With my honorable mentions out of the way last week, it’s time for my top five albums of 2016.
5. This is Acting by Sia
I’m not sure this is a great album, but the story behind it (all but the embedded song originally being written for other artists) gives each song an interesting metatextual context that adds complexity and depth to what are otherwise standard Sia-penned pop songs. This is fifth on my list by a fairly large margin (I could shuffle the order of the rest and feel okay enough with it), but I still really enjoyed it.
4. A Seat at the Table by Solange
I’ve not given this album a ton of listens so I might rank it differently in a few months, but as of now I really dig it. It’s a very frank, honest album that captures a diverse range of emotions without feeling scattered. I don’t love the frequent non-musical interludes (which I don’t care for in general), but there are a ton of standout songs on this album.
3. The Heart Speaks in Whispers by Corinne Bailey Rae
CBR’s previous album, The Sea, was for years my favorite album and still is high up there (I’ve just cooled on it a bit in the last couple years). So I had really high hopes for The Heart Speaks in Whispers, Corinne Bailey Rae’s first album in six years. And . . . it’s fine! There are some really good songs, some I don’t care for so much, some that are in between. There’s a slightly off-kilter, experimental sound to the album that even on the best tracks makes me wonder if it would have benefited from more traditional production, but hopefully CBR’s next album comes a lot sooner and can build on the experimentation going on here.
2. Waitress Cast Recording
This totally counts as an album, okay!
Sara Bareilles is amazing, and while I didn’t actually care for her recording of a bunch of this musical’s songs (which she wrote), I love the cast recording. The slightly retro-sounding piano-pop style is comfortable and inviting and the cast do an absolutely fantastic job bringing the songs to life.
1. Nothing’s Real by Shura
I think I have to rank this album highest on my list, though. I feel like this album is well-described as “’80s-era Madonna if Madonna were a shy introvert” and that rules. Shura’s voice is fantastic and manages to carry a surprising amount of emotion at times, and where I felt The Heart Speaks in Whispers was experimental to a fault, the more experimental tracks on Nothing’s Real have an exciting, daring sense to them.