Terrace Martin – Velvet Portraits
Providing the production for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Terrace Martin’s Velvet Portraits encompasses most of the original tracks and masterfully lush and full jazz of 2016. If Kamasi Washington had the greatest jazz record of 2015, this year goes to Terrace Martin.
Andrew Bird – “Roma Fade” from Are You Serious
A love song about the awkwardness of “love at first sight,” “Roma Fade” is one of Andrew Bird’s best songs and one of the most slept on tracks of 2016. It’s cute, an interesting genre change for the violin plucking composer, and even from one of Andrew Bird’s best records.
Deerhoof – The Magic
Is it good music? They have their songwriting and recording faults, but there’s a lovable cuteness to the singing style, sporadic drum fills, and hard hitting guitar licks. It’s plain cacophony at some moments, but it’s filled with a childhood-like delirium. It’s pure fun.
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Michael Kiwanuka, the real rhythm and blues guitarist/singer-songwriter of songs like “Tell Me a Tale” and “Home Again” returned with his second record Love & Hate. Opening up for Adele during the second leg of her UK tour, Kiwanuka rose to popularity being by associated with the British powerhouse, but later on went to play at London’s Summer Time Festival with Don Henley. Like 2016’s Bill Wilthers or Otis Redding, Kiwanuka, under the eye of famed-producer Danger Mouse, had another great record on his hands. He not only completely comes into his sound, but tracks like “Black Man in a White World” and “I’ll Never Love” really show the song writing strength of someone who could make a rock revival possible.
Woods – City Sun Eater in the River of Light
This is unlike any Woods album we’ve heard yet. It’s groovier, like a genre akin to something like spooky lo-fi campfire indie-rock. I might have no idea what “City Sun Eater in the River of Light” means, or even sometimes what the song is about, but I enjoyed the record, and that’s all that really matters.
Lambchop – FLOTUS
I’m not always sure what he’s saying, but it’s a very pleasant and calm feeling record. With vocal effects like Bon Iver and some soothing six minute floating tracks, FLOTUS is a nice record and probably has some nice themes if I knew what he was saying.
Jim James – Eternally Even
As the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, I didn’t expect Jim James’ solo record to be so groovy. It’s a pretty easy listen with some decent grooves. It’s not amazing, but it’s worth some acknowledgement as some interesting and easy jams of 2016.
Usher – “No Limit” and “Downtime” from Hard II Love
Usher is modern day R&B. If anything, I’d even make the argument that Usher is genre-bending and innovating as much as other artists in the genre. To me, it’s all huge for Atlanta, a city booming in hip-hop/rap/R&B music as much as Chicago this past year, and maybe the most endearing Usher record to date.