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Sowing's 2016

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2016.
20Drive-By Truckers
American Band


My first Drive-By Truckers album. I was intrigued by the cover art, the political themes in a contentious election year, etc. and this did not disappoint. 'What It Means' is still a very important song that has stood the test of time.
19Pinegrove
Cardinal


I only got into Pinegrove recently, but this album is an awesome blend of indie-rock and folk/country. I got into Skylight before this, but over time Cardinal has proven to be the more energetic and alluring of the two records.
18Taking Back Sunday
Tidal Wave


I wouldn't consider myself a huge TBS fan, but I do try to listen to their albums when they come out. This is possibly my favorite of theirs (I don't have the nostalgia attachment to Tell All Your Friends). Feels more mature and doesn't lose any of the catchiness of their earlier stuff.
17Explosions in the Sky
The Wilderness


Vastly underrated post-rock record. I was never huge on The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, and it was a little before my music critic days, so this is the Explosions in the Sky album I gravitate to the most. The burgeoning electronics and varied songwriting structures really give this a different feel from the usual "build, build, crescendo" cliche. Worth your time if you're into post-rock.
16Ariana Grande
Dangerous Woman


This might have been my most listened to pop album of the whole decade, honestly. Too many bangers to even list. A very fun, flirty summer pop record where even the slower tracks are superb. It's a tad inconsistent at times, but it's still better than the 3.5 I reviewed it at.
15The Dear Hunter
Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional


This was a slight disappointment coming off the superiorly catchy Act IV, but this is still an astoundingly good rock album that any fan of prog or theatrics will enjoy.
14The 1975
I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It


I never would have seen myself placing this on a year-end list, but somehow the 80s influences, old-school rock, new-age pop, infectious melodies, and strange lyrics all swirled together to make this one of the most memorable albums of 2016 - not to mention the band's best album and one I still return to frequently for a carefree jam.
13O'Brother
Endless Light


A very heavy, melodic rock record that reminds me a little bit of Thursday's No Devolucion. 'Complicated End Times' remains a top 100 SOTD - the whole album is remarkably consistent and excellent, though.
12Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree


When in the mood for it, this dose of depression hits like few albums I've ever heard. It's not something I spin every month, but it is authentically heartbreaking for reasons you can read about in the review.
11Racing Glaciers
Caught in the Strange


Beautifully atmospheric indie-rock album. It's like a post-rock version of Futures-era Jimmy Eat World, and if that description doesn't sell you on its own, then you need to check your priorities.
10Weezer
The White Album


The best Weezer record since Blue and Pinkerton. This album is like a sea breeze - cool, refreshing, and full of summer vibes. I may honestly prefer this to any other Weezer album because of how insanely fun/infectious every damn song is.
9The Jezabels
Synthia


An evolution for the band into synth-rock, this album is full of grandiosity and splendor - look no further than the 7 minute opener 'Stand and Deliver.' Hayley Mary's vocals shine, and the atmospheres swirling around her gorgeous melodies make this the tour de force that it is. Also, 'Flowers in the Attic' is an untouchably good late-album gem.
8Kevin Morby
Singing Saw


I've always been a huge fan of immaculately produced indie-folk, but this still might take the cake. This feels like a night spent camping out under the stars, bonfire lighting up your natural surroundings. Morby has a way of singing these slow, elegiac ballads but having them sound larger-than-life. The horns on "I Have Been to the Mountain' to the guitars and pianos of 'Dorthy' to the jazzy influences of 'Destroyer', this is a masterpiece.
7Radiohead
A Moon Shaped Pool


This is probably only my fourth favorite Radiohead album, yet #7 on the year still feels too low. I guess Radiohead is a good band, huh? This might be their least experimental album since The Bends, but it is also their most aesthetically pleasing and accessible work ever. It's overflowing with beauty, even if no track aside from 'Ful Stop' truly excels.
6Bon Iver
22, A Million


The Radiohead of folk, Justin Vernon pushes his experimental folk-pop to the outer limits with this highly experimental, glitched-out work of art. It's nearly impossible to comprehend all of the lyrics (or song titles for that matter), but that adds to the tribal/naturalistic, cave-symbol-like mystery and allure on display within the confines of this impenetrably codified release.
5Frightened Rabbit
Painting of a Panic Attack


One of the most underrated albums of the entire decade.. This was Scott Hutchison's last Frightened Rabbit album (RIP), and it is easily the band's second best work to Midnight Organ Fight. With themes of depression and suicide abound, this work feels all the more important in light of how Scott's own life ended.
4Yellowcard
Yellowcard


The grand finale to the best pop-punk band of all time, Yellowcard ties together all the loose-end themes from throughout their career while paying tribute to their fans. Anyone who has followed Yellowcard's career and treated each LP like a separate chapter in his/her life was likely impacted in a huge way by their disbandment, and this self-titled album packs all the feels one could have hoped for from an amicable split.
3Jimmy Eat World
Integrity Blues


There are times when I'd consider this even better than Futures. Atmospherically, it seems to be modeled after its 2004 predecessor, but in a lot of ways this is even more mature, resplendent, and sincere. I have a ton of personal meaning attached to this that helps bolster it even above the likes of Yellowcard, and I think under the right circumstances, anyone could become attached to this album's lyrics and beautifully sad aura. No one crafts a relatable emo-rock album like Jimmy Eat World, and albums like Integrity Blues are wholly responsible for them garnering that reputation.
2Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor's Guide To Earth


My gateway into modern country music, Sailor's Guide is jazzy, eclectic, and borderline progressive. Themes of childbirth, life lessons, world travels, and death make this quite the alluring concept album, and I'd recommend it as a starting point for anyone hoping to get into country music. Simpson is the change the genre needs in light of all the glamorous country-pop acts that garner so much attention and earn all the money.
1David Bowie
Blackstar


Blackstar still gives me chills. To think that Bowie knew the end was near as he recorded this means so much, and then to have him die mere days after its release, with all of the hidden lyrical meanings coming to life...phew. Bowie basically went out on his own terms, crafting one last masterpiece to cement his already profound legacy - an artist in both life and death. Blackstar is one of the most memorable albums of the decade not only for the superb quality of the music, but for the circumstances surrounding its release.
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