Skipping the preamble this year and going straight to the list.
Pinegrove — Cardinal
Infinitely catchy and lived-in alt-country (I guess?) Genre is fuzzy. It feels a lot like 90s jangle rock. Of course I’d love it.
Chance The Rapper — Coloring Book
Lil Chano is killing it. There’s no one more vital and exciting to watch in music right now. Just the TV performances of these songs (like this one or this one) are must-sees. I get all the feels just watching this kid aim high and consistently hit the mark.
A Tribe Called Quest — We got it from Here… Thank You 4 your Service
It is more than a minor miracle that ATCQ went completely silent for 18 years and then came back with a record as fantastic as this one. So sad Phife Dawg isn’t with us to take his victory lap.
Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool
Thom Yorke stopped sounding like software and made the first Radiohead record that feels really human. Did not expect to love this one this much.
Kendrick Lamar — untitled unmastered.
Even Kendrick’s leftovers are incredible. I prefer the sprawl of To Pimp a Butterfly but there are moments here that are just as vital as anything on the full-length they spawned from.
Banana Peels — Fruit Deluxe
A lucky Bandcamp find. Underground hip hop from Austin, TX. It’s well-produced and maybe feather-light but there’s not much lightness in rap music these days. (It’s free; you should download it.)
Okkervil River — Away
Will Sheff went and made the best album of his career this year and nobody really noticed. That’s a shame. “Okkervil River RIP” was maybe my favorite song of the year.
Lambchop — FLOTUS
Nashville’s best make another left-turn. “The Hustle” is one of the best of the year.
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
Anyone who loved the Walkmen but isn’t gobbling up Hamilton Leithauser’s solo work is missing something. Another very strong solo record from one of my favorite vocalists/writers. (That said: vying with the new A Tribe Called Quest for “Worst album cover of the year” though.)
ELZhi — Lead Poison
I feel confident this would rank in Favorites if I’d discovered it prior to two weeks ago thanks to Stereogum’s list of 25 best verses of 2016. Been on heavy repeat since.
Noname — Telefone
This was Chicago’s year for rap music. Noname comes off the heels of a few great verses on Chance the Rapper projects and drops an amazing first record. (Another free one you should download.)
DJ Shadow — The Mountain Will Fall
By leaps and bounds, Shadow’s best since The Private Press. Also, the 20 year anniversary re-issue of Endtroducing… that came out this year is awesome.
Wye Oak — Tween
Another album of leftovers that work on their own.
Diarrhea Planet — Turn to Gold
A+ fist pumping.
Gallant — Ology
A+ slow jamming.
Fruit Bats — Absolute Loser
A+ Laurel Canyon throwbacking. (I missed the Fruit Bats and I’m glad they’re back.)
Wild Nothing — Life of Pause
Not as great as Wild Nothing’s previous albums but “To Know You” is killer.
David Bowie — Blackstar
I want to like this one more than I do. It’s great, but after the shock of losing Bowie wore off and I’d put this record through heavy rotation, I spent more time going back to Low and Lodger and Station to Station.
Listen More in 2017:
Records I really enjoyed but didn’t spend enough time with to claim as a favorite (yet).
Solange — A Seat at the Table
KAYTRANADA – 99%
Anderson . Paak — Malibu
Walter Martin — Arts + Leisure
Shearwater — Jet Plane and Oxbow
Cymbals Eat Guitars — Pretty Years
LVL UP — Return to Love
Bon Iver — 22, A Million
First listen: loved it. Second listen: is this too precious/pretentious for me ?
Common — Black America Again
Shame this one was overlooked — much of it is really moving.
Jamila Woods — HEAVN