Best of NYS Music 2016: Staff and Reader Picks for Albums of the Year

In NYS Music tradition, as we count down the final days of 2016, we reminisce about the hours we’ve spent obsessing over music. Whether planning wild road trips to chase bands whose music feeds our souls, frequenting our favorite venues and exploring new ones, head banging to heavy jams and accidentally spilling drinks, dancing with strangers and making new friends, music is a common thread that unites us. Now it’s time to reflect on the soundtrack of 2016 and recognize the music that carried us through another revolution around the sun.

We polled the staff and asked our readers for their input in ten categories: Best Albums by NYS Artists, Best Albums Overall, Best Shows by Region, Best Venues in NYS, Biggest Musical Loss, Best Live Cover or Tribute Performances, Best NYS Festivals, Best Out-of-State Festivals, Best Music Town, and Bands on the Rise. Throughout the week we will present two categories a day highlighting the top picks. We’ll kick things off with Best Albums by NYS Artists and Best Album, Overall. Here we go!

Best Albums by NYS Artists

Receiving the most votes, Aqueous’ EP Best in Show was voted in as the top album of 2016. The Buffalo rock quartet released the record in October and it stands as “a four song reflection not only of the band’s time without a permanent drummer, but also a glimpse into the band’s future as drummer Rob Houk melts into the Aqueous groove with fluid rhythm that feels as if he’s always been here.”

NYS Music writer Kat Horton’s review offers this commentary:

“The four songs are highlighted by tiny nuggets of rightness; lyrically, musically and in its production Best in Show turns a pointed spotlight on how much Aqueous has grown in the two years since their last studio release. But more importantly, Best in Show is Aqueous’ resolve from the challenges they have faced and proves their tenacity to move forward while solidifying their line-up.”

This year our readers were in agreement with which NY artist released the best album, nominating Aqueous as their top choice. Queens-based hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service and Brooklyn’s psychedelic funk band Chromatropic and their recent release, Abundance were also favored.

A handful of NYS albums deserving honorable mention in the staff vote include: Funktional Flow’s Time Will Tell, TAUK’s Sir Nebula, A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, Seymour’s Seymour, and Vaporeyes’ Golden Baron.

Best Albums Overall

Though Phish’s live albums are what usually garner attention, this year their release of Big Boat left an impression on fans and the “13th studio recording is the most genre bending album they have released.”

NYS Music’s Neil Benjamin Jr. offered this review, commenting:

“Ever think Phish would start off a studio album with a sort of Brit-pop-punk sounding song? Me either, but that’s exactly what the band did by kicking off Big Boat with the Jon Fishman song “Friends,” which is the perfect lead-in to an album by a band that has built its fanbase by throwing it curveballs.”

A Tribe Called Quest’s album We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service also received recognition in this year’s poll. Smart lyrics and slick beats produced by this socially conscious group offers a dialogue that resonates with many listeners and “once again, the group has created something one of a kind a revolutionary, that listeners can only hope will inspire other artists to follow in Tribe’s footsteps.”

In a review of the album, NYS Music’s Dave Ostroff remarks,

“The production value of this album is immaculate. It feels like listening to a remastered, never released album, because Tribe led the public to believe their fifth album was their last breaking up in 1998. And even without all of the original members, their sound is still effortless and always moving.”

Bon Iver’s 22, A Million melts his hauntingly sweet voice into a pool of shockingly experimental effects that stings the ears with intrigue. “While experimenting with the auto-tune and synthetics, Bon Iver explores the world beyond the conventional three-minute song while staying true to himself.”

NYS Music writer Sammy Steiner reviewed the album, offering:

“The controversial album that is 22, A Million was successful in reinventing Bon Iver to the extent that he is compared to the works of Kayne West and Frank Ocean. With this album, Bon Iver reaffirms his ability to remain of interest to our scattered millennial generation and the contemporary world.”

According to our readers, Aqueous also took the top slot for Best Album, while Metallica’s Hardwired… To Self Destruct and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool were also popular choices.

Other notable contenders that have earned honorable mention for Best Albums chosen by our staff include: Jimkata’s In Motion, Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!, Kiefer Sutherland’s Down in a Hole, TAUK’s Sir Nebula, Twiddle’s Plump: Chapter One, and Lotus’ Eat the Light.

Of course we wish we could highlight even more albums and celebrate all of the amazing music released this year, but stay tuned throughout the week for the remaining Best of NYS Music results to be released!