Music heals, inspires, and strengthens. If you are in need of any of those things following 2016, this is our selection of the best albums from this year. We are definitely not experts of what makes music good or bad, which is why you’ll find that no albums are repeated on any of these lists. This is merely the art that lingered with us individually. Hit play below and reminisce about the year you have had, and the years you will have. Thank you for another great year of radio, we look forward to what 2017 has to offer!
Cameron Beck- music director and host of “For Your Health.”
Death Grips- Bottomless Pit
Though The Powers That B was a favorite last year, my mindset going into that record was admittedly clouded. Like any other delusional sucker, I’d anticipated it’d be the last DG album. These 13 songs are a colossal and valorous return, rivaling 2012’s The Money Store for my favorite DG release. MC Ride’s signature bark is more baleful and titanic than ever, yet it never hinders the cohesion in his flows (“Ring A Bell,” “Spikes”). Bottomless Pit sports some of DG’s most texturally intricate production work (“Eh,” “BB Poison”), as well as some of their most grueling and overwhelming (“Hot Head,” “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”). The closing title track exhilarates just the way a Death Grips closing track should, like a high speed rollercoaster in the dark. Antagonizing, electrifying, and broodingly reckless.
Totorro- Come to Mexico
This album ebbs and flows with such a vibrant buoyancy that once you’re in, you have to stay in. Even someone generally turned off by math/post rock/instrumental music could get lost in their spellbinding songwriting dexterity. The French quartet’s carefully placed guitars and hard panning in the mix in tracks like “Beverly Pills” are a true aural treat. With the production and finesse of post rock encapsulated in the technicalities of their melody-rich math rock, Totorro sets a new bar for instrumental music and guitar music in general.
Crying– Beyond the Fleeting Gales
Easily one of my anticipated records for this year. Crying’s Gameboy-infused chiptune takes on (and subsequently slays) an entirely new beast- 80’s arena rock. The exuberant ‘There Was A Door’ features gallant vocal struts and strides in the verses from vocalist Elaiza Santos propelled by massive synth infused choruses with the riffs to match. BTFG shows Crying ascending indefinitely in sonic precision and personal musicianship, all the while creating one of the most exciting releases of 2016.
Kendrick Lamar- untitled. unmastered.
Leave it to K-Dot to release an album of cuts that didn’t make the track list for To Pimp A Butterfly and is half the length (not to mention is… untitled and unmastered) and still feels more like a victory lap than anything. Kendrick’s technical ability shines through on this one, showcasing his lyrical prowess most in tracks like 01 and 05. These tracks are also some of his most complex, showing that the music behind the lyrics is not any lower on the priority list. All hail King Kendrick.
The Body & Full of Hell- One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
A match made in heaven (or hell, I guess)- two torchbearers of modern extreme heavy music pushing the envelope to make an absolutely pulverizing album. The Body’s mastery of the slow burn perfectly compliments the relentless violent barrage of noisy grind provided by Full Of Hell. The collaboration does a stellar job of holding contention and anticipation, best demonstrated on “Abel,” a fucked up culmination of what sounds like a swirling beehive and a police siren. FOH’s Dylan Walker and The Body’s Chip Kelly’s agonizing vocals cut through the cacophonous mass of depression and loathing to make One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache a maniacally hopeless and immensely dense collaboration.
Ryan Burt- program director and host of “Get Schwifty.”
David Bowie- Blackstar
Childish Gambino- Awaken, My Love
Kanye West- The Life of Pablo
Jamie Peters- program director and co-host of “Let’s Pretend.”
Wreck & Reference- Indifferent Rivers Romance End
If you haven’t heard of Wreck & Reference, I honestly don’t know what you do with your time on Twitter. Aside from crafting some of the darkest tweets I have ever read, these guys also make music. On Indifferent Rivers Romance End, the duo’s third album they have carved out of cold and moody synths mashed together with nihilistic lyrics delivered on part of Felix Skinner and his Korg sampling pad along with sharp and cathartic drumming paired with booming baritone vocals from Ignat Frege the darkest release to come out of summer 2016.
Xiu Xiu- Plays the Music of Twin Peaks
I’m not much of a soundtrack fan, however the eerie and riveting melodies of the Twin Peaks soundtrack are an exception to this. So when I heard that Xiu Xiu was commissioned to do a rendition of the soundtrack (originally scored by Angelo Badalamenti) I honestly could not think of a better group to play their own rendition of the Twin Peaks soundtrack. As for how Xiu Xiu did on the music, they took the already psychologically haunting, yet quirky nature of the soundtrack and took it to a 12/10. Adding noise and other staples of their dark pop sound to the world of Twin Peaks. Also the record store day edition of this album was easily one of my biggest impulse purchases of 2016.
Following their name change from Viet Cong to Preoccupations I was unsure of the type of music that I would come to associate with the Canadian post-punk act. Turns out it was a much poppier sound with darker lyrics compared to their last album Viet Cong. The album has a much more electronic atmosphere compared to Viet Cong yet still packs a moody punch.
Julianna Barwick- Will
This was the album I would put on when this semester got me stressed out. Julianna Barwick has had a big 2016 from touring with Texan post-rockers Explosions in the Sky, and fellow experimental artist Mary Latimore to playing a show with the Wisconsin indie-folk singer himself, Bon Iver. While the music on Will was much darker compared to her 2013 release Nepenthe the magnitude and scale of the music much more fully realized than on Nepenthe. Looking forward to more from her for sure!
Muscle and Marrow- Love
A release that flew under the radar a bit this past year from Portland duo Muscle and Marrow. Combining elements of sludge, doom, and black metal Kira Clark and Keith McGraw twist and bend these influences into dark and murky soundscapes on their Flenser debut!
Caroline Ackerman- general manager and host of “GRL PWR.”
My top five 2016 albums are the albums I listened to the most this year. I think it’s impossible for me to narrow down all the best releases (hello, this was the year that Beyonce and Solange Knowles BOTH released empowering albums). However these albums are ranked (or not ranked) on nationwide lists, they are the ones that I listened to the most.
Angel Olsen- My Woman
Mothers- When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired
Eskimeaux- Year of the Rabbit
Mitski- Puberty 2