Tuesday , February 27 2024
As for the music of 2016, there was the usual amount of "meh" mixed in with a host of impressive releases. Certainly, there were no game-changers that I heard. (Sorry Kanye and Kendrick.)

Charlie Doherty’s Top Releases of 2016 (Starring Joe Bonamassa, Metallica, Deftones, Sturgill Simpson, David Bowie, and More)

Regardless of whatever else transpired, 2016 will always go down in my memory bank as the year Slash and Axl Rose finally buried the hatchet and gave Guns N’ Roses fans the long-awaited thrill of seeing them live in concert again. They toured North and South America for the first time in well over 20 years – since the summer of 1993.

2016 will also be known for the year that James Iha, on his birthday of March 26 (which doubles as mine too) broke a 16-year drought to reunite with Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and (my fav band) the Smashing Pumpkins in Los Angeles and again in their hometown of Chicago a month later. At the Drive-In also reunited and toured for a while before illness in the band cut it short. Thankfully, they have regrouped and will have a new album and tour in store for fans in 2017. Elsewhere, Ween and Temple of the Dog reunited, the Stones got back together to do an old-school blues rock album (Blue & Lonesome), Carlos Santana pretty much got his legendary Woodstock lineup back to record a new LP for the first time in 45 years (Santana IV), and my all-time favorite metal band Black Sabbath did their farewell “The End” tour (which officially wraps up February 4 in their hometown of Birmingham, England).

Personally, 2016 was also the year I will remember for Corgan giving me a shout-out during one of his Facebook Live segments last spring – a “thank you” for complimenting a new song he had just played that could be on a future Pumpkins LP – and for blues maestro Joe Bonamassa’s email team/management including an excerpt of my Blogcritics review of his masterful album, Blues of Desperation, in numerous weekly email newsletters. These are what you might call, “pinch me” moments.

As for the music of 2016, there was the usual amount of “meh” mixed in with a host of impressive releases. Certainly, there were no game-changers that I heard. (Sorry Kanye and Kendrick.) I was more excited by some of the reissues in my list than new material, truth be told (aside from the new, long-awaited Metallica record and the Bonamassa and Deftones releases you’ll see below).

This list of mine is in no particular order or length. I’m sure you’d agree with me that limiting oneself to a particular number of releases is pretty pointless. And with that, here is what I settled on for my Top Releases of 2016.

Studio Albums and EPs

Joe Bonamassa – Blues of Desperation (There isn’t a bad guitar lick on this one. It’s one of his best studio works yet. Also check out his fantastic 2017 Grammy-nominated release, Live at the Greek Theatre. Both should’ve been nominated, honestly.)

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (Keeping it old school rock and roll and country never sounded so vital and heartfelt, and that includes his brilliant cover of the Nirvana classic “In Bloom.” If you don’t yet know this about Simpson, check out his recent Saturday Night Live performances.)

Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel

Deftones – Gore (Chino Moreno and gang are on a roll – a long one.)

DIIV – Is The Is Are (Weird title but enrapturing dreampop.)

Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (I’m not sure what is considered “emo” anymore or if this is closer to post-punk, but whatever you want to call it, the record has got plenty of hooks and packs lots of punches.)

Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP (In a year that saw some pretty cool reunions and comebacks, Tricky recording with his original group for the first time in over 20 years should definitely be celebrated. Hopefully we’ll hear and see this continue in the near future.)

Gojira – Magma (Heavy metal from France – this group, 20 years in, has definitely paid their dues and is enjoying a breakout year because of this release, which is also up for a Grammy next month.)

Beyonce – Lemonade (R&B is just not my cup of tea, so I freely admit my initial interest in this release was for the cameo by Jack White. But this album turned out to be more diverse, intense and just damn good than I ever expected. No wonder it’s at the top of every other list out there.)

David Bowie – Blackstar (Short as it is, the album was still hard for me to listen to for several weeks, for obvious reasons. I eventually turned that frown upside down and dug the grooves and many moods of the music here. It’s to the point where I find myself saying, “Where the fuck did Monday go” quite a bit. Thus, even though he’s no longer with us, his spirit forever lives on within us fans.)

Megadeth – Dystopia (“If you don’t like where we’re going/Then you won’t like what’s coming next.” Dave Mustaine’s line from “Post-American World” gets my vote for most memorable lyric of 2016.)

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (It may not rank among their classic records, but it’s certainly better and more emotionally resonating than The King of Limbs.)

Brant Bjork – Tao of the Devil (He was the powerhouse drummer of stoner metal legends Kyuss and for a good while, Fu Manchu. If you love ’70s classic hard rock, give this a go.)

Khemmis – Hunted

Tycho – Epoch

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Much like the still-amazing Patti Smith, Cohen was known as much for his worldly, down-to-earth poetry as his music. Thankfully, with the help of his son Adam and a few other collaborators, we got nine more of his lyrical and musical visions before he passed on last year at age 82.)

Garbage – Strange Little Birds (Having Butch Vig and Shirley Manson back and rockin’ out together is never a bad thing.)

Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs – case/lang/veirs (I never got into k.d. lang’s music, but this beautiful collection of songs she did with the great modern day songstress Neko Case and fellow indie artist Laura Veirs was a really enjoyable surprise.)

Crematory – Monument (German gothic death metal. It’s sort of like combining Rammstein with Type O Negative.)

Frank Catalano and Jimmy Chamberlin – Bye Bye Blackbird (The lone jazz album on this list, of course I’m going to include an album that features a Smashing Pumpkins member and David Sanborn, one of the most accomplished sax players of the past 40 years – he’s the one who performed that memorable sax work on David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”)

The Lees of Memory – Unnecessary Evil (Remember Superdrag? This group is the successor to those late ’90s alt-rock standouts.)

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake

Abi Reimold – Wriggling

Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Dean Ween – The Deaner Album

Bon Iver – 22, A Million (This is genius work by Justin Vernon. Peter Gabriel would approve.)

Lou Barlow – Apocalypse Fetish EP (This might, and I stress MIGHT, be his last release. He gets points for originality for tuning his ukulele strings way down to sound like a four-string acoustic guitar, as he says. He actually first did a ukulele song, “Poledo,” on Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me CD.)

Dinosaur Jr – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not

Neurosis – Fires Within Fires (Hard to believe but this band is going on 30 years of brain metal.)

Wretch – Self-Titled (You get seven tracks of Indianapolis doom metal.)

Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies

Iggy Pop – Post-Pop Depression (Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme produced and backed it.)

Wilco – Schmilco

Omni – Deluxe (This release, with a late ’70s/early ’80s postpunk vibe, features ex-Deerhunter Frankie Broyles.)

Dunsmuir – Self-Titled debut (This is a hard rock supergroup including members of Clutch (Neil Fallon), The Company Band, Fu Manchu, and legendary drummer Vinny Appice.)

Band of Horses – Why Are You OK

Pleasant Grove – The Heart Contortionists (Wilco is a good reference point for these Texas indie rock veterans, if you’ve never heard them before.)

Bob Mould – Patch the Sky (“I Don’t Know You Anymore” is still the best song Mould has written in the last five to 10 years, but his gift of songwriting, including on this release, never ceases to amaze.)

Edward Rogers – Glass Marbles


Black Sabbath – Paranoid Super Deluxe Edition (You get a tour program from the early ’70s, a 60-page booklet, two live CDs, a quadraphonic mix of the album, and remastered original release. In other words, you get your money’s worth and then some!)

Before the Flood soundtrack (The music behind the environmental documentary is obviously a winner, as it’s mostly composed by Trent Reznor, Mogwai, and Atticus Ross, who is now an official member of Nine Inch Nails.)

Rich Robinson – Paper reissue (I don’t know why I didn’t know about this when it first came out in 2004 but this solo outing debut from the Black Crowes guitarist is a consistent winner and I actually dig it even more than his newest album, Flux.)

Led Zeppelin – The Complete BBC Sessions (Three CDs, including nine unreleased tracks, and detailed history of the rock titans’ groundbreaking live performances. Highlight: the official release of the once heavily bootlegged blues boogie, “Sunshine Woman.”)

ryan-adams-heartbreaker-deluxe-editionRyan Adams – Heartbreaker Deluxe Edition (2-CD/1-DVD) reissue (Before any grand visions of arena rock, Adams made this Americana gem of a first solo album after Whiskeytown was no more. Here, you get alternate, previously unreleased versions of classics like “Come Pick Me Up” and an even rarer live DVD performance of him solo acoustic in late 2000. Obviously, it’s a must-have for Adams fans.)

Pentagram – First Daze Here and First Daze Here Too reissues (The limited edition vinyl editions, which also come with a rare 7-inch vinyl single when the group was called Macabre, were two of my absolute favorite reissues of 2016, along with Sabbath’s super deluxe Paranoid box set. If you can only afford to get one, buy First Daze Here – it’s one of the best hard rock compilations of all time.)

My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves reissue (This near-masterpiece includes some interesting, quieter demos of tunes from the southern rock group’s breakout 2003 album.)

Big Star – Complete Third

Honorable Mentions

DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall

Bat for Lashes – The Bride

Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness

Red Fang – Only Ghosts

Miss Lava – Sonic Debris

De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…

Sting – 57th and 9th

Rich Robinson – Flux

Boudain – Way of the Hoof (If you like Fu Manchu/stoner rock, check this out, especially their pretty great slowed-down Blue Oyster Cult “Godzilla” cover.)

The BrainstemsNo Place Else (Released in late 2015, this is ‘80s-styled punk, like The Wipers.)

Anvil – Anvil Is Anvil

Black Sabbath – The End EP (This flew under the radar – it was initially only available during the group’s farewell world tour stops. You get four mostly meaty unreleased tracks from the 13 sessions and four live cuts from their tour from a few years ago, including a killer rip through “Under the Sun.” Sabbath fans must own it. No questions asked.)

R.E.M. – Out of Time Deluxe 25th Anniversary (3-CD/Blu-ray) Edition (Not my or most fans’ fav record, but the demos and especially the live recordings round it out better than the original version ever could.)

Jack White – Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016

Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

Check Also

David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust film

Music & Film Reviews: David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture’ (50th-Anniversary Ed.), plus John Mellencamp and More

An anniversary edition of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture, plus a new CD from John Mellencamp and more.

One comment

  1. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    This article is an excellent rendition on the pop music of ’16, as well as, the compilations. There’s great stuff here – especially on blues maestro-Joe Bonamassa. Maybe you can develop a full length book from some of the extensive critique in this article. Movie production is another possibility.