Favorite Albums of 2016

It was a shitty year for sure. We lost some great artists in 2016 but there was some great music released as well. As usual I try to avoid descriptors like best or greatest but I did pick out some of my favorite releases from last year.

Signs of Light – The Head and the Heart

I don’t love it as much as the first two but it’s still outstanding.

Let Me Get By – Tedeschi Trucks Band

It’s Derek and Susan and Mike and the rest of this great crew. One would expect excellence and you’d get it.

The Tel-Star Sessions – Gov’t Mule

An older recording but a new release of their first sessions. Interesting to hear initial runs of these songs.

Patch The Sky – Bob Mould

Duh – It’s Bob Mould.

Rainbow Ends – Emitt Rhodes

Never expected a new release from Emitt but not at all surprised at the quality of it.

Blackstar – David Bowie

Man this one hurts. Interesting how my pre and post loss listens differed so much. A goodbye album even if we didn’t know it when it was released.

Soul Eyes – Kandace Springs

More straight on jazzy than her initial e.p. but her voice still gives me chills. What an amazing talent.

Complete Third – Big Star

A full on deluxe revisiting with tons of demos and all the fun stuff you would expect. I never go far without a little Big Star…

What were your faves?

Ninety-Nine Albums

Last week Kurt over at Cultural Offering posted his list of The 100 Greatest Albums Ever. Kurt and I disagree about a lot of things but generally music is a common denominator for us. Kurt’s list is indeed comprised of great albums, I can’t really object to much of anything on it, except for Hotel California of course, but then my hatred of the Eagles is legendary. Like many lists of this type, it contains all the things that one could or should have on a Greatest Albums list.

Over the years I’ve tried to compile such a list for myself but I’ve just never been able to do it in such a fashion that I was satisfied with the result. Don’t get me wrong, I love lists like this. I go through them and see how many things I also own and check out anything new of interest. It’s just that these sorts of lists never really seem to capture the difference between what is “Greatest” and what I am actually listening to at any one time.

I am not a fickle music lover, I don’t pay attention to charts, I have no idea what is currently popular, I can pull a random album out of my collection and play it, and know that I would still love it. That doesn’t mean that my tastes haven’t changed, haven’t expanded – my musical journey has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my life. I’ve changed, music has changed, the world has changed.

In 1982 there wasn’t a desk I sat at in my high school that didn’t get a quickly penciled ‘The Doors’ logo sketched on it. I loved The Doors, I still love The Doors. Have they made great albums? Yep. Is there an album by them on my list? Nope.

From 1984 to 1990 I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon hundreds of times. At some point I would say I listened to it each and every night for a year as I went to sleep, wearing big stupid headphones that would kill my ears if I tried to roll over at all. Dark Side isn’t on this list? It’s not that Dark Side isn’t a great record, it is. I would argue that it’s among the greatest records of all time. It’s not on this list because I don’t really listen to it much anymore. I’m sure that will change eventually but for now something else has its place.

I’m an album guy, always have been. While I do occasionally like a good strong radio experience like I can build with Slacker, the majority of my listening is done through Rdio or via my own collection of ripped CDs where I listen to full albums. An artist who takes the time to construct a listening experience where song choices and song order matter deserves to have their work listened to in that fashion. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always been so fanatical about having the British pressings of Beatles albums rather than their ‘butchered’ US versions. When the CDs were originally released I was psyched that they were retaining the original pressings and people would hear Revolver as it was originally released.

A few years back I did manage to cobble together a list of 80 or so of my favorite albums and over the last week or so I’ve adjusted it and added to it so that it represents the albums that I find myself currently listening to most frequently. If I go through my library, these are the things that get me to click play. Are there great albums out there that aren’t this list? Absolutely there are. Maybe they have just reached their saturation point with me. Maybe it has dropped off my radar temporarily and one day I’ll listen again and be reminded of just how good it is and it will return to heavier rotation. Maybe it’s just that as the choices increase and the number of hours in the day remains static, I need to choose differently and some things just don’t make the cut as often as they used to.

Without much thought I could easily make another list of 100 or more albums that don’t appear here – great albums, greatest albums. Blonde on Blonde, Ziggy Stardust, Slowhand, more Beatles, more McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Yes. Shit I could list 1000 things and they would all potentially deserve to be called greatest. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of list, that just isn’t what this is.

So I present to you, based on real listening data (via last.fm), my own anecdotal perceptions and probably some emotional attachments – a list of 99 albums. I love them all. I listen to them all frequently. I don’t know if you’ll like them as much as I do, all I can do is hope that maybe you might choose something that you may not have heard of and give it a listen. A new album or artist is like finding a thread and following it, not really knowing where it’s going to take you, but hopefully you find something new and wonderful on that journey.

Some of these probably would be considered to be “Greatest” or “Classic” or “Essential” and I tried not to let that influence their inclusion (or exclusion) here. Some things deserve that nod, they are great, they are classic, but in the end the only reason they are here is because I love them, I love how they make me feel when I listen to them and maybe you might love some of them too.

I’m leaving #100 blank for the one thing that I’ll listen to later today that I think should have made this list. There will be another tomorrow, at least one, and probably each and every day after that. This way, no matter what, I’ll always have room for that one great thing I forgot.

Live…With A Little Help From Our Friends – Gov’t Mule
The Who By Numbers – The Who
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John
Help – The Beatles
Presence – Led Zeppelin
Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
Live – near truths and hotel rooms – Todd Snider
Copper Blue – Sugar
A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
Live at the Wetlands – Robert Randolph and the Family Band
McCartney – Paul McCartney
Learning to Crawl – The Pretenders
On The Beach – Neil Young
Abbey Road – The Beatles
Trilogy – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Closing Time – Tom Waits
Kiss – Kiss
Punch The Clock – Elvis Costello
Layla (and other assorted love songs) – Derek and the Dominos
Say I Am You – The Weepies
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – Genesis
Dulcinea – Toad The Wet Sprocket
Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
Infidels – Bob Dylan
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash
Everyone is Here – Finn Brothers
Boomtown – David + David
Nonsuch – XTC
AM – Wilco
Quadrophenia – The Who
Crime of the Century – Supertramp
Mama Said – Lenny Kravitz
Music from Big Pink – The Band
One Way Out (Live At The Beacon Theater) – The Allman Brothers Band
Dose – Gov’t Mule
RoShamBo -The Grays
Workbook – Bob Mould
Peter Gabriel (II) – Peter Gabriel
Electric Warrior – T. Rex
Nothing Is Wrong – Dawes
Live at Roseland Ballroom – Gov’t Mule
Joe Jackson Live 1980 – 1986 – Joe Jackson
All Mod Cons – The Jam
A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse – Faces
Live at Bonnaroo – Warren Haynes
Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) – The Kinks
The Band – The Band
Spilt Milk – Jellyfish
U.K. – U.K.
Red – King Crimson
Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
Sea Change – Beck
Permanent Waves – Rush
Anything Else But The Truth – The Honorary Title
Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson
New York – Lou Reed
Rubber Soul – The Beatles
Déjà Vu -Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Amused to Death – Roger Waters
Gov’t Mule – Gov’t Mule
Pomegranate – Poi Dog Pondering
My Aim is True – Elvis Costello
Learning to Flinch – Warren Zevon
Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Bruce Springsteen
Late For the Sky – Jackson Browne
I Love Everybody – Lyle Lovett
The Köln Concert – Keith Jarrett
Exile On Main Street – The Rolling Stones
Blood On the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Let it Be… Naked – The Beatles
Selling England By The Pound – Genesis
Revolver – The Beatles
Trinity Session – Cowboy Junkies
Misplaced Childhood – Marillion
Pretenders – The Pretenders
King of America – Elvis Costello
Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren
Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon
#1 Record – Big Star
Operation Mindcrime – Queensrÿche
Oranges and Lemons – XTC
Clutching at Straws – Marillion
Radio City – Big Star
The Beatles – The Beatles
Fire and Water – Free
Willy And The Poor Boys – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Apostrophe – Frank Zappa
Shoot Out the Lights – Richard and Linda Thompson
London Calling – The Clash
Band on The Run – Paul McCartney & Wings
Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat
Morning Phase – Beck
Goodbye Jumbo – World Party
Fair Warning – Van Halen
Being There – Wilco
Skylarking – XTC

It might be interesting to write a bit about each of these and why it appeals to me so maybe I’ll try to do that once a week or something. Let me know if you find anything new or interesting on the list.

These are in random order via http://www.random.org/lists/

Photo ViaCC 2.0