Scroll to Dismiss

Top 10 albums of the semester

Damn 2016, where'd ya find this?

· Dec 13, 2016 Tweet

2016 was, as they say, a LIT year for music.

While releases from Bowie (R.I.P), Kanye and Beyoncé marked the beginning of the year, the rest of the year didn’t drop the ball. If anything, it drove to the hoop and posterized us listeners. (That’s right, we’re allowed to make sports references as an arts section sometimes.)

Anyway, here are our best picks (in no particular order) for albums of the semester (and the summer in between).

Frank Ocean — Blonde/Endless

Imagine all that goes into songwriting, from instrumental parts to guest vocals or verses, as a forest. A lot of big time artists recently have taken so much from that forest. Frank, on the other hand, took only what he needed for Blonde, relying on pure artistry to get the job done.

This metaphor isn’t to say those other artists didn’t use their wealth of resources in artful ways. But rather, Ocean’s ability to do so much with so little, along with the reliance and faith he places in himself, is what makes Blonde so impressive.

— Henry Solotaroff-Webber

Frank Ocean bucks trends, proves less is more on ‘Blonde’While 2016 has been a big year for music, it may be an even bigger year for “big” music. Many Read…

Bon Iver — 22, A Million

22, A Million is a deeply emotional experience. Across the 10 song track list, whose names read like binary code translated into the Greek alphabet, Bon Iver experiments with the full spectrum of sadness, from loss to longing. True to style, Bon Iver values clarity of mood over message on 22. Vernon’s lyrics are often more cryptic than their titles.

It’s this idea of feeling that makes the album so special. Each song is structured in a simplistic way but textured so extensively that even the most timid of melodies can be overwhelming.

— Brian Vanden Hogen

Bon Iver’s new album converts raw emotions into auditory formIn 1928, physicist Homer Dudley began working to electronically compress human voices to send them more efficiently through phone lines. Coincidentally, Read…

Tinashe — Nightride

Tinashe is an artist who has perfected her music-making formula as a mixture of sexy vocals, jammable beats and personal lyrics that hold a great amount of truth to them.

She spices things up in her new album, Nightride, when she plays around with instrumentals and rhythmic variations while centralizing the general themes of her songs around partying, sex, independence and the complexities and difficulties that come with them.

— Jillian Kazlow

Tinashe breaks molds, shows true, complicated self in new LPKnown more for a set of A-list song features, Tinashe has never really occupied a spotlight all on her own, Read…

Childish Gambino — Awaken, My Love!

Perhaps a shock or initial disappointment to some, the album doesn’t have a single rap song on it — the genre Childish Gambino made his name on. Rather, he leaves hip-hop behind entirely. Instead he explores genres like funk, groove, soul, ambient, spacey electronic and even classic rock.

It’s overflowing with raw emotion and soul and makes you want to scream along with him, and I mean scream. It covers so many aspects of life like love, jealousy, pain and fear, sometimes all in one song.

— Kara Olds

Long-anticipated Childish Gambino album is blast to ’70s pastIn a November interview with Billboard, Donald Glover recalled the inspiration for his latest project began with a childhood memory. Read…

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

In the wake of the death of their dear friend, Tribe does not wallow or spend too much time in mourning. No, at its core, We got it from Here … Thank You 4 Your service, is a beautiful, thoughtful album about the pitfalls of America today. It almost serves as an instruction manual on how to address these from a cultural perspective.

Henry Solotaroff-Webber

With new album, A Tribe Called Quest returns when needed mostRelevancy is a fickle thing for art and artists. It’s hard to know what will stand and endure, and what Read…

Tove Lo — Lady Wood

Lady Wood is an album that can be something to hum along to on the way to class, or it can become a power anthem to listen to when dealing with a harsh breakup. The lyrics are the largest form of musical expression on this album. It would be great for those who are tired of listening to cliché pop songs that mask extremely vague and predictable lyrics with distracting instrumentals.

— Jillian Kazlow

Tove Lo is feelin’ herself on latest albumOn her latest album Lady Wood, Tove Lo masters telling it like it is. She employs themes of sex, love and fame. Read…

Frances and the Lights — Farewell, Starlight!

The eclectic pop album finishes with him thanking everyone and reminding listeners, “this is only the beginning.” With that, we’ll almost certainly be hearing more from Francis, especially since he has now skyrocketed into the stratosphere with many popular producers.

There aren’t many who are as talented as Francis and who can say they’ve worked with such amazing artists. He is certainly one to watch out for in the future.

— Collin Schmidt

Francis and the Lights made it, on new album he tells howIt takes authors a long time to write masterpieces, just as it does musicians. Though it may not be up Read…

Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book

Overall, the leading motif on Coloring Book is Chance’s faith in God. While the level of preaching may feel excessive to some listeners at times, it’s the perspective that is important. Chance’s faith is symbolic in this album for whatever listeners can interpret it as. It’s a message of self-belief and overcoming obstacles, regardless of what those obstacles are.

This is not a typical rap album nor should it interpreted as one. It’s a standout project in its uniqueness, quality and motives, and it will surely be one of the best albums of the year.

— Dan Chinitz

Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition

Atrocity Exhibition, as a whole, is not necessarily an enjoyable listen. The album is rough, dismal and narrates tough realities.As a listener, these uncomfortable feelings are fascinating and mark inspiring artwork, regardless of how peculiar it may be.This isn’t an everyday listen for fears of overt pity or assimilating depression, but Atrocity Exhibition is an important album nonetheless.

— Brian Vanden Hogen

Danny Brown shows different side of eccentricity on “Atrocity Exhibition”Detroit’s grimiest and darkest rapper is back with his third and potentially best full-length album. Atrocity Exhibition shows a side of Read…

Beyonce — Lemonade

In terms of musicality, there is no question that Lemonade delivered. From the rock-powered anthem, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” featuring Jack White to the country-esque “Daddy Lessons,” Bey proves track after track that she is capable of tackling any genre.

While it’s clear that she created the album as a soundtrack for all women, the socio-politically charged work of art especially focuses on the experience of being a black woman in America. When life gave Beyoncé her hardships, she revolutionized the way an artist presents their music and connects with their fans. — Alice Vagun

(Lemonade is the album of any semester.)