KCSU DJ's Top 10 Albums of the Year
2016 has been a hot pile of garbage. However, out of the dregs of this nightmare have come some of the best albums to date. While trends in the industry are volatile and seem to change arbitrarily, at any time; this year has brought about what feels like some of the most honest music in years. Some albums from this year featured a more stripped down minimal instrumentation, while others took advantage of experimenting with elements of other genres. We don’t know yet what 2017 will bring in terms of music, but it has a high standard to reach.
Below are the top albums DJs from KCSU can’t stop listening to in 2016.
Photo Credit: Peter Steiner
Danny Steiner (The Steiner Recliner)
1. Jeff Rosenstock- Worry.
Jeff Rosenstock never ceases to impress me with his work. The dude can write insanely catchy pop-hooks that stay in your mind for days on end. Worry. Is no deviation from this.
2. You Blew it!- Abendrot
I can only imagine that the decision for a band to drastically change their sound comes with great hesitancy, but also liberation. Abendrot represents a shift from You Blew It!’s previous generic sad-core emo albums to one that is stripped down, but emotionally provocative and honest.
3. PUP- The Dream is Over
After their self titled album, it was pretty much written on the wall that PUP was going to be a monumental success. The dream is over follows their self titled with even more loud, shout-y, songs about the perils of life.
4. Oathbreaker- Rheia
This record was my introduction to Oathbreaker, and within it I found some of the most intense and emotionally evocative moments. In addition to how versatile and well written this record is, it’s also kind of catchy!
5. Frank Ocean- Blonde
Sometime after the release of this record, I had a discussion with a friend about how stripped down, and simplistic this record is. It feels like Frank put together a record that was more focused on song writing, and less about production.
6. Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book
For me, this album managed to capture the warm feeling of being home. I can’t tell you how or why, but a lot of the instrumentals on this album have such a welcoming “you’re with family now” soulful feeling to them.
7. The Dillinger Escape Plan- Dissociation
The reality that your favorite band is breaking up is devastating. However, when that band releases an amazing final album that seems to capture what a Jackson Pollock painting sounds like, the blow is a little bit lighter.
8. Black Marble- It’s Immaterial
This album captures everything I love about post-punk, it’s simplicity, and amazing hooks. This album is mostly synth driven, and incredibly relaxing.
9. Pinegrove- Cardinal
I feel like this album isn’t much of a surprise given how highly revered it is. Pinegrove managed to pull off one of the more personal albums I’ve heard by combining elements of country and folk in one warm 30 minute package.
10. Into it. Over It.- Standards
The songwriting and production on this record are insane. Standards is filled with complex time signatures, warm tones, catchy riffs, and honest lyrics. Evan Weiss consistently puts out a different record each time adorned with his King Midas touch.
Mimi Hibben (DJ Mimi)
1. Anderson Paak- Malibu
2. Ty Dolla $ign- Campaign
3. Bon Iver- 22 A Million
4. Solange- A Seat At The Table
5. Travis Scott- Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
6. Mick Jenkins- The Healing Component
7. J Cole- 4 Your Eyez Only
8. Big Gigantic- Brighter Future
9. Childish Gambino- “Awaken, My Love!”
10. Danny Brown- Atrocity Exhibition
Sam Bulkley (DJ Squid)
1: Jeff Rosenstock- Worry.
Jeff Rosenstock created a beautiful and sonically flawless masterpiece. The top spot is well deserved by this veteran of punk who contributes to at least three other projects. Worry is basically a punk opera that can almost be compared to the tenacity of Green Day’s American Idiot but without the whole selling out debacle the fans made.
2: PUP- The Dream Is Over
The title of this album was chosen because Stefan Babcock (Vocals/Guitar) was told by a doctor that his vocal chords were not capable to continue. Almost a year later PUP has toured the country again and given a blowout sophomore album. The Dream Is Over is filled with raw energy and amazing coordination between the band members and proves that PUP’s dream is only beginning.
3: You Blew It!- Abendrot
This album came out of left field. Not much promotion, not much push or exposure to show off You Blew It’s major maturing album. This record followed the trend of many emo bands to bring up a “post-emo” sound. Tanner Jones dulls out his trademark voice to keep the lyrics and intrumentals at full attention. You Blew It! grew up in this album.
4: Balance & Composure- Light We Made
Fans were speculative when B&C released their first single “Postcard.” Removing a drum kit and replacing it with a machine and adding drained out guitars and ambient noise did make fans pleased for the alternative, hard-rock band’s new album. The rest of the album didn’t convey any of the same energy that their previous releases had. But that’s the best part. They changed their sound and ideas about their music and created a remarkable makeover.
5: Kevin Devine- Instigator
Kevin Devine released his 9th LP this year. That’s more than double or triple the amount of records released than the majority of bands on this list. Devine proves that while he has age and experience with his craft, he can still make new music that progresses from his previous albums.
6: Pinegrove- Cardinal
Modest, reserved, and somewhat obscure is how Pinegrove presented themselves in their first Run for Cover release. Infusing country, folk, and indie styles with heartfelt and quite personal and honest lyrics, Cardinal put the band in the spotlight of NPR, Audiotree, Pitchfork and many more. This album is truly captivating and a great change in scenery.
7: Hotelier- Goodness
“This place speaks. It say many things of nothing. Makes no demands and offers no salvation.” These lines are from the first track off of Goodness and the statement orbits around the album. When listening to the album, every single lyric, chord, sound, and even silence is placed with purpose and a large power behind it. The Hotelier have a vicious yet empty feeling in every song.
8: Deer Leap- Impermanence
This album was hidden to many people. Deer Leap released a split with TWIABP 5 years ago and they haven’t really popped up anywhere else. This album resonates and shows characteristics of The Hotelier, TWIABP, and La Dispute. Impermanence is one of the many hidden gems of 2016’s alternative music scene.
9: Tancred- Out Of The Garden
Jess Abbott took a pause from Now, Now and released this power-pop album with witty lyrics and catchy riffs. Out Of The Garden brings out the best of Abbott and her abilities when given the spotlight. This albums pushes the sounds of an older Weezer with a bit more moxie yet somber feelings.
10: Microwave- Much Love
There is so much love for Much Love (Sorry, puns). This album defines the sound that Microwave has been producing since their beginning. A lonely sound that cries for despair. They bring a new style with their blunt and desperate lyrics that gets tossed between cohesive guitar riffs to create this album.
11: Modern Baseball- Holy Ghost
12: Into It. Over It.- Standards
13: Cymbals Eat Guitars- Pretty Years
14: So So Glos- Kamikaze
15: Green Day- Revolution Radio
16: Tiny Moving Parts- Celebrate
17: Dikembe- Hail Something
18: Touche Amore- Stage Four
19: AJJ: The Bible 2
20: Moose Blood- Blush
21: blink-182- California
22: Museum Mouth- Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig
23: Two Tongues- Two
24: Say Anything- I Don’t Think It Is
25: NOFX- First Ditch Effort
The Dirty- Higher Power
Descendants- Hypercaffium Spazzinate
Diarrhea Planet- Turn To Gold
TTNG- Dissapointment Island
Field Mouse- Episodic
Laurelle Turner (DJ Alchemy)
1. Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book
Duh. I could write pages and pages about the gospel, the honesty, the poetry.
2. Solange- A Seat At The Table
She just celebrates a raw, true sound that I dig. You can tell her soul is here in the music and it feels very vulnerable. I love it.
3. Lucius- Good Grief
This album embraces some funky medium between indie pop and soul. Like an homage being paid to the very best of the 80’s and 90’s power-women, it’s perfect. I love every single track.
4. AURORA– All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
For such a young voice and talent, AURORA, blows her debut album out of the water. It’s ALL good, lyrically and musically.
5. Lady Gaga- Joanne
This album is easily the best representation of the out-of-box identity that Lady Gaga has always tried to convey. There’s something for everyone and maturity in the writing.
6. Elephant Revival- Petals
I’m entirely biased toward music groups and sounds that celebrate honesty and truth. That exists on Petals. You can also hear the earthy celebration of nature that Elephant Revival has always made their signature.
7. Burns Twins- Sweet Asl.
Just too damn sexy for me not to include this. Gorgeous neo-soul.
8. Prinze George- Illiterate Synth Pop
This band is continuing to mature and no one is noticing. Do you need a futuristic, ethereal look into your soul? Because this is it.
Natalie Pace (DJ Raven)
1. Green Day- Revolution Radio
Green Day is back! Easily my favorite album to come from 2016, Revolution Radio is a brilliantly sharp commentary on the state of the world and a return to form by Green Day.
2. Brothers in Yarn- Volume 1
This album is absolutely stunning in every way. From the interesting and different concept of it, to the beautiful music and wonderful lyrics, to the way it just plain makes me happy, so so good.
3. The 1975- I Like it When You Sleep for You are so Beautiful Yet so Unaware of It
2016 was the year I got into The 1975, and it was all because of this album. It is a lovely record with a sound that is a bit all over the place and some stellar songs.
4. David Bowie- Blackstar
The most perfect, poignant goodbye possible, do I need to say more? Rest in peace Starman.
5. Panic! at the Disco- Death of a Bachelor
Fun fact: Brendon Urie performed almost all of the instruments on here by himself. With that said, a very clear vision shines through on this album, it is a clean, direct, excellent work.
6. Bastille- Wild World
A grand, expansive sound infuses most of this record in a phenomenally interesting way. In my opinion Bastille keep getting better and better, and this is an excellent example.
7. Panic is Perfect- Cellspace
This album is basically pure pop brilliance. It is fun and feels sparkly somehow, can an album feel sparkly? Great, and always make me want to dance.
8. Pete Yorn- ArrangingTime
A great rock album, at times upbeat, and at other times a slightly ominous feel to the songs. The songs sound diverse without clashing against each other.
9. Kaleo- A/B
I’ll be honest, I was not expecting to like this record as much as I did. However, before long the bluesy rock sound hooked me and I was sold.
10. The Fontaines- The Fontaines II
This album has a really fantastic modern do-wop sound to it that I really love. It is unique in the landscape of modern music and deserves all the listens.
Meena Rezaei (DJ Meenbeats)
1. Solange- A Seat at the Table
‘A Seat at the Table’ is everything good about music in 2016. Solange paints a powerful image, through neo-soul that gives you goosebumps it’s so good. She highlights social injustice from an angle that is so raw, with interludes that came from casual conversations with Master P. From impeccable production to honest and powerful messages, this album is perfect.
2. Anderson .Paak- Malibu
This album is a work of art, as it revealed so much regarding .Paak’s roots/identity. The flow is flawless, each song goes into the next like it’s meant to be- and all with the perfect amount of soul, funk, r&b and hip hop.
3. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo
Whatever people have to say about Kanye… it’s hard to fight the fact that he’s a musical genius (I was on the ‘he’s overrated’ side for a minute). I really can’t think of anyone else who can transition from the gospels of Pastor T.L. Barrett to a sample of Desiigner’s ‘Panda’, and get away with it. This. Album. Never. Gets. Old.
4. Noname- Telefone
I swear, I’ve been waiting for Noname to release her first studio album ever since I heard her on Chance the Rapper’s ‘Acid Rap’. With minimalistic sounds that balance out perfectly with Noname’s smooth, strong poetry.
5. KAYTRANADA- 99.9%
You know it’s gonna be good when you see features from Little Dragon, BadBadNotGood and Vic Mensa. Such and excellent, eloquent and eclectic sound, that’s 100.
6. Frank Ocean- Blonde
This album takes you on this journey through the adrenaline rush from a fear of the unknown coupled with nostalgia, and it’s wonderful. Falling in the ‘neo-soul’ genre that’s been flourishing this year.
7. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book
FINALLY! Chance’s first studio album and it freakin’ slaps. ‘Coloring Book’ takes you to the club and then gets you ready just in time for church (idk, maybe not, I’ve never been to church.. but I like to think so). So many incredible voices and sounds on this album. “Finish Line/Drown going into Blessings(Reprise)” gives me goosebumps every damn time, so does “How Great”, so does literally every other song.
8. NxWorries- Yes Lawd!
Yes lawwwwd Anderson .Paak made it on my list twice, this time with the incredible production of Knxwledge. I consider this to be the B-side of Anderson .Paak, in the best way possible.
9. Blood Orange- Freetown Sound
Another powerful piece of art, gracefully addressing the social injustices and inequalities that exist. The poppy, futuristic sound is meshed with soul and r&b, and features people from Nelly Furtado to Ta-Nehisi Coates. Dev Hynes is overflowing with this magical sense of creativity that’s quite evident here.
10. Nicolas Jaar- Sirens
There is a time and a place and a state of mind that comes with listening to this album, and when that all aligns it’s absolutely amazing.
Seth Rutherford (DJ Snazzy Seth)
1. Bon Iver – 22 A Million
It’s a toss up anytime a band treads into new territory like this but Bon Iver pulled it off without trouble and made one of the most beautiful records of 2016. “Creeks” is somethin else.
2. Deakin – Sleep Cycle
Really amazing introspective psych-folk record from one of Animal Collective’s more underrated members. “Golden Chords” is a delight and probably my favorite album opener of the year.
3. Clipping – Splendor & Misery
Clipping try something new by taking on a wild/really odd experimental hip hop space opera about the survivor of a slave uprising on a spaceship. It’s a bold concept but they pull it off surprisingly well- and toss in some musical theatre concepts with Daveed Diggs coming off his recent stint in Hamilton.
4. The Dear Hunter – Act V
Really impressive that TDH finished this ambitious prog-rock project by making their best record yet (and also their most well produced). by showcasing the band’s growth as musicians and mixing in callbacks to previous records, Act V makes for a great conclusion to the series.
5. Frank Ocean – Blonde
What a pleasant surprise to not only get a new Frank Ocean album out of the blue, but to get a fairly amazing one too. I don’t think this album is what anyone expected from Frank but wow . “Ivy” is my favorite song of the year.
6. Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat
Major label debut from one of Brooklyn’s most exciting artists. Xenia kinda defies genre but there’s some mix of r&b/soul/funk/hip hop/punk/you name it. Bold and fun album.
7. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
I dunno what Danny Brown is on but from the Breaking Bad vibes of Downward Spiral to the clanging bells in Pneumonia to the blaring horns in Ain’t it Funny.. it’s a wild ride. Also comes w/ the posse track of the year feat Ab Soul, Kendrick and Earl Sweatshirt.
8. Royal Canoe – Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit
Bouncy, fun and original indie pop record that sounds somehow so catchy and so unlike anything else I’ve heard this year.
9. Okkervil River – Away
This album flows beautifully- it almost feels like a dream. lots of talent in this new lineup and some of Will Sheff’s best songwriting ever.
10. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Easily the most fun/joyful album of the year. Chance the Rapper is one of the most exciting artists today and this new tape was an absolute treat in the summertime. Third phenomenal mixtape- wonder what’s next.
Haley Justino (DJ TBD)
In no particular order really:
1. The Maytags– Love Lines
Vintage, throwback sounds. Playful tones and also painful, heartbroken ones. Killer instrumentation from all members involved and some truly amazing lead vocals. I thoroughly enjoy every song on this album.
2. Bon Iver– 22, A Million
This album should really be on all “Top However Many” lists of 2016. Bon Iver blowing it out of the water with a trippy, surreal, and gorgeous album.
3. Regina Spektor– Remember Us To Life
The queen of quirky and eclectic is back and she certainly does not disappoint. The album embodies her trademark sound wonderfully, while also throwing some cool new concepts in there like “Small Bill$.”
4. Gallant– Ology
This guy’s voice is a gift from the heavens and the songs on this album are dripping with soulful R&B magic.
5. MNDSGN- Bodywash
Cosmically groovy, this album is on a whole other level of cool.
6. Carnival Youth- Propeller
Some solid indie rock, but with some inventive twists and concepts mixed in to some fun, energetic songs.
7. James Vincent McMorrow- We Move
This album is ethereally sexy and beautiful. McMorrow’s voice never fails to impress.
8. Conor Oberst- Ruminations
Oberst’s beautiful lyricism about heavy subjects in life is always something that I appreciate. Also digging the harmonica on this album, gives me some strong Bob Dylan vibes!
9. Y La Bamba- Ojos Del Sol
Gorgeous and otherworldly. I really appreciate how she meshes Spanish and English to encapsulate her bi-cultural experience
10. Hymn For Her- Ride Til You Die
Bluegrass done so so so right! The upbeat songs kick down the door, take no excuses, and drive off into the sunset down a desert road. The calmer songs are gorgeously layered and harmonized. This album has it all, and executes it perfectly.
Stephanie Vosicka (DJ Sapphire)
Top 9 albums (because 10 is overrated lol, no because I can only think of 9):
1. Monstercat- 027
This album has to be my favorite from Monstercat this year and it just has too many great house and dance tracks! Personal top 5 tracks have to be: Superstar, Alone, Turtle Town, City Lights, and Neon Rainbow.
2. One Republic- Oh My My
This album is a strong soulful step for the band. All the tracks have their own deeper meaning that are perfect to play when you want some downtime or to get into a better mood.
3. Hoodie Allen- Happy Camper
Back at it again with the classic Hoodie vibes! This album is far from disappointing for any Hoodie Allen fan. It’s the perfect blend of pop infused hip hop/rap. Personal track favorites are ‘So Close To Happiness’ and ‘Make You Feel’.
4. Mashd N Kutcher- Mash Machine Vol. 4
The Ausi duo are back at it again with some AMAZING mashups. Personal favorite is ‘This Is What Flume Came For’. You never knew that a mashup was needed for a song until you listen to Mashd N Kutcher!
5. WRLD:- Awake
This 3 track album is perfect as is! These are definitely some sweet indie dance/nu disco jams to help you out of any funk.
6. Monstercat- 5th Anniversary
Some outstanding collabs with amazing artists to celebrate Monstercat turning 5 years old! Personal favorite song is ‘Break The Silence’ on this album.
7. Monstercat- 029
Added some really strong future bass styled tracks that really stand out! Not to mention the Tokyo Machine track ‘Fight’ is 8-bit excellence!
8. Haywyre- Two Fold Pt. 2
This album always grows on me whenever I listen to it. You can just hear the hard work and level of production that went into every track!
9. Air Traffic Controller- Black Box
This pop album just goes through some many emotions. It certainly challenges the genre for pop music.
Ave Martin (DJ Ave)
1. Anderson .Paak- Malibu
Paak is one of the most versatile artists of this generation. From his raspy-rapping to excellent range of singing styles, this album is a perfect sampler of all of the talents of Anderson.Paak and what is to come. Classic R&B is back, or maybe it never left.
2. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
“Everything I said about Anderson .Paak” along with the fact that Knxwledge is one of the best sample-based producers since old Kanye, J. Dilla, and Madlib. Knx has the ability make a redundant or annoying beat a thing of beauty.
3. KAYTRANADA- 99.9%
Great variation of sounds on his album. Excellent features on this project, and he’s on the rise as one of the best producers to date whether it’s in Electronic, Hip-Hop, or R&B.
4. Childish Gambino- “Awaken, My Love!”
Donald Glover is a genius. Gambino ditches his “sad rich kid” raps that were found throughout the Internet and becomes a man, a very funky, soulful man. He wears his influences on his sleeve. He takes inspiration from Prince, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, the Isley Brothers, and Andre 3000, but also makes the album authentically him. It’s not only excellent sonically either, the subject matter is the most focused and selfless of any Gambino album, and is an inspiration in and of itself.
5. Frank Ocean- Blonde//Endless
The cryptic, elusive Frank Ocean returns to confuse us, make excellent music, make us cry, and build a staircase. I liked a tad bit Channel Orange more, but still, it’s Frank Ocean.
6. Bas- Too High To Riot
J. Cole’s signee Bas is someone to watch. From the ability to spit absolute bars, and ease up and sing good hooks, Bas is vastly underrated and makes some really good music.
7. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book
As much as I hate the fact that Chancellor Bennett is blowing up, he makes some great music and I can’t selfishly enjoy his music anymore. Chance was right in saying that I can finally say it out loud (one of) my favorite rapper(s) is a Christian rapper.
8. Kendrick Lamar- untitled unmastered.
Only Kendrick can put a collection of To Pimp a Butterfly throw-aways and one of the best albums of the year. Yes, I think Kendrick is one of the best ever and that may make my opinion a bit skewed, but I have a right to my opinion so leave me alone (I’m looking at you Sam Gudmestad).
9. Solange- A Seat at the Table
Solange is a better R&B artist than her sister. I said it. Beyonce is overrated. All that aside, Solange provides an unapologetically black, soulful, and good album overall.
10. Isaiah Rashad- The Sun’s Tirade
Isaiah gives us a stream of consciousness style rant about a variety of topics, and the fact that he doesn’t necessarily “pick a topic” is interesting to me. The production is amazing, Rashad is dope, and TDE is the best label in Hip Hop.
Kara Zehner (DJ Skully)
1. Tegan and Sara- Love You to Death
2. Blue Lane Frontier – No Big Fuss
3. Cymbals Eat Guitars- Pretty Years
4. Bloomers- Little Seasons
5. PUP- The Dream is Over
6. Sorority Noise and The World is a Beautiful Place- Leaf Ellis/Smoke and Felt
7. Jeff Rosenstock- Worry.
8. The Hotelier- Goodness
9. Crying- Beyond the Fleeting Gales
10. Free Kittens and Bread- American Miserablist
(Honorable Mention) Tiny Moving Parts- Celebrate
Tucker Forston (DJ Big Sexy)
1. J. Cole- 4 Your Eyez Only
2. Big K.R.I.T.- It’s Better this way
3. Chance the Rapper- Coloring Book
4. Leon Bridges- Coming Home
5. Weeknd- Starboy
6. Travis Scott- Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
7. YG- Still Brazy
8. The Game- 1992
9. Isaiah Rashad- The Sun’s Triad
10. Kanye West- The Life of Pablo