You don’t need me to tell you that 2016 was a very bad year for musicians. The list of great artists that we lost this year is staggering. The thing is, it’s been a pretty good year for music itself, with two of the departed artists releasing brilliant closing statements.

There’s more hip-hop on my list this year than ever before. I’m not going to make any big pronouncements about what that means, but there is no doubt that guitar rock is taking a backseat these days. Still, as long as there are young bands like Beach Slang, and veterans like Ian Hunter keeping the vibe alive, the announcement of the death of rock and roll is premature.

Here then, are some of my favorite albums of 2016. The Top 10 are listed in order, the balance of the list is random.

David BowieBlackstar

The innovative genius departed the planet for parts unknown only after making sure we had one last shimmering jewel to remember him by.

Childish GambinoAwaken, My Love!

An astonishing spin on the soul and funk of the ’70s from an artist whose talent apparently knows no limit.

RumerThis Girls in Love (A Bacharach & David Songbook)

The British singer gets into the ring with the legends who have recorded these pop classics in the past, and walks out with her head held high.

The Rolling StonesBlue & Lonesome

Admit it. You didn’t think they had another great one in them. Not so much a reinvention as a return to the electric blues that made us fall in love with them in the first place.

Chance the RapperColoring Book

A perfectly named album as Chance has used every crayon in his box to produce this endlessly inventive mixtape.

Leonard CohenYou Want it Darker

The brilliant Canadian poet left us as he found us, with an intimate, dark, and foreboding work of art.

William BellThis is Where I Live

The legendary soul singer returns with an album that is every bit as affecting as his work during the classic Stax era.

Nick CaveSkeleton Tree

The death of Cave’s young son informs every second of this haunting album. A powerful work of art carved from the most devastating personal tragedy.

Rick BarryCurses, Maledictions & Harsh Reiterations

Barry proves once again that great Jersey shore songwriting does not begin and end with Bruce Springsteen. It’s Barry’s most mature work to date, and he remains an artist to watch.

Ian HunterFingers Crossed

Oh, just another 70-something producing some of the finest music of his career. The latest in a brilliant string of solo albums that began in 1975.

Notable Albums of 2016

Also Worthy

Richmond Fontaine – Richmond Fontaine — You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing to Go Back To

Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger

The Felice Brothers – Life in the Dark

Frank Ocean – Blonde

Gregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Elizabeth Cook – Exodus of Venus

Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Keith Monacchio – The Dust-Up

The Silks – Turn Me On

A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Kanye West – Life of Pablo

Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was

Nels Cline – Lovers

Emitt Rhodes – Rainbow Ends

P.J. Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

John Legend – Darkness & Light

Reissued or Previously Unreleased

Bob Dylan – The 1966 Live Recordings

Big Star – Complete Third

Velvet Crush – Pre-Teen Symphonies

David Bowie – Who Can I Be Now? [1974 – 1976]

Betty Davis – The Columbia Years

Frank Sinatra – World on a String (Live)

Pink Floyd – The Early Years, 1967-1972, Cre/ation

NRBQ – High Noon: A 50 -Year Retrospective

Winfield Parker – Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker At Ru-Jac

Gene & Eddie – True Enough: Gene & Eddie With Sir Joe At Ru-Jac

The Beatles – Live at the Hollywood Bowl


About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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