RVA Magazine's Best Music Of 2016: Top 25 Records #6 - #15

Posted by: brad – Dec 29, 2016


Our countdown soliders on with numbers #15 all the way up to #6 of our Top 25 Albums Of 2016, but if you haven't already, make sure to check out our Honorable Mentions and #25-16 as well as our Favorite Richmond Releases. If you've been following along with us though, let's get right into the thick of our countdown with some definite powerhouse records from the year:

15. Childish Gambino - "Awaken, My Love!"

It's impossible for me to talk about the artistic force that is "Awaken, My Love!" without mentioning Donald Glover's burgeoning career as television auteur. Atlanta, which he created and writes and stars in, is challenging, weird, funny, and smart, all of which can also be used to describe Glover's latest release as Childish Gambino. A lot has been said about how the album rips off funk records from the '70s, but I think Glover has made something distinctly modern (the refrain "stay woke!" in "Redbone") and unique. CG has history of being too clever -- Camp is so dopey I can't listen to it anymore -- but the music of this foray into funk is so joyous and engaging that the lyrics take a backseat to the feeling and the mood of the record. --Melissa Koch

14. Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial

It's always nice to see a local act get the national attention it deserves. Car Seat Headrest, originally from Leesburg, VA, released one of the best albums this year with Teens Of Denial. With songs like "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales" and "Fill In The Blank," frontman Will Toledo channels every emotion he can think of into his songs. Car Seat Headrest brings a much-welcomed soundtrack to the year 2016 -- one of the few good things to come out of this year. --Andrew Cothern

13. Jenny Hval - Blood Bitch

I often wonder, as Jenny Hval does at the very end of Blood Bitch, whether I have the language for this. To describe or, perhaps more accurately, verbally quantify the impact some music has made on me and, in turn, communicate that to whoever reads these words. Blood Bitch defies easy explanation. It's incredibly accessible through its many memorable melodies and electro-pop arrangements ("Female Vampire," "Conceptual Romance"), but the almost stream-of-consciousness lyrical style throws a clear narrative to the wind (and the music isn't always simple electro-pop either -- lookin' at you "The Plague"). Love. Romance. Capitalism. Menstruation. Desire. Fear. Failure. It confronts these ideas, living in the modern world, asks questions, makes connections, but rarely gives answers. It's frustrating in many ways. But the great beauty is that Blood Bitch makes me want more. It makes me curious. I still don't know if I have the language. I'll keep looking. --David Munro

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

With We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest proves that their funk is eternal, rallying around the microphone in the wake of a tumultuous era and the loss of the group's powerhouse MC Phife Dawg, the Five-Foot Assassin. Twenty years after their disbandment, their return into the musical world of 2016 feels as natural and current as ever, taking on Trump, police violence, and a sea of weak mainstream MCs, while embracing a new generation of artist that have continued A Tribe Called Quest's message of consciousness and musical embrace of jazz into the new millennium. Q-Tip, Jarobi White, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, along with post-humus verses from Phife, speak out as elder statesmen of hip hop, as always shedding light on the hypocrisies and heresies of popular culture, while also looking forward to a better future musically and socially, proving their vitality and resonance after a long much missed absence. --Alex Criqui

11. Frank Ocean - Blonde

Frank Ocean - 'Nikes' from DoBeDo Productions on Vimeo.

While plenty of artists in the realms of pop and R&B were out there cultivating a public persona drenched in faux sensitivity, Frank Ocean was quietly at work, making some of the most powerfully vulnerable music I can remember hearing. While "Nikes" and "Pink + White" may get the lion's share of year-end accolades -- they're certainly deserving -- I'd single out "Solo" as compactly representative of Blonde's brilliance: unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, a sparse but carefully curated instrumental backdrop, and a chorus in which Ocean's singing communicates real emotion without drifting into melodrama. It's as close to pop perfection as you'll find, in my view, and that's just one track. The rewards awaiting those willing to truly let the rest of Blonde sink into their bones are manifold. --Davy Jones

10. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition

"I'm sweating like I'm in a rave / Been in this room for three days / Think I'm hearing voices / Paranoid and think I'm seeing ghost-es....oh shit" These are the first words of "Downward Spiral," the introductory track on Danny Brown's third album, Atrocity Exhibition, over the most cohesively mismatched arrangement of sounds since Kanye West's "On Sight." This is only the beginning of what is a lyrical descent into the madness that comes with success and the rock star lifestyle, masterfully articulated over pointed production that matches the lore of Danny's content and delivery every step of the way. After the "festival album" that was Old, it's good to hear Danny make something where he sounds as at home as he did on XXX, focused more than ever on coming to terms with his inner demons or as he would say, "Might need rehab / But to me that shit pussy....." Check! --Black Liquid

9. PUP - The Dream Is Over

I'm a sucker for a strong punk anthem and The Dream Is Over is chock-full of them. It's a reputation that PUP carries proudly and with their second LP, they have kept the formula fresh and exciting with tracks like "Doubts" and "My Life Is Over And I Couldn't Be Happier." The record touches on anxiety, depression, self-deprecation, and sobering truths uncovered daily. "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will" is a reaction to the lead singer being told he might never sing again due to shredding his vocal chords. There is an urgency throughout that forces the listener to memorize every lyric and prepare to shout along to every word as if there were no tomorrow. It's exciting to hear a punk record that takes the appealing tropes of bands from the past and reimagines them for one of the strongest releases of 2016. --Shannon Cleary

8. Mitski - Puberty 2

Puberty 2 comes at you with more intensity than Mitski's former albums. The track "Your Best American Girl" begins with quiet plucking and quickly builds into a vehement declaration of how the singer failed in her relationship, despite trying her best. A myriad of Mitski's songs talk about the pain of dating, and this release is no exception. Mitski has been hailed as a feminist as her lyrics also deal with issues presented by the patriarchy. The album does have some depressing qualities. Despite the fact that the lyrics express acceptance about certain aspects of life, this acceptance comes after what seems like many instances of disappointment. In "Happy," the lyrics speak of a figure that leaves after sex while she is still in the bathroom. Ultimately, the album is uplifting; a tempestuous bucking at both depression and dating. --Laura Bitner

7. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book

I'm thankful we have guys like Chance the Rapper. 2016, a bust of a year blanketed with the world seemingly going awry (even if the Cubbies did win a World Series), you probably wouldn't know it listening to the Chance's off-kilter, even joyful Coloring Book. It's an affable "mixtape" of sorts that collides the likes of Lil Wayne, Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Future, Young Thug, Justin Beiber, and heck even the Chicago Children's Choir to create something skillful, sincere, charismatic, and full of quality assurance. Lines like "I was baptized like real early / I might give Satan a swirlie" and "Man my life is perfect, I could merch it / If I die, I'd probably cry at my own service" are hard not to smile at. --Kyle Shearin

6. Solange - A Seat At The Table

The ideology of Solange's latest work can't be lauded enough. The conversations it prompts, in calm and patient manners, are vital not just in today's present world, but always as we strive to make sure everyone does get that seat at a table. But it's the neo-soul of the record -- nimbly directed by Solange's resilient range -- that really manifests this social commentary into tangible strength. Her patient delivery of "Cranes In The Sky" remains one of the year's most stunning performances while "Junie" reveals the depth both Solange and this record have to offer, something much grander than the expected soul presentation. Beyond social and political ideas, this is a statement that solidifies Solange's identity as both a person and an artist and one that's truly without equal in 2016. --Doug Nunnally

Check back tomorrow as the countdown concludes and we reveal the 25 best songs!

Concept By Doug Nunnally