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The Round Table’s Top 5 Albums of 2016

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2016 has been an unadultered shitstorm, from beginning to end. But through it all, there has been one continual solace: music.

From Animal Collective to David Bowie to Radiohead, many of music’s biggest names — young and old — released new material this year, giving music lovers a treasure trove of material to pour over.

It was a huge year for streaming, with artists such as Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Drake and Frank Ocean dropping their latest projects exclusively through streaming platforms such as Tidal and Apple Music.

Drake’s Views is likely to be the year’s biggest selling album, but other musicians such as Rihanna, The 1975, Blink-182, Green Day and A Tribe Called Quest all spent time atop the Billboard 200.

Bowie’s final record, the omnious and emotional Blackstar, has frequently been sharing space atop other “Best of 2016” lists with Beyoncé’s Lemonade, a powerful mediation on betrayal. The two records are likely to duke it out for Album of the Year at the next Grammy Awards.

All in all, 2016 was a shitty year. But music in 2016 was far from shitty. It was innovative, poignant and powerful, even if we had to lose heroes such as Bowie, Prince, Rod Temperton, Phife Dawg, Maurice White and Leon Russell. The future of music is looking bright for fans of any genre. While this list is hugely subjective, here is The Round Table’s favorites from 2016.

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5. The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo will likely go down as one of the most perplexing events in music history. I’m not sure a more tumultous and confounding release has ever occured.

The album was a living project. From the intial unveiling at Madison Square Garden to the on-the-fly updates through streaming services to West’s recent medical issues, The Life of Pablo has transcended its status as a mere album.

While other music to be released in 2016 was indisputably stronger, West once again blazed a trend trail with his gospel-infused creation and made an innovative work of art in the process that may have changed how albums are made forever.

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4. Light Upon The Lake – Whitney

It is kind of amazing that a whiny indie folk band could inspire so much critical acclaim, but Whitney is kind of amazing.

The offspring of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Chicago natives Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek teamed up to craft the subdued majesty of Light Upon The Lake.

Over a swift 30 minute runtime, the rickety and homespun vibe that Whitney evokes is intoxicating. While the band has been tagged with the unfortunate “buzz band” label, it is hard to deny their appeal. Effortlessly beautiful music can be hard to come by.

While it is difficult to imagine where they will go from here, Whitney gave us a lovely debut with Light Upon The Lake.

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3. Blackstar – David Bowie

What can be said about Bowie’s Blackstar that has not already been said?

In one sweeping gesture, the man who will stand as perhaps the 20th century’s most staggering musical influence left us with a parting gift, a staggering mediation on the looming spectre of death.

The jazzy dirge and off-the-wall experimentation of the LP set a bar for 2016 that few could surpass.

In my heart of hearts, I know that Bowie’s record was far superior to that of nearly every other record this year. Blackstar was an absolutely sublime slice of music that will endure the test of time. Few other albums will have the staying power of Bowie’s final moment in the sun.

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2. Tired Of Tomorrow – NOTHING

One would be hard pressed to say that NOTHING has not encountered tragedy. Lead singer Domenic Palermo was viciously assaulted and his estranged father died rather suddenly.

But all that pain has been pushed into one heaving and moving hulk of a record, Tired Of Tomorrow.

From the thunderous outset of ‘Fever Queen’ to the pop joys of ‘Vertigo Flowers’ to the pure hurt of ‘A.C.D.,’ Tired Of Tomorrow is packed with tons of hooks, shoegazy guitars and enough angst to make a middle-schooler uncomfortable.

But the pain here is real and actually rather adult. Imagine The Cure had been jailed for attempted murder and you get Tired Of Tomorrow.

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  1. Double Vanity – BRONCHO

Norman, Okla.-based four-piece BRONCHO decided to create a cavernous LP with a glacial pace that pounds a singular theme into the listener’s mind. The end result of Double Vanity is an 80s-infused gem of garage pop.

Drawing from the sonic stylings of The Jesus and Mary Chain, BRONCHO coos and crunches its way through reverb-drenched love.

With its dirge-paced rhythms, Double Vanity is a thick and lusty album. Songs such as ‘Fantasy Boys,’ ‘New Karma’ and ‘Wanna’ highlight the band’s immense powers to paint lovely paintings upon which any listener to paste their own emotions or stories.

This is a hazy, bleary eyed beauty of an album.

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