“Music is the strongest form of magic.”
Music is my everything. If you were to put a gun to my head and force me to choose one form of entertainment, I would reluctantly choose music. Only reluctant because giving up film and books and television would be incredibly difficult. Since October 2015, I have been making a monthly playlist filled with new music discoveries from that month. I would say I consume more music than I know what to do with. So, for the past few weeks, I have been working to compile a few lists that would sum up the music I had fallen in love with over the past year. In this post, I will share these lists for all the music obsessed humans out there.
In this post, we will delve into my Top Ten Albums of the Year, my Top Ten EPs of the Year (2016 was an incredible year for Extended Plays), and some miscellaneous tracks that I listened to repeatedly throughout the year. It is going to be a long ride.
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
10. EVOLution by Sabrina Carpenter
For most, the name Sabrina Carpenter might not ring any bells. She’s an up and coming musician who has made a name for herself on Disney Channel. After producing a really good, incredibly fun debut album Eyes Wide Open at age fifteen, Sabrina switched up her sound and began writing her own music for this years effort. This was an album I did not expect to enjoy nearly as much as I do. The music is very modern, young female pop. However, it’s the maturity in songs like the reflective ballad ‘Run and Hide’ and the sassy ‘Feels Like Loneliness’ that stand out on this record. If you like polished modern pop, with evident personality and good lyrics, then I think you’ll enjoy this album.
Noteworthy Tracks: Run and Hide, Feels Like Loneliness, Thumbs
9. Lemonade by Beyonce
I have never been a Beyonce fan. While I will overplay both ‘Irreplaceable’ and ‘Love On Top’ until the end of the world, I will also leave if you put on ‘7/11’ or ‘Drunk in Love’. I respect that she has talent, but she rarely makes an effort to showcase it. Instead opting for simple, shallow and obvious pop hits that lack any sort of substance. Hence why Lemonade caught my attention. It sounded as if a great deal of effort had gone into creating something worth a listen, and so when I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. The album goes through all the emotions a woman in Beyonce’s position would be feeling, and really has a message to convey and a story to tell. It also experiments with different styles, such as the country direction in ‘Daddy Lessons’ or the chill, reggae vibes of ‘Hold Up’. While this album has not made me call myself a fan of Beyonce as a whole, I can completely endorse this.
Noteworthy Tracks: Sorry, Daddy Lessons, Sandcastles
8. 7/27 by Fifth Harmony
After all of the drama over these past few weeks, this album feels strange to listen to. However, it’s an album I can see myself coming back to a lot. A very cohesive, concise collection of pop songs with urban flavouring. It’s the kind of album that will never change the world, or even make much of an impact on a grand scale, but it makes you happy to listen to. An album representing strong woman of different backgrounds, both being strong and being soft and showing that you can be both at the same time. Sometimes their feminist message gets a little confused, especially with the track ‘Not That Kinda Girl’ in which they imply that it’s wrong to be a certain kind of sexually free woman. I also wish that they’d included the Japanese deluxe track ‘Big Bad Wolf’, as it’s one of the best tracks the group ever produced together. However, this album never fails to make me smile. I cannot wait to see what they produce together as a four piece.
Noteworthy Tracks: Dope, That’s My Girl, Big Bad Wolf
7. The Human Condition by Jon Bellion
I heard the name Jon Bellion floating around a lot in 2016, but it took me awhile to check out his major label debut, The Human Condition. This album experiments a lot with different sounds, and also different subject matters. He goes from talking about masturbating on the album single ‘All Time Low’ to reflecting upon his Christian faith many times, including tracks such as ‘Maybe IDK’, and ‘Hands of God’. It’s a strange record, but that’s what makes it so great. Each song has it’s own set of interesting ideas, and it makes for an unexpectedly enticing listen. It combines sounds of hip hop with indie pop with musical theatre and children’s music. Some of the songs are so goddamn odd that listening to them a few times helps them to sink in. If you haven’t heard this, and you’re looking for something really fun, really interesting and a little different, this is for you.
Noteworthy Tracks: Morning in America, Overwhelming, 80’s Films
6. DNCE by DNCE
Nick was my favourite Jonas Brother, and he also released an album this year. However, while I enjoy a few select songs from Nick’s solo career, Joe’s decision to form a band and bring an incredibly fun dose of funk pop to the charts was a smart one. I enjoy every single song from this album. Fun is the only real way to sum up this record. I smiled my way through it. It’s silly, happy, and dance-worthy with really good baselines. Not to mention the fact that, as someone who is picky with falsettos, Joe actually has a great one. The lyrics are also a standout in some more serious places – such as ‘Truthfully’ when Joe talks about a relationship where he loves the girl more than she loves him, and how it’s always been the other way around. This album doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something we needed in 2016.
Noteworthy Tracks: Truthfully, Zoom, Be Mean
5. Isn’t It Strange? by Lauren Aquilina
A few years ago, iTunes recommended the song ‘King’ by Lauren Aquilina to me. It made me smile in a time where so few things could. Then, as always happens, I started seeing her name everywhere. In 2016, I found out that her debut album would be coming out. Though the first single, ‘Kicks’ didn’t really impress me very much, I remained excited. Especially after hearing ‘How Would You Like It?’ which grew into one of the songs I’ve listened to most this year. This album is full of piano driven, lyric centric singer-songwriter music. My favourite moment is when she perfectly captures the feeling of slightly drunken euphoria on ‘Way Too Good’ – a feeling I never thought could be captured in music. It’s a quiet gem of well written pop music that escaped most people this year, but soundtracked a good chunk of mine.
Noteworthy Tracks: Way Too Good, Thinking About, How Would You Like It?, Midnight Mouths
4. Glory Days by Little Mix
For me, this album took a couple of listens to sink in. At first, I was ready to write it off as better than their last album but still not great. However, the more I listened, the quicker I fell in love with everything about this album. My problem with Little Mix has always been lack of consistency. I would manage to find a handful of amazing songs amongst completely forgettable stuff. With this album, the only real low point comes in the Meghan Trainor penned ‘You Gotta Not’ which is absolute trash and does not come with my recommendation. The rest is a solid set of poppy R&B that honestly just makes me feel badass. The girls really assert themselves with this record, and I’m so happy that this is the collection of songs I get to hear live in 2017. The girls brought their A game with this one, and I recommend you try it out if you haven’t.
Noteworthy Tracks: FU, Power, Beep Beep, Touch
3. Cartwheels by Ward Thomas
My surprise favourite of the year, and also the only country album on this list – honestly, a shocker. Until five months ago, I had never heard of Ward Thomas, and most of the world still hasn’t. They are a British country duo and this is actually their second album. I don’t want to be dramatic and say that it’s flawless, but I cannot find a bad song on here. They harmonize perfectly together, and their lyrics pack more punches than I was anticipating. Songs like ‘When It’s Not Me’ really had me looking at my own life and the way I see people. It’s a perfect blend of country pop that will not alienate people who aren’t too fond of the country genre. Melodies that get stuck in your head, lyrics that can make you cry or smile, messages that make you think, harmonies that make you want to listen forever. This album has everything I could have ever wanted, and I am so grateful to have found these two in 2016. Please take a listen, because they deserve the exposure.
Noteworthy Tracks: Cartwheels, Almost Easy, Guilty Flowers, Safe
2. Mad Love by JoJo
Ten years. Without exaggeration, that is how long I have been here, waiting for this album. While the rest of the world forgot about JoJo, I was grasping at everything I could get my hands on. Mixtapes, unreleased tracks, legendary covers. The day the release date was revealed, I actually cried. I wish that was a lie. Mad Love. was exactly what I had started to believe would never come. JoJo stepping into her own and showcasing the person that she truly is. And that voice! It’s back in full force, cutting through the listener on tracks like ‘Music’ and ‘High Heels’, and making you feel all sorts of sexual on ‘Like This’ and ‘Edibles’. This album plays, searches for sounds and experiments where she wasn’t allowed for ten years. It rejoices in the simple idea of music, and shows the undeniable force of Joanna Levesque off to the world. This sassy R&B comeback may have slipped past a lot of people, but it’s worth a listen. If you jammed to ‘Leave (Get Out)’ or ‘Too Little Too Late’ back in the day – listen to this album. If you love powerful voices and albums that make you feel every emotion under the sun – listen to this album. It’s everything I could have ever dreamed up for her return.
Noteworthy Tracks: FAB, Edibles, Music, Reckless
1. Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
If you know me in any capacity, this is a kind of predictable entry. Perhaps it will inspire some eye rolls. Honestly though, while Ariana’s last effort – 2014’s My Everything – was good, it likely wouldn’t have topped my list that year. Dangerous Woman shows the Ariana that I want to see more of. Her being authentically herself. She had writing credits on a large percentage of this album, and every song felt like something she really wanted to say. Everything from the wide eyed lovesickness of ‘Moonlight’ to the experimental, soaring vocals on ‘Touch It’. Every part of this album felt like her, and it really is the best moment of her career. If you like pop music that isn’t afraid to say whatever it wants. If you like badass females. If you like albums that are both accessible, but experiment with different sounds. I recommend this album wholeheartedly.
Noteworthy Tracks: Greedy, Into You, Moonlight, Touch It
Honourable Album Mentions: Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless, Stories for Monday by The Summer Set, Big Day in a Small Town by Brandy Clark.
TOP TEN EPs OF THE YEAR
10. Savin’ Pennies, Payin’ Dues by Lacy Cavalier
Not every song on this EP has landed itself a space in my music library, but Lacy Cavalier has the potential for an A+ country career. Best Track: Waitress
9. Summer by Cassadee Pope
After years of absence in the country music scene, Cassadee returned with a small sample of what’s to come. The high points on this prove that she is an unstoppable force. Best Track: Kisses at Airports
8. Bop City by Terror Jr.
Rumoured to be led by Kylie Jenner, this group is sassy indie R&B music at it’s finest. It should honestly not be as good as it is. If you’re into chill R&B vibes, check this out. Best Track: Come First
7. EMOTION SIDE B by Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly unexpectedly gifted us with a small set of castoffs from her critically acclaimed 2015 album, and somehow they’re just as good. Absolute pop mastery. Best Track: Impossible to choose.
6. Citrine by Hayley Kiyoko
Goddess of queer girls everywhere, Hayley Kiyoko produces the gayest EP of the year. It’s indie pop about girls loving girls and it’s absolutely perfect. Sugary lovesick pop. Best Track: Ease My Mind
5. kinda by LANY
2016 quickly turned LANY into one of my favourite bands. This EP is flawless summer-y indie music with incredible detail to the lyrics. It makes me feel all kinds of summer love. Best Track: pink skies
4. Year 2K Mixtape by Kalie Shorr
Kalie Shorr is a country artist who blends the genre with a mix of pop and R&B. It creates a seamless sound entirely her own. I’ve been replaying this adorable EP for months now. Best Track: Rearview
3. Deux by Megan & Liz
Another country pop masterpiece. Megan & Liz are two of my favourite musicians, and this EP has beautifully produced moments of greatness. It also gave me my favourite song of the year. Best Track: Home is You
2. Starfire by Caitlyn Smith
Flawless voice, flawless lyrics, flawless production, flawless style, flawless everything. This EP packs so much power into five songs. One of my favourite discoveries of the year. Best Track: Tacoma
1. Intertwined by dodie
This EP is an absolute gem of awkward acoustic indie pop perfection. It showcases both the playful and serious sides of dodie. Every aspect is beautiful. Best Track: Sick of Losing Soulmates
AN ASSORTMENT OF TRACKS I LOVED THIS YEAR THAT HAVE NOT BEEN MENTIONED
Chewing Gum – Nina Nesbitt
New York – Ed Sheeran
Love on the Brain – Rihanna
Death of a Bachelor – PANIC! at the Disco
Million Years Ago – Adele
Girls Your Age – Transviolet
Hello – Allie X
Memo – Years and Years
Figure Me Out – The Summer Set
Only Us – Dear Evan Hansen Cast
Monster – The Girl and the Dreamcatcher
So, the moral of this story is that I listen to way too much music. Will that stop me, however? Not at all. May 2017 bring many more musical moments to fall in love with, for both me and all of you.