1. The 1975 - I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
Of all the albums released in 2016, this was the one that caught me off guard. It's 80s synth-pop-influenced but it combines that sound with an alternating mix of mean-spirited cynicism and beautiful bare sincerity. Whatever it was about this album, it got its hooks in me and stayed on repeat for at least a month... and now I'm listening to it again. I regret nothing.
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
The relentless driving strings on Burn The Witch may make for the best opening to an album in 2016, but get past that and you'll find a quieter album that is content to lurk in the background without overwhelming the listener. The quiet allows the impassioned singing of Thom Yorke to shine in a way that somehow gets lost on more complex Radiohead albums. This is truly one of their best.
3. Beyonce - Lemonade
All hail Queen Bey! A surprise album drop full of deeply personal but instantly catchy songs? Yeah, that was pretty damn cool, but did you see that video??? That thing is stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful. Oh, and Jay-Z, you better watch yourself or you're going to end up with a six-inch heel stuck in your back.
4. Tegan and Sara- Love You To Death
Check your cynicism at the door for this one. Love You To Death is an album full of songs about the best parts of love, told through synthesizers with a distinctly 80s Madonna vibe. If listening this album doesn't give you that new-relationship feeling, you may be broken inside.
5. Frank Ocean - Blonde
It's quiet. It's experimental in the way the best Kanye West albums can be. It's beautiful. I'm not sure anything could have ever topped Channel Orange but this comes damn close. Of everything that came out in 2016, this is the album I feel like I'll get the most out of by listening to it again.
6. Radiation City - Synesthetica
Oh, Radiation City, you've gone and made an amazing album! Beautifully paced; it holds back just enough to allow those moments when it lets loose with the soaring vocals to truly stand out. How will you ever top this? Oh, you're going to breakup and never make another album together? Yeah, seems reasonable.
7. Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack
No one sells depression and pain better than Scott Hutchinson. If you need richly toned songs about lives half-lived, crumbling relationships, and regrets, this album should be your first stop.
8. Candace - New Future
The perfect amount of reverb. Crunchy and droning guitars. Vocals that almost fade into the background. This is shoegaze at its best.
9. Summer Cannibals - Full Of It
Fast, fierce, and over in 33 minutes.
10. Tove Lo - Lady Wood
This is dark pop that hits hard. If I went out to a club and True Disaster or Cool Girl, I'd wonder what the hell was wrong with DJ.
11. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo