Favorite Albums of 2016: Staff Picks


2016 had its ups and downs (okay, mostly downs), but you can’t deny that it had a great soundtrack. You’ve already seen our Top 50 Albums of 2016 list, now check out what our music writers’ personal lists of their favorite albums and songs of the year. – Ryan Gibbs, Music Editor

Ryan Gibbs – Music Editor
Gabrielle Bondi – Editor-in-Chief
Allyson Johnson – Film Editor
Matt Rice
Joey Daniewicz
Jennifer Baugh
Katie Gill
Reagan Harrison
Brittany Menjivar
Jon Winkler
Cristina Moreano
Amber Mack
Sean Romano
Justin Carriero

Ryan Gibbs’ Top 10 Albums

It still feels weird to me that my top album of 2016 is one of the first I listened to this year, but I’ve had Blackstar in the back of my mind all year. Even with worthy competition from The 1975 and A Tribe Called Quest, there was no dislodging it from my top spot. It’s one of the greatest final albums ever released and a brilliant artistic statement. This year was a great one for songs as well, and “Somebody Else” also rose to the top fairly early. That song is perhaps the best example of everything that was great about The 1975’s new throwback new wave sound. I’m guessing the Automat song is the most obscure thing I have on here; While I don’t know very much about them myself, “Turn the Music Up” was a love-at-first-listen song for me after Maura Johnston played it on her WZBC radio show earlier this year. If you’re into early ’80s power pop, and Squeeze in particular, you’ll find a lot to love in their latest album.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar
  2. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
  3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…. Thank You 4 Your Service
  4. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  5. Car Seat HeadrestTeens of Denial
  6. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  7. School of Seven Bells – SVIIB
  8. The Monkees – Good Times!
  9. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  10. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs

Top 10 Songs

  1. The 1975 – “Somebody Else”
  2. Against Me! – “Crash”
  3. Automat – “Turn the Music Up”
  4. Car Seat Headrest – “Vincent”
  5. Kendrick Lamar – “Untitled 8 (Blue Faces)”
  6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cry”
  7. David Bowie – “Lazarus”
  8. KING – “The Greatest”
  9. Japandroids – “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
  10. Tacocat – “Talk”


Gabrielle Bondi’s Top 10 Albums 

This is one of the first years where I can say that I listened to the most new albums I had since high school. Even by April, before Frank Ocean and Solange surprised us with new albums, I was declaring 2016 a great year for music. Artists were at the top of their game this year, and this list is merely just a small personal sampling of what I enjoyed and listened to the most. Beyoncé took us on a journey through heartbreak, betrayal, love, and finally redemption. Chance the Rapper proved why at 23 he is already one of the greatest with Coloring Book, a mixtape that taps into real life, spirituality and more. The rest of the list showcase career highlights from a number of great artists.

  1. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  2. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  3. Frank Ocean – Blonde
  4. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
  5. Bruno Mars – 24k Magic
  6. Rihanna – ANTI
  7. The Weeknd – Starboy
  8. Various Artists – The Hamilton Mixtape
  9. Solange – A Seat at the Table
  10.  The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It

Top 10 Songs

  1. Chance the Rapper – “Same Drugs”
  2. Beyoncé – “Formation”
  3. Chance the Rapper – “Angels”
  4. Beyoncé – “Sorry”
  5. Beyoncé – “Freedom”
  6. The Weeknd – “Starboy”
  7. Chance the Rapper – “No Problem”
  8. Kelly Clarkson – “It’s Quiet Uptown”
  9. Rihanna – “Work”
  10. Tegan and Sara – “Faint of Heart”

Allyson Johnson’s Top 10 Albums

In a perpetual state of catch up, it always seems as there’s something I’ve missed when I come to making my best albums list of any given year but that’s changed with 2016. While there’s still plenty I have queued and ready to listen to when the time presents itself, this year has been so rich in quality music that it’s difficult to be disappointed in any list people come up with. From the return of some of my favorite bands, to new artists that impressed and out of left fielders who have gone on to become new favorites, 2016 has been perfect for the music fan constantly searching for new sounds and genres to explore.


  1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  2. Birdy – Beautiful Lies
  3. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  4. How to Dress Well – Care
  5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Side B
  6. Mitski – Puberty 2
  7. The Hotelier – Goodness
  8. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
  9. Frank Ocean – Blond
  10. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Top 10 Songs

  1. How to Dress Well – “I Was Terrible”
  2. Bon Iver – “33 ‘GOD'”
  3. Birdy – “Lifted”
  4. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
  5. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
  6. Lapsley – “Hurt Me”
  7. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
  8. Panic! at the Disco – “L.A. Devotee”
  9. Green Day – “Still Breathing”
  10. Chance the Rapper – “Juke Jam”

Matt Rice’s Top 10 Albums 

  1.  A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
  2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  3. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  4. Rihanna – Anti
  5. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  6. Kevin Gates – Islah
  7. Sleigh Bells – Jessica Rabbit
  8. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
  9. Youssou N’Dour – #SenegaalRekk
  10. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Top 10 Songs

  1. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  2. Chance the Rapper – “Same Drugs”
  3. Beyoncé – “Sorry”
  4. Britney Spears – “Private Show”
  5. Nicki Minaj: -“Black Barbies”
  6. Tarica – “But Anyway”
  7. Hey Violet: “Brand New Moves”
  8. TT the Artist & Snappy Jit – “Dig”
  9. The 1975 – “UGH!”
  10. Anna Wise – “BitchSlut”


Joey Daniewicz’s Top 10 Albums 

  1.  A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…. Thank You 4 Your Service
  2. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  3. Jamila Woods – HEAVN
  4. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  6. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
  7. Frank Ocean – Blond
  8. Solange – A Seat at the Table
  9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
  10. Kaytranada – 99.9%

Top 10 Songs

  1. Kanye West (feat. Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin and The-Dream) – “Ultralight Beam”
  2. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
  3. Beyoncé – “Formation”
  4. Chance the Rapper (feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne): “No Problem”
  5. Rae Sremmurd (feat. Gucci Mane) – “Black Beatles”
  6. Solange – Cranes in the Sky
  7. Jamila Woods (feat. Noname) – “VRY BLK”
  8. Rihanna (feat. Drake) – “Work”
  9. Desiigner – “Panda”
  10. G.L.O.S.S. – “Give Violence a Chance”

Jennifer Baugh’s Top 10 Albums 

  1. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  2. Solange Knowles – A Seat at the Table
  3. Angel Olsen – My Woman
  4. Lapsley – Long Way Home
  5. A Tribe Called Quest –  We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  6. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
  7. Yuck – Stranger Things
  8. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  9. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  10. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Top 10 Songs

  1. Porches – “Car”
  2. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
  3. Yuck – “Stranger Things”
  4. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
  5. Lapsley – “Heartless”
  6. Whitney – “Golden Days”
  7. Tennis – “In the Morning I’ll Be Better”
  8. Parquet Courts — “Already Dead”
  9. Isaiah Rashad – “4r Da Squaw”
  10. Danny Brown (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt) – “Really Doe”

Katie Gill’s Top 10 Albums 

I’m not really happy with these lists. Because full disclosure? I was a terrible music critic this year. Life + other factors made it so I completely missed a lot of Big Deal Albums, no matter if they’re something that I know I would like (Solange’s A Seat At The Table), something from an act I adore (Pet Shop Boys’s Super) or something that I’ll most likely hate (Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool). As such, enjoy this Top Ten list that’ll probably throw off all of your metrics.

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar
  2. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
  3. MitskiPuberty 2
  4. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  5. Tegan and SaraLove You to Death
  6. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
  7. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
  8. Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation
  9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
  10. Abel Korzeniowski – Penny Dreadful: Seasons 2 and 3

Top 10 Songs

  1. Years and Years – “Meteorite”
  2. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  3. Poli Genova – “If Love Were A Crime”
  4. Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
  5. Little Mix – “Shout Out To My Ex”
  6. Beyoncé (feat. The Dixie Chicks) – “Daddy Lessons”
  7. The Weeknd (feat. Daft Punk) – “Starboy”
  8. Laura Mvula – “Phenomenal Woman”
  9. Red Velvet – “Russian Roulette”
  10. Brad Paisley (feat. Demi Lovato) – “Without a Fight”

Reagan Harrison’s Top 10 Albums 

  1. Bastille – Wild World
  2. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
  3. Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
  4. Dierks Bentley – Black
  5. Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow
  6. Birdy – Beautiful Lies
  7. Drake – Views
  8. Keith Urban – Ripcord
  9. The Chainsmokers – Collage EP
  10. Sia – This Is Acting

Top 10 Songs

  1.  Bastille – “Fake It”
  2. The 1975 – “UGH!”
  3. Beyoncé – “Formation”
  4. Two Door Cinema Club – “Are We Ready? (Wreck)”
  5. Panic! at the Disco – “Golden Days”
  6. Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”
  7. DNCE – “Cake By the Ocean”
  8. Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere on a Beach”
  9. Coldplay (feat. Beyoncé) – “Hymn for the Weekend”
  10. The Chainsmokers (feat. Halsey) – “Closer”

Brittany Menjivar’s Top 10 Albums 

This year, I was enraptured by releases from both veteran musicians and up-and-coming artists. I was excited to see a new side of Panic! at the Disco on Death of a Bachelor, a glorious Brendon Urie solo show that deserves to be a Broadway musical complete with backflips and backup dancers. I was also pleased to see Bastille and The 1975, two alternative bands whose singles achieved mainstream success a few years ago, back in the game with intriguing new music. In addition, I was impressed by the offerings of rising stars like Waterparks and Palaye Royale, both of whom have recently amassed a following among pop-punk teens after several tours (including the legendary Warped Tour). Pop and hip-hop were especially fantastic in 2016 as well; many of this year’s biggest hits got catchier with time instead of growing more annoying, which made blasting the radio while driving around town all the more fun.

  1. Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
  2. Bastille – Wild World
  3. Bad Suns – Disappear Here
  4. Palaye Royale – Boom Boom Room (Side A)
  5. DNCE – DNCE
  6. Waterparks – Double Dare
  7. Rooney – Washed Away
  8. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
  9. The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come to Expect
  10.  Nick Jonas – Last Year Was Complicated

Top 10 Songs

  1. Mike Posner – “I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix)”
  2. The 1975 – “The Sound”
  3. Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners – “This Girl”
  4. Drake (feat. Kyla and Wizkid) – “One Dance”
  5. Bastille – “Blame”
  6. Waterparks – “Gloom Boys”
  7. Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”
  8. Bad Suns – “Outskirts of Paradise”
  9. Panic! at the Disco – “Emperor’s New Clothes”
  10. Glass Animals – “Life Itself”

Jon Winkler’s Top 10 Albums 

  1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  2. David Bowie – Blackstar
  3. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  4. Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)
  5. Kaytranda – 99.9%
  6. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
  7. Frank Ocean – Blonde
  8. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
  9. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…. Thank You 4 Your Service
  10. Bruno Mars – 24k Magic

Top 10 Songs

  1. Kanye West (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – “No More Parties in L.A.”
  2. The 1975 – “UGH!”
  3. Hey Violet – “Brand New Moves”
  4. Chance the Rapper (feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne) – “No Problem”
  5. Young Thug and Travis Scott – “Pick Up the Phone”
  6. Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
  7. Rae Sremmurd (feat. Lil Jon) – “Set the Roof”
  8. Kevin Gates – “2 Phones”
  9. Radiohead – “Identikit”
  10. Beyoncé (feat. Jack White) – “Don’t Hurt Yourself”

Cristina Moreano’s Top  10 Albums 

Let’s face it, musically speaking, this year has been crazy. We’ve had a few sad losses, but we’ve also had great comebacks…and even a song featuring a cake. One thing is for sure: it’s been one heck of a musical ride. Even though David Bowie’s Blackstar takes all the praise, Ms. Angel Olsen stands high on my album list for two reasons: her style, lyrics and voice. From the moment I heard Chemical Brothers’ “Wide Open”, I knew exactly where I would put it on my end-of-the year list: way up on the top.

  1. Angel Olsen – My Woman
  2. David Bowie – Blackstar
  3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  4. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
  5. Kings Of Leon – Walls
  6. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It
  7. Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)
  8. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony
  9. Green Day – Revolution Radio
  10. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

Top 10 Songs

  1. The Chemical Brothers – “Wide Open”
  2. David Bowie – “Lazarus”
  3. Radiohead – “Burn the Witch”
  4. Kings of Leon – “Waste a Moment”
  5. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
  6. Green Day – “Bang Bang”
  7. The Lumineers – “Ophelia”
  8. The 1975 – “A Change of Heart”
  9. Nothing But Thieves – “Trip Switch”
  10. DNCE – “Cake by the Ocean”

Amber Mack’s Top 10 Albums 

This year I challenged myself to discover new music in different genres. Listening to albums and songs that weren’t being play on the hottest radio stations was refreshing which lead me to discover some amazing, talented artists. It’s extremely rare that I find an album that I can listen too fully and over and over again without thinking about pressing the skip button. These are these albums.  Do I have to describe Beyoncé’s Lemonade? Exactly. Jesse Boykins blew me away with how soulful his vocals are and that immediately put him in my top five, but TA-KU and Wafia created something that spoke to me on levels. I heard “Meet in the Middle” and with the beautiful harmonies and fantastic production, there’s no reason why this wouldn’t be in my top five.

  1. Beyoncé – Lemonade
  2. TA-KU and Wafia – (m)edian
  3. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
  4. Jesse Boykins III – BARTHOLOMEW
  5. Rihanna – Anti
  6. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
  7. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  8. Pearl – Closer
  9. Dvsn – Sept. 5th
  10. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

Top 10 Songs

  1. The 1975 – “Somebody Else”
  2. Pearl feat. Nylo – “2 A.M”
  3. Beyoncé – “Love Drought”
  4. Beyoncé – “Pray You Catch Me”
  5. Yuna – “Lanes”
  6. Zayn – DRUNK
  7. Dua Lipa – “Last Dance”
  8. Frank Ocean – “Pink + White”
  9. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
  10. Mac Miller (feat. Anderson .Paak) – “Dang!”

Sean Romano’s Top 5 Albums 

1. Young Thug – Jeffery

No one even came close to reaching Young Thug’s artistic level this year. Jeffery not only sculpts Thug’s voice in new melodic directions, it also pushes the boundaries of trap farther than anyone thought it ever could. Thug will scream, sing, contort his voice in ways that sound barely human, and then surround himself with a dizzying array of rock guitars, glittering pianos, and punky snare beats. The fact that he finds a way to make this concoction catchy is a testament to his talents, and most importantly it sounds vitally new. While albums like Awaken, My Love and A Seat at The Table earn praise for sounding like the past, Jeffery succeeds by pointing the way towards the future.

2. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

2016 was the year Kanye finally succeeded at pissing off everyone, and by god was it glorious. Somehow, he found a way to alienate the phonies on both the Right and the Left and that’s the number one reason we should all respect Mr. West, the second reason you should respect him is that he released the fourth magnum opus of his entire career with The Life of Pablo. An absolute mess of explosive trap ragers, sensitive pop-R&B, pounding industrial metal, and intentionally inflammatory lines, Life of Pablo is the perfect reflection of 2016’s utter confusion. He’ll open up a song with the greatest celebrity diss in history, and then five minutes later he’ll drop his most introspective tunes since 808s, it’s the nightmarish Hall of Mirrors album we’ve been waiting for. The fact that this album upset J Cole so much that he made a wack diss song about it about it just makes it that much more fun to listen to.

3. The Weeknd – Starboy

The problem with Alternative R&B is that most of its practitioners just sound like canned soul music, except for The Weeknd, who continues to reject the past and create stunning contemporary pop music. Both darker and more accessible than his previous release, Starboy finds The Weeknd presiding over a set list of jittery electronic soundscapes that recall the murked out malaise of 2016. Not since the Scene era has an artist made fame induced decadence sound so mesmerizing, as well as blood-curdlingly frightful.

4. Lil Uzi Vert – Lil Uzi Vs. The World 

Boasting 2016’s best production work, Lil Uzi Vert’s breakthrough EP is the most ebullient set of tracks to come out in years. Infusing Future’s revolutionary sound with a skate-punk energy as well as a puckish sense of humor, Vs. The World is a sheer joy from start to finish. It’s tight and purposeful, delivering all the shallow fun one could ever want, the fact that it has some of the best trap beats in history is just the icing sugar on the cake.

5. Various artists – Moana soundtrack

Over Disney’s long history, its animated musicals have produced some of the greatest American pop standards in history and this soundtrack is no exception. Written by the reigning musical God-King Lin Manuel Miranda, Moana places traditional Oceanic music into a showtune context to create some of the most hummable and interesting pop songs of 2016.  “How Far I’ll Go” is the “Let it Go “of this set, but other standouts include the goofy psych-pop ditty “Shiny” (sung by a Conchord no less) and “I am Moana” which has the awesomely Messianic power of the best Disney tunes. In a year, as cynical as 2016 it’s heartening that Disney continues to produce some of the positive music around, giving audiences a bust of childlike enthusiasm in a year otherwise overrun with fear-mongering and other adult nonsense.

Justin Carreiro’s Top 10 Songs 

2016 has been a great year for music. It has gifted us with plenty of songs to dance to, or simply listen to on repeat. It was also a hard year to narrow down the song selection to only 10 singles.

Beyond the pop tunes and artists that are guilty-pleasures for me (like Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony), I was impressed by The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and The Naked and Famous’ “Higher”. Both top the list with a cool vibe and a techno beat in their tracks that gets me every time. I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve listened to both, similar to “Cheap Thrills” and “Rockabye”. And if you haven’t jumped on board with Tove Lo or Paper Lions yet, you should check them out.

  1. The Weeknd (feat. Daft Punk) – “Starboy”
  2. The Naked and Famous – “Higher”
  3. Sia -“Cheap Thrills”
  4. Clean Bandit (feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie) – “Rockabye”
  5. Tove Lo – “True Disaster”
  6. Paper Lions – “Believer”
  7. Ariana Grande – “Dangerous Woman”
  8. Drake (feat. Wizkid & Kyla) “One Dance”
  9. Fifth Harmony (feat. Ty Dolla Sign) “Work From Home”
  10. Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”

 What were your favorite albums or songs of 2016? Let us know in the comments!


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