‘Tis the season . . . to share our staff picks for 2016. Leading off, Diana Reed gives us 10 must-listen records which may be the brightest spots of black as pitch year. We’ve opened it up to major label picks, as we figured you might want to know our opinions on them, too.
Beyonce – Lemonade
A bold statement from an independent woman that reads like a two-act show. It has all the highs and lows of being in a relationship, coupled with politically relevant conversations. It’s brilliant, moving, and thoughtful.
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it from here … Thank you 4 your service
The return of greatness …eighteen years later. The sound is so smooth you may forget the significance behind the words because you’re so into the beats. But those words give us a cold hard look in the mirror that is desperately needed. The shitty part, like the rest of 2016, is the fact it’s the last album before the passing of Phife Dawg. FUCK YOU 2016!
Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Take everything you’ve heard from Bon Iver’s previous albums and destroy it. The delicate, emotional sound that won him the Best New Artist Grammy in 2012 is still there, but it’s more robust. Layers upon layers of development make this record an abstract progression from his previous work, opening endless possibilities as to where Justin Vernon can go from here.
Magik Magik – Magik Magik
The debut album of Minna Choi, a SF-based artist who has collaborated with just about everyone in the industry, brings a refreshing sound to dream-pop. This album also reminds you just how much classical music influences every single other genre, especially electronic music. The combination of classical instruments combined with synthetic sounds will leave you deep in thought about the future evolution of music.
Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
After listening to the first song, my response was, “This was what Lana Del Rey’s debut album should have been.” A soft, soulful voice coupled with riffs that remind you of the music you listened to in the 90s, this album examines the question of love and how it fits while staying honest about yourself.
David Bowie – Blackstar
What more can be said about this legendary musician? The jazz undertones of this record, coupled with the immortality he established throughout his career, leave grieving fans with nuances still yet to be discovered. Everytime I listen, I can’t help but get emotional.
Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
An interesting take on indie and country, resulting in a sound that will make you nostalgic for the 60s. You can hear retro country influence everywhere today, but this album is the right one to listen to at the current time. It’s light, pleasant, and compliments the other amazing albums on this list.
Solange – A Seat at the Table
A Seat at the Table is another perspective on a politically charged year. While the statement is familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention, this record holds the mirror to your face and then smashes it over your head. The sound is vintage R&B, complementing Solange’s voice and the style she’s evolved from her previous albums. You can tell she’s poured her heart and soul into it.
Nataly Dawn – Haze
The female half of Pomplamoose, Dawn stretches herself in her sophomore solo album. The quirkiness in her voice is still there, along with a delicate balance of sound that combines folk, indie, and pop. Her lyrics tell a strong story that drives you through the ebbs and flows of lost love, and leaves you in heartache by the end.
The Japanese House – Swim Against the Tide
A familiar folk sound with synthetic nuances that bring something unique to the table. More of an EP than an LP, the four songs in this album pack more emotion and depth than I’ve encountered in my listening excursions this year.