Music

Pazz & Jop, the Village Voice Music Critics Poll: The Best of the Rest

by

Anderson .Paak, Malibu

Anderson .Paak’s musicianship and raw vocals, Maxwell’s mature elegance, Beyoncé’s angry-wife persona, Bryson Tiller’s wistfully whiny sexuality, and Kandace Springs’s rich voice and bluesy piano chops showed that the b in r&b was finally getting equal weight after being drowned out for several years by the r. Though Solange got most of the blog coverage, rookies Gallant, Springs, and Audra Day all made impressive albums that suggested they have the chops and p.o.v. for long careers. Nelson George

Rihanna, Anti

Overshadowed by Kanye, Chance, Kendrick, or the Knowles Sisters, Rihanna proved that she is our most sophisticated consumer of pleasure and, in her own way, continued the argument that female sexual autonomy as a construction of self and power is both refreshing and full of danger. That she has done this consistently for eight albums is a streak rivaled only by Stevie Wonder or Madonna. Anthony Easton

Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Sturgill Simpson’s endlessly tender dedication to his newborn son presents a dramatic contrast to the arguably toxic masculinity that has plagued country music for years. Amy McCarthy

Drive-By Truckers, American Band

America’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in an era when that doesn’t mean a goddamn thing put out their best record in nearly a decade, immersing themselves not just in the stories they’ve always told, but the politics that have always underpinned them. Jim Connelly

Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition

Forget the words. The sound of these doomy, gothic soundscapes that surround you in ever-tightening spirals mirrored the fear and loathing so many of us felt in the weeks following Trump’s election. Jim Connelly

The 1975, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

Plastic neon boner-funk high off hubris and philosophy books. You could try to make this shit up, but why would you? Evan Sawdey

ANOHNI, Hopelessness

Awareness of your implicit role in global exploitation and impending climate doom has never sounded so beautiful. Joe Lynch

Kaytranada, 99.9%

In a year when so many great records aimed at making us think, feel, pray, smile, cry, rage, empathize, this album — more than any other — just wanted you to dance. Alex Gale

Esperanza Spalding, Emily’s D+Evolution

“Earth to Heaven” and “Funk the Fear” remind me of Dream Theater one second, Joni Mitchell or crisp jazz the next. “Unconditional Love,” a softer piece, has such a warm studio feel to it, I can almost smell the instruments and the soundproofing acoustic foam. I mean this in a fond way, I swear. Farah Joan Fard

KING, We are King

More r&b should shimmer and be this diaphanous. Alfred Soto

Jenny Hval, Blood Bitch

Like a gallery of human desires mounted to a wall that come back to life and start wriggling under their pins. Sasha Geffen

Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories

The frustrations, furies, and fleeting grace notes of flyover America. These songs sounded warm and empathetic before the election. It was already too late when they revealed themselves as warnings. Max Berry

Kevin Gates, Islah

A new classic: Layers of hooks, a remarkably chameleonic voice and flow, and (almost) more mood swings than Trump’s Twitter account. Corey Beasley

Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger

V.I.P. wristband as a metaphor for colonialism? What would Trump tweet? Ken Rayes

Jamila Woods, HEAVN

A work of beauty rising up through the Chicago gun smoke, mostly about the Chicago gun smoke. Phillip Overeem

Young Thug, Jeffery

Everyone always talks about how weird Young Thug sounds, but here’s a list of other “weird sounding” guys he reminds me of: Louis Armstrong, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Chuck Berry (“My Ding-a-Ling” is very similar to “Future Swag”). Rollie Pemberton

Horse Lords, Interventions

There’s an old Laotian proverb that says if you like to have things easy, you’ll have difficulties, but if you like things difficult, you’ll succeed. Baltimore quintet Horse Lords like things difficult, and their kinetic freak-out rock offers rich rewards and thrilling ecstasies. Patrick Wall

Xenia Rubinos, Black Terry Cat

I can’t think of a Latinx artist who so aggressively confronted a world so hell-bent on vilifying her, and her people, as the Puerto Rican and Cuban Rubinos. Rubinos made it a point to address what it’s like to be a brown girl in a country where so many Latinxs thirst for white acceptance. Jaime-Paul Falcon

A Tribe Called Red, We Are the Halluci Nation

A beautiful piece of humanity-laced activism painted on a trancelike electronic backdrop complete with tribal chanting and throat singing, this album stands out in a year with so many great releases as truly unique both musically and in point of view. Heather Hoch

Bonnie Raitt, Dig in Deep

The sexiest album of the year was made by a 66-year-old woman, quite possibly at the peak of her powers. Thomas Inskeep

G.L.O.S.S., Trans Day of Revenge

One zillion points. Absolutely essential. Michael Fournier

The Tragically Hip, Man Machine Poem

As undeniably courageous as David Bowie and Leonard Cohen were in staring down the respective barrels of their own mortality in 2016, my number one hero of this or any other year is Gord Downie, lead singer and lyricist for Canada’s favorite sons, the Tragically Hip. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Downie led the Hip on a farewell tour that galvanized an entire nation in addition to helming not one but two career-defining albums. To modify an indelible Hip lyric: “Courage: It couldn’t come at a better time. Gord’s legacy will live to survive our paradoxes well into eternity.” Mike Mettler

Tweet, Charlene

Tweet made us remember the days of Minnie Riperton, when soul and singer-songwriter folk could combine. Ian Steaman

Garbage, Strange Little Birds

As David Greenwald has pointed out, there’s a real issue with the way veteran non-superstar acts’ releases are covered (or aren’t). This album deserved a real critical reckoning. Jesse Richman

The Highest Order, Still Holding

A psychedelic country record that seeks to decolonize and confront settler mentality, and it’s amazing. Andrea Warner

Don’t miss the rest of the 2017 Pazz & Jop, Village Voice Music Critics Poll coverage:

The Complete Results

The Top Albums of 2016

The Top Singles of 2016

This Year’s Most Far-Out Ballot

This Year’s Tabulation Notes

The Black Stars of 2016: From the Knowles Industrial Complex to the Hip-Hop Avengers

In a World of ‘Lemonade,’ Misogyny Creeps Onto the Pop Charts

Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’: Digital Music Victory or Corporate Land Grab?