Staff List: Riley’s Top Albums

Posted: by The Editor

Over the next few weeks, The Alternative will be publishing numerous EOTY staff lists leading up to our site-wide ‘Top 50 Albums of the Year’ article. Why so many lists? Well, we believe in giving as many bands/artists exposure as possible, and with so many great releases in 2016, more lists will cover more ground. Our goal is to help you find something new. Thank you for reading.

Here, Riley writes about his top albums of the year.


27) Solange – A Seat at The Table

Merging subdued funk textures with airy pop production, Solange’s latest album statement is her most wholesome and powerful yet. 

Best Track: “Cranes in the Sky”

FFO: D’Angelo, The Internet

26) Toby Coke – Time Negator

A part of Infinity Cat’s Casette Series, Time Negator is a sharp collection of hooky guitar pop that lands somewhere between the garage and the beach.

Best Track: “Sick Trips” 

FFO: No Age, Wavves, Cloud Nothings

25) Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

On their 9th album, Jimmy Eat World lean into twinklier production to create their most fulfilling album in a decade – and pen their catchiest material since Futures

Best Track: “Sure & Certain”

FFO: Death Cab For Cutie, Into it. Over it.

24) Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation

Have you ever wanted an album full of ridiculously fun multilingual pop-rap tracks about taking selfies, jumping on trampolines, and taking a break?

Best Track: “Hey Parents”

FFO: Grimes, Hannah Diamond, Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

23) Kevin Abstract – American Boyfriend

Despite wearing his influences on his sleeve, Kevin Abstract proves his staying power, amalgamating countless genres for something as creative as it is personal.

Best Track: “Runner”

FFO: Frank Ocean, Raury, Tyler, the Creator

22) Mitski – Puberty 2

So I guess this is growing up. Four albums in, Mitski continues to find the perfect words to convey the most complex personal emotions, and renders something universal.

Best Track: “Your Best American Girl”

FFO: Waxahatchee, Rilo Kiley

21) Crying – Beyond the Fleeting Gales

I could describe Crying’s Beyond the Fleeting Gales as a jaunty mix of 80’s rock, chiptune, and math rock, and I wouldn’t be lying – but it probably sounds nothing like you’re imagining based off of that description (it sounds better).

Best Track: “Patriot”

FFO: Fluffer, Alvvays

20) Fluffer – Fluffer 

And I thought Crying’s sound was tough to describe. On Fluffer’s second album, they harness their explosive blend of trap, hard rock, and electronic dance for their most focused and energizing release yet.

Best Track: “Bombay”

FFO: Chromeo, Deerhoof, Crying

19) Touche Amore – Stage Four

The most exciting group in modern post-hardcore annexes cinematic guitars and sung vocals for Bolm’s devastating personal document of grief and loss.

Best Track: “Rapture”

FFO: Deafheaven, Frameworks

18) Secret Space – The Window Room

It’s only their debut record, and Toledo’s Secret Space are already demonstrating stunning versatility and attention to detail – the result is a melodic, sky-gazing indie rock record which boasts some of the most impressive vocal performances I’ve heard from this scene. 

Best Track: “Beyond the Display”

FFO: Jimmy Eat World, Citizen

17) Conor Oberst – Ruminations

On his latest, the prolific singer-songwriter behind Bright Eyes returns to form, stripping away all the flourishes for an exhilaratingly personal LP that sounds how loneliness feels. 

Best Track: “Next of Kin”

FFO: Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith

16) A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

After 18 years of speculation and the unfortunate passing of Phife Dawg, Tribe came through with an album much better than it had to be; its politically charged and expertly produced – it’s the hip-hop album we needed this year. 

Best Track: “Dis Generation”

FFO: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul

15) DIIV – Is the Is Are

Is The Is Are’s release was clouded by contention and conflict, and that’s a shame, because behind all of the clutter lies a dark and thrilling dream pop record that seeks to unpack these issues and emerges with something profound.

Best Track: “Healthy Moon”

FFO: Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils

14) The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

The music critic controversy surrounding this album was as funny as it was frustrating; you either loved this thing or you hated it, but making a record that divisive is impressive in and of itself. 

Best Track: “She’s American”

FFO: Bombay Bicycle Club, Taylor Swift

13) Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown spends Atrocity Exhibition defying expectations, combining virtuoso rap, astute storytelling, and jarring experimental production to achieve his best work so far. 

Best Track: “Really Doe”

FFO: Death Grips, Earl Sweatshirt

12) Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

On their 4th album, Cymbals Eat Guitars prove that their brand of existential indie rock only ripens with age; Pretty Years demonstrates the band’s range and acumen like no other release in their catalog.

Best Track: “Fourth of July, Philadelphia (Sandy)”

FFO: Merchandise, Yuck

11) Kanye West – Life of Pablo

The reprehensible chaos of the Life of Pablo mirrors the man who made it; Kanye makes himself hard to love here, but he makes himself even harder to hate. 

Best Track: “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”

FFO: Chance the Rapper, Kid Cudi

10) Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

The elaborate, insanely quotable short-story calamities on Teens of Denial offer multiple rallying cries for drugged up twenty-somethings trying to find themselves.

Best Track: “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”

FFO: Mitski, Titus Andronicus

9) Mat Kerekes – Luna & The Wild Blue Everything

Kerekes’ spellbinding debut solo album opts for nostalgic folk songs, flaunting his power as a talented vocalist and an exceptionally gifted storyteller.

Best Track: “Direction”

FFO: Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley

8) Beyonce – Lemonade

Lemonade, Beyonce’s most artistic and impressive album statement yet, finally lives up to the massive hype, transcending tabloids and haters in the process.

Best Track: “Hold Up”

FFO: Rihanna, Kanye West

7) Andy Shauf – The Party

Shauf’s orchestral folk opus of a fourth album, The Party, finds the Canadian songwriter extracting ubiquitous knowledge from the minutiae. 

Best Track: “Quite Like You”

FFO: Julia Holter, Cass McComb

6) Posture & the Grizzly – I Am Satan

I Am Satan is the anxious, drug-fueled arena ripper Blink-182 fans wished they’d gotten in the mid-2000s – I couldn’t stop returning to this thing all year. 

Best Track: “Kill Me”

FFO: Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World

5) Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

The Grammy-nominated 3rd free mixtape from him the rapper, Coloring Book, is vibrant, unapologetically positive, and an absolute hit parade.

Best Track: “No Problem”

FFO: Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar

4) Pinegrove – Cardinal

From the moment I first heard Pinegrove, I knew there was something inherently special about them; I still think their best is yet to come, but Cardinal is one of the most nuanced and listenable indie rock records i’ve heard in years.

Best Track: “Aphasia”

FFO: Wilco, Ryan Adams

3) David Bowie – Blackstar

Released just days before death, Blackstar’s poetic foreshadowing & present reflection reaffirms Bowie as one of the best to ever live, and quite certainly the best to die so far. 

Best Track: “Lazarus”

FFO: Miles Davis, Terrace Martin

2) Anderson .Paak – Malibu

I am convinced there isn’t a thing Anderson .Paak can’t do; whether he’s singing, rapping, drumming, or all three at once, Malibu somehow manages to eclipse the boundless talent of its creator.

Best Track: “Come Down”

FFO: Chance the Rapper, Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar

1) Frank Ocean – Blond

In the age of anticipation, Frank Ocean dared to show us how goddamn hard it is to make an album. While we were hoping and wishing, he was building, and the result is a striking album that only Frank Ocean could make. 

Best Track: “Solo”

FFO: Alicia Keys, Miguel