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Once again, our KMUW music hosts have run down the best in music (and books about music) for 2016. You can find the complete lists below.You can also hear some of year's best in music. Join KMUW's music hosts throughout January on Global Village, Strange Currency, Night Train, Crossroads, Soulsations and Straight No Chaser for a month-long feature of the Best of 2016. See individual show pages for more information on upcoming shows and to listen to past shows through the streaming archive.Along with show favorites, Chris Heim was invited to be a voting member for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll again this year. You can see the results and Chris's ballot here.Enjoy.

Strange Currency: Best of 2016

Any year-end list will have omissions and even a cursory glance at the ones below will reveal a fair share. The local/regional category alone proves problematic because it doesn’t have a slot for singles. Yet, the delightful Wichita father/son duo The Pents offered up a fine 45 this year. Wichita stalwart Tom Page presented a fine vinyl mini-LP titled Landlocked Volume 1 with contributions from False Flag, Alberto and Rosco Del Rio. Sloan Moon issued a new record this year and the band Vehicles is apparently pressing up fresh sounds as these words go live.

Albums, too, give us a particular grief in the selection process. It’s often surprisingly easy to peg an album of the year. They reveal themselves quickly, making statements that are incontrovertibly brilliant and are exceptional in their musical reach. David Bowie’s Blackstar, for instance, isn’t just an album about his death and legacy, it’s also a record about the world his passing ushered in. Performers of his quality were one less by the time that Blackstar was a weekend old. The numbers only dwindled from there. There are only 25 album titles listed here but 100 would still be inadequate. Though many performers on this year’s roster are veterans, there are 25 debut recordings that could just as easily filled most of these slots. One could find 50 second efforts no doubt capable of being in their own category as well. There are, of course, brilliant recordings by acts of either veteran or newcomer status that have fallen through the cracks of memory. They’ll reveal themselves just around the time you’re getting to the period at the end of this sentence, dear reader.

There’s not an obvious stylistic bias here. At least one hope notes. Tommy ‘86’s dark synth sounds don’t really jibe with Kira Small’s wise, heartbreaking songs of love lost and love regained. Still, both are incredible in their own ways and you can enjoy those as well as releases from Mike Keneally, Blue Orchids and Drive-By Truckers.

Blue Orchids and Keneally are two acts that have survived the industry long enough to have their works reissued, though that’s hardly a surprise. Reissues have become big business. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s being reissued and what’s merely being repackaged. There’s an attempt here, anyway, to do that. There are 10 titles selected here that cover a diverse range or genres—from NRBQ to Steve Reich and a couple stops that are, honestly, directly between. Does that eclecticism overlook some of the essentials a more restrictive list could yield? Maybe.

Then there are personal lists as well. There are some records that took on new resonance in 2016, though they were released in 1979 or 1968. Those certainly can’t be included on a list covering the calendar year even though they will forever mark this 12-month cycle in my private books. Then again, several, including Nels Cline’s Lovers, will move forward as all-time favorites from 2016 to 2018 and beyond. There’s no room here, though, for recordings by bands such as Anciients or Abbath, though albums released by both those artists in 2016 should be part of any voracious listener’s vocabulary. Matt Wilson’s Beginning Of A Memory is required listening for anyone with a pulse, though it is a jazz record and so absent from these parts. (What about Nels Cline, you say? I know. I know.)

These lists aren’t all about listening, either. There’s been a significant list of rock-based reads that have hit stores of late and 10 of them have been plucked from the shelves and listed below, no text to tell you anymore about their placement because writing about writing, it seems, may be a bit like ice skating about butter sculptures.


  1. Blackstar—David Bowie
  2. You Want It Darker—Leonard Cohen
  3. Lovers—Nels Cline
  4. Carolina—Spain
  5. Scambot 2—Mike Keneally
  6. Beneath Still Waters—Courtney Granger
  7. The Vulture—Marc Ford and The Neptune Blues Club
  8. American Band—Drive-By Truckers
  9. The Ghosts of Highway 20—Lucinda Williams
  10. Alien Ocean—Crushed Out
  11. Blue Mountain—Bob Weir
  12. Day of the Dead—Various Artists
  13. Transhumanism—Tommy ‘86
  14. Kid Sister—Time Jumpers
  15. 3 AM—Kira Small
  16. Little Seeds—Shovels and Rope
  17. Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath Vol.2
  18. Modern Country—William Tyler
  19. Thor and Friends—Thor and Friends
  20. All Are One—Sophe Lux & The Mystic
  21. The Once and Future Thing—Blue Orchids
  22. Epically Cracked—Epically Cracked
  23. Songbook—Mia Doi Todd
  24. Upland Stories—Robbie Fulks
  25. Prog Noir—Stick Men

Reissues/Box Sets/Archival Releases

  1. Complete Third—Big Star
  2. High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective—NRBQ
  3. Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings—Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia
  4. Petra Haden Sings The Who Sell Out—Petra Haden
  5. Fragments of a Rainy Season—John Cale
  6. Various titles—Jack Rose
  7. The ECM Recordings—Steve Reich
  8. Ring Spiel ’95—Mike Watt
  9. Other Side of the River—Terry Reid
  10. The Studio Albums 2000-2011—Bright Eyes

Best Local/Regional Releases:

  1. Promised Land or Bust—Moreland and Arbuckle
  2. Don’t Let Them Get In Your Head—Jenny Wood
  3. This Is What It Is—Cy J. Hamilton
  4. Singularity—Standing in The Colour
  5. Vegetable Head—Miki Moondrops
  6. Donts—Cleme
  7. Sit Still—Daydream
  8. Elephants Eye—Sun and Stone
  9. Vibes at Baikal Lake—D/D/J/G
  10. Burrowed in the Bedroom—Ben Dipper


  1. Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr
  2. Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan by Chris Morris
  3. Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe and Tom DeSavia
  4. My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor by Keith Morris
  5. Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns
  6. Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen
  7. Testimony by Robbie Robertson
  8. Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys by Lol Tolhurst
  9. Set The Boy Free: The Autobiography by Johnny Marr
  10. The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology by Thomas Dolby
Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.