Best in Music 2016: Top 25 Albums of the Year

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

End of the year 'best of' lists are my favorite! I love when January comes around and I get to review all of the eargasmic joys of the previous year.


I  spent countless hours listening to all of my favorite albums of

2016, over the course of the last couple weeks.  You saw in last week's post, "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly", who didn't make the cut… 



Here they are.

All is revealed.














This dude NEVER stops working. In 2012, Trilogy was released. A triple-disc debut, with Kiss Land, a full-length LP not far behind, droppin' in 2013; Only to contribute Beauty Behind the Madness in 2015 (which was #7 on my 'Best of' last year, if I recall). Starboy is rich with all of what makes The Weeknd so unique, driven & at this point – perfectly established. Mainstream hasn't made him go limp; and one thing that is definitely evident in regard to other artists, who make guest appearances here – LANA DEL REY needs a man like this in her career. She appears on an interlude that proves if she infused some of these beats into her music, her career would be kicked up a major notch.



The New Zealand duo's energetic sophomore album dropped last year, and boy was it more treadmill-friendly than their 2014 debut, Evergreen. The first single, "Free" was a stellar preview of what would come with Conscious. "Couldn't Believe My Eyes" was also a great track, along with "We Had Everything". Tove Lo (spoiler: coming up on this list) made a guest appearance on the album & All three of the above-mentioned tracks appeared on JUNE'S JUMP UP & GET DOWN MIXTAPE. Follow me on Spotify @thequlturecritic for an #EARGASM every month. 


The NJ-based trio of hotties made a name for themselves with club-thumping remixes, before finally releasing their debut album last year. Complete with the blood and sweat of artists like Busta Rhymes, Nelly, Neon Hitch, Bebe Rexha, Dev, Anjulie, and Fitz (of the Tantrums) to name a few – the hip-hop infused, electro-pop album was SO MUCH FUN & proved hard work and passion = dreams come true. 


OK, so Macklemore & Ryan's follow-up to their unforgettable debut, The Heist, wasn't as grand or perfect – but it still was full of all the hip factors that make this two a necessity to the world of hip-hop. I never did mind Macklemore coming to the LGBTQ-defense antics, and thought it was actually something great for the mainstream, pop-culture movement. I honestly never made it through this whole album, but what I heard of it was enough to make it place on the best-of list. Plus… Brad Pitt's their cousin. 


15. THE KNOCKS, "55"

I first discovered this bad-ass DJ-duo when they opened for Dragonette (spoiler: coming up on this list) in NYC. I went to the show alone – hugging the stage at a small venue I can't recall the name of. Their first-full length album put them a bit closer to mainstream fame – but I still think they're super underrated and under-the-radar (Dragonette still is as well!). Tracks like "I Wish (My Taylor Swift), "Kiss the Sky" (feat. Wyclef), "Love me Like That" (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen) and "Classic" (feat. POWERS and Fetty Wep) all helped make 55 one of 2016's most cohesive and bad-ass albums. 

14. MIIKE SNOW, "iii"

I guess I have a thing for hot electro trios. #SORRYNOTSORRY. On their third full-length album, Miike Snow shoots for the stars – allowing them to surpass the mediocrity of Happy to You (their sophomore) and bringing it back to the individualized awesomeness that was introduced on their debut. Like their first album (Miike Snow), this album was cohesive, and didn't have any skippable tracks for the most part.  


After four years – a hiatus ignited by motherhood – one of music's raw talents returned with another near-perfect album to add to her discography. Alicia Keys' Here is one of those records that really doesn't need praise beyond "it speaks for itself," like anything else she's ever released. She's one of those artists that can do no wrong. 


Canadian indie-electro-pop trio Dragonette = MY FAVORITE FUCKING BAND everrrrr. But. That doesn't mean they released my favorite album last year. Royal Blues was without question full of bubbly, silly jams – but it pushed the borders of bubblegum cheese too far here and there. Luckily, the good outweighed the bad, I just wish their return locked a start-to-finish perfect album. IRREGARDLESS, like anyone else on my favorite forever list – they can do no wrong, and one thing this album is = full of smiles. Check December's Dear Santa XXXmas Eargasm   



Every major pop star (mostly) starts out as a puppet. The Britneys, Christinas and such, release albums in which their voice is often overpowered by studio execs and people with more power (and money) making the decisions for them. Then, (some of) them reach a point, where their artistry shines through and their true talent speaks high volumes. It's not about record sales at this point – it's about a vision, and that artist finally getting the upper hand creatively. For Rihanna, Anti was without a doubt that breakthrough. It started as one album, and ended with her proving she calls the shots, and is more than just another hot chick with a good voice. 


He's the #1 DJ/Producer on the list this year; with some of 2016's best collaborations. Kygo blended house, electro, and R&B to help create some of the year's most unforgettable hits – one of my favorites being "Stole the Show". His debut album featured a track list of breakthrough artists and is a staple for music lovers as a whole – regardless of genre preference.


A happy discovery last year was a band on their sophomore album that I hadn't heard of until Spotify mixed 'em onto my "Discover Weekly" playlist. These guys rocked my world when I heard Egomaniac, especially "Take it From Me", the first song of theirs I had ever heard. They are def on my list of bands to see live!


Disclosure helped make London duo Alunageorge's 2013 debut Body Music explode – and they strike hard again with their second LP, I Remember. This is one of my favorite albums of the year, not because it's perfect from start to finish – but because the tracks I love are amongst some of the year's most addictive. The first half of the album is certainly stronger than the latter, but it's packed with some of 2016's most energetic beats, and the sweet, smooth vocals of Miss Aluna herself. 


Never in a million years would I expect to be interested in a One Direction member's solo debut, but Zayn's Mind of Mine was one of the first albums fo 2016 to blow me out of the park. His voice, look, sexual charmisa, knack for songwriting and overall appeal made him one of the year's most exciting artists. It's impossible to not fall for him – I'd even go as far to say he makes straight men question their sexuality. Ya either want him – or wanna be him.


Sia has been one of my absolute favorite artists since before her manifesto/hidden face/#1album-record days came along. Without question, she has one of the industry's loudest, most powerful voices – and there's no getting around what a remarkable, raw talent she is. Sia a gift, a treasure, and This is Acting marked her second-in-a-row musical endeavor to reach mountains of new fans and keep her in the popular music/stadium selling artist range. It's clear Sia never really wanted fame, but also couldn't escape the inevitability of it. We don't need to see her face, because her voice certainly speaks for itself – and it just gets bigger and bigger.


Another artist discovery of 2016 that made me smile from ear to ear – which I thought was a debut, but turns out brother/sister pop/rock duo Wild Belle's Dreamland was a second, more polished effort than their little-heard-of debut, Isles. This girl's vocals were embedded in my mind for the rest of the year after hearing infectious songs like "The One That Got Away", "Losing You" and "Giving Up on You". Her album stands tall as one of the year's best "get over him/her" breakup albums, as well as introducing a bold, bright new bulb to the music patch.  

4. the xx, "I SEE YOU"

I couldn't wait until 2018 to talk about the return of the xx. It just wasn't an option, despite it technically having an early 2017 release date. Us fans have been waiting patiently for them to release their third album, and boy, was it worth the wait. This is one of those perfect, start to finish, cohesive albums, and a surprise turn for the trio, as this record is much more upbeat and sunny than their previous two.



Anyone who knows me, knows I love bad girls. I like my pop stars showing skin, talkin' nasty, cussing, making headlines for all the wrong reasons and making sex music. Tove Lo is leading the industry's pop stars when it comes to this current wave. And the most awesome thing about her, is that she does it with a natural flair, instinctively tapping into her lady parts in a way that isn't gross. In addition to releasing one of the year's most erotic, addictive pleasures, she went a step further in giving us both an eargasm and visual stimulant, with the short film, Fairy Dust to accompany one of the year's most cohesive, electrifying albums. I'm borderline OBSESSED with this woman. She is everything a confident, sex symbol should be in music.



Strike three. Home run. Phantogram. Just. gets. better. and better. This time around, it's perfection. The NY-based-duo always seem to have their hands in everything – from electro-pop DJ collabos and even hip-hop conglomerations like Big Grams (Phantogram & Big Boi); everything they touch turns to #EARGASM. Three stands out as their absolute best. Polished, loud, exhilarating and the perfect blend of genre-bending, off-the-cuff lyrics and explosive, inspired rhythms. This album fills my happy box up for so many reasons, and was one of my most played in 2016. I'm forever a Phantogram addict – and this is the album that finally sealed the deal and got me hooked. 



There's just no getting around how fucking awesome Jillian Banks is. In 2014, her debut Goddess was my selection as the BEST that year- and she tops my list yet again. She has IT ALL. The voice, the writing abilities, the performance artistry, the self-expression, the sound, the look – PERFECT package… and yet, she's still slightly under the radar enough to make her feel like she's all my own. Tracks like "Gemini Feed", "Fuck with Myself", "Trainwreck" and "This is Not About Us" stood out as some of the year's songs that were stuck on repeat, and she has a haunting voice I can not get out of my head. My love affair with her reminds me of myself and Fiona; the poetic writing, the ability to connect and the everlasting power of the music that is born from her life experiences. She is everything I look for in an artist, and The Altar is yet another perfect piece of art and music blended for many, multiple, #EARGASMS.

Check out the most awesome MixTape ever:

The one that features PHANTOGRAM & BANKS 


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