Let's take a look at the narrative of this album: This is a group that took a 12-year hiatus and came back to make one of the most difficult type of electronic music possible. This is sampling on steroids; Wildflower is an incredibly lush record, created entirely by samples and guest appearances. The Avalanches have estimated that they used more than 3,500 samples in some various form — either large or microscopic — throughout the record. Wildflower is a collage of sounds that represents our fears, ambitions and emotions; it sounds like a Beach Boys’ dream then conceptualized and recorded by MF Doom.
Track You Need To Hear: "Because I'm Me"
Released: July 1, 2016 | Astralwerks / XL Recordings / EMI
It is an absolute marvel to have witnessed the transformation of Chance the Rapper. From writing an entire mixtape during a high school suspension to emerging as the acid-tripping all-star to taking the reins as the reigining Chicago wunderkind, watching Chance come into his own has been nothing short of incredible. To that end, Coloring Book is the perfect culmination of everything Chance's life has been leading to thus far. This is an album by an artist who has become the de facto person to watch in hip-hop as an independent artist who refuses to sign to a record label. Coloring Book is radiant; the album's impressive accomplishments are rivaled only by its own positivity. If we were Chance, we'd write an album that's essentially an hour-long praise dance too.
Track You Need To Hear: "Blessings"
Chance the Rapper
Released: May 12, 2016 | Self-Released
Angel Olsen's MY WOMAN is the blueprint for how to be a woman in rock music today. On the album, Olsen is unapologetically herself, constructing a memorable collection of songs about the occasionally complex emotions of young womanhood. She has completely unleashed herself as a force akin to Patti Smith, expressing fierce emotions with thoughtful lyrics. Angel Olsen is authentic; she is real, raw, and crystal clear that she does not want to be put in a box or stereotype. MY WOMAN is a statement album about who she is and how she doesn’t have to be what others expect of her.
Track You Need To Hear: "Shut Up Kiss Me"
Released: September 2, 2016 | Jagjaguwar
"It might be over soon." The first five words of 22, A Million flutter down through warped, distorted vocal effects, and immediately, one thing rings true: This is not the Bon Iver you think you know. In just 35 minutes, Justin Vernon and company managed to once again create an album that sounds truly unique. There are seldom few artists who can even emulate this sound, let alone fully encapsulate it. Bon Iver’s ability to continuously push its own boundaries — while somehow creating an increasing sense of home with each release — is a feat in and of itself.
Track You Need To Hear: "8 (circle)"
22, A Million
Released: September 30, 2016 | Jagjaguwar
From the opening notes of A Moon Shaped Pool, one thing is apparent: This is the Radiohead we know and love. After going into hiatus after 2011's disappointing The King of Limbs and endless speculation on whether or not the band would ever even release another album, it's great to hear Radiohead making good music again. The album sees the group hitting every note that made them legends; A Moon Shaped Pool is the band's most focused release in nearly a decade and proves that Radiohead still has what it takes to make an incredible album. If A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead writing their own eulogy, it's a fantastic end to a legendary career.
Track You Need To Hear: "True Love Waits"
A Moon Shaped Pool
Released: May 8, 2016 | XL Recordings
Teens of Denial hearkens back to the grungier days of indie rock. Before the days of crystal clear production and the studio sheen of today's indie, bands created much more raw, unprocessed music. Car Seat Headrest has taken up the mantle of the cheeky twenty-somethings who make fun of others just as much as they make fun of themselves, having crafted an album akin to Weezer's Pinkerton. Buoyed by frontman Will Toledo's imaginative lyrics and brilliant songwriting, Teens of Denial is a statement album by an emerging heavyweight in indie rock.
Track You Need To Hear: "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"
Teens of Denial
Car Seat Headrest
Released: May 20, 2016 | Matador
What a year for the Knowles family. Solange has crafted a cross-generational, career-defining album that is as important as it is beautiful — and it is absolutely astonishing. She made the pro-black, coming-of-age piece of art this generation needed; it’s so refreshing to see an artist (especially an artist to have a No. 1 album) who is making the songs we need to hear instead of the songs we want to hear. In a year where so many women created important, self-reliant music, A Seat at the Table takes the crown with an album that is unashamedly and wonderfully outspoken.
Track You Need To Hear: "Cranes in the Sky"
A Seat at the Table
Released: September 30, 2016 | Saint Records / Columbia
Blonde embodies what we love most about Frank Ocean: his vulnerability. On the album, he creates an intimacy unmatched by many of his peers. He knows it, too; emotion drips from every word and flows into every distorted riff seamlessly. Blonde is as much a sonic journal of Frank’s personal life as it is an album about all of our lives. Contained within the album’s 17 tracks are relatable songs about heartbreak, self-medication, passion, and indifference — but the consistent theme is its emotional wariness. If Channel Orange is Frank’s magnum opus, Blonde is a direct and purposeful contrast in style and content — but it is no less impressive or important.
Track You Need To Hear: "Self Control"
Released: August 20, 2016 | Boys Don't Cry
We're calling it now: 2016 is the year of Anderson .Paak. Amidst the countless projects that .Paak has been involved in — NxWorries, the seemingly endless features, his emergence as a commercial star — Malibu is by far the crowing achievement of his year. The album doesn't simply meander from track to track; Malibu is an expertly crafted record, where every song moves with purpose and flows perfectly into the next. Anderson .Paak's blend of hip-hop, R&B, soul and gospel is completely unforced, authentic, and natural, showing us an artist who has finally found his voice — and what an incredible voice that is.
Track You Need To Hear: "Heart Don't Stand a Chance"
Released: January 15, 2016 | Steel Wool / OBE / Art Club / EMPIRE
In pop culture, no album meant more to 2016 than Lemonade. Not only was it one of the biggest and most-talked about albums of the year, it was a cultural phenomenon. Released initially on an HBO special as a visual album, Lemonade took the world by storm as the scorned woman's manifesto. The album's lyrical content shows Beyoncé at her most furious and pertinent, crafting feminist anthems that speak to and empower women everywhere. Musically, the album is stunning; Beyoncé has never explored more sounds on a single album, proving that she isn't resting on her laurels with the title of Queen Bey. Lemonade is an album that not only cements Beyoncé's place at the top of the pop world, but demands you pay attention to it.
Track You Need To Hear: "Hold Up"
Released: April 23, 2016 | Parkwood / Columbia
Love the list? Follow the top tracks from Runaway Music's Top 50 Albums of 2016 on Spotify below and take these amazing songs with you wherever you go!