40 Favorite Albums Of 2016

Hanif Abdurraqib
4 min readDec 26, 2016

I got paid actual money to write and talk about music all year long, which means that I actually got to convert all of the time I always spend thinking about music into something useful (like sneakers and food.) In a year that was long, slow, and draining, it was sometimes comical to stretch long and poetic about the importance of songs. But it was also really good to still find myself capable of being excited by music. To still have musicians willing to take risks, or find new ways to enter the same conversation. Here are my 40 favorite albums of 2016. Instead of writing something about all of them, I’ve shared some of my favorite writing from my peers on the albums and their creators.

40. Bruno Mars — 24K Magic

This Rolling Stone Profile of Bruno Mars by Josh Eells is a joy to read. Also good: “For the Love of God, Please No One Tell Bruno Mars About the Election” by Dayna Evans.

39. Sturgill Simpson — A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

Read: “The Fighting Side of Sturgill Simpson” by David Ritz

38. Touché Amoré — Stage Four

37. Lizzo — Coconut Oil

This piece in Vibe by Jessica McKinney is the best Lizzo reading of the year.

36. Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties — Bittersweet

35. Britney Spears — Glory

My two favorite pieces on Britney Jean in the year of her return:

Kelsey McKinney, going to Britney’s hometown and writing this beautiful and sprawling piece.

“Britney Now, Britney Forever” by my MTVNews colleague Molly Lambert

34. YG — Still Brazy

33. Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas — Mariner

32. Gallant — Ology

I talked to Gallant this summer about R&B, Afropunk, and video games.

31. PUP — The Dream Is Over

Read: “PUP: If This Tour Didn’t Kill Them, What Will?” by Adam Feibel

30. The Avalanches — Wildflower

Read: “The Avalanches are Letting Go” by Alexis Buxton-Collins

29. Fifth Harmony — 7/27

Album served a few awkward music videos, but a whole lotta hits.

28. Nx Worries — Yes Lawd!

27. The Dillinger Escape Plan — Disassociation

This piece in Noisey that is mostly photos from DEP’s surprise last-minute show in London is really great. Also, this Nerdist piece, one of the many great ones saying goodbye to the band.

26. Denzel Curry — Imperial

25. Kamaiyah — A Good Night in the Ghetto

This piece by MTVNews’ Meaghan Garvey is required Kamaiyah reading.

24. Mitski — Puberty 2

Read: “Mitski The Healer” by Eric Torres and “Reclaiming Rock” by Carrie Battan

23. Insomnium — Winter’s Gate

22. Emeli Sandé — Long Live The Angels

This album, for my money, had the best album-opening song of the year.

21. Vince Staples — Prima Donna

“Vince Staples Can See His Own Death” by Frank Guan is a real gem.

20. Jeff Rosenstock — Worry

This piece in A.V. Club is really great.

19. BadBadNotGood — IV

18. Jamila Woods — HEAVN

Doreen St. Felix wrote the best of many great pieces on this album.

17. Kevin Gates — Islah

I found a lot of delight in this piece by Jimmy Ness about traveling to the Netherlands to see Kevin Gates.

16. Miranda Lambert — The Weight Of These Wings

15. Car Seat Headrest — Teens Of Denial

Read: God, Drugs, and Copyright Infringement: Car Seat Headrest’s Comedy Of Errors by Sasha Geffen

14. Chance The Rapper — Coloring Book

I don’t think anyone wrote anything about this album in 2016, which is very odd. I was told it had very popular themes. Hopefully someone will dive into it next year.

13. Nicolas Jaar — Sirens

“Nicolas Jaar and the Politics of Dance Music” by Andy Beta

12. Beyoncé — Lemonade

Read. Black. Women. On. This. Album.

11. Angel Olsen — My Woman

Read: “Angel Olsen Is Awesome” by Amanda Petrusich and “Angel Olsen Isn’t Who You Think She Is” by Hazel Cills

10. Blood Orange — Freetown Sound

I really loved “Blood Orange and the Sound of Identity” by Hsu Hua. Also, though this piece came out at the end of last year, Rembert Browne on seeing Dev Hynes at the Apollo is really great. Also, “Disco Politics” by Justin Charity. AND ALSO, this piece in Fusion, by Tahirah Hairston, about queerness and womanhood. AND LASTLY, Kevin Nguyen’s piece in GQ.

9. Rihanna — Anti

Doreen St. Felix, again, knocked it out the park. Also loved “Rihanna’s ‘Anti’ Is the Record You Make When You Don’t Need to Sell Records” by Jenna Wortham. I also really enjoyed people writing about the Anti tour, like this piece, and also this piece.

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — Skeleton Tree

This piece only kind of mentions Cave, but I really enjoyed it.

7. David Bowie — Blackstar

This piece originally ran the day before Bowie died, and I often pair it with this piece from about a week later. This piece by Chris Roberts is also great. Also, “Blackstar, “Lazurus” and Bowie’s Swan Song

6. Jerreau — Never How You Plan

Columbus, Ohio.

5. Solange — A Seat At The Table

Women of color also did The Best Writing About This Album.

4. Kadjha Bonet — The Visitor

Read/Listen: “Kadhja Bonet’s Quarter-Life Crisis Led Her Home — To Music”

3. Deakin — Sleep Cycle

2. Kaytranada — 99.9%

Read: This Fader profile.

  1. A Tribe Called Quest — We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

I really liked Craig Jenkins’ review of the album. And one of the things I felt best about writing this year was this piece about Tribe’s farewell.