It’s been a hell of a year! I mean that in the best and worst of ways for 2016. When everything around us fell apart we had some fantastic music to help see us through it all. There were so many amazing albums and singles released in 2016, which made the year more tolerable than it otherwise should have been. When all else fails at least we have music!
You’ve read the rest now it’s time for the BEST!
These albums listed below are simply highlights in a standout crowd of bands and musicians that made ’16 a great year for music lovers! They may be in top down order for the sake of the almighty list…but I love them all equally. These albums and singles made me very happy this year and I hope they bring some happiness to you as well.
Little Children – f.f.
Swedish musician Linus Lutti released the wonderful new Little Children album titled f.f. in October and it has been in my constant rotation ever since. The single, “Every Little Light,” is a stand-out track in that it is one of Lutti’s most up-tempo numbers to date, however every song on the record is wonderful and I highly recommend adding this album to your collection.
The Silks – Turn Me On
Providence, Rhode Island trio’s spirited sophomore album, Turn Me On, is a full on blast of classic guitar riffs and seventies style swagger that still feels current and true to the times. If all bands were able to take a well-loved sound and make it feel timeless then we wouldn’t have a need for top albums of the years lists such as this because every record would be featured. The Silks are a must see live band and Turn Me On wonderfully captures the raw energy of a band that created the perfect soundtrack for driving your 1970’s Chevy Chevelle SS to their next show. Play this one on repeat!
Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds
No surprise here if you follow Music Savage, as we are all pretty big fans of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, and their fourth studio album, Little Seeds, is an album that we couldn’t get enough of this year. The South Carolina duo weave together tales of jealousy, love, and loss effortlessly while creating a connection with the listener that only two people who know each other so well can do.
Greyhounds – Change of Pace
The Austin, Texas duo released their sophomore album, Change of Pace, in April and took to the road to spread their funky, soulful sounds across the country and back again. The southern boys have seen their fan-base grow in 2016 as word quickly spread on their amazing live shows. Change of Pace harnesses that slick, Texan-style of rhythm and blues so well it can make every one of us New England folks feel as though we were all born beneath the Mason-Dixon line.
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
The Kentucky musician’s third album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is nominated for Album of the Year at the upcoming Grammy Awards and although it took a lot of people by surprise (including Simpson himself) the accolades that are being heaped on this album are rightly deserved. The ability to create a style of country music that has not been heard before is an accomplishment worthy of a few notable awards if you ask me.
Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
Californian singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy’s debut album, Emotions and Math, was released in April via ATO Records and quickly caught the attention of music bloggers around the world with her introspective lyrics and bluesy-guitar licks. Her time in the Boston area, while attending Berklee College of Music, created a strong New England following and her move to New York City six years ago provided a setting for the talented musician to continue to grow as an artist. With such a powerful debut album we can be certain to hear amazing music for years to come.
Lucius – Good Grief
The second release from Brooklyn 5-piece Lucius may have taken almost two years to record but it didn’t take long for it to become a favorite of mine. In fact I would say the moment the first track, “Madness,” ended I knew all the way back in March that Good Grief would be included in my best of the year post. Every song released, including the track above, highlights what the Berklee College of Music grads do best, which is create beautiful musical arrangements that swirl perfectly around the voices of front-women Jess Wofle and Holly Laessig. Also, their live show is not to be missed.
Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo Price’s debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, is exactly what country music should sound like at all times. The no-nonsense Nashville musician released her album on Third Man Records in March and I for one cannot think of a better pairing than Jack White’s shit kickin’ label and Price’s shit kickin’ sound. From start to finish this album is a bona fide success in boot-stomping twang and roots-rocking glory.
Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Another stellar debut album on the year end list comes from Chicago band Whitney, a band that was created from the ashes of another acclaimed Windy City group Smith and Westerns. Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich formed Whitney in 2015 and released Light Upon The Lake in June of 2016 to a heap of praise and became an “overnight” success story while on the road promoting the album. I had the pleasure of meeting Ehrlich outside a Boston venue this year while they were in the throes of the tour. He was humbled by the band’s success and was genuine and warm to everyone that stopped to say hi. I love when down to earth musicians make it big and look forward to hearing more from Whitney in the years to come.
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
UK poet/musician Kate Tempest hit back hard against the current state of affairs the world finds itself in these days with her masterful sophomore album, Let Them Eat Chaos, which was released on October 7th. The songs weave together separate stories of seven people who live on the same street in London and are all awake at the same early morning hour and are all, unbeknownst to them, grappling with the same overwhelming sense of dread and despair. That is until the final song brings them together in a moment of clarity so richly written by Tempest you find yourself out of breath at the magnitude of the moment when the strangers find each other on the street. First conceived and released as an 80-page poem last January, Let Them Eat Chaos, is a take no prisoners manifesto of strength against oppression.
Julie Rhodes – Bound to Meet the Devil
To say that 2016 was the year of Julie Rhodes is an understatement. Just a few years ago the recently anointed Boston Music Awards “New Artist of the Year” was working at an ice cream shop and living the life she so expertly portrays in her debut album, Bound to Meet the Devil. Rhodes’ has been a music fan her whole life and has been an advocate for local musicians and artists for years. Her vocal talent was discovered while she was attending a house performance featuring Jonah Tolchin and Dan Blakeslee, both of whom are credited with helping Rhodes find her own creative path. Both musicians pretty much dared her to write and perform her own songs and that, as they say, was that! Bound to Meet the Devil is blues music at it’s finest. Rhodes and her extraordinary band have created one of the best albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to over and over again. Her voice is otherworldly and the live show is as powerful as a hurricane.
As I stated above I love everyone of these brilliant releases… however Bound to Meet the Devil is absolutely my favorite album of the year.
There were also a ton of singles released this year that were extraordinary! Here are the top five songs that ruled my 2016.
Maggie Rogers – Alaska
Recent NYU graduate Maggie Rogers has just sold out her entire upcoming 2017 tour of the US on the strength of only two released songs. After blowing Pharrell’s mind during one of her classes where she played the unfinished version of “Alaska” to the musician her world pretty much turned upside down. Rogers’ has quite a lot in store next year and her star will continue to shine as she brings in new fans with every song released. Here’s to hoping we get a full-length album in ’17.
False Heads – Thick Skin
I love every track released this year from UK punk rockers False Heads, but it was their first song, “Thick Skin,” that made me sit up and take notice. The trio are redefining the idea of punk rock, which if you ask people here and there, is a genre that has become stagnant and complacent with time. False Heads don’t give a shit about any of that mess and have taken the tried and true up yours attitude to new levels of ferocious sound and fury. Looking forward to a proper debut in 2017.
Ethan Burns – Homeward
California singer-songwriter Ethan Burns is a bit of an enigma in the music world. There’s not much on the ol’ inter-webs about the elusive musician but what we have is a collection of superb singles that sound like what I’d imagine living on the west coast would be like. “Homeward” is a particular favorite due to it’s mixture of soulful, sunny sounds and devil may care lyrics about an on again, off again relationship. It’s also a really great driving around with the top down kind of song!
Basement Revolver – Johnny
Hamilton, Ontario trio Basement Revolver made a huge splash on the music scene with the release of their fantastic debut single, “Johnny,” earlier this year. With music fans everywhere hailing the young band as the second coming of shoegaze the recent college grads produced several more stand out songs that they compiled together this summer to create their first EP. It was love at first listen with this track and we have gone on to feature the Canadian band a number of times on the site. Get to know them!
Thaddeus Anna Greene – In Vein
Word on the street is that we can expect a new album from Cleveland- based band Thaddeus Anna Greene sometime in the near future which makes me pretty happy seeing as how I love the single, “In Vein,” quite a lot. Their debut full-length came out in 2012 and since then the guys have been touring and releasing stellar singles ever since. When those drums kick in on “In Vein” the song goes full-throttle into a funk-filled groove that keeps you bopping your head long after the song has stopped. This band is rollicking soul-train of fun and I’m on board for more next year.