat (Buy): The Weakerthans are no more long live the Weakerthans, but if you could forget that for a moment and someone put this record on you might just find yourself thinking they are alive and well and as important as ever. Stream on Spotify.
34. D.D. Dumbo - Utopia Defeated: If I didn't run a vinyl company and read the awesome blurbs that the labels/bands etc put together for the distros then I probably wouldn't know about Utopia Defeated and that would be my loss. The best thing coming out of Australia right now, it's soulful, glitchy, looptastic all while being poppy as fuck. Every bit as catchy as Views or 22 A Million and yes it reminds me of both those albums at times. Stream on Spotify.
35. The Dirty Nil - Higher Power (Buy): Yes I worked with this band a bit too and no I don't think it influences them making this list. Actually if anything I think I hold them back a bit for that very reason. If one Newfoundlander starts listening to this band after this list then I did my job. Stream on Spotify.
36. Butch Walker - Stay Gold (Buy): Another artist I really got to know this year again thanks to the fantastic work of the distros. His critics will say he channels that Petty/Springsteen sound a bit much and well ha I guess that's what his fans say too. This is modern classic rock done very well. Stream on Spotify.
37. Jim James - Eternally Even: I rekindled my love for My Morning Jacket in 2016 thanks to one of the most stunning vinyl packages I've ever seen from Vinyl Me Please on their Z reissue, so I was primed for a Jim James solo record when it dropped. This record is a grower not a shower but spend some time with it, you'll see what I mean. Stream on Spotify.
38. Wire - Nocturnal Koreans (Buy): Expectations are a funny thing. But sometimes high expectations can destroy an otherwise good album. Other times low expectations can turn an album into quite a surprise. I didn't expect much from Nocturnal Koreans and it delivered plenty. Good to have them back. Stream on Spotify.
39. Weezer - White Album (Buy): It has been a big year for me and Weezer. Vinyl Me Please put out a killer Pinkerton press, I finally got my hands on the Blue and Green albums and I realized that contrary to popular opinion they still can make some pretty damn fine pop songs. The White Album is the best record since the Green. Give it a chance. Stream on Spotify.
40. Black Marble - It's Immaterial (Buy): A local friend Andrew Breen tipped me off to this band. One of the more challenging and unique listens of my year for sure. You almost have to just let go and take it all in. Sort of reminds me of when I used to go to the planetarium in Winnipeg. If you let go and just took it all in, there was so much to be seen/experienced. Stream on Spotify.
41. PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project (Buy): In classic 2016 fashion PJ Harvey tried to do a really fantastic thing with the name and theme of this album and caught flack for it. What can you do? Stream on Spotify.
42. Warpaint - Heads Up (Buy): I got super excited about this record after having spent some time with the back catalog of the band. I love the heavy dreaminess of what they do. Not my favourite effort from the band, but much like Radiohead above still well worthy of the list. Stream on Spotify.
43. Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression (Buy): Imagine Iggy Pop died this year and David Bowie and Leonard Cohen did not -- would that flip-flop their positions? Hard to say. Crazy how that stuff massively changes your perspective. But this was a fantastic and trademark style Iggy record with just enough of that Josh Homme flare but not too much to take away from what really brought you to the table. Stream on Spotify.
44. Metallica - Hardwired to Self Destruct (Buy): Ok here's the thing...I initially hated this record. I'm not a big Metallica fan, never have been. But I wanted to give this record a legit shot and I went back to it a few times and the riffs kept bringing me back. No wonder the deluxe version had a full LP devoted to the development of the riffs. Stream on Spotify.
45. Operators - Blue Wave (Buy): I'm a sucker for most things remotely connected to Wolf Parade so let's just put that out in the open. Blue Wave came out right around the time the 3LP set of Apologies for Queen Mary was constantly occupying my turntable. Just because you like one does not mean you'd like the other but seriously give Operators a chance. One of the great underrated Canadian indie acts. Stream on Spotify.
46. Various Artists - Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl: I don't know if I should have included this. It is a RSD exclusive release from Polyvinyl featuring some of their all-time best artists covering their other all-time best artists. But it is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music of the year. If you can still snag one, do it! Stream on Spotify.
47. The Descendents - Hypercaffium Spazzinate (Buy): 2016 was a year of loss, a year of breakout records, a year of innovation and a year or return to form and The Descendents' Hypercaffium Spazzinate was the latter. Stream on Spotify.
48. Slamboni - Slamboni (Buy): Local Toronto cats, you don't know them. That's ok. They haven't got that break quite yet. But they do have a beautiful silver vinyl they worked tirelessly on and a sound that channels Pennywise, Offspring, Sublime, Bad Religion and more. It's pure rock/punk awesomeness not cut with any of that shit that will kill ya. Stream on Spotify.
49. Sam Roberts Band - Terraform: If I was doing this list in a few months this might be way higher but I haven't had a chance to let this fully sink its teeth in me yet. But I will! Moving away from Toronto has helped me get back to my musical roots. When you stop listening to Sam Roberts records because they aren't cool enough something has gone wrong. Stream on Spotify.
50. The Darcys - Centerfold (Buy): The Darcys used to be the best soaring indie-rock band in Toronto. Then they got signed to Arts & Crafts, put out a record, covered a Steely Dan record and toured a bunch and had some success but instead of going that way they stripped down to a two piece and started putting out Jamie Lidell/Junior Boys style dance-pop. I was furious. But it's real fucking good. So we good. Stream on Spotify.