Hi Pals. So, we almost made it to the end of 2016. Halle-freaking-lujiah, amiright??? If nothing else, 2016 was a year of some great music and I’m here, just like every year, to bring you my best of 2016 list. As always, not everything on the list came out in 2016 but I did discover it in 2016 so that’s pretty much the same thing, right? There were some pretty awesome albums this year and after much, much deliberation I’ve narrowed it down to these 9 musical gems. So, without further ado and in no particular order let’s let the rambling commence.
Donovan Woods – Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled + They Are Going Away EP. So, Donovan Woods put out two pretty fabulous works of music this year. A full length album and a pretty stellar little gem of an EP. For those of you that have been with me from the beginning, you know how I feel about Donovan Woods (and will probably always feel about Donovan Woods). And he’s been featured on many a littlethumbup blog post. These two albums were no exception for me. He’s a fabulous songwriter and he crafts really catchy, beautiful little songs that suck you in from the beginning. I went to see him a few weeks ago at Trinity St. Paul’s in Toronto and it was super fantastic. He’s such an unsuspecting person but then he just blows you away with this beautiful voice and incredible instrumentation. Here’s a song from the EP and the full length album.
Lianne La Havas – Blood. This album actually came out in 2015, but I somehow missed it so it’s a 2016 discovery for me. Every once and a while I come across a Soul/R&B album that pulls at my heartstrings and doesn’t let go and this is one of those for me. Sometimes I get in such a folk rut and it takes music like this to pull me out. Blood is just a really damn great Soul album and Lianna La Havas’ voice is seriously other worldly. If you’re looking for a getting ready for your day album than this is your jam. I’m an especilly huge fan of the song What You Don’t Do, posted below. Try not to groove, I dare you.
Anderson .Paak – Malibu. This is not my norm. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it made so many lists of great music for 2016 I figured I really ought to check it out. So I did, and boy am I happy I did. Malibu is a masterful piece of work with some pretty catchy songs and seriously awesome beats. That horn section, though… It’s one of those great (and kind of rare these days) albums that truly works best in its entirety and it feels like it was crafted with that intention.
Leif Vollebekk – Elegy. This is just one song that was released from his upcoming album, Twin Solitude, coming out in winter 2017. Right off the bat I know I’m excited for the album from this song alone. I’ve had it on constant repeat since early December when it was released. Not to mention it’s an incredibly beautiful music video. I’m not a huge music video person, but this one really sucked me in right from the get go. Those dance moves, though…
PUP – The Dream Is Over. So, I’ve been pretty behind the whole PUP train. I think I just assumed I wouldn’t like it because it didn’t include a plaid-laiden dude with an acoustic guitar and some nice folk jams. But it turns out I do like other genres of music, who knew? So I hopped aboard the PUP train and I’ve been riding it ever since (enough with the train metaphor now?). PUP does the whole loud, shouty, guitary thing but they do it an awesome sloppy, bounce up and down kind of way and it’s pretty freaking awesome. This is my I need to get my shit together and get off the damn couch album. Works like a charm every single time. Attached is a pretty cool music video featuring Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Thigs. On an entirely different note, how AMAZING was Stranger Things???? It definitely makes my Best Of TV Shows List.
WARNING: make sure your speakers are turned down if you’re secretly reading my blog post while at work (which is super flattering, btw) and about to watch this video.
Regina Spektor – Remeber Us To Life. I mean what can I really say here… Regina Spektor is a musical goddess and she always will be. Enough said. This album doesn’t disappoint. It’s got everything you’d want in a Regina Spektor album. That quirky voice, oddly beautiful and sometimes just plain confusing lyrics and really really great pop undertones.
Various Artists – God Don’t Never Change. This is a compilation CD of songs by Blind Willie Johnson (I want a Blues name – Tiny Thumb Emma? Stumpy Legs Bowen? Maybe I’ll work on the name a little more…) covered by a variety of musicians. It features some pretty stellar songs by musicians like Tom Waits (wouldn’t be a littlethumbup post without a Tom Waits mention), Lucinda Williams and Cowboy Junkies to name only a few. The album kicks off with Wait’s kickass cover of The Soul Of A Man, and trust me you’ll be hooked as soon as that voice reaches out and punches you in the face (+ those hand claps!!!). If, like me, you’ve been on the hunt for an awesome gospel Sunday album/playlist (because let’s be honest who isn’t on the hunt for that…) than this is your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s got everything you need. Great songs. Growelly voices. Beautiful harmonies. Catchy riffs. Just listen to it already.
Bon Iver – 22, A Million. Like most of the world I fell completely head over heels in love with For Emma, Forever Ago (not just because it has my name in it) but I didn’t much care for anything else Bon Iver released in between. Until this moment. If you’re hoping for another For Emma that’s not the case with the newest album. But if you’re hoping for a refreshing new Bon Iver album that’s a little more experimental and electronic than his other stuff but still has that chill down the spine inducing voice we all love than boy oh boy is this the album for you.
Emily Dacus – No Burden. This album is SO good. It reminds me a bit of Courtney Barnett with that dead pan, I don’t give a damn voice. But this album holds so much warmth. Her lyricism is really, really great and there’s so much intricate awesome in each song. It’s definitely worth a listen or two or three. She’s refreshing and interesting and the album has that special something (whatever that is).
Some honourable mentions: