Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rock Albums Post XVI: The Best Albums of 2016

The Best Albums of 2016

This is my sixth annual Top 15 Albums of the Year post. Every  year I assess the albums I feel were the best of the year. Like the previous years this year I have a list of 15 diverse albums ranging from pop, post-punk, jazz, soul, alt-rock, industrial and experimental. The artists range from first release such as Kandace Springs to longtime superstar as Paul Simon. The one thing each of these albums have in common is their sense of quality musicianship and unique originality.

For those of you interested in seeing the previous Top 15 charts the following is a list of links to see each one:





Without further ado I present the Top 15 of 2016. I hope you enjoy this list and hopefully you will discover (or rediscover) some great music here!

15. "These Systems Are Failing" 
by Moby and the Void Pacific Choir

Release Date: October 14, 2016
Label: Little Idiot, Mute
Producer: Moby
Genres: Electronica, Alternative Rock, Downtempo, Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Industrial, Punk

Chart Positions: #39 (Belgium), #63 (France), #75 (Switzerland)
Certification: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: "The Light Is Clear In My Eyes," "Almost Loved," "Don't Leave Me," "Are You Lost In The World Like Me?"
Best Cuts: "Hey! Hey!," "Break.Doubt," "Erupted and Matter," "Are You Lost In The World Like Me?," "Almost Loved," "Dark Star"

Moby's 13th studio album "These Systems Are Failing" was a decide shift from his previous recent releases which were becoming more and more instrumental, ambient, gospel and featured less of Moby's lead vocals and more guest vocalists. "These Systems Are Failing" finds Moby handling lead vocals on all nine of the album's song along with an additional three songs found on the deluxe edition. For his 2016 work Moby completely dumped the ambient sounds and went straight for an aggressive industrial style. This is Moby's most furious album in 20 years and takes him back to his New York City punk years. Much of the album has an 80s Gary Numan electronic influence along with a 90s industrial metal sound. This combinations makes for some great sounding music that keeps you moving whether on the dance floor or in the car on your way to your next stop. Right from the start I was captured by the excellent gang vocals featured on the opening track "Hey! Hey!" By the way did I mention Moby wrote all the songs also!!!

"Are You Lost In The World Like Me?" by Moby


14.  by David Bowie

Release Date: January 8, 2016
Label: ISO, RCA, Columbia, Sony
Producer: David Bowie and Tony Visconti
Genres: Rock, Art-Rock, Jazz-Influenced

Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Croatia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Ukraine), #2 (Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan), #3 (Colombia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Turkey), #5 (Japan), #9 (Thailand), #15 (Bulgaria, Vietnam), #29 (South Korea), #30 (Indonesia)
Certifications: Platinum (UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Belgium, France, Italy), Gold (Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, Poland, Spain)

Singles and Chart Positions: "Blackstar," #20 (Switzerland), #31 (Italy), #44 (Netherlands), #45 (France), #50 (Sweden), #69 (Austria), #97 (Denmark),  "Lazarus," #10 (Belgium), #16 (Switzerland), #23 (Italy), #32 (Netherlands), #35 (France), #38 (Austria), #42 (Sweden), #49 (Spain), #77 (Denmark), "I Can't Give Everything Away" #45 (Switzerland), 3142 (France)
Best Cuts: "Blackstar," "Lazarus," "Dollar Days"

is David Bowie's final studio album to be completed and released before his death on January 10, 2016. The album was released on January 8th and was his 29th studio album. The mood and the atmospheric style attracted me to the album as well as the swells of jazz influence throughout. Bowie's lyrics are prophetic as he sang of the pain he experienced and his impending death. Many music critics (and fans) say this is his best album since "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" released in 1980. ★ debuted at #1 on both the US and UK charts and was Bowie's first album to reach #1 in the US. The single "Lazarus" was his first Top 40 hit in the US since 1987's "Never Let Me Down."

"Lazarus" by David Bowie (2016)


13. "Concrete Jungle" by Blktop Project

Release Date: May 27, 2016
Label: Grand Palais
Producer: Tommy Guerrero (?)
Genres: Jazz, Rock, Funk, Soul, Surf

Chart Positions: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A
Best Cuts: "And The Stylus Followed," "Year of the Drum" "In The Moment"

"Concrete Jungle" is one of those albums that blends genres to form new ones. The album seamlessly moves from jazz to surf rock to revved up soul  like no other band of the past five years. Sadly Blktop Project has gone almost unnoticed, except for their thousands of loyal fans (you can count me in as one of their new loyal fans). "Concrete Jungle" sits amongst my collection of great instrumental albums and I rank it high along with works such as Dave Brubeck's "Time Out," Joe Satriani's "Surfing With The Alien"  and Jaco Pastorius' self titled album. Drums and bass drive the album but be assured the guitar work is outstanding as are the keys.

"In A Moment" by Blktop Project


12. "Stranger To Stranger" by Paul Simon

Release Date: June 3, 2016
Label: Concord
Producer: Paul Simon and Roy Halee
Genres: Pop, Electronic, Alt-Pop, Tribal beats, Folk, World

Chart Positions: #1 (UK, Scotland), #2 (Belgium, Ireland), #3 (US, Czechoslovakia) #4 (Canada), #7 (Austria), #8 (Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland), #14 (German), #18 (Denmark), #21 (France), #24 (Australia), #26 (Italy), #36 (Spain), #37 (Finland), #67 (Japan)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: "Wristband"
Best Cuts: "Wristband," "The Clock" "Stranger To Stranger," "In A Parade"

"Stranger To Stranger" is one of those albums that both looks back and looks forward. This album stands alongside 1987's "Graceland" in respect to innovation and diversity. Paul Simon has never recorded an album that is so diverse in musical selections. The album is largely an electronic based album with touches of Paul Simon's 60's folk roots. Each song is heavy on percussion looking back at Simon's classic "Graceland." He combines the eclectic with the conventional. I would categorize this album as being very modern and groundbreaking while maintaining Simon's roots in music.

With "Stranger to Stranger" Paul Simon is experimental yet remains close enough to the "middle of the road" to appeal to a large cross-section of listeners. Simon moves not only into the present day but into the future of music. After near 60 years on the music charts, Simon is still an innovator who has the ability to carve a next generation of music. Paul Simon is not a retro-artist but he is one of today's most relevant musicians. 

 "Wristband" by Paul Simon


11. Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future" by Underworld

Release Date: March 18, 2016
Label: Caroline International
Producer: Rick Smith, High Contrast, Steven Hall
Genres: Electronic, Alternative Dance, Experimental, Progressive House

Chart Positions: #7 (Belgium), #8 (Scotland), #10 (UK), #12 (Netherlands), #14 (Japan), #34 (Ireland), #36 (Australia), #44 (Denmark, Germany), #50 (Austria), #51 (Switzerland), #158 (France), #200 (US), #1 (Japan Dance and Soul chart, US Dance and Electronic chart), #2 (UK Dance chart)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: "I Exhale"
Best Cuts: "Motorhome," "I Exhale," "Ova Nova" 

"Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future" is Underworld's 9th studio and is a comeback of sorts being their first release since 2010's "Barking." The band that has been around for near 30 years is still as fresh and influential as ever. "Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future" is propelled by electronic grooves that are quite often filled with atmospherics and sometimes tribal beats. The lyrics at times are dark with a feel of somberness. The weaving of synthesizers into the guitars and other instruments is magically and beautifully Brian Eno-esque. Filled with the same charm and heart you would hear from a Brian Eno album in his prime. As I listen to this album artists as diverse as Gary Numan, Kraftwerk and Talking Heads come to mind yet always ending up with Brian Eno. This album is an evolution for Underworld which for a band nearing 30 years is remarkable. Underworld is on the verge of becoming one of the world's most influential underrated bands. 

"Motorhome" by Underworld


10. "Soul Eyes" by Kandace Springs 

Release Date: June 24, 2016
Label: Blue Note, SRP Records
Producer: Larry Klein, Carl Struken
Genres: Jazz, Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary, R&B, Pop

Chart Positions: #99 (Netherlands), #185 (Belgium), #5 (US Jazz Charts), #15 (US R&B Charts)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: "Talk To Me" #28 (Japan Charts)

Best Cuts: "Soul Eyes," "Talk To Me," "Fall Guy," "The World Is A Ghetto," "Rain Falling"

Who is this beautiful brown eyed freckled girl? She is the 27 year old Kandace Springs. Raised surrounded by music from her father jazz singer Scat Springs. Kandace's first breaks came when Prince saw a video clip of her singing Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." Spring's 2016 debut album is filled with luscious soul and soothing jazz. Her voice is a powerhouse that sits well alongside those such as Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston. Kandace Springs is my choice for best new artist of 2016.

"Talk To Me" by Kandace Springs"


9. "Overseas" by Milemarker

Release Date: August 26, 2016
Label: Lovitt Records
Producer: Greg Norman
Genres: Alt-Rock, Post Hardcore, Electronic Rock, Industrial, Post Punk

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Conditional Love," "Untamed Ocean," "Luxuria," "Supercomputer" 

"Overseas" is one of those albums that I really loved right from the start. It did not have to grown me it was love at first listen. I began with the album cover. When I first saw it I was completely intrigued. I just knew I would like the music behind the cover and sure enough I did. Milemarker gives us a blend of guitar driven electronic post punk sounds with a heavy does of crunchy industrial. The odd thing is, why didn't I discover them sooner. Milemarker has been releasing albums since 1998 and "Overseas" is their 8th studio album, I guess I have a lot of catching up to do.
Untamed Ocean by Milemarker


8. "Another Word For Joy" by Enjoy

Release Date: February 20, 2016
Label: Burger Records
Producer: Wyatt Shears
Genres: Post Punk, EDM (Electronic Dance Music), California Punk, Cosmo-Pop

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Travel," "What It Takes," "The Golden State," "Geography" 

Enjoy has an interesting backstory in that Enjoy is simply one person named Wyatt Shears. Wyatt is the 22 year old Orange, California resident who is one held of the Californian-Punk duo Garden. The other half is his twin brother Fletcher Shears. Enjoy (and Garden for that matter) remains in the underground for the time being. By why I ask? Wyatt Shears is reshaping the sound of California punk giving it a cosmopolitan style and throwing a little jazz as well as a heavy dose of electronics and cool guitar chords and vibes and the always present driving bass.  Wyatt is a trendsetter who is just waiting to be noticed and discovered by the masses of music lovers that yearn for more than the ordinary pulp that floats around near the top of the music charts. Enjoy may not be on any music charts just yet but his music is well worth taking notes. Wyatt takes the convention and throws in his own unconventional twists to create some truly worthwhile music. While Wyatt isn't making music is a walking the runways of the world or posing for the cameras of photographers as a model for Yves Saint Laurent. Born on October 28, 1993, Wyatt wrote and produced all the songs on his album and says that melody is the most important part of the song. Shears states, "I usually set out to produced feel good sounds with attractive melodies."

"What It Takes" by Enjoy


7. "Umbrella Mistress" 
by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
"Umbrella Mistress" by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Click Here)

Release Date: September 9, 2016
Label: Ipecac Records
Producer: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Genres: Psychedelic Pop, Cosmo-Pop, Power Pop 

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Saloenliaze," "Umbrella Mistress," "Blood Count," "Winter's Gone"

Omar is on a mission - throughout 2016 he released twelve albums. Some of them were just okay but for the most part these albums were all quality with some great tracks. "Umbrella Mistress" is one of the twelve that  stands above the rest. I call it Cosmopolitan Pop (Cosmo-Pop), it's an uptown sort of modern pop sound that lives in a class of it own (I also put Enjoy's "Another Word For Joy" in that Cosmo-Pop category). Omar wrote all the songs on "Umbrella Mistress" and performs lead vocals and plays most of the instruments. The man is a true music genius and legend. He is the world's most underrated legend. I like "Umbrella Mistress" for it's spacey psychedelic pop style. The songs are quite a bit more melodic and catchy than your usual ORL music. I like hearing a more accessible Omar (but still always love my more avante-gard Omar also). Right from the opening song "Saloenliaze" I was captured by the crisp clean power pop guitars that quickly work into a Beatles type psychedelic swirl and moves right into a catchy hook and chorus. My favorite song is the title tune "Umbrella Mistress," it's a sort of warped love song and is the epitome of my "Cosmo-Pop" tag. It has 60s influenced organ that pops with pop and smart guitar parts with Omar's wry and sweet voiced lead vocals. I love the Elton John stylized keyboards on "Blood Count." This is one of those album I can listen to several times over and still love it in the morning. "House Full Of Hurt" is a dark number reminds me a bit of Bauhaus.

"House Full Of Hurt" by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez


6. "Yesterday I Had The Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday" by Jose James
"Yesterday I Had The Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday" 
by Jose James (Click Here)

Release Date: March 15 2015
Label: Blue Note
Producer: Don Was
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Neo Soul, Adult Contemporary

Chart Positions: #26 (Netherlands), #38 (Belgium), #66 (Spain), #5 (US Jazz Albums)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Body and Soul," "Fine and Mellow," "What A Little Moonlight Can Do," "Lover Man," "Strange Fruit"

"Yesterday I Had The Blues - The Music of Billie Holiday" is one of those sleeper albums that catches up on you. As time goes by you come to love it more and more. Jose James gives us his usual smooth soulful delivery of these classic tunes all associated with Billie Holiday. James recorded this album to commemorate the 100th birthday of the legend Billie Holiday. He takes each of these familiar songs and makes them his own while maintaining the soulful integrity of Billie Holiday. 

I am a huge fan of the Blue Note record label and this one almost got away from me... I was browsing the Blue Note website and discovered it. Jose has a deep and romantic voice that pierces the soul in a way that Lou Rawls was able to do. The album is a piano vocal jazz album that flirts with freeform and advent hard jazz. The overall sound is sweet and pure.

"Strange Fruit" by Jose James


5. "The Heart Speaks In Whispers" 
by Corinne Bailey Rae

Release Date: May 13, 2016
Label: Virgin EMI Records
Producer: Corinne Bailey Rae, Stephen James Brown, Steve Chrisanthou, Paris Strother, James Ryan Ho
Genres: R&B, Jazz, Neo Soul, Adult Contemporary

Chart Positions: #14 (UK), #17 (Scotland), #31 (US), #63 (Belgium), #74 (Netherlands), #100 (Ireland), #2 (US R&B), #3 (US R&B Hip Hop), #10 (US Digital)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: Been To The Moon," "Green Aphrodisiac" #13 (US Adult R&B), "Stop Where You Are," "The Skies Will Break," "Hey, I Won't Break Your Heart"

Best Cuts: "The Skies Will Break," "Been To The Moon," "Tell Me," "Green Aphrodisiac," "Horse Print Dress," "Caramel," "Walk On," "Ice Cream Colours"

Corinne Bailey Rae is one of this generations finest singer/songwriters who improves and matures with each successive album. "The Heart Speaks In Whispers" treats us to a well focused CBR who has expanded her emotional range and has sharpened her artistic direction to a point of creating her most compelling album to date. "The Heart Cries In Whispers  is a well balanced album included soulful ballads, electric groove oriented R&B, splashes of adult contemporary, hints of jazz and a robust helping of everything fantastic. Corinne's voice as always is well sculptured with her own recognizable twist. 

My favorite song "Horse Print Dress" has a noticeable Prince influence while "Ice Cream Colours," a track from the Deluxe Edition grooves with a sunny pop rhythm. 

What I do not understand is why this album did not chart higher or in more countries as it really is CBR's best work to date. This one should have been a solid #1 hit.

"Horse Print Dress" by Corinne Bailey RaeRae


4. "Day Breaks" by Norah Jones

Release Date: October 7, 2016 
Label: Blue Note Records
Producer: Norah Jones, Eli Wolf, Sarah Oda
Genres:  Jazz, Adult Contemporary, Pop Rock

Chart Positions: #1 (Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Lebanon, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Inited Arab Emirates, Estonia), #2 (US, Austria, Belgium, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hungary, Mongolia, Turkey), #3 (France, Japan, Chile, Luxemboug, Vietnam, Indonesia), #4 (Australia, Argentina, Bahrain, India, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, Colombia), #6 (Puerto Rico, Canada, Bulgaria), #7 (Italy), #8 (Netherlands, Poland, Mexico), #9 (UK, Scotland), #10 (Denmark), #12 (Sweden, Russia), #14 (Spain, Greece), #17 (South Korea), #18 (Ireland), #23 (Norway), #34 (Finland), #1 (US Jazz Albums)
Certifications: Gold (Austria)

Singles and Chart Positions: "Carry On," 
#37 (Japan), #107 (France), "Flipside"

Best Cuts: "Burn," "Flipside" "Day Breaks," "Peace," "Once I Had A Laugh," "Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)"

I anticipated the release of this album for nearly a year. It seemed to take forever but it finally arrived. When I read the first reviews I was not so excited about the album. The comments were that Norah was venturing back to her days of "come Away With Me," an album which I love and I consider a classic but I was much hoping for another move forward as Norah has done with each successive album. she experiments here and there with different styles and genres. I was not looking forward to a step backward especially after her bold 2012 album, "Little Broken Hearts," which was produced by Danger Mouse, one of the most respected producers of the past ten years.  Regardless I still purchased the album as I am a diehard Norah Jones fan and figured there would at least be two or three songs that excel. Well, I was wrong! There weren't two or three songs that excelled from the album. Instead I was treated to a solid album from start to finish upon my first listen. Norah Jones did not go back to the country-esque adult contemporary sounds of "Come Away With Me," instead she dug deeper and further into the variations of jazz music. She gifts us with her adaptations of hard bop, bebop, post-bop and jazz-fusion. What a delight. "Day Breaks" is an album Blue Note can be seriously proud of. "Flipside" turned me on with fire. The groovin' keyboards. the fiery organ, funky bass and Norah's cool soul vocals make this song really move. "Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)" written by Duke Ellingon moves along in a modal jazz manner that remains true to the genre and is only bested by the masters as Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The visualization of the African Flower comes to life in your mind as you soak in Norah's dark toned hums adding the final texture to an already well textured song. One of the most remarkable aspects of this album (and there are many remarkable aspects) is the use of jazz bass lines that really send a groove in an irresistibly understated manner. Norah Jones thank you for this surprisingly excellent album once again you have not disappointed. A+

"Flipside" by Norah Jones


3. "Corazones" by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Release Date: July 29, 2016 
Label: Ipecac Records
Producer: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Sam Margolis
Genres:  Alternative Rock, Experimental Rock, Americana, Folk Rock, Post Punk

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Running Away," "It Was Her," "Dead Heart," "Arrest My Father," "Five Different Pieces" 

"Corazones" is one of those albums that digs deep into your soul right from the first few seconds of hearing it. It's like an early 70s Pink Floyd album that has the soul of an acoustic album and the experimentalism of an Eno influenced synthesized work of art. Omar released twelve albums in 2016 and this one was his most personal he dedicated it to his mom, Frances, who passed away in 2012. The album cover sports a lovely photo of Frances, I suspect taken in the 1980s. The music is straight ahead folk inspired pop with a dreamlike quality the seeps right into every bones in your body. It is chillingly beautiful and personal. some of the songs are of pain and love while other display a certain angst Omar holds as he grieves his mother's passing. As you listen to each song you can feel Omar's loss and how he misses his mom. This is the second album he has dedicated to his mom, the first was 2012's "Un Corazon de Nadie." "Running Away" is a sunny sounding pop song yet behind the cheerful feel the lyric touches on the mournful yearning of running away from the pain of losing a loved one. One of my other favorites in "Arrest My Father" an aggressive dark themed post-punk song. Omar's calling out to have his father arrested is symbolic of an attempt to contain pent up emotions that want to explode all over the place. The song contains some tasty Americana guitar work and in some ways reminds me of something Johnny Cash may have written. The song is peppered with a locomotive beat and sprightly harmonica. 

"Arrest My Father" by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez


2. "From The Deep" by The Heliocentrics

Release Date: February 19, 2016 
Label: Now Again Records
Producer: Malcom Catto, Eothan Allapatt, Jake Ferguson
Genres:  Jazz, Experimental, Electronic, Psych, Funk

Chart Positions: N/A
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: N/A

Best Cuts: "Discovery," "The Five Thing," "Thunder & Lightning," "The Pit," "Primitivos," "The Gas Bottle," "Into The Vortex" 

"From The Deep" is one of those albums that thrills me every time I listen to it. Each listen is like my first listen, I discover something new in the music that I didn't hear before. The music is amazingly textured and diverse with everything from hints of Middle Eastern sounds, bits and pieces of hip hop, contemporary adult styles and psychedelic jazz. Steeped in experimental forms of jazz influences "From The Deep" is musically one of the strongest albums I've heard in the past few years. Hiding beneath the unconventional is an undeniable beauty in the emotion of the music. Artistically woven we hear magical horns, shimmering vibraphone, a full line of percussive instruments, heartfelt keyboards, state of the art guitars and grooving' bass. It's a voyage through noises and conversations through thunder and lightning and every experience through the solar system. This is the album for which you put your best headphones on and listen closely to every intertwined intricate sound.

"The Five Thing" by The Heliocentrics

1. "Emily's D+Evolution" by 
Esperanza Spalding

Reelase Date: March 4, 2016 
Label: Concord
Producer: Esperanza Spalding, Tony Visconti
Genres:  Contemporary Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Experimental Jazz, Funk, Art Rock, Math Rock

Chart Positions: #88 (US), #148 (Belgium), #181 (France), #1 (US Jazz Albums), #6 (US Tastemakers Albums), #10 (US Rock Albums, US Alternative Albums)
Certifications: N/A

Singles and Chart Positions: "Good Lava," "One"

Best Cuts: "Good Lava," "Noble Nobles," "Ebony and Ivory," "Unconditional Love," "Elevate Or Operate," "Funk The Fear," "Earth To Heaven" 

There's a lot to ingest here, "Emily's D+Evolution" is not your ordinary album. There's a mountain of messages and overlapping doses of soul and art to contemplate. Let's start out with one of it's producers, Tony Visconti. Visconti is a living legend having produced albums for T. Rex, The Strawbs, Caravan, Sparks, Iggy Pop, Thin Lizzy, Rick Wakeman, Hazel O'Connor, Boomtown Rats, John Hiatt, The Moody Blues, Morrissey and most importantly David Bowie. Visconti produced thirteen albums for Bowie including the classics: "The Man Who Sold The World," "young Americans," "Low," "Heroes," "Lodger," "Scary Monsters and Super Freaks" and Bowie's final album "Blackstar." With this knowledge we discover that Esperanza has taken a decided turn into the world of art-rock. It's worth noting that Esperanza duly influenced Visconti as he infused a good amount of jazz inflections in Bowie's "Blackstar."     

Music critics across the board have given high ratings for this album suggesting it is one of the finest albums of the year and quite possibly of all-time. Many stating that "Emily's D+Evolution" is a redefining moment in Spalding's career (of course critics have been rightfully saying this of Spalding's last three albums). It seems that with each album Spalding continues to break new ground by building on and improving from past efforts. With each album she introduces a new genre to her oeuvre of music, this time around being Math-Rock. Spalding cleverly incorporates this complex, rhythmic off-shoot of prog-rock seamlessly with her unique blend of funk filled experimental jazz creating a most delectable tasty treat that is more palatable than the famous merging of peanut butter and chocolate.  

John Fordman from the Guardian says, "Spalding's voice has never sounded so assured in it's dizzying ascents from mid-range murmurs to falsetto swoops."

"Emily's D+Evolution" is my favorite album of 2016, Matthew Stevens' crunchy guitar chords and Esperanza's vocals that recall Joni Mitchell's jazz-tilted explorations soar right past anything I was expecting from her before I took my first listen of the album. With Emily's D+Evolution" Esperanza Spalding gave us something quite a bit more distinguished and richer than I ever dreamed would be flowing through my ears into the most pleasurable parts of my mind and soul. 

* As a side note "Emily" is Esperanza's middle name. She says that Emily is her alter-ego. 

"Good Lava" by Esperanza Spalding


Worthy Mentions of 2016
The following is a list of albums that did not make the Top 15 but merit a mention:
"Amen and Goodbye" by Yeasayers
"Dark Passenger" by Decoded Feedback
"case, lang, viers" by case, lang, viers
"Santana IV" by Santana
"Radio Love" by Radio Player
"Pure and Simple" by Dolly Parton
"A Moon Shaped Pool" by Radiohead
"Wild World" by Bastille
"Detour" by Cyndi Lauper
"Invention of Knowledge" by Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt

Thank you once again for visiting "Rock Music and More..." I hope that you may have learned something from this post or at the very least discovered some great new music!!!

2016 in Music!


  1. Thank you, Rick!!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog on your Top 15 Albums for 2016. I’ve come to appreciate new music more because of you and your openness to explore and share current and first-time artists. You had mentioned before publishing your blog that you were not going for sentimental in your selections, but went solely on creativeness and quality of music and album cohesiveness. I can appreciate that. It is something that I need to embrace more.

    I also like all of the albums you listed in the “Worthy Mentions of 2016” and already own some of them. I do have to admit that I found your #1 choice for the year, "Emily's D+Evolution" by Esperanza Spalding, extremely intriguing!! I have a feeling this album will grow on me over time! I will add this to my list to purchase.

    I also am a huge fan of Corinne Bailey Rae and enjoy "The Heart Speaks In Whispers" very much and have it in my collection. New artist Kandace Springs and her “Soulful Eyes” is also in my collection. Her “Talk to Me” ended up being an earworm for me this morning. She is one to definitely watch.

    I think I’m drawn to “Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future" by Underworld because of the Brian Eno-like similarity in sound. I love “Motorhome” and the tribal beat and chant-like sound. This is one that I will also add to my list to purchase.

    Paul Simon’s "Stranger To Stranger" is just plain cool. I like how he plays with lyrics and takes the ordinary and makes it stand out. He is really becoming more jazz-like in his music and that’s really nice to hear.

    "From The Deep" by The Heliocentrics is really very trippy. It’s not my usual music buy I love the esthetics in “The Five Thing” and feel it will advance my appreciation of music the most because of the amazing arrangement.

    I’ve especially become a fan of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez the past couple of years because of you, Rick, and am very fond of his new releases in 2016. Perhaps it’s the sentimental side of him coming through which gives him a facet I can relate to very much, especially in "Corazones."

    For me, David Bowie’s “★” is in a special class all by itself because of the gift it represents from him to us as his last album and good-bye. Every time I hear it I feel the special connection that he left us.

    Thank you, again, Rick, for your annual review and selections as I know this is a labor of love on your part and is greatly appreciated by me! Excellent work!!!

    1. Thank you Irene for the detailed response. I'm glad you you enjoyed the list. My hope is that I can enhance people's enjoyment of music they otherwise may not hear. My other hope is that I can help an up and coming artist like Wyatt Shears (Enjoy) or The Heliocentrics gain a few new fans to maybe jumpstart their career.

      Regarding Underworld, band member Karl Hyde has collaborated with Brian Eno on two albums hence the Enoesque style.

      The Heliocentrics are out of this world - you really do need to check these guys out and listen with headphones - there is so much depth in their music. They are releasing a new album in about 5 months... I will be on that one right away.

      Bowie's album is truly a gift and beyond that it is one of Bowie's best. As I said I tried to stay away from sentimentality in judging those albums and came to the conclusion that had Bowie still been alive and healthy right now this album would have still made my Top 15. At first I was going to place it at #1 on my list because of his passing - but decided to leave the sentimentality out of it and go strictly by creativity, musicianship, strength of songs, originality and cohesiveness as a whole.

      Esperanza is a true gem - you should check out her earlier more traditional albums I know you would love them. "Emily's D+Evolution" is an acquired taste - but believe me once you get it and take the time to understand it you will recognize it's power. This is one of those albums that deserves a good set of headphones so you can capture every nuance in the music.

  2. Awesome article! I loved ★ and was happy to see it on your list. I look forward to listening so some of these other albums based on your recommendation as well as the attached clips.
    Happy New Year! :)

    1. Thank you Kevin for checking out this list. 2016 was an outstanding year for music... some really good stuff. The best music these days is usually not found at the top of the charts. I hope you discover some great new artists and albums from this list.



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