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The best albums of 2016

The local and national records City Pages critics were digging the most.

The local and national records City Pages critics were digging the most. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Ho! Ho! ... how about sharing your Top 5 non-local and local albums of 2016!? That verbatim question was posed to City Pages contributors during this, the most joyous season of them all -- year-end list season! It's the time when ponderous critics gather 'round the roaring MacBook Pro to celebrate the birth of content. Like the popular Christian holiday known as Christmas, it's a largely pointless exercise, but ultimately a fun one. Here's what the CP team was digging in '16:  

 

Jerard Fagerberg

Non-local 

  1. PUP -- The Dream Is Over
  2. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo
  3. Mitski -- Puberty 2
  4. Danny Brown -- Atrocity Exhibition
  5. Anderson .Paak -- Malibu

Local

  1. Mark Mallman -- The End Is Not the End
  2. ZULUZULUU -- What's the Price?
  3. Astronautalis -- Cut the Body Loose
  4. Ness Nite -- Nite Time
  5. Tony Peachka -- Dirty Knees

 

Gigi "Local Luminary" Berry

Non-local

  1. Beyoncé -- Lemonade
  2. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo
  3. Drake -- Views
  4. Gucci Mane -- Everybody's Looking
  5. Rihanna -- Anti

Local

  1. Tiny Deaths -- Night Flowers
  2. Ness Nite -- Nite Time 
  3. Poliça -- United Crushers
  4. Lizzo -- Coconut Oil
  5. Su Na -- Surface

 

Ryan Warner

National

  1. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo -- The best record of 2016, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, is an uneven, magnificent mess. A work as fascinating for its merits as it is for its many faults. It’s a statement record that lacks the focus to synthesize its ideas into any coherent statement. An uncomfortable, voyeuristic journey into a mind unwilling or unable to decide what it really wants to say. On Pablo, West wants his audience to know how seriously he’s taking his struggles with big ideas like God, loyalty, success, depression, and family. He tells us right off the bat, “This is everything” and he sounds convinced. However, the duplicitous Mr. West can’t explore these ideas without mining the rest of his Id. So, of course, he’s also justifying his genius, imagining how badly Taylor Swift wants to bone him, likening his former boss to a slave owner, and repeatedly detailing the recovery of his stolen laptop. One moment he’s basking in grace of the lord. The next, he’s deliberating about how he’ll feel in the morning if a model's bleached butthole comes into contact with his T-shirt. Pablo is far from a perfect record but unquestionably the year’s most interesting. It contains some of the most sublime peaks and outrageously terrible valleys of Kanye’s career. Who cares if it’s inconsistent? Pablo is filth masquerading purity. It’s dark depravity that insists it’s actually white light. This is truly the bleached butthole of records, a fascinating, post-modern curiosity that I just can’t stop thinking about -- and a fitting time capsule for 2016.
  2. Car Seat Headrest -- Teens of Denial
  3. Anohni -- Hopelessness
  4. Beyoncé -- Lemonade
  5. Frankie Cosmos -- Next Thing


Local

Do I know enough about the local “scene” to make this kind of list? Absolutely not. Is it fair to the people who actually care about our (potentially) vibrant local music market that I make one of these lists? Probably not. Did I do any research while compiling this list? Quite a stretch. When I say “research” do I really mean that I found Chris Riemenschneider’s "Minnesota's best albums of 2016 (so far)" article published for the Strib (in June), copy and paste the first five entries, and call it a day? That’s what it looks like.

  1. The Cactus Blossoms -- You’re Dreaming
  2. Cloud Cult -- The Seeker
  3. Fraea -- Bend Your Bones
  4. Jack Brass Band -- For Your Soul
  5. Kitten Forever -- 7 Hearts

 

Erica Rivera

Non-local

  1. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo -- Welcome to the Church of Kanye. These will be your hymns.
  2. Leonard Cohen -- You Want It Darker -- A prophetic and poetic farewell. Dig that gravelly voice.
  3. The Coathangers -- Nosebleed Weekend -- The perfect soundtrack for purging rage.
  4. Mr. Little Jeans -- Fevers -- When you want to feel all the teenage feels.
  5. Warpaint -- Heads Up -- A sultry homage to that toxic love you just can’t quit.

Local

  1. Mason Jennings -- Wild Dark Metal -- Brooding, edgy, and tender all at once. Play it loud and on repeat.
  2. Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream -- Honest songwriting with a serrated edge.
  3. Poliça -- United Crushers -- Triumphant, angry, and danceable.
  4. Fraea -- Bend Your Bones -- Aural foreplay.
  5. The Pines -- Above the Prairie -- A sonic refuge for the over-stimulated.

 

Grace Thomas

Non-local

  1. The Hotelier -- Goodness
  2. Posture and the Grizzly -- I Am Satan
  3. Angel Olsen -- My Woman
  4. Modern Baseball -- Holy Ghost
  5. Jeff Rosenstock -- Worry

Local

  1. Tony Peachka -- Dirty Knees -- The best local album of the year. It reminds me with every listen that it's alright that I'm never quite going to pull myself together.
  2. The Florists -- Can You Feel The Stasis? -- Ten years from now you're going to see gangly scenesters, much like the Florists themselves, with T-shirts emblazoned with the album art from this release -- a spooky, surreal jam for the ages.
  3. Grape Whales -- Hostel Aloha -- A bunch of nice boys with songs that have a kind of depth that only comes from laying on the couch hungover for long enough that you end up praying a little. Hostel Aloha's best track is "Middle Child," which I've come back to daily since my first listen.
  4. Lunch Duchess -- My Mom Says I Have A Rich Inner Life -- I saw Lunch Duchess for the first time almost black-out drunk at the Kitty Cat Klub last spring and immediately sought out their Bandcamp. This album got me through a summer as a line cook, and I don't think I could give higher praise.
  5. Frankie Teardrop -- Hell Yep -- God bless Frankie Teardrop. The band called it quits earlier this year, and Hell Yep is more than a fitting goodbye from one of the most talked about local bands of the past couple of years. My favorite track, "Stay Dumb," is going to end up in a pretty middling Judd Apatow movie one of these days, which is a shame because it's a great song.

 

Solomon Gustavo

Non-local

  1. Beyoncé -- Lemonade -- Fully realized, fully and finally free of fucks, Beyonce was the sonic sight to behold this year.
  2. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo
  3. Solange -- A Seat at the Table 
  4. Chance the Rapper -- Coloring Book
  5. Schoolboy Q -- Blank Face

Local

  1. ZULUZULUU -- What's the Price? -- So smooth, smart, cerebral. Gets you grooving. Just oh so smooth.
  2. Lunch Duchess -- My Mom Says I have a Rich Inner Life 
  3. Finding Novyon -- Believe in MPLS 
  4. Destiny Roberts -- Just a Reminder 
  5. Nazeem & Spencer Joles -- The Album

 

Austin Gerth

Non-local

  1. Frank Ocean -- Blond
  2. Anderson .Paak -- Malibu
  3. Cellars -- Phases
  4. Pinegrove -- Cardinal
  5. Weezer -- Weezer (The White Album)

Local

  1. Night Moves -- Pennied Days
  2. KING -- We Are KING (Two members are from Minnesota so they count as local. Fight me.)
  3. Allan Kingdom -- Northern Lights
  4. Chalk -- Water
  5. Lizzo -- Coconut Oil

 

Michael Madden

Non-local

  1. ScHoolboy Q -- Blank Face
  2. Anderson .Paak -- Malibu
  3. Beyoncé -- Lemonade
  4. A Tribe Called Quest -- We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service
  5. Flatbush Zombies -- 3001: A Laced Odyssey

Local

  1. Why Khaliq -- Under the Perspective Tree
  2. Allan Kingdom -- Northern Lights
  3. ZULUZULUU -- What's the Price?
  4. deM atlaS -- mF deM
  5. The Lioness -- Growing Pains

 

Becky Lang

Non-local

  1. Beyoncé -- Lemonade
  2. Chance the Rapper -- Coloring Book
  3. Carly Rae Jepsen -- Emotion: Side B
  4. Frank Ocean -- Blonde
  5. Lady Gaga -- Joanne

 

Pat O'Brien

Non-local

  1. Underworld -- Barbara, Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
  2. Bon Iver -- 22, A Million
  3. Car Seat Headrest -- Teens of Denial
  4. A Tribe Called Quest -- We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
  5. Radiohead -- A Moon Shaped Pool

Local

  1. Fraea -- Bend Your Bones
  2. Ben Lubeck -- Rented Rooms
  3. Zuluzuluu -- What's the Price
  4. Fiji-13 -- Sleezy
  5. Communist Daughter -- The Cracks That Built the Wall

 

Keith Harris

Non-local

  1. A Tribe Called Quest -- We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service
  2. Britney Spears -- Glory
  3. Chance the Rapper -- Coloring Book
  4. Rihanna -- Anti-
  5. Lori McKenna -- The Bird and the Rifle

Local

  1. Kitten Forever -- 7 Hearts
  2. Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream
  3. Zuluzuluu -- What's the Price?
  4. Allan Kingdom -- Northern Lights
  5. The Cactus Blossoms -- You're Dreaming

 

Danny Sigelman

Non-local

  1. Metallica -- Hardwired...to Self-Destruct
  2. A Tribe Called Quest -- We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
  3. DJ Shadow -- The Mountain will Fall
  4. GOAT -- Requiem
  5. Meshuggah -- The Violent Sleep of Reason

Local

  1. Sims -- More than Ever
  2. Atmosphere -- Fishing Blues
  3. Fog -- For Good
  4. Monica LaPlante -- Noir
  5. Zuluzuluu -- What's the Price?

 

Youa Vang

Non-local

  1. The Lumineers -- Cleopatra -- The Lumineers could have disappeared into obscurity (remember Foster the People and Gotye?) after their debut album, but they came back stronger than ever with amazing storytelling on their sophomore record.
  2. Kings of Leon -- WALLS -- There's been two albums in between 2008's Only By the Night, but 2016's WALLS is what will put these guys back on the radar. Packed with hit after hit, the title track is particularly a song of note.
  3. Margaret Glaspy -- Emotions and Math -- With this album, we will soon be saying, "Remember when Glaspy played [insert small venue]?"
  4. The Head and the Heart -- Signs of Light -- More pop and less Seattle-esque indie-rock, THATH is a band that constantly delivers solid albums.
  5. Daya -- Sit Still, Look Pretty -- The most far left pick for me for national acts. 2016 was the year of Daya, and her songs are catchy.

Local

  1. Communist Daughter -- The Cracks That Built the Wall -- This album packs so many subtleties that may be missed during live shows.
  2. Rogue Valley -- Radiate/Dissolve -- Another band that plays off the male/female vocal dynamic (just as Communist Daughter), RV's last album also took six years to assemble, but it was worth the wait.
  3. Sims -- More Than Ever -- Quickly written during what could possibly be the toughest times in his life (his wife's illness, death of friends), Sims finds himself again on his latest solo album.
  4. Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream -- Tough as nails, Bonar channels her true personality on her newest album.
  5. Farewell Milwaukee -- FM -- A dark horse in this group, Farewell Milwaukee finds melodic tracks that fill the spaces that we didn't know were there in our lives.

 

Marcus Michalik 

Non-local

  1. Mitski -- Puberty 2
  2. Beyoncé -- Lemonade
  3. Leonard Cohen -- You Want It Darker
  4. Solange -- A Seat at the Table
  5. Chance the Rapper -- Coloring Book

 

Simon Calder

Non-local

  1. David Bowie -- Blackstar -- The perfect parting gift, making of Bowie's death what producer Tony Visconti reminds us David had always already been making and re-making of his life: a work of Art, perhaps his truest.
  2. Nick Cave -- Skeleton Tree -- Cave's perfect parting gift to -- following the passing of -- his son.
  3. Leonard Cohen -- You Want It Darker -- A perfect parting gift from yet another idol in whose twilight we stand, and the product of a union between father and son (producer Adam Cohen).
  4. Radiohead -- A Moon Shaped Pool -- A perfect departure from much of their past cynicism and -- presently -- a timely reminder that the future is inside us, not somewhere else. One day at a time ...
  5. Margaret Glaspy -- Emotions and Math -- A perfect, punchy antidote to the moroseness of much of this year and list.

Local

  1. Mark Mallman -- The End Is Not The End -- Mallman's strongest record to date. What began as a modern, disco-infused "Scary Monsters" as nightmarish as 2016 would become, evolved into a magnificent effort to fight our contemporary darkness, neither with more darkness nor with a fist, but rather with all of the light Mark could muster.
  2. Frankie Teardrop -- Hell Yep -- Let's hear it for Frankie, who took this band as far as it needed to go, put the gun to its head, then returned as the close of 2016 in the guise of the fantastically rich Cheap Fantasy.
  3. Har Mar Superstar -- Best Summer Ever -- Sounding like and "compiled as" a record of summers in the city from 1950 to 1985, this sixth studio album finds Sean Tillman forging fresh ways and new spaces in which to "be who he wants to be." He does so alongside cohorts including Karen O and producer Julian Casablancas, whilst remaining rooted in the '70-'80s pop and R&B for which Har Mar is best known and loved.
  4. C. Kostra -- Now I Feel I -- Pytch-deviantly launching listeners into sonic landscapes they little expected to explore, C. Kostra's debut full-length combines the cassette-evoking frequencies of yesteryear, the futurists' aesthetic of tomorrow, and the feel of Minneapolis' now.
  5. Crunchy Kid -- Crop -- The cream of a rich crop of songs composed since their much-lauded Mint LP, Crunchy Kids reach a new level of maturity, flying very right indeed on this soulful yet cerebral new offering.

 

Tony Nelson

Non-local

  • Nick Cave -- Skeleton Tree
  • Angel Olsen -- My Woman
  • David Bowie -- Blackstar
  • The Kills -- Ash & Ice
  • The Veils -- Total Depravity

Local

  • Communist Daughter -- The Cracks That Built The Wall
  • Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream
  • Polica -- United Crushers
  • Black Market Brass -- Cheat and Start a Fight
  • Cactus Blossoms -- You’re Dreaming

 

Raghav Mehta

Non-local

  1. A Tribe Called Quest -- We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
  2. Angel Olsen -- My Woman
  3. Schoolboy Q -- Blank Face LP
  4. D.R.A.M. -- Big Baby D.R.A.M.
  5. Beyonce -- Beyoncé

 

Kara Nesvig

This year was garbage city, USA, but you know what? It was pretty great for new music. I mean, Britney Spears, my one and only, my own Personal Jesus, released a new album that quickly found a place in my Top 3 Britney albums of all time. Here’s what I couldn’t stop listening to in 2016. You can laugh, I don’t care.

  1. Britney Spears -- Glory -- Britney’s last album, Britney Jean, was a weird concept album about Jesus (trust me) that was ruined by sloppy production from will.i.am. Glory, which Britney described as “artsy-fartsy,” is as delightful as her wacky Instagram. It will make a Britney fan out of you because it’s sexy, it’s poppy and it’s totally bonkers in a good way. As always, Britney’s voice is perfect for manipulation, and on Glory, she growls, she goes full-on nasalney, she whispers, she sings in French, she belts and she talks about “candy lotion” more than once. It’s perfect.
  2. Miranda Lambert -- The Weight of These Wings -- People are always trying to claim that Sturgill Simpson and Kacey Musgraves are “saving country music.” Well, they’re not. Miranda Lambert is, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it. Once Miranda and Blake Shelton split, we knew we were gonna get a hell of an album out of her, but we didn’t think we were going to get a double-disc set of 24 songs, divided into “The Nerve” and “The Heart.” Miranda worked with a bunch of industry heavyweights on this album, from her boyfriend Anderson East to her BFF Ashley Monroe, and it’s both polished, raw, heartfelt and badass. I always find one or two Miranda songs on her albums that I keep very close to my heart, and The Weight of These Wings gave me more to love.
  3. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo -- What can I say about this meandering, jumbled genius grab-bag of an album from Kanye that hasn’t already been said? After seeing the husband of Queen Kim Kardashian at the Xcel in the fall, I had a whole new appreciation for The Life of Pablo and his back catalog in general. I don’t know how I would live without “Ultralight Beam” taking me to church every Sunday morning.
  4. Ariana Grande -- Dangerous Woman -- “INTO YOU” IS THE GREATEST SONG OF THE YEAR. I needed to write that in caps. I have listened to it approximately 1,500 times this year and I’m still not sick of it. It’s partially because it’s a classic Max Martin pop song that stays in your head for weeks, but also because Ariana Grande is perfect. If a genie gave me three wishes, I would want to sing like her. The entire Dangerous Woman album is full of jams, from the ‘50s-style “Moonlight” to the ‘90s club jam “Be Alright.” Songs like “Sometimes” and “Knew Better/Forever Boy” recall Mariah at her VH1-era best, and “Greedy” is probably playing at your mom’s Zumba class right now. I can’t wait to see her at the Xcel.
  5. Zayn Malik -- Mind of Mine -- I am a card-carrying Directioner. Their show at TCF, not too long after the departure of the gorgeous, golden-voiced Zayn Malik, was one of the best concerts I’d been to in a long time, and I made a lot of tweenage friends after three glasses of wine. I was sad to see Zayn peace out, but his solo album Mind of Mine was the dreamy, sexy soundtrack to my spring and summer.

 

Erik Thompson

Non-local

  1. David Bowie -- Blackstar
  2. Michael Kiwanuka -- Love & Hate
  3. Mitski -- Puberty 2
  4. Car Seat Headrest -- Teens of Denial
  5. Angel Olsen -- My Woman

Local

  1. Real Numbers -- Wordless Wonder
  2. Posh Lost -- Posh Lost
  3. Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream
  4. Night Moves -- Pennied Days
  5. Communist Daughter -- The Cracks That Build the Wall

 

Jack Spencer

Non-local

  1. Beyonce -- Lemonade
  2. Kendrick Lamar -- untitled unmastered
  3. Big Business -- Command your Weather
  4. Rihanna -- Anti-
  5. Frank Ocean -- Blonde

Local

  1. ZULUZULUU -- What's the Price?
  2. Metasota -- #RUMDMT
  3. Ness Nite -- Nite Time
  4. Kitten Forever -- 7 Hearts
  5. Rey Gordo -- Drive Slow

 

Peter Diamond

Non-local

  1. Blood Orange -- Freetown Sound
  2. Frank Ocean -- Blonde
  3. Japanese Breakfast -- Psychopomp
  4. Porches -- Pool
  5. Solange -- A Seat at the Table

Local

  1. Ahem -- Just Wanna Be
  2. Allan Kingdom -- Northern Lights
  3. KING -- We are KING
  4. Ness Nite -- Nite Time
  5. Tony Peachka -- Dirty Knees

 

Tim Faklis

Non-local

  1. Radiohead -- A Moon Shaped Pool -- Another great, beautiful, mesmerizing Radiohead album. Shocker.
  2. Kendrick Lamar -- untitled unmastered -- It may be raw, but that's never stopped Kendrick before. This may have been the best surprise album of 2016. 
  3. Childish Gambino -- Awaken, My Love! -- Not what the masses expected from the hip-hop wordsmith, but this psychedelic rock ode to the human life was a great late 2016 addition. 
  4. Frank Ocean -- Blonde
  5. PJ Harvey -- The Hope Six Demolition Project -- Her most politically charged album to date, Harvey matches ambitious lyrics with moving grooves and melodies. 

Local

  1. ZuluZuluu -- What’s The Price
  2. Lizzo -- Coconut Oil
  3. The Bad Plus -- It’s Hard
  4. Allan Kingdom -- Northern Lights 
  5. Cloud Cult -- The Seeker

 

Michael Rietmulder

Non-local

  1. Bon Iver, 22 -- A Million
  2. White Lung -- Paradise
  3. Anderson .Paak -- Malibu
  4. Sturgill Simpson -- A Sailor's Guide to Earth
  5. Anohni -- Hopelessness

Local

  1. ZuluZuluu -- What's the Price?
  2. Night Moves -- Pennied Days
  3. The Blind Shake -- Celebrate Your Worth
  4. Cactus Blossoms -- You're Dreaming
  5. Frankie Lee -- American Dreamer

 

Jay Boller

Non-local

  1. Cymbals Eat Guitars -- Pretty Years -- I'm a sucker for indie rock with this much fist-pumping, sky-reaching ambition. Critics keep pointing to Springstreen as an influence, but Pretty Years feels like the artfully messy, emotional, Pavement-indebted band we've known since 2007 hitting perfect stride. Underrated. 
  2. Bon Iver -- 22, A Million -- There's a lofty humorlessness to Bon Iver that triggers my hater instinct. At the same time, this is the real shit, and it deserves all the praise it's getting. Fractured, layered, chilly, and robotic yet -- somehow -- strikingly human and soulful. Love you, Bonny Bear. 
  3. Kanye West -- The Life of Pablo -- Very similar to Bon Iver's latest in that humanity reveals itself through the noise. In the case of Pablo, the noise is Kanye's scattershot, rudderless creative impulses, which occasionally reveal a troubled genius. As poet/CP blogger Ryan Warner surmised above, it truly is the bleached butthole of records, in the best possible way. 
  4. Pinegrove -- Cardinal -- Remember Limbeck? That band emerged from the pop-punk/emo scene with alt-country ambitions. They sorta sucked. Pinegrove, on the other hand, work magic with that pedigree and formula. Charming earnestness on overdrive, surplus pop smarts, irresistible wilted twang, bursting with potential.  
  5. Angel Olsen -- My Woman -- An indie-rock star goes pop, with fantastic results. 

Local

  1. ZULUZUZUU -- What's the Price?
  2. Night Moves -- Pennied Days
  3. Lizzo -- Coconut Oil
  4. Haley Bonar -- Impossible Dream
  5. Finding Novyon -- Super Saiyan 2

 

Tony Libera

Non-local

  1. Angel Olsen -- My Woman
  2. Kanye West -- Life of Pablo
  3. Rihanna -- Anti-
  4. Frank Ocean -- Blonde
  5. Death Grips -- Bottomless Pit