We know that we already submitted our list for Best Albums Of The Year, but there were so many records we loved that didn’t make the cut. Instead of harping on it, we wanted to gush about the artists that got us through 2016. EPs always get left out, so we wanted to show some love for them too. Peep all 24 of our favorite underrated releases in the gallery, below. While you’re at it, take a look at our Best Music Videos Of The Year, too.
24 Of The Most Underrated Records Of 2016
Stream on into the new year
Whitney— Light Upon the Lake
When most of us think about songs for the summer, Top 40 club bangers typically come to mind. But summertime sadness is real, and Whitney might be your best bet for a fling if your fragile little heart can handle it. This album eased me into the golden days of summer, and made me hate the heat a little less. Light Upon the Lake is the perfect soundtrack for all of your favorite seasonal pastimes—midnight drives down the highway (“No Woman”), long walks near large bodies of water (“The Falls”), strolling through the park (“Dave’s Song”), making out with ice cream on a cone (“Light Upon the Lake”), and reveling in the recklessness of youth (“No Matter Where We Go”). Note that all of these activities don’t necessarily require company though, because there’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely. The closing track, “Follow,” has a leisurely stride that winds you out into the real world to continue your journey of exploring the unknown.
Wet— Don’t You
Wet’s debut LP is one that I found myself revisiting every couple of weeks since its release. And it’s one that continues to satisfy, no matter what rotation I’m on. It’s easy to dismiss Don’t You for the tracks’ almost juvenile lyrics and adolescent crooning (and some have, ardently so), but I think that’s why I love it so much. Songs about heartbreak and love don’t have to be over complicated or over thought—the best ones often aren’t. Both experiences are complicated enough on their own.
Mitski— Puberty 2
Indie rock hasn’t been the same since Mitski dropped in on the scene and turned it upside down with her moody, gut-wrenching love songs. Her fourth album is nothing short of musical brilliance with tracks that address the dark side of a variety of complex issues like identity (“Your Best American Girl”), love (“Once More to See You”), happiness (“Crack Baby”), anxiety (“My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”), and depression (“Fireworks”). The distorted guitars will drown out all the background noise in your head and whisk you away to your safe, emo space. Life is a journey and the view is great when you have Mitski providing the soundtrack.
Japanese Breakfast— Psychopomp
Dealing with the aftermath of death can be overwhelming. Michelle Zauner captures fragments of the experience on her stunning solo record, which touches on heartbreak in a variety of forms. In a way, the album is an entryway to managing your emotions when stuck at a low point caused by tragic loss. The electronic elements take off some of the weight that this heavy topic rests on your heart. There’s a strong sense of longing hanging on every note.
Electronic music is a hard lane to break out in, but this midwestern producer’s music is next level. The 18 year old continues to keep everyone in the dark in terms of his real identity so the focus remains on his beats, and we honestly don’t blame him. pnkblnkt’s debut album is a mix of slow jams, synth-driven tunes, and bangers that will comfort you in solitude. We look forward to seeing what else he’s got up his sleeve for next year.
Local Natives— Sunlit Youth
Returning to the spotlight isn’t always easy, but this is why Local Natives take their time. This album serves as a testament to their growth as a band, and is a group effort to channel the good ol’ days from the beginning. You can feel the nostalgia projecting itself through the speakers as they reflect on different experiences from their lives. “I always look to music to find comfort when I am upset, as something to take me to a place where I can heal, and I think we wanted to do that with this record,” Kelcey Ayer told us. The band is back and better than ever, and it feels so good to have them stay around a little longer this time. This music will uplift your spirits and guide you to the light.
Kaytranda came out of the woodwork this year (at least, for those not well-versed in the EDM scene) with one of the most confident debut LPs of the year. He weaves Haitian rhythm in with jazz, R&B, and funk. He uses vocal contributions from big names like Vic Mensa, AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon, and Anderson .Paak as accessories rather than the main show. In fact, a good number of the songs are instrumental, which might turn some people off, but they also happen to be some of the LP’s strongest tracks. If this is the producer at 99.9 percent, we can’t wait to see him at 100.
Hinds— Leave Me Alone
Madrid is calling, and it sounds like a bunch of lo-fi garage punk. The noisy Madrid-based band has been one of our favorites to follow for the past few years, and their debut album was totally worth the wait. When Hinds’ music comes on, you instantly have the urge to make a mess and get rowdy. They bring out all the angst that’s been suppressed, encouraging you to engage in playful rebellion. As they once told us in an interview, “The more you live, the less you die, bitch.”
Kevin Abstract— American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story
This former Texan has been paving his own path in rap, and his full-length project is a perfect piece of evidence for that. Kevin Abstract makes music for the modern-day outcasts of society, providing narratives about queer love stories, self-discovery, and social anxiety. The production is on point, courtesy of Frank Ocean collaborator Michael Uzowuru, but it’s Abstract’s raw honesty that will keep you listening.
Little Simz— Stillness in Wonderland
We didn’t know that we needed this album until the 22 year old surprise dropped it on us. This record is an escape from the complex world that we live in that drags us down with fears, flaws, and limitations. It’s also a testament to the Simz’s personal evolution as she addresses things like overcoming self-doubt, trusting your instincts and intuition, avoiding distractions, and not letting yourself fall short of accomplishing your goals. It’s the perfect album to close out 2016.
Tkay Maidza— Tkay
This Australian rapper makes hits for the dancefloor that will keep you moving into the new year. There’s so much good energy on all of her tracks coming from a carefree nature that just wants you to take in the moment and breathe. Live a little, and listen to her spit some realness.
Jubilee— After Hours
This producer will have you grooving all night long, as the album is stacked with dance anthems that simply can’t be tamed. Warm your body up to these beats right now.
Carly Rae Jepsen— E•MO•TION: Side B
After blessing the world with 2015′s delectable piece of pop perfection called E•MO•TION, Carly Rae Jepsen blessed the world again with E•MO•TION: Side B. A true queen of pop, Side B proved Jepsen can do no wrong. Who else can make a breakup anthem about going to the store and make it convincing?
James Vincent McMorrow— We Move
Daughter— Not to Disappear
The 1975— I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
2016 is the year The 1975 became a bona fide force. Their gargantuan sophomore album (17 tracks!) captures the essence of the ’80s and melds it with the Manchester quartet’s keen ear for pop-punk hooks. Singer Matty Healy never shies away from his hedonistic tendencies and drug-addled exploits, but underneath it all is an awareness that’s simply infectious. The 1975 are the voice of the intelligent-beyond-their-years generation, seeking meaning in love lost and love found. This album is an existentialist’s dream, one we’re lucky enough to be wide awake for to experience from beginning to end. (Seriously, this is an album’s album.)
For his sophomore album, the Australian producer wanted to show his development as an artist. Flume aimed to push his sound in a more pop direction with a balance of ballads and bangers. The features across the album are wild with emerging rappers like Vince Staples and Vic Mensa to established singers like AlunaGeorge and Tove Lo. Though he insists that this isn’t music for a dinner party, we could get down to this record almost anywhere.
NAO— For All We Know
Mac Miller— The Divine Feminine
Where to begin with this record? It’s literally a piece of work that came straight from the rapper’s heart. Mac Miller told us that it revolves around “the divinity of the woman that you’re in love with” and is “taken from a lot of different times in my life and some things that are based off desire and what you’re looking and searching for.” This album shows Miller in a new light as he dabbles in jazz, soul, funk, and R&B.
MUNA— TheLoudspeaker EP
L.A. “dark pop” trio MUNA are on the brink of something special. Their debut EP packs a lot of heart in its four songs. From “Loudspeaker” to “So Special,” MUNA makes personal agony feel universal. “Winterbreak,” the album’s more somber record, brims with a catharsis Imogen Heap would be proud of. Watch their space because their debut album, About U, drops February 3, 2017.
Charli XCX— Vroom Vroom EP
Only Charli XCX could bridge the gap between mainstream pop and the underground scene of PC Music. Vroom Vroom, the EP and new Charli-run record label, taunts and flirts with the listener over frenzied productions. It’s one of the most surprising but agreeable music transitions the pop world has seen. All we can say is, “More of this, Charli.”
Terror Jr— Bop City
After making their debut on Kylie Jenner’s lip gloss commercial-cum-music video, the enigmatic electronic trio Terror Jr is still one big mystery. Who is Lisa Terror, the lead singer? Who cares. They’re making some of the most progressive pop music out there, deeply layered and overflowing with observations on addiction and love. Like FKA twigs and The Weeknd before them, Terror Jr’s sound is the sound of the future. Expect more artists to try their hand at pitched-up, glitched, and warped vocals over sparse bass lines in the coming months.
Kiiara— low kii savage EP
“Gold” is one of 2016′s biggest songs. It’s provocative and cocky, which is the exact attitude we should learn to embrace in the new year. The rest of Kiiara’s EP plays out like an electronic R&B stoner’s dream. It clashes genres, chops them up, and blows smoke in their proverbial faces. Take the aux cord and put this on if you want to be the cool person at the party.