30 Best Albums Of 2016

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Looking back at what a shit year 2016 has been, it’s no wonder I published more music writing than ever before. As the months wore on I found myself swiping away more and more real news in my feed and just getting lost in Bandcamp and other music sources. I wasn’t really trying to bury my head; I was looking for a better way of thinking.

The world is what it is, but I can frame it and focus on it however I choose. Immersing in the toxicity of bad news and worse reactions changed my perception one way, so I aimed to change it another way. Art has been a life sustaining tonic all my life, a refuge sought in times of stress, loneliness, and most of all, deep frustration. If I’ve hit a brick wall, I know that obsessing about the problem won’t help. I need to detach, breathe, and follow something made to surprise. A good story or song is something to be lost in, sure, but it grants perspective. It can bend the light just so, showing me a new way to see.

Perspective also comes from travel. The simple but profound act of experiencing other parts of the world can never be overestimated. This is where the image at the top of this list comes in. It’s Greenland, as seen from my plane back home to the United States from Ireland a month ago. I happened to open the window shade during the brief window when we were passing over the very tip of the continent-sized island. It felt like magic.

I’m entering 2017 with hope that good news can happen and that we can press on, even when our heroes are gone. I look around and I wonder who the future heroes are going to be. Those people will be standing against the dark tide and risking everything. They’ve got new ideas to replace the scary old ones that never quite die.

Looking back on the past year of music, I see a lot of new ideas and new perspectives on old ones. The best kind of music always elicits surprise, even if it’s made in a familiar way. There’s a flash of feeling, a rush of blood, and it clicks. Everything on this list mattered to me and I hope some of it can matter to you.

Let’s begin the countdown. These are the 30 best albums of 2016:

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Demdike Stare – Wonderland

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Demdike Stare have returned with a full length release over four years after their last with a quietly radical shift in sound. After exploring all the hidden spaces beneath the world of techno, they seem to have finally let some light in.

Wonderland is a revelation from any direction, surprising longtime fans and cracking open unexplored depths for the uninitiated. The timing couldn’t be better: this album hits an apocalyptic fever pitch right as 2016 winds to its dystopian end.

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Andy Stott – Butterflies: first single from new album Too Many Voices

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Andy Stott just announced his followup to best of 2014 album Faith In Strangers, and it’s coming super soon. Too Many Voices will drop April 22, not even four weeks from now. I was already excited at the news, but when I heard the first single, I lost my shit.

Here’s the video for Butterflies:

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David Bowie – Modern Love

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For a week now, I’ve woken with this song stuck in my head.

Modern Love takes off like a bottle rocket, perfect as the lead tune on David Bowie‘s 1983 pop opus, Let’s Dance. It’s about as get-up-and-go as any song has ever been. I feel an electricity pulsing through me the second those first guitar stabs hit, and it doesn’t let up even when the melody fades a few minutes later.

If you’re not already in the mood for this kind of energy, I present a pair of films that absolutely nailed it. I can’t help but get caught up when seeing either of these scenes; the positivity is infectious:

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Marco Shuttle – Visione

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Seeing ‘with Donato Dozzy’ attached to the first track on this debut album from Marco Shuttle, I absolutely had to listen. As a total unknown to me, the bespoke surrealism of the cover art caught my eye, but Dozzy grabbed my attention. As half of Voices From The Lake and an incredible techno artist in his own right, this guy will always deserve my time.

Featuring on this album is an endorsement that’s paid off handsomely. This is one of the best albums of 2015 so far. The best news is that the entire thing is streaming free:

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