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2016 Staff Picks: Music

Our expert staff take a look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Lemonade

    2016 by Beyonce

    "With collaborators including Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, The Weekend, and James Blake, Beyonce's latest blends genres and packs a serious punch. The simultaneously released visual album is a powerful work of art. Beautifully shot music videos are strung together with poetry interludes by Somali-Britsh poet Warsan Shire."

    Recommended by Laurel

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  • Cayamo Sessions at Sea

    2016 by Buddy Miller

    "Buddy Miller’s friends are mostly country royalty and he teams up with them to give new life to a series of mostly familiar, mostly country covers."

    Recommended by Steven

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  • Birdwatching

    2016 by Anat Fort Trio

    "Being a birdwatcher myself, I particularly love this selection. In this album we get a new rendering of bird-themed songs that many jazz artists have employed in their repertoire. In addition, she spreads her wings to include expansive compositions that are both lyrical and haunting. Fort returned home to Tel Aviv, where she performed a series of concerts with Italian horn player Gianluigi Trovesi. This is a classic blend of Hebrew and Mediterranean sounds, creating a listening experience as colorful and calming as the hobby it was named after."

    Recommended by Mary

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  • Black Summers' Night

    2016 by Maxwell

    "Maxwell's voice is amazing; silky and smooth with that trademark falsetto. His first album in seven years does not disappoint. It is exactly what I want out of my R&B: lyrically stylish, sexy, jazzy at times, funky at others and lots of horns. Oh Maxwell, please don't wait another seven years for a new album!"

    Recommended by Kathy

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  • My Woman

    2016 by Angel Olsen

    "I loved her vocals, lovely lyrics, the pop sound, and varied styles."

    Recommended by Sharon

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  • Black

    2016 by Dierks Bentley

    "As a longtime country music fan, I can declare that most of what is played on country radio these days is generic, bland, and somewhat offensive. Dierks Bentley is one of the few modern male country singers who expertly fuses the traditional with the modern. Like the best of country, Dierks tells stories with not only his songs, but with this whole album"

    Recommended by Lynnanne

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  • Side pony

    2016 by Lake Street Dive (Musical group), performer.

    "A snappy album title and playful cover art got me interested. But the smooth vintage type tunes, kept me entertained."

    Recommended by Sharon

    "If you want retro, loungey cool with big soulful lead vocals (thanks Rachel Price!) and catchy lyrics, look no further than Lake Street Dive. This album is just amazingly fun. I don't know how you won't find yourself singing along and at the very least tapping your toes, although full-on dancing is more likely in my case. "

    Recommended by Kathy

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  • The Way We Play

    2016 by Marquis Hill

    "Classic Chicago Jazz is alive and well! This talented young lion struts his stuff; at 29, Marquis Hill continues the lineage with a sound that embodies the history of his city while also pushing its legacy into the 21st century--opening up the album with a soulful reading of the Chicago Bulls theme music from the Michael Jordan era. He is joined in the esteemed Blacktet by saxophonist Christopher McBride, Justin Thomas on the vibes, bassist Joshua Ramos, and drummer Makaya McCraven."

    Recommended by Mary

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  • For Better, Or Worse (cd)

    2016 by John Prine

    "No one will accuse John Prine of having the most beautiful voice in the world, but it lends a weathered gravity to this well-chosen collection of classic country songs sung as duets with all female partners."

    Recommended by Steven

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  • Man About Town

    2016 by Mayer Hawthorne

    "Maybe not the most lyrically complex, but Mayer Hawthorne remains a favorite of mine because of his funky take on the Motown sound. His smooth, distinctive voice, high energy sound and backing band that is so tight have me listening to Man About Town over and over. "

    Recommended by Kathy

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  • In Movement

    2016 by Jack DeJohnette

    "You've got Ravi Coltrane (son of John), Jack DeJohnette (drummer who played with Coltrane on a few occasions) and Matthew Garrison, the son of longtime Coltrane bassist Jimmy Garrison. Need I say more? All you have to do is listen to the opening strains of their version of Papa’s “Alabama” to get the gist of the futuristic modality these three men bring to this incredible CD."

    Recommended by Mary

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  • Signs of light

    2016 by Head and the Heart (Musical group), performer.

    "This is the third studio album from this indie folk rock band, and each has been a favorite of mine. Hope and loneliness--let’s consider the silver linings--thoughtful stuff that does not disappoint."

    Recommended by Sharon

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  • American Tunes

    2016 by Allen Toussaint

    "Toussaint’s posthumously released American Tunes was an album I repeatedly reached for like a cool glass of water. A beautiful collection of soulful piano jazz filtered through the gumbo prism of New Orleans grand musical history, it was a moving testimony to Toussaint’s many talents."

    Recommended by Chris

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  • The Ship

    2016 by Brian Eno

    "Eno’s latest album has as its anchor the artist’s desire to record an album of songs "that didn't rely on the normal underpinnings of rhythmic structure and chord progressions." The results are a moody, murky, alluringly aquatic suite of songs more in line with Eno’s ambient experiments. The bleakness gives way to the album’s closing song, an achingly lovely cover of the Velvet Underground’s "I’m Set Free.""

    Recommended by Chris

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  • Lovers

    2016 by Nels Cline

    "A two CD set of swooningly romantic orchestral jazz played straight up is not something I would have expected from Cline, a fiery, virtuosic guitarist long affiliated with the free-jazz/ improvised music community. And yet, here it is, a perfect set of mood music, with Cline dialing down his guitar pyrotechnics and wallowing in a warm bath of jazzy nostalgia."

    Recommended by Chris

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  • Day of the dead.

    2016 by Grateful Dead (Musical group), composer.

    "It’s only befitting that this wonderfully diverse compilation of (mostly) indie artists covering Grateful Dead songs is a sprawling 5 CD set. The variety of covers here is a real treat, with a 17-minute version of Terrapin Station (Suite) led by The National along with members of Grizzly Bear and Sō Percussion being the lysergic highlight."

    Recommended by Chris

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