Robert Dada’s Top 10 Albums Of 2016

Posted: December 27, 2016 in Music

#10. Preoccupations – Preoccupations

It was great when my Emusic membership account recommended this band to me because I never heard of them (or their previous incarnation, “Viet Cong”) before. Emusic must have me greatly profiled because this album lodged into my head like few others from bands I have never heard of before in 2016.

Very reminiscent of 80’s post-punk, a lot of it reminds me of a less poppy Jesus And Mary Chain, Joy Division/early New Order and especially the original lineup of The Danse Society.

Below is the link to the album review from Spin magazine:



#9. The Rolling Stones – Blue And Lonesome

If someone would have told me the Rolling Stones would be releasing an album in 2016 that would end up in my top 10, I would have said they haven’t made a great album since 1978’s “Some Girls” so why should I believe it?

Okay, the album is all blues covers from masters such as Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim but still the Stones play it like they own it.

Their first ‘new’ album since 2005’s “A Bigger Bang”, Mick Jagger hasn’t sounded this confident on the harmonica and vocals in many, many years and Ron and Keith trade guitar lines like two ace pilots competing with each other. Charlie, as always, keeps the whole thing from flying off the tracks with his locked in drumming.

You can tell they are really just having fun with this one, not trying to prove a point but reminding us of not only where they came from, but where rock music itself came from. I’d give a year off of my life if they would tour on this album in small clubs and would pay handsomely for the tickets.

Way to go lads…you nailed it.

Below is the link to the album review by David Fricke/Rolling Stone magazine:



#8. DIIV – Is The Is Are

[From Wikipedia] DIIV is an American rock band from Brooklyn, New York City, formed in 2011. The band consists of Zachary Cole Smith (vocals, guitar), Andrew Bailey (guitar), Devin Ruben Perez (bass), Colin Caulfield (keyboards, guitar) and Ben Newman (drums).

Initially called Dive, the band started as Smith’s solo recording project. After releasing three singles – “Sometime”, “Human” and “Geist” – on Captured Tracks, DIIV released its debut full-length album, Oshin, on June 26, 2012.

In 2016, the band released its second studio album, Is the Is Are, after a lengthy and troubled gestation period.

Like My Bloody – Cure – Valentine, the songs are echo-laden, reverb dripping, gloom-pop masterpieces. I had never heard of the band until a Facebook friend posted a link to the album. I’m really glad she did because it reinforced my belief that there is always great new music being produced, even if the media criminally ignores it.

While it’s not revolutionary in any sense, it faithfully creates an homage to 80’s – 90’s ‘shoe gazer’ rock without becoming too nostalgic about it.

Below is the link to the album review from Pitchfork:



#7. Jack White – Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016

Spanning almost 20 years, this is a double album collection of strong acoustic versions of White Stripes, solo work and a couple Raconteur (my favorite Jack White side project) songs. Sometimes acoustic albums can feel like they are plodding along. This album though, is almost as hot as when he is plugged in.

Nothing on here feels like it is ‘forced’ to be acoustic. They songs still feel natural in this ‘tamer’ setting. Outside of getting a ‘new’ Jack White album, this was one of the most welcome releases in 2016.

Below is the link to the album review from Pitchfork:



#6. Swans – The Glowing Man

With this latest incarnation of Swans, Michael Gira once again takes pretty traditional rock instruments (guitar, bass, drum, lap steel guitar) and somehow twists and filters their sounds through his hypnotically dark creative force, which often comes out like a dirge-like symphony orchestra. It’s simultaneously abrasive and musical.

It’s eight tracks span two discs with over half of the songs clocking in at 12 to 29 minutes. Because many of the pieces are long, there is ample time to let things build, heave upward and then recede only to heave upward some more. At times it feels like Einsturzende Neubauten, Sonic Youth (There’s even a ‘cover’ of “The World Looks Red”) and The Birthday Party jamming, albeit with more restraint and true musical phrasings.

The crown jewel on the whole album is the title cut. Clocking in at 28:51, it’s one of those signature pieces that starts low and slow and just keeps building with layers of sound until it kicks into to straight ahead heavy hard percussive noise rock. It’s an industrial noise rock masterpiece.

I was fortunate enough to see them on tour for this album and managed to get myself to the front of the stage right in front of Michael and Christoph Hahn. It was so loud you could feel your insides shake. My ears were ringing a bit even though I wore my musician’s grade earplugs.

Michael Gira has stated this is the last album to feature this lineup of Michael Gira (vocals, guitar), Norman Westberg (guitar), Christoph Hahn (lap steel guitar), Phil Puleo (drums), Christopher Pravdica (bass) and Paul Wallfisch (keyboards), which is somewhat of a shame since I think it’s one of their better lineups. Still, if this is what is necessary to continually come up with something new and visceral, then it’s a sacrifice that needs to be made. Or maybe it’s the end for good. If that is the case, this Swans-song was majestic.

Below is the link to the album review from Spin:



#5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Having been released after the tragic death of his son, Arthur, you knew this album was going to be dark. Actually some of it was recorded before Arthur’s death but it’s plain to see that event definitely shaped this album.

The opening song, “Jesus Alone”, after a somewhat dizzying and dark film score beginning, opens with the line,

“You fell from the sky

Crash landed in a field

Near the river Adur”

Arthur fell 60ft to his death from a cliff after freaking out on LSD. If you believe Nick, this was just a weird coincidence. According to him, most of the lyrics were written before the tragedy.

Nick always works out his demons through his work, whether it be music or literature and that’s what gives his work such importance, especially to those of us captivated by the darker side of life, or haunted by the darker side of life. Somewhat like Bowie’s “Blackstar” album, you can’t put on this album for some casual listen. You really need to be prepared for it because it can be emotionally draining. It works best at night, in the cold, alone with a drink, so you can just sit…and ponder…how horrible life can be at times.

Below is the link to the album review from The Guardian:



#4. Anderson / Stolt – Invention Of Knowledge

If you can’t have one of the classic Yes lineups with Jon Anderson on vocals, then at least you have this wonderful modern progressive album. Joined by Roine Stolt and a host of other notable prog musicians, this album is a near masterpiece.

Some of it reminds me of Close To The Edge/Tales From Topographic Oceans era Yes and some of it reminds me a bit of Going For The One. Jon’s voice is in great form throughout and at age 72, I’m amazed he still has that wonderful high voice (Note: I saw Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman perform on tour this year and can tell you firsthand that he still has the voice.)

Below is the link to the album review from The Prog Report:



#3. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

My general opinion about Iggy Pop is that he’s always as good as the band he puts together with him and he nailed it this time. He’s joined by Josh Homme and Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age, and Matt Helders, the drummer for the Arctic Monkeys.

Maybe it’s partly due to his reforming of The Stooges in the 2000’s but this time around, Iggy feels and sounds reenergized. There’s nothing ‘phoned in’ on this one. It feels raw and vital like we’ve often come to know from Iggy.

He’s alluded to the media that this may be his last album, which is kind of sad to hear but if this truly is his last album, he will have gone out in epic style.

Below is the link to the album review from Rolling Stone:



#2. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith Of Phobos

The ONLY reason this album didn’t make #1 is because I knew nothing would knock my #1 choice of 2016.  That said, this album is beyond genius.

I really like most of Les Claypool’s side projects but this one is probably the only one where I really want this to be an ongoing concern. It would be a shame if Les and Sean no longer collaborated after this one.

I guess you could best describe it as psychedelic – prog rock. Though unique, one can still hear homages to The Beatles as well as Primus. I never really followed much of Sean Lennon’s work so it astounded me to know how much he sounds like his father. However, I never get the impression on this album that he is deliberately trying to do so.

This album enjoyed heavy rotation by me in 2016 and I was damn lucky I was able to see them live when they toured on it this year.

Below is the link to a Rolling Stone article about the project:



#1. David Bowie – Blackstar

I bought this album the day it came out on January 8 and listened to it all through that weekend. I could sense after the first listening that something terrible was going to happen. It just struck me somehow that this wasn’t just a new album; it was the artist trying to tell us something is about to happen and that he was prepared for it.

I remember not sleeping well that Sunday night and when I woke up that Monday morning of January 11, I went to the computer as I always do to check out the news. There it was: “Rocker David Bowie Dead At 69”. I wasn’t shocked at all though I was sad (“I read the news today, oh boy…”).

That an artist dying of cancer could craft such an immaculate work of art that is basically telling us that he is leaving us is a testament to his creative energy and genius.

There’s talk of additional never released works to be released in the coming years, which is something to look forward to. However, we will never be able to ask ourselves, “What new stuff is David working on?”

Below is the link to the review from The Telegraph:




Honorable Mentions (In No Special Order)

  1. Wire – Nocturnal Koreans (This would have made the Top 10 but because it’s an EP and not an LP, I couldn’t permit it. Great, great stuff though)
  2. Nine Inch Nails – Not The Actual Events (See #1 for same explanation)
  3. Lazarus (Original Cast Recording)
  4. Tycho – Epoch
  5. Surgical Meth Machine – Surgical Meth Machine
  6. Pixies – Head Carrier
  7. John Doe – The Westerner
  8. Jah Wobble And The Invaders Of The Heart – Everything Is No Thing
  9. Helmet – Dead To The World
  10. Dengue Dengue Dengue – Siete Raices
  11. Brian Eno – The Ship
  12. David Arkenstone – Beneath A Darkening Sky

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