K.’s Favorite Albums of 2016

“In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: ‘the Kingdom of God is within man’ – not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power. The power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure!”
– Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

There’s no need to begin by belaboring the kind of year it’s been. That ground’s been well-trod, and that framing would discourage the hope necessary to keep pushing for positive change and undermine the personal milestones worth celebrating. And I don’t want to altogether misremember 2016, so the latter is worth capturing: I got a killer new job! I saw the Northern Lights! I high-fived Iggy Pop! I visited Paisley Park! I competed on Family Feud! I starred in a music video! Troubles, both personal and societal, needn’t be called out and given power. I have resolved to focus my energy on “the power to create happiness,” aiming to “make this life free and beautiful” for myself and others in every way I am capable.

I feel that same resolve in the strength of musical offerings this year, perhaps the best in my lifetime. Sure, the emotions and perspectives ran the gamut, but one thing felt consistent: artists poured themselves into their work as if it were all they had.

When I look back on 2016, I want to remember these high-water marks as a reminder of mankind’s possibilities – a year of people at their best. When we get to a place where that feels more common than phenomenal, we’ll know we’ve won. My favorites, and the impressions they left upon me as I went about my year, are detailed below.

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K.’s Favorite Songs of 2016

While maddening in some ways, the playlist culture born of the streaming boom is breaking down genre barriers and creating more entry points to discover different and interesting sounds. I’ve always like supplementing my Favorite Albums list with a list of random songs that stayed in heavy rotation. Rather than attempting to arbitrarily rank them, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 50 and alphabetized them. In addition to a full listing and descriptions, I’ve also included a full Spotify playlist for convenient accompaniment. Cheers.

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K.’s 2016 in Music

To help the “favorite albums” exercise remain more love than labor, I took a page from Sasha Frere-Jones’ book and shortlisted albums in my Notes app as they caught my attention. To qualify, an album had to warrant at least two full listens. All 168 of those albums are listed below.

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K.’s Favorite Albums of 2014

“We have art in order not to die of the truth.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

2014 was a doozy. Personally, it was the most interesting and important year of my life, and all my excitement and ambition flew me a little too close to the sun. I laughed a lot, but I felt frayed more often than I should’ve. The state of the union weighed heavily on the optimist in me, and I wrestled with the good a “Good Vibes For All” worldview could even achieve. In times good and bad, though, music was always there in equal measure. It comforted me, renewed my spirit, reminded me who I am, illuminated truths, and – most importantly – kept me connected to others, which is the thing that really makes life worth living (and helps to keep us from “dying of the truth”).

With that said, here are the albums released this year that meant the most to me.

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K.’s 2014 in Music

Throughout the year, I kept a running list in my Notes app of everything that caught my attention and warranted multiple listens. I used that shortlist mostly to keep track of what came out this year, but also to begin developing my final list at year’s end. That list is below.

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K.’s Favorite Songs of 2014

A few years ago, I began supplementing my “Favorite Albums” list by recognizing the few songs I liked that weren’t tracks on my favorite albums – at the time, mostly rap songs released into the digital ether. This year, however, thanks to more continuous album listening (i.e. making it more difficult to extract single tracks) and finding more records on which I only liked a few tracks, there’s been less overlap than ever before. Full list after the jump.

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K.’s Favorite Albums of 2013

Image“In ceasing to care about most things, I have likewise ceased to suffer in many ways. There is a real restfulness in the scientific conviction that nothing matters very much; that the only legitimate aim of humanity is to minimise acute suffering for the majority, and to derive whatever satisfaction is derivable from the exercise of the mind in the pursuit of truth.” 
– H.P. Lovecraft

I won’t pretend I was on top of my game this year, but then, it hardly matters. I hope I’m finally on the verge of quieting whatever egotism compels me to present a self-concept via these lists, instead focusing on sharing the art that has most deeply amplified the meaning of my life. 2013 was my most challenging, meaningful, and positive year yet. I learned and I grew. I enjoyed and exhausted myself. I have higher, more focused hopes for the future than ever before.

Having said that, if you are a person with whom I’ve connected enough to feel compelled to read this, I thank you. I hope at least one thing described below is able to create the meaningful memories for you that it did for me in 2013.

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K.’s Favorite Tracks of 2013

Sun Studio Memphis

Much like last year, some of my favorite tracks – “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” “R U Mine?,” “Hive” and “Guild,” “Cheap Beer,” “WORLDSTAR” – were just parts of my favorite albums. Thanks to the Internet and our Culture of Too Much, however, many other gems reach me ad hoc. Below are said nuggets, a few of which found their way onto this year’s Good Ol’ Tapes.

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E.’s Favorite Albums & Tracks of 2012

Back in 2010, my homie Kyle asked me to throw together a top ten list of songs just for kicks. This is my third annual list, and we now run a blog that Atlanta Magazine, The Fader, and SBNation follow. It’s our weekend war, and you’re welcome to check it out. For now, here are my favorite albums and songs from 2012 (click-through the titles for a choice cut from each album): Continue reading

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On Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids”

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As part of my rundown of my favorite albums and tracks of 2012, I described at length what moved me about Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE. In particular, I reserved my highest praise for its epic ten-minute centerpiece “Pyramids,” which I posited is arguably one of the greatest achievements in the recent history of pop music. To avoid cluttering a list about whole albums, I decided to move to a separate space where I could parse out the thoughts I’ve been fumbling to articulate since first hearing it. Read said thoughts after the jump. Continue reading

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