Best of 2016: Albums and Songs — Second Quarter Report

A look back at the best albums and tracks of the last three months
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A look back at the best albums and tracks of the last three months

To say 2016 had a good first quarter would be an understatement. How lucky are we that the second quarter was even better? 

Beyoncé released her best album and commanded the zeitgeist in a way she never had before. Anohni and PJ Harvey were just as fierce in their activist avant-pop. Unadorned frankness informed career-best outings from Frankie Cosmos, White Lung, and Mitski.

And that’s to leave out tremendous albums from Radiohead, Sturgill Simpson, and Chance the Rapper, and the other music on our list. 

Below are our 20 favorite albums and songs of Q2 ‘16

ALBUMS

ANOHNI, HOPELESSNESS

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Even if I miss the personal struggles of I Am a Bird Now and The Crying Light, Anohni and her collaborators have created a dazzling musical artifact. REVIEW

BEYONCÉ, LEMONADE

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Beyoncé, an extraordinary album in its own right, revealed Beyoncé hungered to leave her peers behind, to join the pantheon of all-time greats. Lemonade is her invitation into Olympus. It’s a rare album that sounds this warm, this easy, this melodic, this fierce, this startling, this unforgettable. REVIEW

CAR SEAT HEADREST, TEENS OF DENIAL

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This is an album that belongs in a 2016 time capsule, and one that any indie bard hopeful should be required to hear. REVIEW

CHANCE THE RAPPER, COLORING BOOK

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This is a vibrant, uneven, irresistibly likable, and occasionally transcendent release from an artist who shows no signs of falling off anytime soon. REVIEW

DEAFTONES, GORE

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Gore is a challenging, fluid, and wholly engrossing album from a band who, 28 years after their inception, should by all accounts be past their prime. But Gore ferociously asserts that Deftones haven’t lost any of their creative spark. REVIEW

DEAKIN, SLEEP CYCLE

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What he’s presented us with, essentially, is the skeleton of Animal Collective’s fleeting creativity, stripped down to its roots, revealing that even at its rawest, purest form the music still has an instinctive grasp of sincere emotion and beauty. REVIEW

DEATH GRIPS, BOTTOMLESS PIT

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Bottomless Pit’s bloodthirsty joyousness is infectious, refreshing, and exactly what you’d hope for from a new Death Grips release. It’s the culmination of everything they’ve been working towards since the beginning, and in absolutely no respect does it disappoint. REVIEW

FRANKIE COSMOS, NEXT THING

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Next Thing truly is beautiful, if a little too slight to be counted among the greats in its genre. It doesn’t seem to strive for that type of greatness, though. It’s content to revel in purely being, basking in its own breathless embodiment of grace and lightness. REVIEW

KAYTRANADA, 99.9%

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99.9% could play from start to finish behind a house party, and no one would accuse the setlist of being duplicative or boring. REVIEW

KEVIN MORBY, SINGING SAW

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LUH, SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SINGLUH, SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SING

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On Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, Roberts and Hoorn deliver a beautiful album filled with bombastic, gothic and anthemic hymns that aim for deliverance. REVIEW

M83, JUNK

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Strangely enough, the album ends up pretty darn good in spite of its hackneyed self-awareness. REVIEW

MITSKI, PUBERTY 2

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She’s much too meek to be the voice of any generation, but she’s at least articulating the problems of her generation—my generation, likely your generation—that you should listen. REVIEW

PARQUET COURTS, HUMAN PERFORMANCE

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Their less-than-zero aesthetic is as crisp as ever and they again show impeccable taste. REVIEW

PAUL SIMON, STRANGER TO STRANGER

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Simon’s bemused yet quietly furious slyness is an exemplar to us all. REVIEW

PJ HARVEY, THE HOPE SIX DEMOLITION PROJECT

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For those seeking guidance with regard to broken governments, armed conflict, and debilitating poverty—maybe reach for a book, not a pop album. If it’s solace you’re after, The Hope Six Demolition Project has a few remarkable tunes you might want to hear. REVIEW

RADIOHEAD, A MOON SHAPED POOL

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A Moon Shaped Pool is the best album we could expect from a rock outfit already into its third decade of existence, and a superb work from the last important band left in the universe. REVIEW

STURGILL SIMPSON, A SAILOR'S GUIDE TO EARTH

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Compared to the industry standard, A Sailor’s Guide feels at least five years too early. Artists spend decades working up to the level of instrumental variety and emotional awareness that Simpson seems to comprehend at his core. REVIEW

SWANS, THE GLOWING MAN

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The album is monumental in every sense of the word, a visceral testament to the abilities of an incredible group of musicians, each member contributing equally to its breathtaking chiaroscuro. REVIEW

WHITE LUNG, PARADISE

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While this sort of economic chords and vocal/guitar/bass/drum hardcore punk rock record is easy to come by, what’s rarer is when its aggression—not necessarily just in the vocals and lyrics—comes from someplace genuine. REVIEW

SONGS

Aesop Rock, “Blood Sandwich” 
Andy Stott, “New Romantic”
Ariana Grande, “Be Alright”
Babymetal, “Karate”
Beyoncé, “All Night”
Beyoncé, “Freedom”
Car Seat Headrest, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
Deakin, “Golden Chords”
Drake, “One Dance”
Fifth Harmony, “Work from Home”
James Blake, “Choose Me”
Kaytranada, “Lite Spots”
Leon Vynehall, “Kiburu’s”
M83, “Go!”
Mitski, “Your Best American Girl”
Parquet Courts, “Berlin Got Blurry”
Radiohead, “Daydreaming”
Schoolboy Q, “Groovy Tony”
Sturgill Simpson, “Call to Arms”
Whitney, “No Woman”

Here is a semi-comprehensive Spotify playlist of our favorite songs of 2016 so far (including our Q1 picks).