50 Best Albums of 2016

Beyoncé smashed the system, Chance the Rapper counted his blessings, David Bowie left a powerful goodbye and more

Paul Simon, 'Stranger to Stranger'
50
12/50

12. Paul Simon, 'Stranger to Stranger'

Paul Simon said the theme of his 13th album was sound, packing it with sideways reinventions of the mournful blues snap and early rock & roll melodicism that have long charged his work. But the genre-bending oddball sonics draw you into songs full of the anxiety that defined our annus horribilis. Werewolves are on the march in the opening track ("Ignorance and arrogance, a national debate/Put the fight in Vegas, that's a billion dollar gate"), mass shooting victims are mourned in "The Riverbank," the have-nots of heartland towns are convulsed by riots in "Wristband," and the rich get all the fries. There was also consolation: the love he describes as "a waterfall of light" and the music itself, swaying, popping, weird and lovely. J.L.

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