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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 »

Best Albums of 2013

In many ways, 2013 proved to be a challenging and difficult year.  The economy continues to struggle, Congress doesn’t work, acts of extreme violence dominate the news, and the NSA is right behind you right now.  Music’s response?  Screw it; let’s dance.  The amount of quality music that also happened to be catchy as hell that came out in 2013 was staggering, and many bands reinvented their sounds in ways that blended old styles with something a bit more upbeat. As always, this list can hardly claim to be comprehensive, but these are 12 great albums that came out in 2013 that pushed the boundaries of what it means to make music with great curiosity and ambition: 12) Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – More unapologetically upbeat than their most recent work, Action follows 2013’s mantra of dancing your troubles away.  It also finds the band returning to the winning balance of hooks, substance, and pub-crawl wit that made their first two albums so great. Essential Listening: “Right Action”, “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” 11) Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks – After an extended hiatus that saw its leader win a friggin’ Oscar, NIN returned in 2013 with more »