There’s no denying it’s been a tough year. With a string of heartbreaking celebrity deaths and the weight of our vitriolic election on our shoulders, it can be difficult to look back on 2016 with anything but a firm “ugh.” But as the Pancakes & Whiskey team reflected, our faith in the universe was restored a bit, because we remembered how many truly good things we witnessed in 2016 too. We saw talented new artists breaking into the scene, seasoned musicians reinventing their genres, and most importantly, our favorite bands – the ones that really make us tick – playing all the old hits and surprising us with new ones. We spoke to influential artists like Brian Fallon, Tim Commerford, Silversun Pickups, and The Avett Brothers, among others, and were honored to hear some stories they’ve never shared before. We traveled cross-country for festivals like Bonnaroo, Lockn, Outlaw, Outside Lands – and the best fests on our own turf, like Gov Ball, Northside, Meadows, and even the Great Big Bacon Picnic. And no matter where we went, we brought the music back with us, soaking it up song after song until the next show. So without further ado, in no particular order, enjoy the P&W team picks for best albums of 2016 and hear the music that helped us survive the year. We’ll see you in the next one!


Frank Ocean: Blonde – Blonde (scripted as the masculine “Blond”) is an artistic masterpiece that presents an honest take on the struggles of everyday life. Complex and hazy, Ocean uses elements of psychedelic pop and minimal instrumentation to inform his stream-of-consciousness lyrics. The album won’t be your “feel-good go-to,” but it is profound. –Alx Bear


Twenty One Pilots: TOPXMM (The Mutemath Sessions) – This EP was delivered right before Christmas and what a gift it was to everyone! Reimagining 5 of TOP’s songs with collaboration from my favorite band, Mutemath, the new versions combined the best of both groups and left me wanting so much more especially after the blistering drum-off at the end of “Lane Boy.” Fans of both groups have pleaded for a full album and tour in the wake of this EP, and I am in full agreement. –Lesley Keller


 James Blake: The Colour In Anything – There’s something comforting about James Blake’s voice underneath thumping bass, skittering drum patterns, and autotune, but this album tapped into a tenderness surrounding the complications in relationships that I can wholly relate to. –Lesley Keller


Radkey: Delicious Rock Noise – This trio of power-punk rocking brothers out of the Midwest is the no-frills album I needed to hear this year. It’s got the anger and innocence of youth packaged in high speed guitar riffs and superheroes. –Omar Kasrawi



Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool – Confession: to avoid being a cliche last year, I chose Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr. as my favorite album instead of my actual favorite of 2015, Currents by Tame Impala. This year, I can’t help but be a cliche and select A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. Every Radiohead song we get is like when a new member is added to the family and it already seems like every track of LP9 has always been a part of my life. –Bobby Lewis



A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – Even though there had been rumors for years, I think we all probably felt it was unlikely to ever happen, especially after the death of Phife Dawg Taylor. Then, with almost no warning, the album dropped and I was enthralled from the first listen. The poetical, allegorical, direct, and forever aggressive raps are still spinning through my mind to this moment, just as though the Tribe never left my mind or my heart. –Dean Keim


Phantogram: Three – Phantogram’s constantly whirling beat creations and darkly thick soundscapes are still in ever-powerful effect on Three. Sarah Barthel’s voice is still as heavenly as it is devilish, and her lyrics still produce a meaty dialogue about tougher and deeper subject matters, like mental and emotional problems, and even suicide. Guitarist John Carter’s arrangements sweep you away, and even his couple of fronting contributions prove to be intense and impactful. –Dean Keim


Glass Animals: How to Be a Human Being – The creativity and uniqueness of the content of this album is something to be praised for a long time. Filled with catchy beats, absurd lyrics and content full of story, this album shows how Glass Animals have grown as a band. –Merissa Blitz


Pink Mexico: Fool – If you want music to yell at when you’re angry look no further. Fool is an album that contributes to the underground scene of garage punk influenced by modern day psych and surf rock. This shit makes your hair whip and your body sway. –Merissa Blitz


 Solange: A Seat at the Table – Let’s not forget that Solange came out with a masterpiece this year as well, in her own right. Forthright, vulnerable, and very, very beautiful. Black Excellence in all its glory. –Stephanie Moise


David Bowie: Blackstar – Going out with quite the swan song, The Thin White Duke made an album like no other in his collection. Dealing with his death, David Bowie gave us one of the greatest endings a musician has ever given to the world. With songs like “I Can’t Give Everything Away” and “Lazarus,” Bowie was telling the world goodbye in his own beautiful way and is now resting easy while his whole catalog is seeing a wonderful rejuvenation. –Bryan Lasky


 Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression – What do you do when you have nothing left to prove in the music business and Josh Homme wants to work with you? You make an album that fits in with the best of your catalog and go on a bad ass tour with an amazing band. Iggy Pop’s possible last album was one for the ages and shows even at 69 he still has a lot of fight left in his body. –Bryan Lasky


Avett Brothers: True Sadness – Bridging the spare sonic palette of their earliest work with some of their most hard hitting songs to date, True Sadness is an excellent record that finds the band honoring their roots at a time when they’re taking their biggest risks. –Caitlin Phillips


Brian Fallon: Painkillers – For his very first solo record, Brian Fallon crafts a collection that can’t help but feel like an instant classic. And while he’s always been the type of lyricist whose words could be just as compelling on their own, the indelible melodies that form the record are every bit as affecting and enduring. –Caitlin Phillips


Sunflower Bean: Human Ceremony – Other than Wilco’s Schmilco (because anytime they release music it’ll be my favorite album even if it’s bad, which it never is), and the huge emotional pull of Bowie’s Blackstar, already one of my favorite albums of his, I really enjoyed the newcomers Sunflower Bean. I first listened to them because of an interview opportunity, and I got sucked into their covers EP. Once I heard their debut album, Human Ceremony, I was completely sold. I really hope they get back out on the road and into the studio. –Christopher Gilson


The Struts: Everybody Wants  We were blown away the first time we rocked out with The Struts this year, and quickly found ourselves craving more of their real-deal arena rock sound. Luckily, they released their debut album, Everybody Wants, the very next day – and it was packed with all the theatrical, glam rock energy we loved about their live show. If you haven’t danced your ass off to this record yet, get on it. –Olivia Isenhart


Run The Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 – Killer Mike and El-P gave jewel runners the ultimate present this year when they released their long-awaited third album three weeks early for free, on Christmas morning. And aside from the hype, the album is sick – bursting with slick collaborations with artists like Kamasi Washington and Zack de la Rocha. Check out our full review of RTJ3 here. –Olivia Isenhart


Fat White Family: Songs for Our Mothers – Right at the beginning of the year, our big dirty extended family released a thrasher of a psych rock album that’s as filthy and freaky as their hypnotic live shows. Thanks to raging tracks like “Whitest Boy on the Beach,” “Satisfied,” and “Tinfoil Deathstar,” which already feel like Fat White Family classics, we could hardly stop spinning it. Check out our full review of Songs for Our Mothers here. –Olivia Isenhart


Future Lover: Summoning – The first full-length LP from Indiana’s Future Lover is what a good psych album should be; an adventure with each song that formulates a full story. Read our full review here and then grab a copy. Shayne Hanley


Duchess Says: Sciences Nouvelles – Filled with weird video-game-esque sounds Sciences Nouvelles is for the pure music lover that enjoys hints of punk, electronica and pop. We caught the release party for the impressive album and has been a mainstay in the weekly rotation. Shayne Hanley


 King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity – By far the most played album of 2016 for me. Many mornings were spent with this spinning as background music because of the infinite looping of the songs and the power they bring – each song seeps into another without breaks and in the end is a beast of an album with ridiculous guitars, dual drums and visons of head-banging devils. Catch the full review here. Shayne Hanley

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