Coming it hot six years running is my annual Most Listened to Albums of the Year list. If you’re new to this, I keep track of 95% of my music listened to throughout the year via last.fm. Spotify plays and local mp3 listens automatically report track info to the service and this year I celebrated my 10th anniversary using it. It’s free and you should give it a shot if you like analytics of your listening habits. Back in 2011 I wanted to take a look at the music I listened to most over the year. The ~around~ 10,000 tracks I played that year were daunting, so I focused on just the new releases. I saw which albums got the most plays and then pulled out the ones that came out that year - simple enough.
Are they my favorite albums of the year? Sorta ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. LPs that came out earlier are at an advantage for play count, but a killer record coming out in the last three months can easily rack up enough spins to make the list.
This was the first full calendar year after the switch to Spotify (r.i.p. rdio). Spotify has a much stronger focus on singles and playlists, almost treating full albums as an afterthought. So while I did not listen to full albums as much as I had in past years, I do appreciate the exposure I received to a wide variety of bands I might not have given a chance before. I've got a solid 300 song playlist loaded with single tracks I picked up from recommends. This year’s musical taste definitely went wider, not deeper.
In 2011, The Joy Formidable’s The Big Roar won the title of Most Listened to Album of the Year. 2012 went to Purity Ring’s Shrines, 2013 went to …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age, and 2014 went to Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut. D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s Black Messiah was the clear winner in 2015, even though it technically came out right at the tail end of ’14. There are no asterisks in this year’s list. Here are my most listened to albums for 2016.
I can’t remember how Savages got on my radar with ’13’s Silence Yourself - I want to blame NPR - but that debut got me hooked. It was a slow burner that I kept coming back to month after month and I found a new appreciating for it with every listen. Needless to say I was pretty pumped when they teased their follow-up album with the video for “The Answer”. This eventual album-opener, like “Shut Up” on their debut, set the tone for the tracks that follow. It’s raw and serious. I’ve seen them called the epitome of Post-Punk, which is a term I’m still unsure of, but sure - they’re that, too. This album came out way back in January, which helped it reach the top of the list, but after so many spins it has rightfully earned it’s place.
Yeaaaaaaah buddy - am I glad I found out about A Giant Dog this year. These Austin kids put out an album that might as well have been called Mike Ortiz’s Wheelhouse, an album that had me driving two hours to Gainesville on a Tuesday to catch them on their only Florida date, and an album that I have to restrain myself from listening to lest I get burnt out on Pile. The tempo hits 200 m.p.h. by the second track and doesn’t let up until the surgeon-general-mandated acoustic duet. And their previously mentioned live set? They left it all on the stage in front of a crowd that should have packed the room. I’m extremely interested in what they do next. Here's hoping it’s a new album. And a tour stop in Orlando, please. Give “Sex & Drugs” a watch for me.
I had not heard of PUP prior to The Dream Is Over. I have an aversion to a certain kind of popular punk music and I unfairly lump a lot of bands in to that niche without giving them a chance. You know, the kind of band where the crowd signs along to every damn word and manages to drown out the P.A. I used to avoid those bands, but hey, congrats to me right(?) for ignoring my dumb musical prejudices and giving this album a shot after everyone with a twitter raved about it on release. The Dream Is Over has just enough of those melodic guitar lines (good!) and catchy lyrics (good!) to get me going. It's good (good!) and definitely worth a spin. And hey, it's only 30 minutes long so your time commitment is minimal.
Deftones should not still be making great music. Similar bands in their genre who followed the same journey fizzled long ago, took a few years to find themselves, and are now coming back around for those nostalgia tours. Meanwhile, Deftones have been putting out solid albums, front to back, year after year, and Gore is no exception. The new tunes are current without the band having to reinvent their sound. It’s the same ol’ Deftones, but a completely new album. It’s hard to put in to words, but they delivered exactly what I wanted - a new Deftones album that doesn’t disappoint.
Back in February DIIV prematurely released the album of the summer. Driving out to the beach music. Blending up that Miami Vice pool-side music. Couple beers in the adirondack swatting at mosquitos trying to keep your phone close to the bluetooth speaker music. It’s those driving bass lines and chorus-dipped guitars that take me back. Is the Is Are isn’t shoe gazing or surf or garage rock, but it is? The lines between genres are blurring but I do know that this album is killlllller. Give “Dopamine” a listen.
How did Goodness wind up so high on this list? Yeah, I enjoyed the tunes and listened to it here and there, but damn, more spins than Radiohead?!?! It’s these EMOtional punk kids with their short songs and poetry skits in-between the tunes. 16-year-old me would have been all over this. Honestly, it is a great all around album, from front to back, and perfect for putting on when you need a little pick me up to finish that project, slice up that email, or write an article on what albums you listened to the most over the past twelve months. This is an example of an album that would not have wound up on my Best Of, but managed to make it on the Most Listened To - whatever that is worth.
“Fuck yeah.” That’s the reaction I now have whenever The Coathangers come on. Back late last year/early this year Spotify hit me with that recommend for a track off their last Suck My Shirt. I dug it and kept tabs on the band only to be pleasantly surprised by a new release shortly after. Nosebleed Weekend has those catchy hooks and garage sounds that scratch me where I itch. I’ll be dancing front and center when they come through in the next few weeks.
Moderat with the beeps and the boops, greater than the sum of it’s parts, welcomed back to my year-end list with open arms after their last - II - appeared in 2013. Not to say I don’t appreciate the individual works of Modeselektor and Apparat, but man oh man when these dudes get together I am just pleased as punch. III is a return to form - packed with catchy electronic songs I wake up humming. They even did me a favor and released a live album (called, uhhhh ... Live) in 2016, too! I dare you to get through a full play through of “Reminder” without drumming on your desk/steering wheel/whatever; it can’t be done.
The production, the instrumentation, and the lyrics on A Seat at the Table are all stellar. The way the interludes segue in to the next track - flawless. Were it not for the fact that this album came out so late in the year, Solange could very well be at the top of this list. I haven’t been able to get some of these tracks out of my head since release. If you point-blank asked me my favorite track of the year, I’d blurt out, “Don’t Wish Me Well”. As a non-black, non-female in 2016 America, I won’t pretend I can relate to the social, racial, or feminist themes touched on with A Seat at the Table, but I appreciate what she is saying and how she is saying it. If I can get just a little more understanding through fantastic music, then please, more albums like this.
C’mon, man. It's Radiohead.
It would be unfair to call these albums runner-ups. They were all just a few spins away from making the above list or perhaps they just came out too late in the year and did not have time to rack up the play count. They are all very good. You should give them a listen. Presented in random order: