2016 has been a very weird year in so many ways, but it’s been one of the best in memory for the breathtaking variety and quality of music produced in the past 12 months. Since our space for music reviews is limited, I present a baker’s dozen of worthy releases that “shoulda been contendahs” for inclusion.
Perhaps the funkiest retro/modern album in years comes from a multitalented artist with the out-there name of Childish Gambino. “Awaken, My Love!” simply has to be heard. Go ahead, I’ll wait ...
Fellow funkster Anderson .Paak proudly represents the flowering Los Angeles R&B scene with his latest album “Malibu.”(Caution – it’s rated R.)
Xenia Rubinos’s “Black Terry Cat” is an irresistible mash of funk, hip-hop, Caribbean, and jazz. And that voice! It’s a supernatural wonder. Another one of the best voices of the year emanates from British songstress Laura Mvula with her stirring, grandiose “The Dreaming Room.” A world away, three Israeli sisters collectively known as A-WA deliver up a world music delight with “Habib Galbi” (“Love of My Heart”), which doubles as a slammin’ dance-floor smash.
Country music is getting harder and harder to keep in a box, and that’s a good thing. Maren Morris channels more Johnny Cash than June on her excellent and defiant “Hero.” And 23-year-old Parker Millsap is a young country bottle rocket with an old soul, as heard on his album “The Very Last Day.”
Protest songs are on the rise, and leading the charge is steely-eyed winner “American Band,” by Americana veterans Drive-By Truckers. Kingsley Flood’s “Another Other” is, in the band’s words, “an exploration of identity and race and class” with travel guide/lead singer Naseem Khuri.
It was back to the roots for the Rolling Stones with “Blue & Lonesome” and the septuagenarians sound positively reborn. Rocking DIY newcomers Big Thief, with the album “Masterpiece”; Pinegrove with “Cardinal”; and Car Seat Headrest with “Teens of Denial” all contribute mightily to the sterling cache of great music this year.