2016 was a monumental year for music with plenty of great albums. In hip-hop, Kanye West and Drake dominated, while Sia, Beyonce, and Rihanna held it down in the pop genre. The best rock albums of 2016 belonged to Metallica, Radiohead, and the late-great David Bowie. However, it is easy for great albums to be lost in the shuffle when other great albums are getting all the publicity. These are some albums from 2016 that didn't get as much attention as they deserved, but are totally worth your time.
Ambient/experimental music can easily fade into the background to the point that the listener can forget they're even listening to music. Yearning Kru is different; he embeds his productions with an absolutely vital sense of earthiness that makes you feel like he is summoning music from the dirt. Best track: "A Chapel Under Static"
Deakin (birth name "Josh Dibb") sat out for the latest album with his Animal Collective bandmates, Painting With, and released his long-delayed debut solo album. It's just as well, as "Painting With" was a disappointment that was energetic but not endearing. Sleep Cycle is like a spiritual cleansing, methodical, beautiful and a sign that Dibb can be a leader of the pack in the Animal Collective. Best track: "Good House"
Mutual Benefit frontman Jordan Lee marks himself as one of indie rock's best troubadours with a gorgeous collection of songs about love, loss and self-improvement. It doesn't just sound beautiful; it is beautiful. Best track: "Skipping Stones"
On the Edge is the perfect title for this tense batch of industrial songs mixed with cavernous vocals. For best effect, listen in the dead of night, alone, when everyone else is asleep. Best track: "Walking at Night"
When does grunge-influenced party music sound somehow solemn and deep? When it's made by Culture Abuse. These guys don't only know how to get a room moving (see them play live if you want proof) but also have an added pathos that fits in brilliantly. Best track: "Chinatown"
Lexington, Kentucky native James Friley's band Idiot Glee produces beautiful experimental pop music that holds up against the likes of eccentric pop talents like Ariel Pink. It's wonderfully lush album that sounds like a dream within a dream. Best track: "Baby (I Could Be Your Bone)"
The band formerly known as Viet Cong's second album isn't just a retread of last year's terrific debut. Instead, it's a pulsating, occasionally nerve-wracking journey through the roughest of waters. Preoccupations is the kind of music perfect for listening to when things don't feel right, but you can't place your finger on why exactly that is. Best track: "Memory"