Maybe we're all just getting older, but with every tragic, often shocking passing of an icon this year, it feels like the past is fading into the distance, faster and faster, while the world around us in the present feels increasingly uncertain. In recent months it's been hard to focus on anything but the emotional pig's sty that was 2016, but there is a substantial silver lining: This was phenomenal year for new music. Existential anxieties aside, it was a banner year for hip-hop and R&B, from the slam dunk return of A Tribe Called Quest to Beyoncé and Solange exploring the themes of race, family and love on two of the most important pop records of the decade. This year gave us both the unsettling arias of ANOHNI and the rise and fall of G.L.O.S.S., demonstrating the grace and power trans and gender non-conforming artists achieve when unencumbered from (or in spite of) staggering prejudice. Even riding the more frivolous side of the airwaves, new-ish groups like The 1975 and Fifth Harmony injected a sorely needed dose of sex and drama into the global pop scene. Music may be the original safe space for outsiders, but while we're fed the constant, unfiltered message that everything is crumbling around us, we all need the solace and peace of music more than ever, and in that regard, 2016 absolutely delivered.
While going through the annual panic of ranking my favorite recent albums, I noticed a pattern emerge. A lot of the music I had turned to in my most vulnerable moments—post-election, after moving to a new city, during a mild case of heartbreak—were built on the soft rock stylings of the 1970s, featuring abundant slide guitars, layered vocals, and plush piano stabs. Not to assume or diminish the intent of these artists (after all, no one likes to be pigeonholed), but the similarities between their current records are striking. Weyes Blood's Front Row Seat to Earth uses the soothing tones of Carol King and The Carpenters to craft a singer-songwriter record unlike anything that's come out in recent memory. The 28 year old singer also appears on Drugdealer's full-length The End of Comedy; it's the new, and most solid record from Michael Collins, who's recorded during the past decade as Salvia Plath, Run DMT, and various other psychedelic pseudonyms. Brooklyn five-piece Pavo Pavo's under-the-radar debut album, Young Narrator in the Breakers, pulls from pulp sci-fi imagery and AM radio rock to create a fresh take on recent indie pop, while Long Island brother duo The Lemon Twigs—who somehow managed to end 2016 as both hyped and slept-on—go full tilt on their debut Do Hollywood, having nurtured their glitter and glamor and uninhibited rock 'n' roll pomp until fully matured, pouring it all into an an astonishingly sophisticated collection. And the D'Addario brothers are still not out of their teens.
Read more on Noisey