This is identical to what I originally posted at this year’s end, along with a few bonus tracks running the gamut from Lake Street Dive’s retro-disco fun to a meditative Velvet Underground cover that ended up Brian Eno’s first solo vocal track in over a decade.
Instead of once again featuring the lead single from Leonard Cohen’s final album (which at the time summed up this cursed year aptly), I’ve chosen to highlight what was originally the final track, itself the last song on cult British brother duo Field Music’s fine album Commontime. A lullabye rich with ambiguity (it could conceivably be sung to either a child or a romantic partner), it promotes empathy and generosity, the act of putting others first while still reveling in the joy it brings to you both–a feeling its melody practically radiates.
Click here to listen to my favorite songs of 2016 on Spotify:
The Brewis Brothers hit their stride with a record even better than 2016’s terrific Commontime. It’s their shortest, tightest collection in years, bookended by two epics: one ecstatic (“Time In Joy”), the other, gorgeous and dramatic (“Find A Way To Keep Me”, which aims for the fences and gracefully surpasses them.) In between are a bevy of compact prog-pop gems, some of them booming and insistent (“Share A Pillow”, “No King No Princess” ), others wistful and a bit warmer (the title track, “Daylight Saving”.) They’ll never be more than semi-semi-popular (not even as relatively big as obvious forebears XTC) but they’ve mastered their craft while retaining their tendency to view the world with an open mind and heart.
At this point last year, in compiling my favorite 2015 albums to date, I had heard a few good enough to ostensibly place on a best-of-decade list. Sadly, that’s not the case this year: of the ten titles listed below, I can’t imagine any of them ending up the absolute best one I’ll hear in 2016. Of course, at last year’s midpoint I had heard Froot but did not anticipate what impact it would eventually have, so who knows—the year’s still young.
I will say Andrew Bird’s latest is his most immediate since Armchair Apocrypha, Field Music’s is their best-to-date, Blackstar would have made most critics lists even without Bowie’s death, and I’m shocked at how good The 1975’s second record is, ridiculous Fiona Apple-length title and all. Tegan and Sara and Pet Shop Boys both scrape by on goodwill left over from their previous, superior LPs; hopefully, new works from Roisin Murphy and (gasp) The Avalanches (both out July 8) will at least be up to that level.
My favorite 2016 albums so far, in alphabetical order:
Andrew Bird, Are You Serious
Ben Watt, Fever Dream
Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks In Whispers
David Bowie, Blackstar
DIIV, Is The Is Are
Field Music, Commontime
Junior Boys, Big Black Coat
Pet Shop Boys, Super
Tegan and Sara, Love You To Death
The 1975, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.