The Best Albums of 2016 (So Far)

2016 is halfway over, if you can believe it. How quickly time flies!

All this week, we’ll be sharing our 2016 (so far) favorites: songs, albums, movies, TV shows, and stories. Today: albums! I asked all of Celebuzz’s editors to send me their five favorite albums of 2016. Basically, everyone agreed on Beyoncé‘s Lemonade, a lot of us liked Rihanna’s ANTI, and Drake made a few or our lists. Otherwise, you’ll note that our tastes as a staff are rather varied; new albums from Mitski, PJ Harvey, Majid Jordan, Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik, Chance the Rapper, and more made it into the Top 5 of one or more of our editors.

Without further delay, let’s get to it.

Matt Russoniello

Mitski – Puberty 2

My favorite album of 2016 so far — though it’s likely it will take the year-end top spot too — is Mitski’s beautiful fourth album, Puberty 2. Its power lies in its existence both in and in between extremes: loud and quiet, sarcastic and earnest, blistering and sweet. Puberty 2 is only 30 minutes long, but so much happens over the course of its 11 thrillingly diverse songs that it begs for repeated, obsessive listens.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Listen to Lemonade at TIDAL

Nearly 20 years into her career, Beyoncé is more confident than she’s ever been, and it shows on her sixth (and best) solo album, Lemonade. The album masterfully blends genres; social, political, and personal messages; and audio and visual components, making it the most important (and enjoyable) mainstream album of the year.

PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

It’s unfortunate that, due to controversies sprung from lazy reporting and general misunderstandings, PJ Harvey’s ninth album has been largely ignored and somewhat condemned. As our world continues to feel scarier, more violent, Harvey’s voice is more important than ever. Hope Six is a travelogue of her journeys to Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Washington D.C., where she observed and met with people living amongst the destruction wrought by war and poverty. “A Line in the Sand” and “The Ministry of Defense” are among her most haunting and interesting compositions ever. More people should pay attention to those songs, the album, and the issues she has chosen to write and sing about, because not many other people (especially those with her platform) are talking about these things.

ANOHNI – Hopelessness

ANOHNI, who formerly released albums as Antony and the Johnsons, makes her “debut” as ANOHNI with Hopelessness, a record about the world ending before our very eyes. Whereas her previous albums traded mostly in avant-garde orchestral rock and pop, Hopelessness pairs ANOHNI’s singular voice with avant-garde electronics and dance beats. ANOHNI sings of drone bombs killing loved ones, the destruction of climate change, the politicians who fail us, and more, all while Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawk’s production work to drag you, toes-tapping, into the album’s dark world.

Bat For Lashes – The Bride

For a decade now, Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, has never once disappointed me. With each new album, she challenges herself, evolves her sound, and delivers something that feels like a complete work of art. The Bride, her fourth album, sees her return to the realm of The Concept Album, though The Bride commits harder to the bit than any previous Bat for Lashes album, even Two Suns. It follows a straightforward narrative — the titular bride’s husband-to-be tragically dies on his way to the church, thus propelling the bride on a literal and spiritual journey — though the literalism of the plot often gives way to moments of Lynchian surrealness. The music is beautiful, haunting, cinematic and, most importantly, is all of those things independent of the album’s concept.

Kaitlyn Laurie

Rihanna – ANTI

ANTI is my hands down go-to album of 2016. At first, I was surprised by how… un-Rihanna it felt, used to hearing bangers like “Pour it Up” and “We Found Love.” But within a couple of listens, I couldn’t stop playing songs like “Needed Me” and “Yeah, I Said It.” I also now have a greater appreciation for Rih’s voice from tracks like “Higher” and one of the highlights, “Love on the Brain.”

Majid Jordan – Majid Jordan

“My Love” feat. Drake is probably the most perfect song I’ve ever heard, and their entire album is just as solid. If you love moody R&B like I do, you’ll be impressed by this duo.

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It

I mainly first started listening to The 1975 because Matt Healy is so darn cute (not gonna lie), but then I just couldn’t get “The Sound” out of my head and then I fell in love with “Somebody Else” and then before I knew it, I had their album (whose title is quite beautiful but too long for me to write out yet again) playing day after day.

EXID – Street

For those of you who are doing life right by listening to K-Pop, then you know EXID aren’t simply popular because of some fortuitous fancam video that went viral back in; they actually have the talent and pop songs to prove it (plus LE is one of the best rappers out there). Their first full-length album Street features gems like “L.I.E.,” “Hello,” “Don’t Wanna Drive” and a solo from Hani.

Zayn – Mind of Mine

Surprise! I loved Mind of Mine, and not just for “PillowTalk.” It’s easy to listen to (mostly because each song is more or less of the same vibe), but regardless of the fact that there are many artists out there doing what Zayn’s trying to do better than he does it, I appreciate his effort to make #realmusic.

Mia Lardiere

Kendrick Lamar – untitled umastered.

Lamar’s untitiled unmastered. is a continuation of his exploration in the fusion of jazz, funk , rap and spoken word as it narrates his perspective on politics and issues of race. There’s a(nother) Grammy in his future. Plus, fun fact: Swizz Beats’ child with Alicia Keys produced the second half of “untitled 07″. Think back to your most proud childhood project and ponder its significance in relation.

James Blake – The Colour In Anything

Though a bit lengthy, new James Blake is always welcome in my ears. His cameo on Beyoncé‘s Lemonade was a nice appetizer round into the full shebang.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book is where spirituality meets Justin Bieber—a rare pairing in contemporary music, but it works so well. If for no other reason, give it a chance to listen to the talent of the Chicago Children’s Choir.

Sia – This Is Acting

Sia intrigues me outside of her music through her lesser-known, yet thoroughly impressive career as a songwriter. I’ve been hooked on her work ever since I heard an interview in which she spoke about the length about her career and the reason why she covers her face in public.

Rihanna – ANTI

This album has grown on me. At first, I felt as though we were gypped by a solid Rihanna album based on her hits thus far. I came to realize that ANTI is a transition piece in her career that will progress her sound into a mature sound, acting as her equivalent of Gaga’s ARTPOP. The only track I can’t get with is “James Joint.”

Jelani Addams Rosa

Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman

Ariana Grande is my little pop princess guilty pleasure. Say what you want about her songs, but when she brings the vocals, she brings it! Dangerous Woman is the perfect combination of ballads Mariah Carey wish she sung and pop songs you’ll be dancing too all summer.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Listen to Lemonade at TIDAL

Beyoncé, oh Beyoncé. The queen never ceases to amaze me and Lemonade is no different. Every single song gets better with each listen, and it is without a doubt her best album to date.

Drake – Views

While Views isn’t Drake’s best work, he seamlessly blends rap, pop, and R&B for the perfect summer album.

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

It took me a while to give The Life of Pablo a chance, but once I did I was hooked. I didn’t really understand what a gospel rap album even was, but once you give it a listen it makes perfect sense. Six months later “Ultra Light Beam” never fails to put me in an amazing mood.

Rihanna – ANTI

At first, listen ANTI didn’t grab me, I felt like we had waited so long for new music and Rihanna just fell short. But as I gave it a few more listens, I recognized this was her first chance to make the kind of music she’s wanted to make all along. It may not be my favorite album, but it makes me excited to see what else Rihanna has in store for us.

Gabi Chung

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Listen to Lemonade at TIDAL

Do I really have to explain why Beyoncé’s Lemonade is good? Only someone like Queen Bey can make an album about one of the most vulnerable moments in her life sound so bold, so fierce, and so brash. It’s simply slays — musically, lyrically, and visually.

Weezer – The White Album

For someone who still blasts The Blue Album on repeat, The White Album should theoretically be — and is — my jam. Sonically more SoCal than ever, it harkens back Weezer’s pre-hiatus days but also keeps in line with that polished and poppy sound the band has developed over the years. In a weird way, it’s almost like what should’ve followed Pinkerton had Weezer not briefly disbanded in the 90s.

Into It. Over It. – Standards

If an emo revival is actually happening, I firmly believe that Into It. Over It. will be the act that will pave the way this decade. Standards is not only good for a “fourth wave” emo album made in the 2010s, but it’s also a good emo album in general. In fact, it’s a good album. Period. Written when singer Evan Weiss and new drummer Josh Sparks secluded themselves in a remote cabin somewhere in Vermont, it’s melodically beautiful with hauntingly heartbreaking lyrics. I mean, isn’t that the golden standard (pun totally intended) of a good emo song anyway?

Hot Hot Heat – Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat’s fifth and last album is the encapsulation of the phrase “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I’ve been following the band since 2002’s Make Up the Breakdown and I’ve never really realized just how much I liked them until they announced that they will be releasing their final record this year. I must’ve played “Kid That Stays in the Picture” about 100 times after hearing the news. Appropriately, the song, which the first and only single from the Canadian quartet’s self-titled, is a bittersweet tune about frontman Steve Bays’ childhood friend as he looks back on the good ‘ol days they shared together.

Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

To call this a personal album is an understatement. Centered around the band’s last few years, the first half of the record was written by guitarist Jake Ewald while bandmate Brendan Lukens penned the B-side following his suicide attempt. Like an indie Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Holy Ghost has two distinctive sounds that manages to work together to form one great album.

Scott Baumgartner

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Filled with atmospheric flourishes and danceable beats, this twosome’s new release SVIIB is inviting and strange enough to show they’ve grown as musicians and songwriters. Claudia Deheza’s soothing vocals suit the group’s polished, addictive tracks.

Weezer – The White Album

Rivers Cuomo and his cohorts are back with a big, booming love letter to California. The new album is loaded with messy, sugarcoated choruses that will have you singing along, even if you’re rolling your eyes.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Listen to Lemonade at TIDAL

This album is just a gimme on this list. Lemonade is as ambitious as it is catchy. It also brilliantly walks the line between innovation and hip-hop trends, always intimate and revelatory while somehow extremely accessible.

ANOHNI – Hopelessness

This is a debut album for the ages. Rife with political commentary and self-examination, this wholly original artist somehow has you singing along, despite the evocative and troubling message.

Anderson Paak – Malibu

Soulful and jazzy, infectious and larger-than-life, this album takes a swan dive off of every bluesy musical motif in existence. Every track feels fresh and loaded with textures. And “Am I Wrong” could very well be the summer jam you’re looking for.

Michael Prieve

Savages – Adore Life

On their sophomore album, the rock band Savages return with an examination of love as a dark, powerful messy thing. Adore Life is defined by an emotional vulnerability, which is where lead singer Jehnny Beth shines.

Drake – Views

While this is not a perfect album, the times that it is perfect, it is truly perfect. The rapper could claim to be the defining pop artist of the moment with this eclectic, often humorous, collection of songs.

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It

In a slightly surprising move, The 1975’s second album has a dance-rock vibe to it. That said, the big ballad, “A Change of Heart” is my favorite song on the album.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Listen to Lemonade at TIDAL

I have drunk the lemonade, and I am sold! Lemonade feels like it was made by someone very much in control. Beyoncé sounds very much like a woman not to be messed with. So don’t mess with Beyoncé.

James Blake – The Colour in Anything

I truly love James Blake’s voice, and it is showcased extremely well on his third album. Blake’s music possesses a certain timelessness that many other artists lack. His style has only become more refined over time, as evidenced by the recent release of The Colour In Anything. Emotions are at an all-time high on his third artist album, where Blake magnified his signature gloomy motifs with introspective lyrics and mellowed background tracks that allow his voice to shine.