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Best Albums of 2016

The uniting factor among the albums that made my Best of 2016 list is that every one of them actively seeks to blur boundaries of genre. Devoted readers of my Best of lists will not be surprised by this, as musical curiosity and willingness to infuse different styles are some of my most desired traits in music. I can’t claim that I listened to a lot of music this year, but this list is fairly diverse, with styles ranging from country to jazz. Below is my list of (an increasingly arbitrary number of) favorite albums for the year:   12) Angel Olsen, MY WOMAN – Chicago folk artist Angel Olsen amps up the energy considerably in her latest effort. WOMAN is still guided by her intimate and pained vocals, but the music here benefits from an increased range of styles, ranging from the aching balladry of “Intern” to the punkish rancor of “Shut Up, Kiss Me” to the flat-out epic rock of “Sister”.   Essential listening: “Sister”, “Heart Shaped Face”     11) Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book – Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper punctuated his rise to public and critical acclaim with this neo-gospel/hip-hop album, which synthesizes his admiration more »

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Best Albums of 2014

If there’s one common thread among the 20 albums to make my list this year, it’s eclecticism. The emergence of services like Spotify and even YouTube not only make finding a wider gamut of music possible, it also undoubtedly influences those who make the music. Not only do the artists represented here exemplify a wider spectrum of genre than I’ve ever had before, the albums themselves often integrate several styles within their own confines.   In a true testament to the quality of music I discovered this year, this was probably the most difficult year-end ranking I’ve ever had to form, and the gap from top to bottom is probably narrower than any I can remember. I can’t claim to have listened to all of the musics, but I have expanded my field from years past because there was just so much good music out there this year. For your enjoyment:   20) Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – Well regarded as solo artists, the styles of Killer Mike and El-P complement each other nicely, and they creatively mix their roles by trading both verses and lines. El-P’s production is also solid, and he adds subtle unexpected twists more »