A Rapid Journey Through the Greatest Albums of 2016 That I Have Yet to Hear (Introduction)

My project to listen to 2016’s best releases before it’s too late

Read Part 1 and 2.

I enter every December with reflection on the year that has passed before me—the places I went, the people I became close with, the albums I listened to. I studied Music Business in college and was constantly around my in-the-know peers. Music wasn’t just our major, but our shared experience. Concerts we went to together, songs we sung along to at parties, playlists we shared with each other.

Still, I was never the best at staying up to date with the latest and greatest. Often times, I discover an album one or two or many years after it’s been released. Some of my favorite albums from this year weren’t even released in 2016, like Weezer’s Weezer (The Blue Album) [1994], Leon Bridges’ Coming Home [2015], and White Denim’s D [2011]. I also have staples that I return to every year: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, Sublime’s self-titled album, and Abbey Road occupy my list of all-time favorites.

My usual music-listening method isn’t efficient. I cannot simply listen to an album and then move on to the next like the last one never happened. Not if I love it, at least. I must play my favorite tracks on repeat, memorizing every lyric, guitar riff, drum pattern, vocal improvisation, and groovy synth sound. I must become friends with that album. As I spend more time with it, I find things I like and things I don’t like. I can then work with its nuances and apply it best to my own life. An album that I love is not something I listen to, but an extension of my purest self. It is my personality. It is my mood. It is in my body.

I like my music-listening method. It provides me great comfort to return to music I love over and over. But it’s limiting. I miss a lot of great art in the process, and by the time I potentially find it, the conversation surrounding it has been abandoned. It’s a lonely way to listen. And of course, when December hits and I begin seeing every person and publication’s Top Albums of the Year lists, I read through them and note than I haven’t heard of over half of the albums people loved.

So, I’m starting this project. I’m forcing myself to discover new music before it’s too late to call that music “new” anymore. I want to join in on these conversations, to nod or shake my head when I hear others’ opinions, to take part in art culture criticism. Most of all, I want to find more music to love.

Here are the rules of my project:

  1. Listen to three albums a weekday and one a weekend day. This sounds daunting, but I could plug my headphones in at work and plough through at least five if I want. I’m keeping the number at three so I can process and think about each album I listen to. Plus I’ll be on vacation soon, so I’ll get plenty of listening done then.
  2. Write a paragraph about each album and publish my thoughts in the morning. Were the albums good or bad? Why? Would I listen to them again?
  3. Finish by December 31st, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST. Regardless of how many albums I listen to, this is where it ends.

Simple enough, right? I’ve got the albums I plan on getting through listed below (in order). The three I’ll cover tomorrow morning are Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Angel Olsen’s MY WOMAN, and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book mixtape.

Comments are open, so please suggest some albums for me! Just don’t suggest Blond(e) or The Life of Pablo or Puberty 2. I’m not that far behind.

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