50 Best Albums of 2016

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

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Paul Simon, 'Stranger to Stranger'

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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