Each year, Mother Jones' favorite music critic browses through hundreds of new albums and pulls out maybe a couple hundred for his weekly reviews. But only a few can make the final-final cut. Below, in alphabetical order, are Jon Young's super-quick takes on his 15 top albums for 2016. (Feel free to heartily disagree and share your own faves in the comments.)
1. William Bell, This Is Where I Live (Stax): The tender, moving return of an underrated soul great.
2. David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia/ISO): The Thin White Duke's eerie, haunting farewell.
3. Gaz Coombes, Matador (Hot Fruit Recordings/Kobalt Label Services): Grand, witty megapop from the former Supergrass leader. (Full review here.)
4. Bob Dylan, The 1966 Live Recordings (Columbia/Legacy): A massive compilation of every note from his notorious tour. (Full review here.)
5. Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math (ATO): No-nonsense relationship tales that rock out with insistent verve.
6. Hinds, Leave Me Alone (Mom + Pop/Lucky Number): Frayed, rowdy femme-punk straight outta Madrid.
7. Jennifer O'Connor, Surface Noise (Kiam): Tuneful, deadpan folk-pop with a cutting edge. (Full review here.)
8. Brigid Mae Power, Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square): Hair-raising solo acoustic performances by an Irish chanteuse. (Full review here.)
9. Dex Romweber, Carrboro, (Bloodshot): A colorful Americana kaleidoscope from a master balladeer and rockabilly shouter. (Full review here.)
10. Sad13, Slugger (Carpark): Sadie Dupuis' solo debut, poppier than her band Speedy Ortiz, and exuberantly feminist.
11 & 12. The Scientists, A Place Called Bad (Numero Group); and Blonde Redhead, Masculin Feminin (Numero Group): The great Chicago reissue label scores again with retrospectives devoted to The Scientists, Australian trash-rockers from the '70s and '80s, and Blonde Redhead's '90s shoegaze-noise recordings amid the chaotic New York scene. (Full review here.)
13. Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch): The gorgeous final works of the New Orleans R&B genius. (And here's our recent chat with Toussaint collaborator Aaron Neville.)
14. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic): The long-overdue return, and devastating goodbye, of a hip-hop institution.
15. Various Artists, The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 (Light in the Attic): An eye-opening survey of vintage new age music in all its oddball, unexpected glory.
16. Heron Oblivion, self-titled (Sub Pop): Mind-scorching psychedelia that fuses deranged guitars and Meg Baird's dreamy vocals.