There were some pretty good albums released in 2016. Here are my favorites for the year.
Keith Urban – Ripcord
With each album, Keith Urban seems to move further and further from the country sound. Ripcord is no exception and infuses EDM with banjos and synth beats. There’s even a collaboration with Pitbull on the track “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” It may not be traditional country but it’s still a fun, upbeat pop-country album that’s perfect for listening to when driving around town on a sunny day.
Songs to download: Wasted Time; John Couger, John Deere & John 3:16; Habit of You; The Fighter; Break on Me and Blue Ain’t Your Color.
Gwen Stefani – This is What the Truth Feels Like
The third solo studio album from No Doubt’s lead singer, This is What the Truth Feels Like is inspired by the break-up of her marriage to Gavin Rossdale. Heartbreak usually results in great music and Gwen delivers with a more personal album than her previous efforts. There are a couple of really bad tracks near the middle but for the most part a solid album that I’ve been listening to on repeat ever since it’s release in March.
Songs to Download: Misery; Make Me Like You; Truth; Used to Love You; Send Me a Picture; Me Without You
Lacey Sturm – Life Screams
The first solo album from Flyleaf’s former lead singer continues in the same style as her previous three albums with the band. Life Screams roars positively and loudly with lyrics of hope screamed and sung over crunchy rock guitars and string arrangements. Worth the wait and should please any Flyleaf fan who preferred her style over their current lead singer.
Songs to Download: Impossible; The Soldier; Rot; You Are Not Alone; Life Screams
Fitz and the Tantrums – Self Titled
I wasn’t sure that I liked this one the first time I heard it all the way through but some albums just have to grow on you. It’s a little slicker and a little more produced than their previous two efforts but every Fitz and the Tantrums album is different and that’s partially what makes them a great band. This self-titled CD has an 80s pop vibe that’s full of earworms. Check them out live sometime.
Songs to Download: Handclap; Complicated; Burn it Down; Get Right Back
Kings of Leon – Walls
Back in 2008, you could not escape Kings of Leon. “Use Somebody” was on the radio ALL THE TIME. They were a huge sensation over night although they’d been releasing music for years before mainstream caught on. Then the lead singer had alcohol problems, some birds pooped on a crowd of fans and the band released a couple of dud albums no one really liked. Then Walls happened. I resisted it at first because I figured it was terrible like the last two but after reading several glowing reviews, decided to listen and was pleasantly surprised. Not as good as Only By the Night but definitely a stand out album of 2016.
Songs to download: Waste a Moment; Reverend; Around the World; Find Me; Walls
Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
Miranda Lambert has always seemed to make the kind of music she wants to make yet still manages to have commercial success and is one of the few women country radio will actually play. This double album comes after a much public divorce from Blake Shelton and is filled with personal and emotional songs about heartbreak, healing and moving on. There really isn’t a bad song and that’s saying a lot for a double album with twenty-four songs.
Songs to download: Vice; Highway Vagabond; Use My Heart; Tin Man; Keeper of the Flame; Six Degrees of Separation
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
It’s been four years since Bruno Mars released an album of new music. Four years! It doesn’t seem that long because of the success of Uptown Funk and his memorable Super Bowl half-time performance but Bruno is back once again with his funky, throwback style. There are only nine songs on this album but it’s definitely quality stuff. IMO, Bruno is the Michael Jackson of our day.
Songs to download: 24K Magic; Chunky; Versace on the Floor; That’s What I Like
Maren Morris – Hero
The BEST album of 2016. Like many country albums today, Hero blurs the line between country and pop but there are throwbacks to classic country on this one as well. It’s brilliant, catchy and the songs are full of great hooks that will have you humming them all day long.
Songs to download: My Church, Sugar, I Could Use a Love Song, 80s Mercedes, Drunk Girls Don’t Cry