Maybe it's just my social anxiety talking, but I probably know what you're thinking: "Another day in December, another liberal arts-educated music critic popping into the year-end echo chamber to whittle down 'the year in music' to the Year in Music? Who does this Brooklyn twenty-something think she is, speaking from her digital pulpit?" 

I don't blame you. The entire notion of ranking albums is, at heart, kind of silly. It's like scooping up a bucket of water at some beach, only to hoist it up as representative of not only the Atlantic, but the whole damn ocean. In a year defined largely by global anxiety, emotional pain and ample tragedy, standard critical praxis — especially from an individual perspective — feels like an indulgence. 

Reader, I can't promise you a bucket of seawater (not that you'd want mine; I've yet to earn a Pazz & Jop ballot). So, here's a leaden bucket of happy tears instead. We listen to music to feel good, after all. These records made me feel the best. Hopefully they make you happy, too.

10. Jeff Rosenstock - Worry
With Worry, Jeff Rosenstock proved his worth as punk’s leading auteur, but more importantly, as the guidance counselor all of us needed this year. Forget the accolades — we all owe him a great, big hug.

9. White Lung - Paradise
Mish Way and company served up one of the most infectious punk albums of recent memory with Paradise, awash with soaring hooks and southern gothic imagery: trailer-trash romances, floods of blood and sewage, and murder by arson, oh my! What a stunner.

8. Death Grips - Bottomless Pit
This album made my list at the suggestion of my upstairs neighbors, who liked it so much that they would make a point to bang on the floor whenever I put it on. You’re right, guys — “Spikes” is the jam!

7. Angel Olsen - Your Woman
If you haven’t had a good cry to Your Woman, then you’re probably in a happy relationship — or are emotionally numb. I wish I was you.

6. Crying - Beyond the Fleeting Gales
Lest you call me a Debbie Downer, I present to you the year’s funnest album. This thing’s a damn roller coaster.

5. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Concise, sprawling and texturally rich, A Moon Shaped Pool easily stands as Radiohead’s best album since Amnesiac. Not just because it marks the long-awaited homecoming of “True Love Waits”; not just because of the premonitory gravity of “Burn the Witch” post-Trump; not even because it’s the best make-out soundtrack of 2016. No, it all comes down to the power of escapism. When depression comes a-knocking, A Moon Shaped Pool is the answer: a trip down an ice-slicked rabbit hole into sweet oblivion.

4. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
If you thought your last breakup was bad, just listen to Skeleton Tree once or twice. With its cinematic heft and choral gloom, Cave’s crushing document of parental loss and existential turmoil has the uncanny ability to absorb the listener’s hurt into its painful crucible, like a black hole absorbing an unsuspecting star. And you thought you had it bad.

3. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
No less an album than the hip-hop equivalent of Finnegans Wake, Danny Brown’s opus accomplishes the rare feat of sonically translating the paranoia and helplessness of drug addiction — and the nihilistic void it begets — without relying on tropes or, worse yet, the bogged-down dreamscapes that have infested so much hip-hop as of late.

2. Joyce Manor - Cody
If there was ever a soundtrack for the disgruntled decade known as your 20s, this would be it. Insufferable one-night stands, nights spent naked in bed shivering next to someone who couldn't care less about breaking your heart, wistful recollections of stolen youth, botched acid trips. It’s all here, folks, and get this — Joyce Manor make the pain feel infectious, ebullient, freeing. Take that, quarter-life crisis.

1. The Hotelier - Goodness
Imagine a breakup where, instead of heading off to Amazon and buying a voodoo doll, you forgive, befriend and even HONOR your ex. Partially because your relationship is capable of transcending the boundaries between romantic and platonic, but mostly because you recognize that love is ephemeral and that all partnerships end with either a death or a breakup. Me, I’ll always be a petty asshole — but this album makes me think I can change. God bless it.


1. A Day to Remember - “Bullfight”
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Go Robot”
3. Metallica - “Atlas, Rise!”
4. Beartooth - “Aggressive”
5. Stray From the Path - “The House Always Wins”
6. Chevelle - “Door to Door Cannibals”
7. Saliva - “Trust”
8. twenty one pilots - "Heathens"
9. Korn - "Take Me"
10. Everything Ever Written by Puddle of Mudd (it counts because they're timeless)

ICYMI, here are best of lists from Fred Pessaro and John Hill:

Best of 2016 Staff Picks: Fred Pessaro
Best of 2016 Staff Picks: John Hill