Uproxx has a diverse staff who write about all sorts of things, from sports to politics to food and travel, to TV and film, but obviously, most of the people who work here share a passion for music, because music is always in the background throughout all of those other things. It’s one of the things that links us, no matter what our lifestyle, job, or location may be.
To celebrate that, Uproxx staffers are sharing their own personal year-end lists. Our official best albums list is here, and our favorite rap albums are here, with more genre-specific lists rolling out the rest of the week. For now, you can read Alex Galbraith’s top 20 albums below.
20. Earth Girls, Wanderlust
Let’s get this out of the way up front. When I’m making a personal Top 20, I’m not thinking about what an album meant to the world or worrying about the cultural importance of anything. On top of that, I have the world’s biggest soft spot for fuzzy guitar tunes with female vocalists murdering choruses. If you get enough drinks in me, I’ll argue that “Blue Gown” is the greatest song ever made until you wander away. This is a roundabout way of saying all opinions on this list are entirely my own and more than a little trash when held up to people who went in search of a theme. If you’re looking for an album that said something about this year, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for an excellent collection of bright and wonderful power-pop tunes, then pick up Wanderlust.
19. Chris Farren, Can’t Die
I discovered this solo album from the head of Naples, FL’s Fake Problems entirely by accident. Sean Bonnette of AJJ was playing a free acoustic in-store set near my house and — while I’m pretty much entirely unfamiliar with that band — it seemed like it might be fun.
Bonnette was perfectly fine, but there was no denying that Farren stole the show from the opening slot. He made up for the spare instrumentation by being an absolute belter. His room-filling performance of what I later realized was “Say U Want Me” made me seek out Can’t Die as soon as I got home. While his voice is buried for much of the album under the requisite pop-punk fuzz, he still comes off like Jeff Rosenstock with a more traditionally pretty set of pipes. If you wished every album was a little bit more like Will Butler’s solo album, tracks like “Human Being” and the aforementioned “Want Me” should have been a part of your 2016.
18. Sexy Dex & The Fresh, Plus 1 Edition
Dexter Gilmore fractured, oddball tunes from his Coldiloqs demos served a very distinct purpose in my life. The Minneapolis-indebted, bedroom tracks work perfectly for when I have an unchill friend in my car who asks if we can listen to something that’s not Prince. “(m)ug” and “As I Light This Spliff Dying” went best with a shit-eating grin.
But now that Gilmore’s expanded his funky, chaotic and falsetto-filled vision to include a whole band, I can enjoy the tracks out in the open and even those Purple Heretics will likely get on board. “Sp33D R4CR” and “Le Sigh” are like His Royal Badness on amphetamines, giving you all the oomph and speed of a track like “Sister” with a smidge less incest and a heaping layer of fuzz.
Use it to weed out the friends who are wrong for you, because anyone who’s ears don’t perk up at “crust-covered icy funk tunes from New Orleans” is not to be trusted.
17. Touche Amore, Stage Four
Every person I recommended Stage Four to this year (read: everyone) also got a warning. “Don’t listen to this unless you’re in a good place.” Stage Four is so uncompromisingly, unflinchingly sad — so effective in its ability to put you in the headspace of lead singer Jeremy Bolm as he screams about losing his mother to cancer — that starting this album on anything less than your best day can put you down for a week.
It’s heavy music in every sense of the word. Bolm has done the hard work of digging his heels in against a God he’s not sure exists and this music is the sound of the forces of the universe thudding against him, attempting to get him to move. It’s uncomfortable to hear in the same way as a brutal, score-less, close-up movie fight scene or early ‘00s body horror setpieces. And you spend the entire album doing the aural equivalent of watching through your fingers.
“You died at 69/ With a body full of cancer/ I asked your God ‘How could you?’/ But never heard an answer” might be the most potent opening lines of the year. I have never lost a loved one to cancer. But Bolm makes the prospect so real and so terrifying that you can practically experience the chill of a hospital room that’s always slightly too cold and feel the tingle of antiseptic in your nostrils.
16. Lisa Prank, Adult Teen
And now for something completely different. Adult Teen treats everything from alcoholism to love with the lightest touch imaginable.