My Favorite Records of 2016
I always feel the need to preface this by saying this list contains merely my own personal favorite records that I've listened to this year. These are not the best, a term which I still grapple with whenever lists choose to employ it. Music is one of the most personal art forms that exists in the universe. For example, even my number one choice(s) are indicative of something I experienced late in the year: a love of experimental noise jazz that is often jarring, un-melodic and challenging. I don't expect everyone to rush out and listen to the work of Mary Halvorson the way I have, but her guitar skills are unparalleled. I describe this style as the "Sonic Youth of jazz," and I'm not even the world's biggest Sonic Youth fan. Maybe this is my Captain Beefheart / Frank Zappa phase, which even my dad experienced at one time or another. I normally want all music to have a hook, but the lack of a hook is what grabbed me about Halvorson. She puts out an overabundance of material each year that it will take me a very long time to catch up, but now, I am a jazz lover, rather than a casual listener of the genre. Make no mistake, 2016 was an extraordinary year for music, whether it was revolutionary hip-hop or good old-fashioned indie pop rock. Not to mention, both Beyonce and her sister putting out extraordinary material. There are certainly moments of disconnect for me, including yet another moment where I think an acclaimed album was simply not my cup of tea (The Life of Pablo) and don't get me started on my disdain for Bon Iver, which surprises me to no end any time I try to give that guy a chance.
Again, making a list or ranking art is completely silly and arbitrary, but I believe in organizing my thoughts and favorites as a form of documentation -- almost like a diary entry that I can look back on years from now, to see what I loved and if it still holds up. To say one record is objectively "better" than the other, is ridiculous. We all have different ears, brains, and life experience which informs our taste and reaction. Make no mistake, my #1 choice is extremely challenging and personal to where I grappled with putting a "safer" choice with Big Thief, whose record is aptly titled and the best example of indie folk / indie rock that I've heard all year. Hopefully you feel inclined to check out the lesser known titles here, and find something you enjoy as well. That's one of the main reasons why I put any list together, to share my love and passion of music, well-knowing that it is entirely my own subjective interpretation of what is "good" and what I consider to be favorites.