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Rob Sheffield’s Top 20 Albums of 2016

Beyoncé, ‘Blackstar’ and other favorites from a trying year

Rob Best Albums 2016

Rob Sheffield looks back at his 20 favorite albums of 2016, from David Bowie's 'Blackstar' to Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' and beyond.

As you might have noticed, 2016 was not the brightest year for the human race. So here’s to the musicians who made albums worth celebrating – so many great ones, there was no way to slice it down to a mere top 10. These were my 20 favorites, from all over the map: soul catharsis, rock & roll kicks, hip-hop exorcism, cheap pop thrills. Some came from new voices, others from old favorites, and a few from legendary hearts saying good night. But these were the albums that lifted me up, dug me out, spun me right round and sang me back home.

20

The Monkees, ‘Good Times’

Some witty Peter Tork stage banter, from the Monkees' 50th anniversary tour this summer: "If you've been following us from the beginning, just remember one thing. Any one thing." But against all odds, they came back with one of the year's kickiest pop surprises. Thank producer Adam Schlesinger, the first actual Monkees fan ever to make a Monkees album – which might be why it's (easily) their finest since the Head soundtrack. All the guest songwriters rise to the occasion, because they're also fans: Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, even Noel Gallagher. Seeing Mike Nesmith join live for "Papa Gene's Blues" – via Skype – was another surprise. Here's to crazy ideas and the artists crazy enough to make them real. In 2017, the world will need as many of those as we can get.

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