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BUST's Top 29 Albums Of 2016

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It's been an incredible year for music: BUST readers will have seen the magazine's bursting music review sections in each issue throughout the year. Here, we've put together a list of our favorite albums from 2016, from pop to country to heavy metal and everything in between.

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Beyonce Lemonade Official Album Cover

BEYONCE
Lemonade 
Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records)

Lemonade is a stunning, genre-spanning visual album that, divided into chapters, tells a story of marital infidelity, anger, grief and reconciliation. The visual album incorporates spoken word poetry by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. Filmed partially in New Orleans, Lemonade features unforgettable images including Beyoncé breaking car windows with a baseball bat and smashing cars in a Monster Truck, as well as intimate home footage of the Knowles-Carter family. 

Lemonade also features cameos from other groundbreaking black women (and in Amandla Stenberg’s case, nonbinary) celebrities, including Stenberg, Serena Williams, Zendaya, Quvenzhane Wallis and Winnie Harlow, as well as the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, whose deaths at the hands of white police officers sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  Read the rest of BUST's review here.  - Erika W. Smith

 

 

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IAN SWEET
Shapeshifter
(Hardly Art)

Ian Sweet’s debut album, Shapeshifter, is aptly named. Each track is distinctly different from the one before it, making for a delightful listen from start to finish. Frontwoman Jilian Medford sings about sadness over fuzzy guitars and hard-hitting drums; “There is nothing wrong with me, but everything is wrong with me,” she sings on “Cactus Couch.” The band shines on the album’s longer tracks, like “2soft2chew” and “Knife Knowing You.” With nostalgic lyrics that touch on Michael Jordan (“#23”) or Nickelodeon (“Slime Time Live”), Medford’s raspy voice is playfully hypnotizing. The Brooklyn rock trio’s first full-length album is pretty damn sweet. – Kathryn Hensch

Jenny Hval

JENNY HVAL
Blood Bitch
(Sacred Bones)

Yes, Blood Bitch is Jenny Hval’s vampire album—she says so on “The Great Undressing”—but it’s also the Norwegian singer/songwriter’s “investigation of blood” in its purest feminine form: menstruation. “Untamed Region” is a solemn spoken word track about a woman’s cycle, while the demonic droning of “The Plague” (code, perhaps, for unplanned pregnancy) has Hval taking birth control with rosé. The play on words of the tribal “Period Piece” stresses that even in its multitudes, it’s still only blood we’re talking about, no reason to be scared. Hval’s point? The struggle is real, whether you’re a female vampire or a human woman. – Shannon Carlin

 

Katy Goodman Greta Morgan

KATY GOODMAN & GRETA MORGAN
Take It, It's Yours
(Polyvinyl)

Take It, It’s Yours is an album of covers that features the dynamic indie-rock duo Katy Goodman (La Sera) and Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore/the Hush Sound) giving new life to songs from punk and New Wave icons like the Replacements, Blondie, Billy Idol, and more. Goodman and Morgan capture the emotion of the original songs, yet make them their own with feminine harmonies. Tracks like “Bastards of Young,” “Over The Edge,” and “In The City” remind us why we first fell in love with these timeless tracks. Take It, It’s Yours celebrates the joy of nostalgia, with a girl power punch. – Claire McKinzie

Angel Olsen

ANGEL OLSEN
My Woman
(Jagjaguwar)

Angel Olsen has a voice that feels like electricity. And this latest album, My Woman—her first since 2014’s near-flawless Burn Your Fire For No Witness—surges and flickers through every point of her range. It’s rooted in classic indie-folk, sure, but Olsen bends genres here in a seriously satisfying way. Think dreamy synth landscapes (“Intern”), rough-hewn pop (“Shut Up and Kiss Me”) and slow dance ballads (“Heart Shaped Face”), all anchored by vocals that manage to both croon and caterwaul in a single breath. That’s the kind of sorcery Olsen’s perfected, and on My Woman, she’s showing it off. – Mollie Wells

Haley Bonar

HALEY BONAR
Impossible Dream
(GNDWIRE)

Impossible Dream is the 13th release from 33-year-old Minnesotan Haley Bonar. At first listen, the album is a deceptively simple collection of country pop-rock songs. However, a closer look reveals a musically complex record that owes as much to New Order and the Cranberries as it does to Neko Case. While tracks like “Better Than Me” are standard alt-country, “Kismet Kill” hints at New Wave, and “Skynz” reveals a heavy shoegaze influence. The result is an album that is as catchy and danceable as it is lush and poignant, the perfect soundtrack for an end-of-summer road trip. – Sarah C. Jones

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PILL
Convenience
(Mexica Summer)

If anyone knows how to articulate in the midst of chaos, it’s the Brooklyn-based quartet Pill. Following an acclaimed EP and single, the noise-driven post-punkers have taken their distinctive sound to a whole new level with their debut full-length album, Convenience. Pill perfectly mixes dissonance and prose, created by saxophonist Ben Jaffe and vocalist Veronica Torres, with help from multi-instrumentalists Andrew Spaulding and Jon Campolo. Torres channels Lydia Lunch, transitioning between melodious chants and jarring cries of emotional and political lyrics, shining on songs such as “My Rights” and “Dead Boys.” From start to finish, Convenience will have your head bobbing and your wheels turning. – Marisa Cagnoli

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THE KILLS
Ash & Ice 
(Domino Recording Co.)

On Ash & Ice, the Kills’ fifth album, the garage rock duo returns to their signature, minimalist sound, but with a slower, looser twist. On the album’s first single, “Doing it to Death,” the band laments their reckless living over an electronic drum beat. “Hum For Your Buzz” explores a slower, more blues-influenced sound, and on the ballad “That Love,” singer Alison Mosshart brings to mind an edgier Carole King. While much of this terrain was explored on previous albums, Ash & Ice shows the Kills growing and beginning to veer into new directions, with success—nearly every track offers something to like. – Adrienne Urbanski

Kristin Kontrol
KRISTIN KONTROL
X-Communicate 
(Sub Pop)

Kristin Kontrol’s first album is a comet—powerful, bright, and trailing glitter as it goes. X-Communicate mashes up synth-pop, Krautrock, and R&B into 10 tight songs, using keyboards and guitars to create a melodic barrage around Kristin Welchez’s (of Dum Dum Girls fame) angelic ’80s-pop-star voice. The result is a smashingly fun debut album that will leave you hungry for more. “Show Me” lays the foundation for the album’s big pop sound, “(Don’t) Wannabe” and “Skin Shed” are anthems in the making, and by the time closer “Smoke Rings” comes on, you’ll be exhausted from dancing. – Whitney Dwire

Little Scream

LITTLE SCREAM
Cult Following
(Merge)

Little Scream (aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer) returns with Cult Following, a self-assured record that reveals an artist unafraid to experiment, swimming between genres, but never drowning in them. Friends the National, Sharon Van Etten, and Sufjan Stevens all guest here, but it’s Sprengelmeyer’s execution that makes Cult Following stand out. Flitting between the perfect pre-party funk of “Love as a Weapon,” the skillfully structured hums of “Dark Dance,” and the synth-fueled horror-soundtrack interludes on the confessional “The Kissing,” it won’t be long before Little Scream gains a mass following, in addition to a Cult one. – Sammy Maine

Mitski

MITSKI
Puberty 2
(Dead Oceans)

Mitski’s Puberty 2 is an emotional, indie-rock ride of a record; a glorious follow-up to 2014’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek. It’s as beautiful as it is gritty and raw, in both its garage sound and Mitski’s vulnerable, bare-it-all lyrics. The record’s first track, “Happy,” sets the tone with lyrics like, “He laid me down and I felt happy come inside of me,” over electronic drum machines, fuzzed-out guitar, and loud sax. “I Bet On Losing Dogs” is a middle-of-the-album tearjerker that will resonate with many. Puberty 2 is an album for those of us who are romantically clumsy and have grown to be OK with that. – Emilie Von Unwerth 

 

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IGGY POP
Post Pop Depression
(Rekords Rekords/Loma Vista/Caroline International)

With Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop has given us an incredible new album. Built on a collaboration with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Depression is better than anything Pop's done since Lust for Life or The Idiot, the 1977 masterpiece collaboration he made with David Bowie in Berlin. There is probably no more perfect musical partner alive today for Pop than Homme, and the results are stellar. The opener, "Break Into Your Heart", is pure rock glory, and it just gets better from there. Depression finds Pop pondering death, "lonely deeds," America, and the truth. Sung with geniune conviction, and paired with the study musical chops of Homme's band, the songs heard all together result in a very sexy rock 'n' roll album. "Sunday" is a decadent dance party of despair, while "Gardenia" is an upbeat ode to the memory of a lost love. — Laurie Henzel

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BLEACHED
Welcome The Worms
(Dead Oceans)

Bleached hits harder than ever with their sophomore LP Welcome the Worms, a strong new chapter in female-fronted L.A. punk that does the Runaways proud. While the trio's previous LP, Ride Your Heart, was dreamy and beachy, Worms, is a grittier neighbourhood of L.A., returning to the edgier sound of Bleached's first demos. Opener "Keep on Keepin' on" sets the tone with driving power-punk, while "Wednesday Night Melody" features poppy harmonies that recollect late '90s Californian rock acts like Third Eye Blind and Lit. With the accessible, exciting Worms, Bleached proves punk's not dead. — Liz Galvao

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GUERILLA TOSS
Eraser Stargazer
(DFA Records)

Guerilla Toss, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston dance-punk five-piece, has put out their best record yet with Eraser Stargazer. Up until now, the band has never been able to capture in their recordings the aberrant energy their live sets are known for. Vocalist Kassie Carlson ties together their chaotic sound with screeches, shrieks, and straight talk. "Grass Shack" and "Doll Face on the Calico Highway" are driven by Carlson's cryptic, poetic narratives, while the synths on "Color Picture" add an almost tropical element. Eraser Stargazer is full of fantastic, funky, noisy, punk-inspired dance songs that will definitely get you on your feet. — Emilie Von Unwerth

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MARGO PRICE
Midwest Farmer's Daughter
(Third Man Records)

It's rare for a debut album to feel completely essential within its first chords, but Margo Price has done it. Midwest Farmer's Daughter is country at its most timeless, a Middle-America-rooted, raw-throated journey through Price's loves and losses that's as gentle as it is unflinching. From the winding slide guitar of "Hands of Time" to the Dolly-meets-Tammy twang of "Since You Put Me Down" and "Weekender," each song curls around joy, desperation, and the ache of memory. And it's all anchored by a salty-sweet, take-no-shit voice that captures you from minute one. This time, believe the hype about this bright new country star. — Mollie Wells

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BRITTA PHILLIPS
Love Or Magic
(Double Feature Records)

Luck or Magic may be the first solo effort for Britta Phillips, but the accomplished singer/bassist of Luna (and voice of the iconic '80s cartoon character Jem) is as seaoned and savvy as songwriters come. Magicfinally gives Phillips the full spotlight. Her debut delivers a playfl, seductive, lush, and atmospheric set of originals and coer songs comrised of building muledoies that draw feorm a wide array of influences. Like when fuzzed-out synths blue the end of the rocker "The Million Dollar Doll" into a mesmerizing rendition of the Cars' "Drive." Every song showcases Phillips' gorgeous, extraordinary voice. Magic is a stunner, just like she is. — Cindy Yogmas

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ANYA MARINA
Paper Plane

(Good Rope)

Singer/songwriter Anya Marina has been quietly releasing some of indie rock’s best tracks for years. Her fourth full-length album, Paper Plane, is full of the same witty lyrics, accessible pop hooks, and images of a complicated woman’s life that have made her songs favorites of music supervisors in TV and film.This time, Marina focuses on romantic relationships; “Shut Up” is a slow burn about an unlikely hook-up, and the energetic “Ordinary Dude” is about a turning point in a relationship, with nicely contrasting vocals from Eric Hutchinson. Marina’s razor-sharp lyricism and smart songwriting deserve a top spot on your Valentine’s playlist, whether you’re attached or solo. – Liz Galvao


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TEEN
Love Yes
(Carpark)

You’re going to want to play Love Yes everywhere: at a house party, doing the dishes, or dancing with your dog—and not just because it’s full of perfectly concocted psychedelic pop/’80s dance synth jams.As catchy as TEEN’s third album is, it never feels too glossy; there’s a world-weariness involved, as the Brooklyn-based band wrestles with the distressing emotional truths of being a woman. “Superhuman” muses on women’s fraught sense of sexuality (“Will I be put down and scorned?”). – Maura Hehir

lucinda

LUCINDA WILLIAMS
The Ghost Of Highway 20
(Highway 20/Thirty Tigers)

The very prolific Lucinda Williams’ 12th studio album is another successful blend of folk, blues, and Americana. She displays her masterful songwriting skills with pondering ballads like “House Of Earth,” bluesy tracks like “I Know All About It” and “Death Came,” and the acoustic songs “Place In My Heart” and “Louisiana Story.” Williams and her band go electric on “Bitter Memory,” and on the climactic “Faith & Grace,” where she repeats, in her road-weathered rasp, that she needs a little more faith and grace. I have all the faith in the world that Williams will keep making killer music for a long time to come. – Michael Levine

 

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TY SEGALL
Emotional Mugger
(Drag City)

Ty Segall's ninth solo record, Emotional Mugger, proves once again how talented the 28-year-old garage-rock king is. The collection is roughly 40 minutes of fuzzed out, mid-fi, classic-rock-inspired jams. As with most of Segall's discography, picking stand-out tracks proves a difficult task. That said, the end of Emotional Mugger really shines, and "Squealer Two," "W.U.O.T.W.S." (a delightfully noisy track) and "The Magazine" finish the album on a high point, leaving the listener yearning for more. Luckily, Segall seems physically incapable of sitting still, so we won't have to wait too long. — Emilie Von Unwerth

  

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THE PRETTIOTS
Funs Cool
(Rough Trade Records)

Badass Brooklyn musicians the Prettiots have finally released their debut LP, Funs Cool, and it's the perfect jolt of energy to kick off 2016. "Boys (That I Dated in High School)" is a heartwarming single with a downright infectious hook, along with a list of painfully awkward, disappointing guys the Prettiots have met along the way. "On a scale of one to Plath, I'm like a four," singer Kay Kasparhauser sweetly croons in the poignant "Suicide Hotline." The Prettiots' melodies are playful and accessible, and balance lyrics bursting with agony and dark humor. Charming from beginning to end, Funs Cool will leave you aching for more. — Stephanie Nolasco

 

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ONO
Yes, I'm A Witch Too
(Carpark)

Yoko Ono has followed up her 2007 release, Yes, I'm a Witch, with a second collaborative album, cheekily titled, Yes, I'm a Witch Too. This collection of covers and remixes includes an impressive and varied roster of musicians, including Cibo Matto, Peter Bjorn and John, and Moby. Each artist puts their own unique spin on Ono's classics, resulting in a fun and surprising listen. Where else could you find a trip-hop take on "Yes, I'm Your Angel," alongside a punk-rock rendition of "Warrior Woman"? Yes, I'm a Witch Too is yet another innovative release from this underappreciated visionary. — Sarah C. Jones

 

 Solange A Seat at the Table

SOLANGE
A Seat At The Table
(Columbia Records)

Fans have been eagerly awaiting Solange Knowles’ next full-length album since the release of her hit EP, 2014’s True. Her surprise release of A Seat At The Table on September 30 did not disappoint. A statement of black female empowerment, ASATT explores themes of black pride (“F.U.B.U.”), racially-charged microaggressions (“Don’t Touch My Hair”), and the pain of oppression (“Mad,” “Cranes In The Sky”). Solange’s Minnie Riperton-esque vocals softly complement subdued neo-soul and contemporary R&B, a change from True’s cool electro-pop. The album is threaded with interludes from interviews with Master P and Solange’s parents Matthew Knowles and Tina Lawson that feature first-person accounts of the struggle for racial equality in the U.S.

The clarity of Solange’s artistic vision becomes even more impressive in the gorgeous music videos for “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes In The Sky,” both co-directed by Knowles and her husband, Alan Ferguson. Visually stunning, they place black bodies in an array of textured landscapes, using color and movement to create modern works of art. A Seat At The Table is a career-defining artistic statement for Solange, and a triumph in a year in which the call for black lives to matter became urgent. — Liz Galvao

 

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LIZZO
Coconut Oil EP
(Atlantic Records/Nice Life)

Lizzo’s EP Coconut Oil is her first major-label release, and it’s a poppier side of the hip-hop and R&B artist than we’ve seen before. Previously known primarily as a rapper with singles like “Batches & Cookies” and “Bus Passes And Happy Meals,” Lizzo’s last album, 2015’s Big Grrrl Small World, was an ode to self-love. Coconut Oil continues that theme, using electro-pop and soul this time to get the message across. “Good As Hell” is an earworm perfect for getting ready to go out with your girls, while “Deep” and “Worship” have Lizzo demanding more from a lover.

Lizzo has said that she was inspired to write Coconut Oil after seeing how her music connected with black women, calling the title track “the ultimate ode to self-care.” Coconut Oil proves that Lizzo is ready for a bigger audience, and no matter what comes next, she’s going to love herself first. — Liz Galvao

 

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JULIA JACKLIN
Don’t Let The Kids Win
(Transgressive/Polyvinyl)

Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin’s debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win remains one of 2016’s most underrated gems. It deserves to be a breakout indie rock hit like Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt, or Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Jacklin has written a record filled with emotion: the pain of looking back on abuse (“Pool Party”), the untethered feeling of chasing a dream (“Motherland”), and the bittersweetness of growing up (“Don’t Let The Kids Win”). She pours her past into every song, whether it’s upbeat indie rock with a full band (“Coming of Age”) or a stripped-down ballad with just her low, smokey voice and a guitar (“L.A. Dream”). Don’t Let The Kids Win is a treat for the ears, and a perfect portrait of late twenties angst. — Liz Galvao

 

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DEAP VALLY
Femejism
(Nevado Music) 

Pop music is great for dancing, but sometimes, you just need to shred. Los Angeles duo Deap Vally is here for you in those times, with their new album Femejism, the follow-up to their excellent 2013 debut Sistrionix. Femejism maintains the heavy-metal spirit of that record, but with the distortion and snarl levels turned way, way up. "Smile More" is a slinky rejection of any man who's ever told you to give him a smile, honey, while "Little Baby Beauty Queen" is a sinister, head-banging stomper. If anyone ever tries to tell you that rock is dead, just hand the Femejism— Eliza C. Thompson

 

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TACOCAT
Lost Time
(Hardly Art)

Seattle surf-pop punks Tacocat are out to challenge the idea that feminist rock can't be fun. That's no problem here: from their X-Files references to their silly, cat-laden cover, the band's third album, Lost Time, is full of buzzwords, catchy riffs, and Internet references. Tacocat can make us laugh ("Horse Grrls"), but they can also speak to larger truths, like when they're musing on the omnipresence of cell phone screens in modern relationships ("Talk"), or mansplainers ("Men Explain Things to Me"). Tacocat are indeed a lot of fun, but we like them best when they get real. — Maura Hehir

 

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NOUVELLE VAGUE
I Could Be Happy
(Kwaidan Records/!K7)

French music producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux’s project Nouvelle Vague has gained a dedicated following for their jazzy, bossa-nova-style covers of rock songs from the ’80s and ’90s. The covers here, including the Ramones, Altered Images, and Eno, do not disappoint. Yet, I Could Be Happy marks a turning point for the duo—for the first time, they’ve included their own original songs as well. Like its title suggests, the album plays with the juxtaposition of sadness and joy. Original track “Loneliness” pairs sorrowful lyrics with cheerful vocals, making sadness seem like just a passing phase. Their cover of Cocteau Twins’ Athol Brose is perfection, but one has to wonder how they ever interpreted Liz Frasier’s lyrics! Moody, French, and fun, I Could Be Happy is the perfect chic soundtrack for your next cocktail party. – Adrienne Urbanski

 

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KATE BUSH
Before The Dawn
(Concord Records)

In the summer of 2014, Kate Bush played her first live shows since 1979 in London. All 22 shows sold out in just 15 minutes, but fans of the iconic English singer/songwriter who missed these performances can now experience them in her new, three-part live album, Before The Dawn. Part one is full of hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “King of the Mountain,” while the other portions contain two song suites, “The Ninth Wave” from Hounds of Love, and “A Sky of Honey” from Aeriel. These spectacular shows are now immortalized in these recordings, confirming that Kate Bush is truly a peerless artist. – Michael Levine

 

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Make These 9 DIY Gifts In Time For The Holidays Jen Pitt, originally from Brazil, is a Brooklyn based writer and performer. She covers feminism, arts, and Brazilian culture.


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