The Best Albums of 2016

Posted by Amoebite, December 19, 2016 03:01pm | Post a Comment

Best of 2016

With the holiday season fast approaching and 2016 drawing to an end, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite releases for the year. Staff from all three of our stores --  in Hollywood, San Francisco, and Berkeley -- shared their picks for the year's best music and movies and told us a little about what made them so awesome. So hop in the Amoeba sleigh with us, won't you, as we go on a magical holiday journey through the early months of 2016 till now, adventuring from world music to rock 'n' roll and everything in between, savoring the most memorable works from some of our most beloved artists. (It might even give you a few swell ideas for record-shaped stocking stuffers.) 

Best of 2016 - rock

Anohni Hopelessness

ANOHNI - Hopelessness

I have been a fan of Anohni (formerly known as Antony & the Johnsons) for a long time now. She has another one of those distinctive voices that there is no confusing for someone else. Another great album produced by the amazing ANOHNI. The words in the songs are so full of emotion and power it is almost too much to handle sometimes. This album somehow feels like it is in the future. The songs are very set in the present. But the music really takes me to the future. Or at least makes me feel like we will be OK as long as we have ANOHNI to help guide us through the uncertain future. - Brad, Hollywood

Eric Bachmann

Eric Bachmann - Eric Bachmann

While the ever-underappreciated former frontman of Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers would, no doubt, disagree with me, I'm still gonna say this album (and his previous To the Races) could go toe-to-toe with any of his idol Springsteen's releases and maybe even come out on top. - Duncan, San Francisco

Freetown Sound

Blood Orange - Freetown Sound

None of Dev Hynes' past works can be considered less than quality, but the formula and concept behind this 2016 album are completely in a league of their own. A fluid culmination of synth pop, funk and soul, Dev Hynes touches, grabs, and evokes on the album. Intended for those [in the words of Hynes], "not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way." - Austin, Berkeley

I am a big Dev Hynes fan and loved his previous band Lightspeed Champion. I loved the first Blood Orange album Coastal Grooves from 2011. Somehow I didn't really love his last album but he got me back with this one. I can't resist his catchy songs. He really is a great songwriter. "Hands Up" and "Better Than Me" stand out as two of the most catchy and addictive. I hope he keeps writing songs for himself and others forever. We need more people like Dev Hynes around the world. - Brad, Hollywood

Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & the Bads Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave began work on his latest LP prior to the tragic death of his son Arthur; it was completed in the months following the loss. There's a weight to this somber, simple album and Cave's voice has never felt more urgent. A beautiful, bleak document of grief, love, and hope. - Alison, Hollywood

Frankie Cosmos Next Thing

Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing

So yes she is the daughter or Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline. And yes I am jealous that those are her parents! And this really is reason enough to listen to this album. This album is another great twee inspired album that will take you back to the days of K Records and bands like Heavenly. I will always love Phoebe Cates for giving us Gremlins and now we have her to thank for Frankie Cosmos! - Brad, Hollywood


Crocodiles - Dreamless

Dirty bass, hypnotic keyboards and minimal-yet-infectious beats rule this album, especially on tracks like "Jumping On Angels." "Welcome To Hell" is a moody electro-disco track with some dirty guitar groovin', while "I'm Sick" sounds like a collaboration between Suicide and the Ramones. Album opener "Telepathic Lover," will be stuck in your head for days with its "Love Will Tear Us Apart"-esque synths and catchy melody. - Aaron A., Hollywood


Deap Vally - Femejism

Guitar riffs and vocal hooks up the wazoo! Sometimes sludgy, sometimes surfy, always rockin', producer Nick Zinner (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) gets the most out of the seemingly minimal setup of the band. "Little Baby Beauty Queen" features a sinister "Helter Skelter"-like guitar hook, while the vocals invoke glam rock at its nastiest. "Gonnawanna" seems to sum up the band's attitude with the lyric, "I'm gonna do what I wanna, I'm gonna do it 'cause I wanna." - Aaron A., Hollywood

Death Valley Girls Glow in the Dark

Death Valley Girls - Glow in the Dark

Running the risk of sounding like Stefon from Saturday Night Live, this band has everything. By everything, I mean the three Cs: concept, chicks (and one guy named Larry), and costumes. Relative newcomers to the high-stakes world of high-concept costume rock, Death Valley Girls are a force to be reckoned with. Their sound is dark garage-y party rock for the Armageddon, their look is 1970s Sunset Strip sex 'n’ drugs cult meets girl gang, and their onstage shtick must be experienced. Like Z-Man from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, I can’t help but say, “This is my happening and it freaks me out!” every time I see them play. If you can’t see them live, Glow in the Dark is the next best thing. This is the most fun your record player will have all year. - Audra, San Francisco

A crunchy, driving, chorus-chanting ride from the beer-stained gutters of the city to the sun-drenched corners of the Mojave. Hitting that sweet spot between mid-'70s glam and late '70s punk, with a healthy dose of psychedelic trance, the Los Angeles band's second record is non-stop, full of attitude and, most importantly, a fun time. "Pink Radiation" feels like a desert cult initiation as the Kool-Aid sets in, but watch your speedometer while listening to the title track, "Glow In The Dark", the next thing you might hear is the sound of a siren pulling you over. - Aaron A., Hollywood

DIIV Is the Is Are

DIIV - Is the Is Are

Brooklyn’s Diiv returned after four years with an album that delivered on the promise of their debut, Oshin. Musically, Zachary Cole Smith still doles out shimmering guitar-pop nuggets that surf on waves of reverb and atmospheric distortion. Songs like “Under the Sun” offer a pure rush of new wave beats and summery melodies, even as Smith’s lyrics delve into his struggle with addiction. It follows one of The Cure’s best tricks: sounding lively even at their bleakest. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Exploded View

Exploded View - Exploded View

The artist formerly known as Anika has teamed up with a full band for her Exploded View project, a coolly confrontational post-punk gem. Imagine Nico vibes with a leftist political conscience, doled out in some secret venue in a European basement where everyone's wearing well-tailored black clothes and the air is filled with a thick miasma of cigarette smoke.  - Alison, Hollywood

Glam Skanks

Glam Skanks - Glitter City

A friend hipped me to this new-ish band from Hollywood, CA and I was hooked on the first listen! Think The Donnas meet classic trash and you have a new favorite band. - Brent James, San Francisco

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity

Australia has gifted the world many amazing things, such as kangaroos, AC/DC, and the TV show Danger 5. This year my favorite Australian imports are the heavy psych band King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard and their most recent album, Nonagon Infinity. The seven-man, two-drum kit lineup has a complex sound for sure, but on Nonagon Infinity they take their complexity to new heights with wicked crackling guitar riffs, trance-inducing rhythms, and repetitive kaleidoscopic melodies that border on raga. Each song on the album leads directly into the next, making for one long, continuous far out trip. - Audra, San Francisco

Cate Le Bon Crab Day

Cate Le Bon - Crab Day

Post-punk heroine Cate Le Bon gets weird on her latest record, and that’s a very good thing. Crab Day mines dream logic for gold on lyrically twisted tunes that find strange melodies in between off-kilter grooves. It’s a ramshackle house, but everything fits just so, giving a sense of Le Bon’s mastery over difficult material. The Gertrude Stein of indie rock. - Billy Gil, Hollywood


Lust for Youth - Compassion

Scandinavian synthpop group Lust for Youth are like a brattier, more urbane Pet Shop Boys for the 21st century. (Their Twitter account is consistently hilarious, portraying themselves as languid, world-weary jet setters with a penchant for Hugh Grant movies and Fiji Water.) On Compassion, the band are alternately moody and sanguine, creating tracks that are both doleful and danceable. - Alison, Hollywood

Kylie Minogue Kylie Christmas Snow Queen Edition

Kylie Minogue - Kylie Christmas [Snow Queen Edition]

A revved up version of last year's classic. Perfect decorating music! - Brent James, San Francisco

Miserable Unctontrollable

Miserable - Uncontrollable

Uncontrollable got heavy rotation for its often moody & sometimes depressing feeling, but it has a heavy balance of soothing yet peaceful feelings after each listen. This is a solo project by Kristina E. (lead vocalist for King Woman) which isn't a far cry from any of her previous musical works but definitely carries a more personal stark musical experience. - Furn, Hollywood

Kevin Morby Singing Saw

Kevin Morby - Singing Saw

Former Woods member Kevin Morby continues his fruitful solo career with a stunner of an album. Singing Saw kicks up Morby’s melancholic songwriting with psychedelic bursts of orchestration, gleaming guitars, straightforward rock beats to keep the whole thing anchored and, yes, singing saws aplenty. Majestic. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

The Mystery Lights

The Mystery Lights - The Mystery Lights

This NY-by-way-of-Salinas, California band’s self-titled debut on Daptone Records' new subsidiary Wick is pure sinister garage -- the darker side of the '60s Nuggets, Pebbles, and Back From The Grave comps. Think about the proto-punk of The Seeds, The Sonics, and The Jesters of Newport and add a little Brooklyn-hip to it. Unlike many garage rock revivalists, The Mystery Lights don't just recreate the sound; these guys channel it spiritually, putting on a raucous show led by the howling, jumping, guitar-wielding Mike Brandon. - Audra, San Francisco

Marissa Nadler Strangers

Marissa Nadler - Strangers

Marissa brings a very unique & beautiful aspect to her music, which I would call Dream Folk (a sort of mix of Ethereal 4AD Dreampop bands as well as traditional female Folk singers). Strangers is enjoyable & original & seems to have more in common with (later) Leonard Cohen & Chelsea Wolfe than other modern folk acts of today. - Furn, Hollywood

Angel Olsen My Woman

Angel Olsen - MY WOMAN

A riveting road trip through heartache terrain, with stops along the way for glittering new-wave balladry (“Intern”), breathy dream soul (“Those Were the Days”) and ripping rock ‘n’ roll come ons (“Shut Up Kiss Me”). In a word, breathtaking. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Toon Time Raw!

Jerry Paper - Toon Time Raw!

Los Angeles-based Jerry Paper is a genius and it is time he got his proper due. Toon Time is his best one yet. - Alex M, Hollywood

Parquet Courts Human Performance

Parquet Courts - Human Performance

N.Y.C. indie-rock heroes Parquet Courts seemed less concerned with proving anything to anyone than ever on their latest album. Yet it found the band settling into itself nicely and coming up with some of its most weirdly catchy songs. After a few great-to-spotty albums, Human Performance found the band following the lineage of brainy New York indie rock of yore, from Talking Heads and Television through Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys, and coming up with an album of winners. On songs like the Velvet Underground-ish title track; short, rhythmically clever tunes like “Outside” and “I Was Just Here”; and shoutalong slacker anthems like “Paraphrased”; and verbose Nuggets jams like "Berlin Got Blurry," Parquet Courts sound comfortable yet energized, mature but real in their embrace of the surreal and off-kilter. Their best yet. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

2012's Light Up Gold was one of my favorite albums in a long time. This is their first album since then that truly builds on their incredible promise. - Alex M, Hollywood

Pop-Pop Depression

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression

The pairing of Iggy Pop and Joshua Homme may have been an unexpected one, but it has proven to be the most worthwhile collaboration of 2016. The musicianship and songwriting of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Homme gives Pop a rich palate and stage from which to reminisce, profess and spit venom. There's a world-worn romance to the album, especially with songs like "Break Into Your Heart," "Gardenia" and "Chocolate Drops" (which features some of Homme's most haunting guitar playing), but there's also an urgent sense of disgust and frustration, and you can hear one of the last true icons, showmen and pioneers of rock 'n' roll fighting against the spiritless, the unimaginative, and all the digitally invasive crap we have to deal with in the 21st century. - Aaron A., Hollywood


Preoccupations - Preoccupations

A lot of current rock bands seem content to not do much more than play dress up with sounds of the past. Preoccupations are the anxiety-ridden, cold and foreboding sound of the present. The album of 2016 for me, because more so than anything else, it sounds like 2016.
- Alex M, Hollywood

The band formerly known as Viet Cong found a much better name in Preoccupations. And I actually really like this new album much better than their first. They are sort of like my Future Islands for this year. The Canadian version. The lead singer has a crazy deep voice that I love. Sort of like Joy Division meets The Psychedelic Furs. - Brad, Hollywood

Roses Camera Trouble

Roses - Camera Trouble

Roses nail every nuance to new-wave melancholia on their smashing debut. While other artists may similarly mine the territory of churchbell-chime guitars, Peter Hook basslines, and synthy melodicism, Roses fit in perfect details, like the handclaps and drum machine breakdown in “It’s Eerie” and lovelorn OMD-ish coda to “Julian March,” that make the whole thing hum. The best album that never came out in 1984. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Stolen Tools & Stereos

Joe RutStolen Tools & Stereos

Joe Rut flies under the radar but is probably the best “unknown” singer-songwriter in the Bay Area. His fourth album should give him some notoriety. My favorite tunes are “Black Velvet Elvis” and “Porcupine.” - Joe Goldmark, San Francisco

A Fool to Care

Boz ScaggsA Fool To Care

Boz’ best album since his heyday. I like ‘em all. - Joe Goldmark, San Francisco

Moods Baby Moods

Sonny and the Sunsets - Moods Baby Moods

A sun-baked, funky stroll down your favorite street while your mind is someplace else. If Beck had produced a track where Lou Reed fronted Parliament Funkadelic, it might have sounded something like the (sort of) title track, "Moods," whose stream-of-consciousness verses are accented by sensitively-detached and catchy choruses, and groovy instrumental nervous-breakdowns. The lyrics are absurd, like in "Well But Strangely Hung Man," but not really abstract, and paint a vivid portrait with unassuming directness. - Aaron A., Hollywood

A Weird Exits

Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits

Garage bands that have been writing and recording for twenty years shouldn’t sound as fresh, inventive, and exciting as Thee Oh Sees do, but they beat the odds with A Weird Exits. It’s heavy, hooky, and somehow feels epic in only seven songs. - Kyle, Hollywood

vow Kind eyes

Vow - Kind Eyes

Los Angeles-based Vow is a band that seems to increase their creative talents with each release. Synth laced with dreamy guitars with a voice to match, Julia's vocals are absolutely mesmerizing. - Furn, Hollywood

Warpaint Heads Up

Warpaint - Heads Up

While Warpaint made further concessions toward pop on their latest, the lion’s share of the album plays to their strengths — extended mood pieces of reverbed guitar interplay and pulsing basslines, punctuated by warm electronic beats and breathy, layered vocals. Though their subtlety will never win the acclaim they deserve, fans of this sort of thing will continue to eat it up. Dive into the ether with Warpaint. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Weyes Blood Front Row Seat to Earth

Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat to Earth

Natalie Mering has perfected a certain kind of morose-but-not-mournful singer/songwriter sound that any comparisons to those who came before her — think a skillful blend of The Carpenters and Vashti Bunyan — fall by the wayside. These songs are heartfelt and melodically strong, yet still retain a certain intrigue, as on the haunting single “Do You Need My Love,” which pairs its directly stated lyrics with psych-pop meanderings into unknown territory. It’s a delicate balance of emotion and mystery that keeps you coming back for more, again and again. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Wild Nothing Life of Pause

Wild Nothing - Life of Pause

Wild Nothing’s third album transcends Jack Tatum’s on-sleeve influences to produce a first-class pop album in the vein of Roxy Music’s sophisticated artpop classic, Avalon. From “Reichpop’s” regal wall of vibraphones and slick new wave beat to “A Woman’s Wisdom’s” ethereal soul and sugary, MBV-inspired shoegazer “Japanese Alice,” Life of Pause journeys through a wide variety of styles — masterfully. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - hip hop

Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition

Personifying the deep diversity within the broad genre that is hip-hop these days, was Danny Brown's brilliant 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition. Released by Warp Records and with a title that's inspired by Joy Division and J.G. Ballard, this is unlike the typical popular cookie cutter rap being churned out these days. Rather with Brown's distinctive voice and flow and its wild production (10 of the 15 tracks produced by Paul White) this album packs a frantic, futuristic, adrenaline-fueled, up all night on acid vibe that's simultaneously disturbingly weird and sonically beautiful. It's a unique style that can only be described as Danny Brown. - BillyJam, Hollywood

Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

Unlike anything he has done previously, this album takes cues from D'Angelo and '70s Funkadelic more than what you'd expect from an artist who started out rapping. This shows his growth as an artist, using more live instrumentation, back up singers, and even pushing his own vocal approach. It's damn good! - Furn, Hollywood

And the Anonymous Nobody

De La Soul - And The Anonymous Nobody

I loved this album because it gave you the De La Soul you love along with the De La Soul that you might not be used to, but can still appreciate because it's still DE LA! - Monalisa, Hollywood

Domo Genesis

Domo Genesis - Genesis

I'm going to use one word to best describe this album: banger! - Furn, Hollywood

The D-Boy Diary Book 1

The D-Boy Diary Book 2

E-40 - The D-Boy Diary: Book 1 + The D-Boy Diary: Book 2

Veteran rapper and entrepreneur Earl "E-40" Stevens continued his seemingly unstoppable prolific streak in 2016 with yet another two new albums (three if you include the Deluxe version) that dropped simultaneously: The D-Boy Diary Books 1 and 2. Three decades into his career, the influential mic spitter and slanguage creator somehow manages to remain a relevant and ever popular figure in the fickle music field. Joined  by an impressive list of mic collaborators, that include G-Eazy, Gucci Mane, Lil B, Nef The Pharaoh, Kid Ink, B-Legit, Mistah F.A.B., and Husalah, The D-Boy Diaries offer another healthy serving of slaps from the Vallejo rap icon. - BillyJam, Hollywood

Lead Poison

eLZhi - Lead Poison

The old adage about the best art being created out of pain and inner turmoil rang true with the long overdue album Lead Poison from former Slum Village member eLZhi. Two years behind schedule, the Kickstarter funded project by the Detroit rapper was finally completed following a deep bout of depression, dealing with a death, confronting alcoholism, and a breakup with his girlfriend. The result: a killer album with such standout tracks as the Karriem Riggins produced "Two 16’s." - BillyJam, Hollywood

The Jersey Connection

The Enforcers - The Jersey Connection

This is a collaboration between legendary hip-hop producer K-Def and emcee El Da Sensei from the Artifacts crew. K-Def's theme-like productions play like a blaxploitation soundtrack with El providing the storylines, in the same vein as Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge's Twelve Reasons To Die project. - Monalisa, Hollywood
Kindness For Weakness

Homeboy Sandman - Kindness For Weakness

In 2016 innovative, prolific Queens, NY wordsmith Homeboy Sandman continued to craft more of his thought-provoking intricate rhymes. This he did via both the numerous cameos on other artists' releases (inc. Gensu Dean and Sammus) as well as on his own latest Stones Throw release, Kindness For Weakness, on which he enlisted an impressive roster of producers (inc. Edan, RJD2 and 2 Hungry Bros) who each compliment his unique flow that demands repeated listens and never gets old. - BillyJam, Hollywood

Lil Boat

Lil Yachty - Lil Boat

Get on board before they set out for sea and you're left landlocked with all the rappers sounding like other rappers! Lil Yachty and his Sailing Team are the most refreshing artists to hit the scene in 2016. Shattering norms and pushing boundaries, Yachty refuses to accept labels and no old head is going to hold him back. Comparable to punk's departure from rock 'n' roll, Yachty and company are flag bearers of a new rap renaissance, booming out of the underground. Look out, the future of hip-hop is nautical. - Austin, Berkeley


Linafornia - Yung

A souled out mashup of jazzy textures, electro bleeps, and abstract beats. A chilled out exploration set to fresh and inspired grooves, Yung is sure to get you into the zone. - Giuseppe, Hollywood

Ronald Dregan

Mac Dre - Ronald Dregan: Dreganomics

One of two stellar album reissues from the late, great, Bay Area icon, Dreganomics features the remarkably definitive hits: "Feeling Myself," "Get Stupid (Remix)," "Since '84" and more. Thizz Ent. delivers a clean and proper reissue of this legendary album every hip-hop head should pick up. We're still feeling it. R.I.P. MAC DRE. - Austin, Berkeley

Velvet Portraits

Terrace Martin - Velvet Portraits

This is another album that takes you everywhere musically - you get jazz, funk, hip-hop and soul randomly throughout the journey. Terrace is immensely talented as a songwriter and a musician, and you can hear it all through the album. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Mr. Lif Don't Look Down

Life and Death of Scenery

Mr. Lif  - Don't Look Down + Mr. Lif & L'Orange - The Life And Death Of Scenery

Following seven years with no new albums, legendary Boston emcee/former Def Jux member Mr. Lif marked a welcome return in 2016 with not one but two new albums: Don't Look Down and The Life And Death Of Scenery. Both released via Mello Music Group, the latter was a collaboration with producer L'Orange. On both the emcee, who is also a member of Thievery Corporation as well as longtime member of, The Perceptionists, returned fresh from the break and full of creative energy. As he told the Amoeblog in 2016: "I feel like I just started…For me, my career begins now!" - BillyJam, Hollywood


Mykki Blanco - Mykki

A jaw-dropping, brow-raising proper studio album that you're probably still trying to find a box in which to put it. Don't bring up "Afropunk," don't bring up "queer rap" -- all you need to worry about is Mykki creating radically breathtaking rap music, with or without you being capable of wrapping your head around her craft. - Austin, Berkeley

The Odd Tape

Oddisee - The Odd Tape

Been a big fan of Oddissee for many years, but I really loved this one - it's all instrumental, but it really shows his talent for going anywhere and everywhere musically. Soul, funk, electronic and jazz influences are heard all through this project and I hope he continues to do more of these. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Isaiah rashad

Isaiah Rashad - The Sun's Tirade

At this point, it's safe to say that Isaiah Rashad is a perfect addition to the TDE list (SZA, Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar) as an artist blending both hints form the early '90s Boom Bap era with an even level of today's current West Coast beats. Highly suggested for fans of: Anderson Paak, Vince Staples, and Vic Mensa - Furn, Hollywood


Sadat X - Agua

The main reason why I loved this album is because Sadat has never changed - you can always count on solid rhymes from him, and the production is in place here as well. He's released a number of solo records since Wild Cowboys in the '90s and each release has been consistent. - Monalisa, Hollywood
Schoolboy Q Blank Face LP

ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

On constant repeat. - Brent James, San Francisco

We Got It From Here

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here....Thank You 4 Your Service

Fantastic album from start to finish - it seems to pick up where they left off eighteen years ago without compromising their sound, as some other golden era artists have over the years. The inclusion of Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak was a great and welcomed surprise.
- Monalisa, Hollywood
The Life of Pablo

Kanye West - Life of Pablo

Kanye is pretty much the cartoon caricature of a megalomaniac pop-star villain at this point, but I'd be lying if I said this wasn't unquestionably the most entertaining music I've heard all year. Sorry.
- Alex M, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - soul

Beyonce Lemonade

Beyonce - Lemonade

On her bold new album, Beyonce took on the image of the wounded lover and owned it while continuing to make heartfelt, intelligent pop music of the highest order. As her previous, self-titled album was a vibrant ode to fidelity, Lemonade represents the other side of relationships. As such, it’s a hook-laden gut punch of an album. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

charles bradley changes

Charles Bradley - Changes

Charles continues diving deep within his personal realm of love & heartbreak on his 3rd LP. As gut wrenching as it is you can't help but enjoy the soulful enriched R&B throughout the record, which makes for a perfect balance of sadness & joy. - Furn, Hollywood

Lee Fields and the Expressions Special Night

Lee Fields & the Expressions - Special Night

The premier soul man returns with tender musings on the nature of love, companionship, and loneliness. Adorned with lush strings, powerhouse horns, and reeling gospel-inspired organ treatments, Special Night is the perfect soundtrack to a romantic night gone right with that special someone. - Giuseppe, Hollywood

KING We Are King

KING - We Are King

The long-awaited release from this beautiful self-produced trio didn't disappoint at all this year. Smooth, mellow sounds & jazzy harmonies all throughout. - Monalisa, Hollywood


Nite-Funk - Nite-Funk EP

A handful of heavy funky jams here from Nite Jewel and Dam-Funk, just enough of a groove to tide you over until the full length happens. - Monalisa, Hollywood

NxWorries Yes Lawd

NxWorries - Yes Lawd!

This collaboration between Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge is on a more laid back, cool, carefree vibe than either of their solo projects, which fully explains the "No worries" title. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Frank Ocean Blond

Frank Ocean - Blonde

Sprawling, poignant, minimal, psychedelic. A flawed masterpiece.
- Alex M, Hollywood

Anderson Paak Malibu

Anderson .Paak - Malibu

The follow-up to his highly acclaimed debut album, Venice, carries the same soulful vibration but with even more punch to it. - Monalisa, Hollywood


Phonte & Eric Roberson - Tigallero

These two have worked together in the past on Eric's releases, and have almost identical fan bases due to to Phonte's work with The Foreign Exchange, so it made all the sense in the world for them to do a soul project together. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Rihanna Anti

Rihanna - ANTI

Album-wise, Rihanna hasn’t always lived up to her mammoth singles. By comparison, ANTI’s obvious singles are few. And as such, it’s her best album since Rated R. Like that album, ANTI finds Rihanna thriving in darker tones. Songs like “Consideration” have her familiar catchy melodies and dancehall-influenced vocal affectations, but their grimey beat and melancholy synths are miles away from a song like “We Found Love.” “Kiss It Better” is one of her most convincing power ballads, its booming synths and big guitar riffs placing her closer to Miguel and Janelle Monae. And while single “Work” at first felt silly, Rihanna’s nimble, confident vocals sent the song driving into our skulls, where it resided for the entirety of 2016. The desire to stretch out and not simply be beholden to producing mega singles was undoubtedly well earned and better gave us a sense of Rihanna as an artist than ever before. - Billy Gil, Hollywood

A Seat at the Table

Solange - A Seat at the Table

Stunningly articulate in her songwriting, Solange offers up not only her own personal elations and tribulations, but those of anybody and everybody living while black in America. Dreamy yet powerful, Solange delivers poignantly significant cultural commentary on the album. Featuring an incomparable roster of collaborators (BJ the Chicago Kid, Dev Hynes, The-Dream, Kelly Rowland, Lil Wayne, Master P, Q-Tip, Questlove, Sampha, Moses Sumney, Patrick Wimberly, etc.), Solange's third album is the definition of an instant classic. - Austin, Berkeley

One of my favorite artists today, truly outstanding and a cut above what most current artists are doing. - Furn, Hollywood

Adrian Younge The Electronique Void

Adrian Younge - The Electronique Void: Black Noise

A departure from his signature soul stylings, The Electronique Void finds Mr. Younge in the midst of a noir journey. Minimal beats, lurching keys, and atmospheric synths come together in an abysmal and intriguing sonic pastiche. The result is a truly ominous and danceable affair. - Giuseppe, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - electronic

Autechre Elseq 1

Autechre - Elseq 1-5

This record was sort of forgotten due to the fact it's Autechre's first digital-only studio album release, but fans of the glitchy/techno/drill n bass duo surely didn't overlook this album because it's filled with heavy beats & obscure glitches. - Furn, Hollywood

A Body Turns to Eden

Body Sculptures - A Body Turns to Eden

Body Sculptures is a Scandinavian experimental noise supergroup, as unlikely as that sounds. Featuring members of Varg, Puce Mary, composer Erik Enocksson, and Posh Isolation founder Loke RahbekA Body Turns to Eden is lush, dark, and ambient. The compositions shift from things of crystalline beauty into harsh creeping industrial noise; it's a transmogrification that makes the album even more sublime. - Alison, Hollywood

Everywhere at the End of Time

The Caretaker - Everywhere at the End of Time

Leyland Kirby announces the end of The Caretaker project with the first in a series of six albums that take the listener through an experience that mimics the onset of dementia. Using a mixture of ballroom music, vinyl noise, and effects, Kirby delicately explores themes of memory loss, melancholia, nostalgia, and reverie. Haunting and achingly beautiful. - Chris Carmena, Hollywood

You Know What It's Like

Carla Dal Forno - You Know What It's Like

Carla Dal Forno creates hazy minimal synth music for lonely, late-night hours. Warm and cold all at once, her voice rolls through the songs like a ghost crawling through fog. You Know What It's Like is a captivating debut album of sad, soothing songs. - Chris Carmena, Hollywood

Deru - 1979

Reissue of the year. Originally released in 2014, Deru's ambient masterpiece is finally available again on vinyl. This is a mesmerizing album of beautiful, evocative music and an absolute must for fans of dark and moody electronica. - Chris Carmena, Hollywood

The Mountain Will Fall

DJ Shadow - The Mountain Will Fall

Shadow is a constantly reliable artist and craftsman, and this is an outstanding record. The collaboration with Run The Jewels is definitely the standout track (and the video is not to be missed) but the entire record is moody and full of beautiful textures, beats, and melodies. - Kyle, Hollywood

Demain Est un Autre Nuit

Essaie Pas - Demain Est un Autre Nuit

Essaie Pas is a French-Candadian duo consisting of Pierre Guerineau and the always excellent synthwave solo artist Marie Davidson. On Demain Est un Autre Nuit, the pair create a dark, metropolitan world full of pulsing synths, hypnotic backing vocals, and ominous verses. Fans of French darkwave, punk, and goth, take note. - Alison, Hollywood

Vibrant Forms III

Fluxion - Vibrant Forms III

I'll admit I was nervous when I heard dub techno legend Fluxion was reviving the Vibrant Forms series. The first two installments are classics, amongst the most important in the genre, and a failed attempt to live up to their standards seemed like a huge risk to take. Thankfully, there's nothing to worry about here. Vibrant Forms III is an album of timeless deep techno that, like its predecessors, will still sound like music from the future a decade from now. - Chris Carmena, Hollywood


Kay's album was long awaited after his many edits and remixes and did not disappoint. The best thing about it is that you get soul, hip-hop and electronic vibes throughout the album, and it flows well. - Monalisa, Hollywood

Jose Rico  - Dubvolution

Spanish artist Jose Rico serves up four expertly crafted tracks of gentle, glistening, ambient dub. - Chris Carmena, Hollywood
Too Many Voices

Andy Stott - Too Many Voices

There's a strange, singular quality to British producer Andy Stott's Too Many Voices. Although not explicitly melancholy, there's a sense of urban isolation and a yearning for connection -- but Stott also infuses the tracks with a gleaming thread of hope. Shimmering, intelligent experimental techno. - Alison, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - World

E Arenas Nariz

É Arenas - Nariz

Chicano Batman bassist E. Arenas delivers a stunningly beautiful solo album with touches of Tropicalia-samba, rancheras, and experimental landscapes. Think Os Mutantes meets The Latin Playboys with touches of Café Tacuba. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

iLe iLevitable

iLe - iLevitable

Illena Cabra Joglar is known for being the singing voice in the group Calle 13 and on her first solo album, she does not disappoint. From Julieta Venegas-esque pop songs to mambos, boogaloos, and a nod to old school orchestral boleros, iLe’s voice shines through. In Latin-Alternative world, where cutesy voices are aplenty, it's refreshing to hear a singer who resembles the big voices of the past, such as Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, and Toto La Momposina. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

Hailu Mergia Wede Harer Guzo

Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band - Wede Harer Guzo

Originally released in 1978, this little known recording featured Hailu Mergia with the younger, funkier Dahlak Band. The result was soulful versions of Ethiopian classics and horn-driven funk to go with Mergia sublime organ playing. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

Rizan Said King of Keyboard

Rizan Said - King of Keyboard

Before Syria became a hell on earth, it was a great place to party. Rizan Said was the sound of those parties. His keyboard backed many Syrian singers, including the oft-name dropped Omar Souleyman, among others. Rizan is synonymous with the sound of traditional Arabic dance music, mainly Dabke, to be played on a synthesizer over traditional instruments, and now has taken his party all over the world. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

Thalia Latina

Thalia - Latina

More than 20 years in the game and Thalia shows no signs of slowing down. Her newest set is more of the same and her voice seems to be getting stronger as she most gracefully ages. - Brent James, San Francisco

Arthur Verocai

Arthur Verocai - Arthur Verocai

Like Superfly and his ladies collaborating with Shuggie Otis in Portuguese. This album has kept me coming back over and over until it was clearly one of my favorites, ever. (And that was before the Mr Bongo label released a sparkling remaster.) - Duncan, San Francisco

Boogie Breakdown

Various Artists - Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984

About the same time world music nerds were geeking out over South African groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Savuka, and Mahotella Queens, young South Africans were digging Michael Jackson, Roger Troutman, and El DeBarge. Here is a collection of electro-funk and '80s-inspired R&B from SA to rock out at your next party. The songs on this comp are somewhat quirky and a bit more raw than their American R&B counterparts, but nevertheless, they have lots of character and will have you grooving to that '80s electro beat. Scare away the ethnomusicologists with this one! - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

Bobo YeYe

Various Artists - Bobo Yéyé: Belle Epoque In Upper Volta

A collection of singles from the post-colonial era and just before The Upper Volta became Burkina Faso. You can hear the influence of the Caribbean and England’s Mersey Beat on Upper Volta’s pop music, yet with its regional influence, makes it a sound that is truly unique. Well recommended for fans of African music as well as Jamaican Rocksteady and pre-1970s Cuban music. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood

Doing it in Lagos

Various Artists - Doing It In Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco In 1980's Nigeria

Following the trends that were happening in the rest of the world, Nigeria moved away from Afro-Beat and into the world of '80s Funk & Boogie. Obscure classics that would have killed it on the dance floors outside of Nigeria if people were exposed to them. Get this and skip spending $$$ on eBay getting the original singles. - Gomez Comes Alive, Hollywood


Best of 2016 - Metal

Arctic Thunder

Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder

One of the most consistent bands in all music (yep, it’s true) releases this all killer, no filler follow up to the flawless The Underground Resistance. Expect a slightly more stripped down and gnarly approach when compared to the last few, old-school metal influenced albums.
- Scott Carlson, Hollywood

Not ones to ever repeat themselves, Darkthrone shows their depth & no sign of slowing down with this offering of 8 crust-punk influenced Black Metal. In short, Arctic Thunder is a perfect example that in 2016 Darkthrone are (still) the trve reigning kings of Norwegian Black Metal. - Furn, Hollywood

For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

Subrosa - For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

Profound, ethereal, beautiful, crushing and cathartic. A perfect way to get the right kind of people's attention is to reference obscure sci fi (in this case the somewhat-forgotten pre-Soviet novel We by Yevgeny Zemyatin). Subrosa is definitely one of a kind. - Scott Carlson, Hollywood

Blood Incantation - Starspawn

Super high quality death metal from these newcomers out of Denver.  Blood Incantation came somewhat out of nowhere this year and blew minds with Starspawn. Astoundingly heavy, with riffs for days. - Scott Carlson, Hollywood
Paradise Gallows

Inter Arma - Paradise Gallows

Inter Arma are supremely ambitious, trying to be all things to all metalheads, and they succeed admirably on Paradise Gallows. This album is the one to beat for 2016. What should be a jumbled mess judging by the shifts in tempo, intensity, etc. ends up being quite cohesive and very well done. - Scott Carlson, Hollywood
Incoming Death

Asphyx - Incoming Death

Danish death/death-doom titans return after a four year hiatus with the crushing Incoming Death. Straight-ahead death metal done right.
- Scott Carlson, Hollywood

Inquisition - Bloodstains Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith

Indescribable journeys into the cold cosmic void. No one comes even close to the atmosphere that Inquisition conjures. - Scott Carlson, Hollywood
Ezekiel's Hags

Seven Sisters of Sleep - Ezekiel's Hags

These local burly boys maintain a consistency across all their work, while slightly augmenting their approach along the way. Less sludge, more uptempo jams; pure pummel. - Scott Carlson, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - jazz

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society Real Enemies
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - Real Enemies

Music composed for a multimedia stage show addressing "the paranoid style in American politics." Echoes of Steve Coleman and the M-Base Collective reverberate throughout this collection of brilliant facets, as do nods to collective "operas" by the likes of Carla Bley and Michael Mantler. Really awesome work. - Mark B, Hollywood

Jack Dejohnette In Movement
Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane & Matthew Garrison - In Movement

50 years in, Jack DeJohnette continues to perform at the top of his game. Digging in to both standards and originals with the progeny of two of jazz's greatest artists, here showing that they no longer have any place in their fathers' shadows. An essential document of three important voices in communion. - Mark B. Hollywood

Jah Wobble Everything is Nothing

Jah Wobble and the Invaders Of The Heart - Everything Is No Thing

Early bassist for Public Image Ltd. delivers a really great album of smooth, complex spiritual jazz-funk worthy of the mid-'70s Blue Note and Impulse catalogs. Skirting the edge of derivative while stating his originality. Some great Spiritual Soul vocals on some tracks, but the album really shines on the instrumental tracks. A delightful surprise. - Mark B, Hollywood

Jonathan Finlayson Moving Still

Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense - Moving Still

One of the most astounding entries of the last number of years, Moving Still strikes a remarkable balance between Steve Coleman/M-Base-like exploration and breathtaking maturity of lyricism. One of the most listenable albums I've heard in a while. Absolutely intriguing, exciting, and gorgeous. - Mark B, Hollywood


Mike NeerSteelonious

Mike Neer is an excellent lap steel player.  He hits a home run on this his first album as he tackles the wonderful and eccentric music of Thelonious Monk. Mike is not really a jazz player but he certainly does justice to the music. If you’re a Monk fan or a steel guitar fan, you will love this album. - Joe Goldmark, San Francisco

Best of 2016 - Soundtracks

Mad Monster Party soundtrack

Mad Monster Party Original Soundtrack

The kooky 1967 stop motion cult classic musical featuring the voice of Boris Karloff finally gets an official vinyl soundtrack release and it is glorious. Released on both green & black swirl and pink & yellow swirl colored vinyl, the entire shebang is totally worth getting just for “The Mummy” performed by Little Tibia And The Fibias. You know the part when a bunch of Claymation band skeletons are rocking out on stage for a party of monsters? Yeah, that song. - Audra, San Francisco

Stranger Things, vol 1 soundtrack

Stranger Things, Vol. 1 Original Soundtrack

Yes, the show is very kool. It’s infectious even to those (like me) determined to find it overrated after hearing about it for weeks. The series has many things going for it, including suspenseful writing, visual style, nostalgia tailor-made for my generation, and eerily talented kid actors. But what really sent me over the edge into TV fandom was the music. Cold Carpenter-esque synth trills glide through the series like sonic glaciers, and soon enough the soundtrack and the show become inseparable concepts, not unlike the pairing of music and mood in Twin Peaks 25 years before. - Audra, San Francisco

Trainspotting Soundtrack

Various Artists - Trainspotting Soundtrack

Twenty years after its original release, the no-filler-all-killer Trainspotting soundtrack has been reissued on orange vinyl. One of the most cohesive soundtracks of all time, this album opened the door for a lonely suburban weirdo teen (it was me, cough cough) to get into all kinds of underground music, from techno (Underworld) to punk (Iggy Pop) to ambient (Brian Eno.) - Alison, Hollywood

Twin  Peaks OST

Angelo Badalementi - Twin Peaks Original Soundtrack

This soundtrack was one of the most important albums of my youth, and Death Waltz has done right by all the eager fans with this fantastic reissue. The new master sounds smoother and even more hypnotic than the original CD release, and let's be honest, there are few records that belong on vinyl as much as this one. - Kyle, Hollywood

Best of 2016 - Country

Out Among the Stars

Johnny Cash - Out Among the Stars

Although the ‘80s and ‘90s were not prime years for Johnny Cash, this previously unreleased album from 1983 has some good tunes on it and finds Johnny in fine voice. The tune “She Used to Love Me a Lot” is worth the price of the album. - Joe Goldmark, San Francisco

Loretta Lynn White Christmas Blue

Loretta Lynn - White Christmas Blue

Classic songs by my favorite gal. - Brent James, San Francisco

A Sailor's Guide to Earth

Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth

This is a great modern country record, full of soul, urgency, lush dynamic arrangements, and a very unlikely but excellent Nirvana cover. This is the antidote to the pop country that has otherwise ruined the genre. - Kyle, Hollywood

Kid Sister

The Time JumpersKid Sister

The Time Jumpers, along with Asleep at the Wheel, are keeping a bright flame burning for Western swing music. This album pays tribute to the life of Dawn Sears, a former TJ who recently passed from cancer.  My favorite tunes are “We’re the Time Jumpers” and “All Aboard.” - Joe Goldmark, San Francisco

Best of 2016 - DVD & blu-ray

April and the Extraordinary World Blu-ray

April & the Extraordinary World
Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci

while clearly tipping its chapeau to hayao miyazaki and herge (not to mention jacques tardi, who designed much of its extraordinary world) "april" stands up to the inevitable comparisons. the best animated film of the year. - Duncan, San Francisco

Fantastic Planet Criterin Bluray

Fantastic Planet
Directed by Rene Laloux

Why take drugs when you can watch this and feel fine? The world in this film is savage and the viewing experience is fantastic. I had a nice time rewatching it not too long ago. Check it out on Criterion Blu-ray. - Michael, San Francisco

The Lobster

The Lobster
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

This absurdist black comedy was the best thing I saw all year. The rules that govern the world of The Lobster are in many ways the star of the film and watching the characters forced into corners by these rules is completely enthralling. - Kyle, Hollywood

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister
Directed By Hirokazu Kore-eda

I have never seen a more ingratiating film than Hirokazu Kore-eda's (Still WalkingNobody Knows) latest. Mirroring the slice of the lives of its characters presented in its running time, it is a warm, genuine hug of a film in a trying time. Not saccharine, just savory, homespun sustenance. - Duncan, San Francisco


Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Lurking, unsettlingly, at the heels of the as-brilliant-as-anything-he's-ever-done "creepy," comes the long-overdue high definition release of another of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's high-water marks in the Japanese horror/thriller genre. - Duncan, San Francisco

Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

Shin Godzilla made it onto my top ten favorite Toho Godzilla films list. I have to say this is the creepiest looking Godzilla to date and a definite top five on my list for favorite Godzilla designs. It's great fun. - Michael, San Francisco

Victoria DVD

Directed by Sebastian Schipper

Best single long take film I have ever seen. When the movie ended my head exploded Scanners style. - Michael, San Francisco


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