Best albums of 2016 – Part One

20. Bonnie Raitt — Dig in Deep

“Because [she] has never sounded young or shown much interest in courting the youth market, she has stood in place waiting for us to age into the experiences depicted in her best material,” I wrote earlier this year in a Red Bull Music Academy piece about five good Bonnie Raitt moments. On her best album since the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Raitt has stopped waiting: she’s aging and still playing and writing the hell out of new material, including what might be new material to her. Take “Need You Tonight,” transformed into a stomper with a staccato rhythm and punctuated with guitar blasts. The message? “I’m lonely.” Even my six-year-old niece can identify.

19. Suede – Night Thoughts

“To record songs celebrating anthemic and hysterical responses to adversity is a hallmark of the young,” I wrote in February. I couldn’t shake now “Like Kids” remined me of how I’ve seen parents respond at their kids’ Little League games. Although I ignored it for most of the year, Suede’s second album since emerging from a druggy haze took on new urgency in the last few weeks. Now, the way Richard Oakes’ guitar tracks soar into the upper reaches of phantom cathedrals creates the phony uplift I need.

18. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Derivative stuff, derivative even of themselves, but the NYC quartet sustain their post-Feelies feel-around. Best line: “Berlin got blurry/When my eyes started telling it to.”

17. Maren Morris – Hero

From June: “Beware of country producers bearing sequencers,” purists might say from a defensive crouch from within Chris Stapleton’s beard. And the song with the sequencer is called ’80s Mercedes,’ no less. On her major label debut, the Texan hooks up with the fella who’s worked with P!nk, Christina Aguilera, and Daughtry for a series of some of the most delicious electrotwang since Big & Rich. Speaking of “rich,” it’s the name of a whip snapper of a second track that cops the Steve Miller Band for the kind of nyah-nyah hook that’ll delight the jokers and midnight takers at her shows.”

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