For more in-depth detail on my picks, as well as a playlist of my favorite songs, be sure to visit my blog, The Garden Statement.
Well then. That was a weird year.
In many ways, 2016 was a whirlwind—a confusing and frustrating year that will probably always be defined by its political tension and long list of celebrity deaths. For our staff and community, 2016 was also marked by the end of AbsolutePunk.net and the birth of Chorus.fm, a major transition that brought some serious nostalgia about the place where many of us grew up online.
No matter where you were or what you were going through in 2016, though, you probably at least had a great soundtrack to keep you company. By almost every metric, 2016 was a remarkable year for albums. If you are a fan of pop music and superstar acts, there was certainly no shortage of marquee releases for you to sink your teeth into. Even beyond the blockbuster surprises and capital-I “Important” albums, though, the year was a goldmine. Rock music was vibrant, highlighting both new bands and longtime veterans. Country music continued a resurgence that even self-described country haters could get behind. Hell, even the movie musical came back in a big way.
In virtually every genre or category, 2016 provided a wealth of new musical treasures. It’s no wonder that our contributors placed votes for 267 different albums while compiling this list. Ultimately, though, it was the 30 records listed below that rose to the top.
I’ll remember 2016 as the year I migrated from AbsolutePunk to Chorus and the year where The 1975 pretty much dominated my music listening from start to finish. My goal this year was to try and spend more time with the music I loved instead of trying to listen to everything. In the end, I felt like devoting more time to each album let me discover more about each one without worrying about needing to move onto the next thing until I was ready. I’m glad I did it.
I included a bunch of movies, TV shows, books, and apps I enjoyed over the year as well.
Aj LaGambina ranks his top albums from 2016.
Say what you want about 2016, but the music was fantastic. It would have been damn-near impossible for this year to top last year in terms of albums I loved—simply because 2015 completely reconfigured my tastes and taught me entirely new ways to love music. Even still, 2016 brought its fair share of riches. Butch Walker, Jimmy Eat World, and Green Day all released their best records since 2004—a miraculous feat, given that 2004 remains my all-time favorite year for music. Dawes continued to redefine what their sound could be, with a record so adventurous it cost them a few long-time fans. Discoveries like Parker Millsap and Lori McKenna wowed me with their songwriting prowess and became potential new favorite artists. Sturgill Simpson and Maren Morris led the vanguard of country music’s renaissance, following in the footsteps of what Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell were able to accomplish in 2015. And Yellowcard, one of the most important bands in my personal musical development, decided to call it quits.
2016 was such a great year for music. My output considerably slowed down here due to work and life, but I’m very happy to be a part of Chorus.fm. It’s been incredible to see the transition from AbsolutePunk.net into such a beautifully designed site and community space. I’m truly excited for Jason and everything he will accomplish with this site and feel honored to be on board. As always, these are my favorite albums of the year.
2016 was…a year. What else is there too say? There’s nothing profound about how tough it was for a lot of people. While there are logical reasons for the number of celebrities and beloved musical personalities we lost, there are also plenty of personal reasons for why, at times, it really sucked. I lost both a family member and friend this year. But to solely call it a bad year wouldn’t exactly be fair to the people who also made it a special year for me. I got engaged this year. I went on tour, twice, and put out my first album. So while 2016 closed a lot of doors that left me feeling upset and anxious, it ultimately opened more with endless potential for myself and the people I hope will be a part of my life for years to come. And luckily, I didn’t go through anything alone. My Top Albums and Songs of 2016 reflect the artists that I spent time with during both my lowest and highest points over the past 12 months.