Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016 Fresh Air's rock critic presents his playlist for 2016. It includes big pop stars, beloved cult stars and a couple of not-yet-stars.
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Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016

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Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016

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It was a great year for old pros and newcomers, big pop stars and beloved cult stars, as well as a couple of not-yet-stars. As always, winnowing down a list that could have easily been double this length was tough — but it was also a pleasure, since it forced me to concentrate on what made this music the best of 2016. The following picks are arranged in alphabetical order.

Ken Tucker's Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2016

  • William Bell, 'This Is Where I Live'

    The veteran R&B singer has collaborated with producer John Leventhal to fashion a series of tightly knit songs. Now in his mid-70s, Bell isn't looking back — he's living in the present, and his music rings with shrewd experience.

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  • Beyoncé, 'Lemonade'

    Beyoncé extols the power of black womanhood in these songs, in which she takes on various roles of mother, wife, lover and, above all, artist. The range of music here, from clattering hip-hop rhythms to gut-bucket blues, is both subtle and impressive.

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  • Car Seat Headrest, 'Teens Of Denial'

    Car Seat Headrest — the nom de musique of Will Toledo — is a young man, still in his 20s, whose songs portray him as craving both solitude and connection with the world. His sound is conflicted, moody, wry, depressed and angry around the edges.

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  • Robbie Fulks, 'Upland Stories'

    Long praised for his witty wordplay, Fulks reminds you here that he's also an exceptional vocalist and earnest storyteller. The fictions he spins out on this album are tersely realistic, with strong melodies to give them weight.

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  • Margaret Glaspy, 'Emotions And Math'

    Many of the songs on Glaspy's debut album can seem, at first, like singer-songwriter confessional ballads, only to reveal themselves as tough-minded rockers as the music proceeds. It's a canny, original strategy.

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  • The I Don't Cares, 'Wild Stab'

    Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield collaborated on this rootsy rock 'n' roll album whose songs reach out and grab you. It's meant to hit your ears like garage rock — like basement tapes dusted off and tidied up — but not too much.

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  • Maxwell, 'blackSUMMERS'night'

    Having reached middle age and decided that soul music doesn't need reviving because it's still a vital, growing thing, Maxwell made a beautiful album about being obsessed with romantic love, and the thrill of pursuing and being pursued.

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  • Miranda Lambert, 'The Weight Of These Wings'

    The two dozen songs on this album, most of which were co-written by Lambert, are aggressively down-home and loose whenever they're not uptown and tight. Lambert is making some of the most vivid and varied country music today.

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  • Bonnie Raitt, 'Dig In Deep'

    Raitt's first album since 2012 is also one of her best. It's mostly self-produced and redolent with her own stinging guitar lines, with Raitt finding different ways to convey what it feels like to live with a broken heart.

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  • Kelsey Waldon, 'I've Got A Way'

    Ths album features old-school country music, complete with pervasive pedal-steel guitar, from a young woman with a mind for tradition. Waldon gets her best effects from singing forthrightly, with stripped-down arrangements that give her songs stark power.

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