The Best Albums 2016: Top 10 (part 3/3)

1 The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

Released 2 December 2016
Recorded 11, 14 & 15 December 2015
Studio British Grove Studios
Genre Electric blues, Chicago Blues, Blues-rock
Length 42:36
Label Polydor
Producer Don Was & The Glimmer Twins

The all-covers song selection reflects a lifetime of Chicago blues crate-digging, with the band breathing new life into obscure, left-field picks by Magic Sam and Memphis Slim. By going back to their roots, the Stones found a way to grow up.
– Rolling Stone Magazine
The Rolling Stones released their latest album December 2nd 2016, their first album in over a decade is a return to the blues. It is a great blues album, and a tremendous return to form by The Stones.

The album is fresh and spontaneous and was recorded in just 3 days last December (2015) with co-producer Don Was. It really sounds like band enjoying themselves. (Read more)
– Hallgeir

Best songs: Ride ’em down, Little Rain, All of your love
End Year List
(due late release date, this album was not part of most “End Year List´s”)
# 44 – Gigwise
# 7 – Rolling Stone
# 7 – Rolling Stone (Australia)
# 40 – Sound Opinions
Ride ‘Em On Down (official video):

 

2 David Bowie – Blackstar

Released 8 January 2016
Recorded 2014–15
Studio
  • The Magic Shop (New York City)
  • Human Worldwide Studios (New York City)
Genre
  • Art rock
  • jazz
  • experimental rock
Length 41:17
Label
  • ISO
  • RCA
  • Columbia
  • Sony
Producer

What we have here is atmospheric, eerie, jazz-tinted prog, cradled in the sort of skittering electronic beats that have dropped in and out of his repertoire since Earthling. It sounds like a recipe for total fucking disaster, but in fact it’s wonderful; rock’n’roll has largely been purged, and the resultant musical canvases are melancholic, atmospheric, crepuscular affairs that set Bowie free from the banalities that creep into his pop and unleashes his inner dramatist for the first time in an age – his lyrics and vocals are oblique and otherworldly, freed from the shackles of indie rock.”
– Drowned In Sound
Blackstar (stylised as ★) is the twenty-sixth studio album by David Bowie. It was released on 8 January 2016, today, the date of Bowie’s 69th birthday, and features seven songs. This is the first truly great album of 2016. I don’t know what I expected, but my expectations were exceeded.

★/Blackstar is a mix of jazz/rock/cabaret/krautrock and electronica. It is beautiful, the songs are smooth and intimate, but musically complex and intriguing. It is not “difficult” music, it’s rhythmic and very recognizably David Bowie.  The jazz elements are not overwhelming, they are just …fitting.

A classic Bowie album, no less. (Read more)
– Hallgeir

Best songs: Lazarus, Blackstar, I can’t give everything away
End of Year Lists

# 6 – American Songwriter
# 4 – Billboard
# 3 – Consequence of Sound
# 1 – Drowned in Sound
# 2 – Entertainment Weekly
# 7 – Esquire (US)
# 1 – MOJO
# 1 – Newsweek
# 6 – NME
# 3 – NPR Music
# 1 – Paste
# 4 – Pitchfork
# 5 – PopMatters
# 1 – Q Magazine
# 2 – Rolling Stone
# 2 – Rolling Stone (Australia)
# 14 – Rough Trade
# 5 – Slant Magazine
# 3 – SPIN
# 5 – Stereogum
# 8 – The Atlantic
# 3 – The Guardian
# 17 – The Independent
# 1 – The Wire
# 2 – Time Out London
# 4 – Time Out New York
# 1 – Uncut
Lazarus (official video):

3 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

Released 21 October 2016
Recorded April 2015 – July 2016
Studio Leonard Cohen’s house in Wilshire, Los Angeles
Length 36:07
Label Columbia
Producer Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen, Patrick Leonard

He makes no compromises. These songs reveal that when all contradictions are nakedly exposed, all one can do is embrace them. Whether this is or isn’t goodbye, You Want It Darker is one hell of a record.
-Thom Jurek (allmusic.com)
The late Maestro left us after releasing a great last album. Simplistic, yet sophisticated, some twanging 1950s guitars (especially on “Leaving the Table”), brilliant lyrics and best of all his touching & expressive voice. And almost all of the songs are lovely. Brilliant album.
-Egil
Best songs: You Want It Darker, If I Didn’t Have Your Love, Treaty & It Seemed the Better Way
End Year Lists
# 8 – American Songwriter
# 18 – Billboard
# 16 – BrooklynVegan
# 10 – Consequence of Sound
# 17 – Entertainment Weekly
# 5 – MOJO
# 17 – Paste
# 17 – Pitchfork
# 11 – PopMatters
# 2 – Q Magazine
# 9 – Rolling Stone
# 9 – Rolling Stone (Australia)
# 9 – Slant Magazine
# 15 – SPIN
# 34 – Stereogum
# 3 – The Atlantic
# 18 – The Guardian
# 3 – The Independent
# 6 – The Times / The Sunday Times
# 50 – The Vinyl Factory
# 22 – The Wire
# 4 – Uncut
You Want It Darker (Audio):

4 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Released 9 September 2016
Recorded 2014–16
Studio
Genre
  • Alternative rock
  • experimental rock
  • art rock
  • electronica
Length 39:42
Label Bad Seed Ltd.
Producer

As wondrous as ‘Skeleton Tree’ is, there are moments where you’ll inevitably question what you, the listener, are getting from it – reassurance? Empathy? Enjoyment? Yet this is not an album for the rest of us; it’s a reflex reaction to a torment most people will thankfully never have to endure. It goes back to that old instinct of self-preservation: just as a shark must keep moving, so an artist must keep working, even in the face of unimaginable loss.
– Barry Nicholson (NME)
Made in the face of unimaginable loss, the 16th Bad Seeds album is a masterpiece. It is beautiful and it is heartbreaking. The whole album is about coming to terms with loss and the realization that things will never be the same. This does not make for easy listening. The music is so alive, sad, beautiful, raw, and harrowing, it forces you into its grip, refusing to let you go.
…but it isn’t all dark. It’s a hope filled testament to the importance of family and friends amidst loss. Nick Cave says, in the companion film, One More Time With Feeling, that he and his family have made the choice to be happy.
“I called out that nothing is for free/And it’s all right now.” (Nick Cave, Skeleton Tree)
– Hallgeir
Best songs: I need you, Girl in Amber, Distant Sky, Skeleton Tree
End of Year List

# 6 – Consequence of Sound
# 1 – Crack Magazine
# 6 – Magnet
# 3 – MOJO
# 3 – Newsweek
# 24 – NME
# 23 – Paste
# 21 – Piccadilly Records
# 15 – Pitchfork
# 23 – PopMatters
# 5 – Q Magazine
# 20 – Rolling Stone
# 20 – Rolling Stone (Australia)
# 11 – Rough Trade
# 7 – Slant Magazine
# 27 – SPIN
# 12 – Sputnikmusic
# 23 – Stereogum
# 11 – The Guardian
# 5 – The Wire
# 3 – Uncut

‘I Need You’ (Official Video):

5 Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Released September 30, 2016
Genre
  • Country rock
  • alternative rock
  • alternative country
Length 46:47
Label ATO
Producer David Barbe

The Drive-By Truckers are too smart to believe they have the answers for America’s problems, and American Banddoesn’t pretend to offer them. But they ask the right sort of questions, and these songs weren’t written for the audience to cheer along, but to encourage a debate that the country seriously needs. American Band is an op-ed column with guitars, and it presents a message well worth hearing, both as politics and as music.
– Allmusic
A very strong album from The Drive-by Truckers, both musically and political. Very straight forward and with no excuses. Cooley and Hood have found, on their eleventh album (and their best since the early 2000s), a renewed purpose and direction in this time of existential crisis for America. They still sounds like a great bar band musically (just as The Rolling Stones or The E-street Band still do) but on this album they lyrically defy most stereotypical views of the southern white man – it’s important and it’s refreshing.
– Hallgeir
Best songs: Surrender under protest, Sun don’t shine, Ever South
End Year Lists
# 7 – American Songwriter
# 39 – Billboard
# 11 – Magnet
# 14 – NPR Music
# 48 – Paste
# 18 – PopMatters
# 24 – Rolling Stone
# 64 – Rough Trade
# 19 – Slant Magazine
# 13 – Uncut
Surrender Under Protest (Official Video):

6 Lars Winnerbäck – Granit och Morän

Released June 17, 2016
Genre Rock
Label Universal
Producer Lars Winnerbäck & Jerker Odelholm

This is definitely one of his best albums. It fares well compared to previous peaks like Söndermarken (2003),Vatten under broarna (2004) & Hosianna (2013). Those older albums might have one or two major songs (Sødermarken, Elegi, Mareld) and some minor “classics”, this new album´s got seven minor “classics”.. and no fillers.

Many reviewers conclude that Winnerbäck might be too happy with life (recently married again), and this happiness somehow prevents him from writing great music. The stupid myth of the “tortured genius”, such bullshit. He might be happy (so it seems), and he creates great music.

Best Songs: Blues of a Salesman, En vän i solen, Visst Har Vi Glömt, Sysselmannen & Granit Och Morän
End Year Lists
# 24 – Dust of Daylight
videos
Granit och morän (official):


En vän i solen, Haugesund, November 1, 2016


7 Hayes Carll – Lovers and Leavers

Release Date: April 8, 2016
Recording Date: October 12, 2015 – October 15, 2015
Genre: Country
Producer:  Joe Henry

Just like leaving your drinking buddies behind, it’s not always the most popular decision, but for Hayes and his music, it was the right one. Only one song will truly remind you of old Hayes—“Love Is So Easy.” Otherwise, it’s a new day. But six years have passed, and six important ones. Humans either spend their lives being stuck in “glory days” mode never evolving beyond their high school or college selves, or they’re in a constant cycle of improvement, no matter where the baseline starts. Though the former can be quite fun, it can leave the spirit unfulfilled. Hayes has moved on, and so has his music. And the true friends are the ones who don’t resent you for maturing or try to enable your backsliding tendencies, but take that journey forward with you.
Saving Country Music
This album is the hard truth, the straight answer. Hayes Carll has shed his cynic side and hands us his most personal songs to date. It is sad but it also earnest, like the best singer/songwriter albums are. He has taken a leap forward!
– Hallgeir
Best  songs: Magic kid, Sake of the song, The Love that we need, Good while it lasted
End Year Lists
# 16 – Rolling Stone (Country)
# 15 – Stereogum (Country)
“The Magic Kid” – Official Music Video:

8 Miranda Lambert – The Weight of these wings

Released November 18, 2016
Recorded 2015-16
Genre Country, Americana, Country Rock
Length 94:01
Label
Producer

“…it arrives in the wake of her high-profile divorce from Blake Shelton, The Weight of These Wings is a breakup album refreshingly devoid of spite or anger. Instead, it’s a thoughtful concept record, more focused on moving on and growing up than lashing out or telling all. Throughout its twenty-four songs, Lambert analyzes herself and her choices, often while on the road: It’s more Hejira than Blue, more “Shelter From the Storm” than “Idiot Wind.””
– Sam Sodomsky (Pitchfork)
“Happiness ain’t prison, but there’s freedom in a broken heart” Miranda Lambert sings, and that freedom is expressed in an impressive set of songs on this “divorce-album”. With beautiful melodies and very good lyrics she pushes her boundaries, and the result is stunning. Maybe the future of country music can be fine after all?
– Hallgeir
Best songs: Highway Vagabond, I’ve got wheels, Vice
End Year Lists
# 28 – American Songwriter
# 4 – AOL Entertainment
# 14 – Billboard
# 4 – Cosmopolitan
# 16 – Entertainment Weekly
# 52 – Noisey
# 9 – NPR Music
# 16 – Rolling Stone
# 40 – SPIN
Highway Vagabond: 

Vice (Official video):

9 Sturgill Simpson- A Sailor´s Guide to Earth

Released April 15, 2016
Studio Butcher Shoppe, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre
  • Country
  • country rock
  • country soul
  • outlaw country
  • psychedelic rock
Length 38:54
Label Atlantic
Producer Sturgill Simpson

“…deliver he did, and if A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is any indication, holding all that weight only served to make Simpson stronger: in songwriting, in soulfulness, and, as heard in the album’s deeply personal subject matter, in spirit.”
— Brittney McKenna (American Songwriter)
I consider A sailor’s guide to earth the soundtrack to a country/soul road movie, the songs are on the road, at sea always on the move. Is it a step forward from his former releases? It and it isn’t, I think it’s different, and I admire his will to step out of his tested and tried formula. I love the horns and the funky groove. Still it’s unmistakingly Sturgill Simpson.
Simpson takes us on a journey and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
– Hallgeir
Best songs: Breakers Roar, Keep it between the lines, All around you
End Year Lists
# 4 – American Songwriter
# 45 – Billboard
# 5 – Entertainment Weekly
# 49 – NPR Music
# 19 – Paste
# 26 – PopMatters
# 26 – Rolling Stone
# 26 – Rolling Stone (Australia)
# 92 – Rough Trade
# 7 – Salon
# 15 – Slant Magazine
# 50 – SPIN
# 26 – Stereogum
# 7 – Uncut
Breakers Roar (official video):

10 Dylan LeBlanc – Cautionary Tale

Release Date January 15, 2016
Duration 43:45
Genre Pop/Rock
Producers Dylan LeBlanc, Ben Tanner and John Paul White

Dylan LeBlanc’s backstory follows the country template almost to perfection: early promise fully realised in a meteoric rise to acclaim, great debut album (Paupers Field), slighty more tricky second release (Cast The Same Old Shadow), followed by self-doubt, drinking and dark days.

Luckily for all of us, this story, with its echoes of Williams and Parsons, has a happier development. LeBlanc found himself again in Muscle Shoals (home of FAME studios) and has used his fall from grace as inspiration for the set of 10 songs that comprise Cautionary Tale. His high, husky voice recounts tales of hope and desperation over immaculate production that combines the staples of guitar, bass and drums with restrained washes of strings – about as far from the stifling, mainstream Nashville Sound as imaginable.
– Record Collector

With his third record, Cautionary Tale, Dylan LeBlanc has found “his true self” again with the help of fellow Muscle Shoals musicians John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes). LeBlanc has found his footing and plays on his musical strengths and has made a tight, smooth, singer/songwriter’s confessional album, the best record of a still starting career.
– Hallgeir (Read more)
Best songs: Look How Far We’ve Come, Cautionary Tale, Easy Way out
Look How Far We’ve Come (official video):

 

Rest of the list:

11. Van Morrison – Keep Me Singing
12. Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day
13. John Prine – For Better, Or Worse
14. William Bell – This Is Where I Live
15. Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories
16. Michael McDermott – Willow Springs
17. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
18. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
19. Stephen Simmons – A World Without
20. Cass McCombs – Mangy Love

Check out: The Best Albums 2016: 20 to 11 (part 2/3)

21. Darling West – Vinyl And a Heartache
22. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer´s Daughter
23. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee
24. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
25. Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis
26. Tom Roger Aadland – Blondt i Blondt
27. Charles Bradley – Changes
28. Radiohead – A moon shaped pool
29. Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To
30. Aaron Lee Tasjan – Silver Tears

Check out: The Best Albums 2016: 30 to 21 (part 1/3)

Hallgeir & Egil

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