1. David Bowie – Blackstar It was released on a Friday in January, and by Sunday he was gone. Backed by his most adventurous music in decades, the starman delivered a eulogy for himself and a lament for the condition of justice in the world.
2. Angel Olsen – My Woman Cinematic, full-throated, vulnerable, maybe a little crazy, she’s ready to assume the title of this generation’s Stevie Nicks.
3. Big Thief – Masterpiece On the debut album of the year, this hungry, wiry band play forlorn campfire grunge with an idiosyncratic swing.
4. Sumerlands – Sumerlands Headbanging lifers shrug off the customary modifiers (thrash, death, black, doom etc.) to release an utterly distinctive, stylistically classic heavy metal record.
5. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake One of the year’s easiest-on-the-ears albums, these guys spin Laurel Canyon soul with the wandering spirit of early Neil Young and Paul Simon.
6. Cory Hanson – The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo Speaking of Laurel Canyon, set the dial on the wayback machine a few years earlier to arrive at the stunning Forever Changes-style orchestral balladry by the dude from that freaky psychedelic band Wand.
7. Idiot Glee – Idiot Glee On this charming, goofy album, vintage-Eno flights of fancy hot-wire campy piano-man songwriting.
8. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression World, take note: after this inspired, cranky album, the world’s forgotten boy may be exiting the stage once and for all, leaving us all the poorer for it.
9. Hannah Georgas – For Evelyn Affecting bedroom pop and a fetching voice that pitch an intimate story (the songwriter’s relationship with her aging grandmother) at a universal scale.
10. Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Line The fullest, best-sounding album yet by this guitarist and reluctant jam-band iconoclast. It could almost distract me from the fact that 2016 was a really bad year to stop smoking pot.
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.