Best of 2016

By GMN Staff


Last year the staff here at GMN compiled a list of our favorite albums of 2015. This year, we decided to recreate this compilation, but instead of focusing solely on albums, we’ve expanded on the idea and shared our favorite music memories of 2016; shows, albums, feelings, and all.



Album: Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial (released in June of 2016) captivates the pain and confusion of youth in a simplistic, straightforward way, yet still has the ability to stand out in the seemingly over abundant shuffle of indie-rock bands. I first heard this band over the summer when The Current played “Fill in the Blank”. I immediately went to Spotify to listen the rest  of the album (and the band’s discography). There’s a certain sense of bittersweetness that comes from this record. The songs aren’t the happiest, but tell a story all while leaving room for relatability. This is especially true in “1937 Skate Park”:

“High school teen dream dies in a hospital

Leaves behind a journal and a pair of Air Jordans

Lyrics of popular rock ballads

Changed to include his name”

And the hook: “I didn’t want you to hear that shake in my voice / my pain is my own”.



Show: Sia in Minneapolis

As 2016 is winding down, I’m scrolling through photos and sifting through ticket stubs to try and attempt to find my favorite music moment. From photographing Warped Tour to being able to travel to Michigan for the Electric Forest Music Festival, my year has been filled to the brim with life changing musical experiences. However, attending Sia’s show here in Minneapolis on her “Nostalgic for the Present Tour”, her first national tour in over five years, stands out the strongest. As a longtime listener to Sia, and a huge fan of her most recent two albums, attending this concert was truly unbelievable. Sia’s unique artistry created a tour like I’ve never seen before. Sia’s voice is just as spectacular live, if not more so than on her records. Keeping her “anonymous” persona on stage, Maddie Ziegler accompanied Sia on the tour. Maddie is the featured dancer in the music videos for “Elastic Heart”, “Chandelier”, and “Big Girls Cry”, which have received over 2.3 billion views combined. As a huge fan of dance, seeing Ziegler perform as well as Sia on the same stage was breathtaking. The concert consisted of fully choreographed dances for every track and avant-garde videos, skits of sorts, during transitions between songs. The mix of music and art is something that is very present in all of Sia’s productions, from videos to album art, and this tour was no exception.




Radio Station: Go 96.3

2016 was not a great year to say the least. Even in music, we lost a lot of legends and despite a handful of game-changing albums (22, A Million anyone?!), there wasn’t a whole lot for me to be optimistic about. My Top 100 playlist on Spotify was comprised almost entirely of pre-2010 Jack’s Mannequin, the Killers, and Matt Nathanson (not like that’s a surprise to anyone who even slightly knows me). So instead of talking about an album that changed me, I’m going to talk about a radio station. We’ve all been familiar with Go 96.3, the Twin Cities’ key alternative station for the past couple of years. But it was 2016 when Go really proved to everyone, including me, how great they are. From increased airtime for local artists to Go Garages (acoustic sessions with touring bands) to the second annual Snow Show, a vast majority of my favorite music memories this year were because of Go. I met The 1975 with two of my good friends, I discovered new artists to love like The Strumbellas and Jon Bellion, and I was constantly reminded of my love for the local scene with events like the pre-Snow Show battle of the bands, and every time Whosah’s “Ghost Town” came on in the car. The people at Go care about their listeners and what they do so much, and have provided so many cool music-related opportunities to as many people as possible. It’s kind of funny, because I’ve never seen a radio station have actual “fans” before, but if you spent just a couple minutes on my Twitter feed you’d see how many people love Go and what they do, including myself. So yeah, 2016 wasn’t necessarily the ideal year for new music, but there were some shining moments, and Go had our backs through all of it.



2016 was the year my already somewhat eclectic music taste firmly exploded to cover all reaches of everything. Thanks to my many friends here at GMN and the help of the internet at large, Spotify no longer knows what exactly to do with my recommendations, suffering from the genre whiplash I have come to love. Over these past twelve months, my library has become a place where Joanna Newsom blends into Benny Goodman, Beyoncé overlaps with Keaton Henson, and Chance the Rapper segues into Radiohead and Simon & Garfunkel with equal probability, all in an ad-free half an hour. A rip of a live video from some small local band will be immediately followed by Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” and I won’t question it in the slightest. The soundtrack of this last year’s heartbreak and happiness has been an ever-expanding, overarching immersive experience that would have been entirely impossible without this music. There are words I have needed to both hear and convey that I would never have known the order or meaning of if not for the partnership of a forgotten autoplay or suggested track and an open mind, and sometimes it was even those without words I needed most of all. The amount of music that existed in the world that my little indie/pop punk ears had never even heard of is frankly terrifying, and I’m glad that inability to branch out is something I seem to have left in 2015. Here’s to another year of new and interesting horizons, and the many, many songs to come.




Show: Insomniac Break-up Party

2016 was an okay year for music, at least for me. There were some mediocre albums dropped this year but none caught my attention enough. Most the shows I went to this year were amazing but one in particular was one for the books. On November 4th the band Insomniac held a breakup party show that tons of Minnesota local bands opened for. Why would some local show be the highlight of my year? Because Villain of the Story (VOTS) was one of their openers. Yes, I had seen them nine times prior to this show, but this one was special. All my friends were there, the barricade was down and my favorite band was in front of me. This show took place not long after the band was signed and in a way, it was a farewell show for them too. They weren’t breaking up, but they knew that their career was taking off. VOTS played the entirety of their first EP The Prologue and no new songs. Their old guitarist and fill-in drummer both shared the stage with them, and it was just really special. And the end of their set, some of their closest fans, including myself, surprised them and hopped on stage with them for their final song “The Phantom”. After it was over I got a surplus of hugs and have never felt so loved by a community of music lovers. I will never forget this show.



2016, like all other noteworthy years of my life, is a year saturated with music in my memory. When rhythm and melody is the thing I turn to when I’m feeling joy, grief, distress, anger, lovestruck, or really any other emotion it easily becomes a blur, making it a challenge for me to untangle the mess enough to pick out individual moments—be it an album, show, single, news piece, or (with the way this year went) death. I could write about The Frights’ You Are Going To Hate This, an album that sparked my devotion to a new favorite band and prompted a road trip, my second-annual Riot Fest where I attended all three days and saw over 22 artists, or maybe even a show I attended that was life-altering: PWR BTTM at 7th Street in October. With so many memories that have impacted my life as a music lover, at the end of the day (or year I guess I should say), I will state this: 2016 was the year I became an active part of music. I became substantially more involved with Minnesota’s local scene, bonded with fellow music lovers, started writing about music, and even played my first gig as a musician. To me, 2016 wasn’t a Year in Music, but it was more the Year of Music.

Sarah Bel


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