Best of 2016: Top 10 Albums
2016 was a busy year in some respects, while in others it was somewhat slower. On the musical front, I wasn’t as active in my pursuit of new music and instead chose to remain in my comfort zone with new releases by past favourites. These are my picks of albums from 2016 I enjoyed most this year. A great group of albums that defined the year musically for me.
10. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
As slick as Heartthrob sounded for Tegan and Sara, Love You To Death takes it up a couple more notches to pure pop heaven, with layers of synths, melodies, harmonies and production. Yet, where they continue their musical trek to full-out unabashedly dance/pop icons, there’s a hint of longing for what’s missing. The familiar yearning in their vocals, the hooky instrumental bridges, the details and characteristics that made T&S records sound epic and relevant to their fans are mostly void from this record. See full review here.
9. Lissie – My Wild West
Lissie is, in some ways, a representative of the generation. She’s socially aware, environmentalist and feminist, and also shows appreciation for her roots. These are themes in her music. On My Wild West, she’s re-evaluating what it means to follow your dreams and take control of them. It’s an early mid-life crisis; that point when it’s not too late to restart without feeling like you’ve lost time. That concern over missing out on the future rather than regret for losing out on the past. See full review here.
8. Chantal Kreviazuk – Hard Sail
Hard Sail takes two distinct paths and they are determined by the presence of main songwriting collaborator Thomas “Tawgs” Salter. On those tracks with his involvement, the result is a fresh sound with a stronger pop focus, but still an advancement for Chantal and a performance that is pushed closer to her limit – she sounds great. See full review here.
7. Beyoncé – Lemonade
Beyoncé expresses an emotional array of themes, lyrics and experiences while expanding her sound into unexpected territory. The raw delivery of Don’t Hurt Yourself, and the swinging country of Daddy Lessons are among them, but she does stick close to comfort on tracks like Sorry, while 6 Inch steps it up to 11. See full review here
6. Lady Gaga – Joanne
Joanne is an album with faults – as if on purpose – quite the reverse from the strict precision of her records before. That detail is the most surprising element of the record, even more than the genre-shift and flop first single. Anyone familiar with Gaga’s abilities could have foreseen her move toward singer/songwriter and southern rock – genres that allow her to place her vocals front and centre on record. See full review here.
5. KT Tunstall – KIN
KIN doesn’t explore new territory, but it’s a sonically pleasant record that focuses on looking forward with your head held high. It’s a self-realization that things aren’t so bad, and she says as much on Run On Home, “the only thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve been feeling happier lately.” See full review here.
4. Brandy Clark – Big Day In A Small Town
Brandy Clark can be said to be part of what could be dubbed the new country renaissance – the answer to those who crave country music that isn’t played on country radio. She delivers another fine album that demonstrates her loyalty to country’s roots while also showing she’s not a one-album-wonder nor a one-trick-pony. See full review here.
3. David Bowie – Blackstar
Blackstar touches on familiar elements: space, the occult, gender, androgyny. It’s familiar in that it’s not really familiar. The 7-track album is mainly experimental with incorporated jazz elements throughout, and his own impending death. He knew his final days were near and he applied that to what would become his final work, knowing it would be his final work. He lived for and died with art as his focus. See full review here.
2. Ria Mae – Ria Mae
This album is polished and smooth without being dense. Full of enticing melodies and sometimes heartbreaking lyrics, it’s a sure sign that east coast artists can do pop music as well as anyone else. It’s refreshing! See full review here.
1. Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle
Lori writes from the perspective of a wife and mother, and while she’s both, the songs aren’t autobiographical. She says she’s happy, even though she writes “sad songs,” which is impressive because for 37 minutes, you’re convinced you’re looking for your own escape while reminiscing about your youth. It’s an album that captures honesty and emotion using the tiniest details that sets the scene just enough to put you right in the middle of it. See full review here.