The perspicacious critics of The Seattle Times pick their favorite albums of the year, from Adele to Mackned and Courtney Barnett to Brandi Carlile.

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When we polled our music writers for their favorite albums last year, there was little crossover — not surprising when you consider that one critic loves jazz, another specializes in hip-hop, another favors country and yet another can’t get enough post-punk rock. This year, however, those same seven writers submitted lists with a bit more in common.

Four, for example, agree that Adele’s long-awaited album, “25,” more than lives up to expectations and that Kendrick Lamar’s cinematic masterpiece, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” blew a new hole in pop music. And two votes each went to ex-Fleet Foxes member Father John Misty, roots rocker Jason Isbell, beloved Olympia-spawned indie rockers Sleater-Kinney and, from the world of hip-hop, Rae Sremmurd, Young Thug, Vince Staples and Future.

Beyond consensus, however, these groups include a significant spectrum of women — nearly half of the total — in both traditional and transgressive roles. Not just Adele, now in a class by herself, but new stars Kacey Musgraves (country), Courtney Barnett (indie rock), Cecile McLorin Salvant (jazz), Elle King (rock ’n’ soul) and Rhiannon Giddens (neo-folk roots); Grammy nominee (and local) Brandi Carlile; horizon-stretching jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson; veteran Seattle singer-songwriter Linda Waterfall; wry storyteller Laurie Anderson; monster-arena rocker Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine; pop queen comebacker Janet Jackson; feminist alt-rockers Sleater-Kinney; moony crooner Lana Del Rey; country dust-disturbers Maddie & Tae (who challenged “bro country” with their “Girl in a Country Song”); and Kanako Pooknyw and Abigail Ingram of Olympia’s psych-punk feminist band Broken Water. That’s quite an array.

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We can also note with local pride that a lot of these artists, male and female, were nurtured in the Northwest and Seattle’s Sub Pop label was behind a few of them.

Have fun listening.

— Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music desk editor



Charles R. Cross

1. Rhiannon Giddens, “Tomorrow Is My Turn” (Nonesuch)

2. Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free” (Southeastern)

3. Courtney Barnett, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” (Marathon Artists)

4. Bob Dylan, “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12” (Columbia)

5. Adele, “25” (XL/Columbia)

6. Kurt Vile, “B’lieve I’m Goin Down …” (Matador)

7. Father John Misty, “I Love You, Honeybear” (Sub Pop)

8. Car Seat Headrest, “Teens of Style” (Matador)

9. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, “Lost Time” (Yep Roc)

10. Nathaniel & The Night Sweats, “Nathaniel & The Night Sweats” (Stax)


Paul de Barros

1. Adele, “25” (XL/Columbia)

2. Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp A Butterfly” (Aftermath)

3. Matthew Shipp, “The Conduct of Jazz” (Thirsty Ear)

4. Ben Goldberg, “Orphic Machine” (Big Production)

5. Dave Douglas Quintet, “Brazen Heart” (Greenleaf)

6. Laurie Anderson, “Heart of a Dog” (Nonesuch)

7. Various artists (Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, et. al.), “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Yep Roc)

8. Cecile McLorin Salvant, “For One to Love” (Mack Avenue)

9. Mary Halvorson, “Meltframe” (Firehouse 12)

10. Linda Waterfall, “Hometown Girl” (Franklin Point Music)


Andrew Matson

1. Rae Sremmurd, “Sremm Life” (Ear Drummer/Interscope)

2. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA)

3. Young Thug, “Barter 6” (300 Entertainment/Atlantic)

4. Ratking, “700 Fill” (XL)

5. Drake, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (Cash Money)

6. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Garden of Delete” (Warp)

7. Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly” (Aftermath)

8. Vince Staples, “Summertime 06” (Def Jam)

9. Denzel Curry, “32 Zel / Planet Shrooms” (C9)

10. Future, “DS2” (Epic)


Mike Ramos

1. Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp A Butterfly” (Aftermath)

2. Young Thug, “Slime Season 2” (YSL)

3. Future, “DS2” (A1/Freebandz/Epic)

4. Rae Sremmurd “SremmLife” (EarDrummers/Interscope)

5. Kodak Black, “Heart Of the Projects” (self-released)

6. Vince Staples, “Summertime ’06” (Def Jam)

7. Mackned, “Female” (Thraxxhouse/self-released)

8. Sicko Mobb, “Super Saiyan Vol. 2” (self-released)

9. The Game, “The Documentary 2” (Blood Money/eOne)

10. Jamie xx, “In Colour” (Young Turks)


Owen R. Smith

1. Brandi Carlile, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” (ATO)

2. Kacey Musgraves, “Pageant Material” (Mercury Nashville)

3. Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood” (Universal)

4. Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities to Love” (Sub Pop)

5. The Weeknd, “Beauty Behind the Madness” (Republic)

6. Chris Stapleton, “Traveller” (Mercury Nashville)

7. Adele, “25” (XL/Columbia)

8. Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly” (Aftermath)

9. Maddie and Tae, “Start Here” (Dot)

10. Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free” (Southeastern)


Gene Stout

1. Adele, “25” (XL/Columbia)

2. Florence + the Machine, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” (Island)

3. Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities to Love” (Sub Pop)

4. Glen Campbell, “I’ll Be Me” (movie soundtrack, Big Machine)

5. Janet Jackson, “Unbreakable” (Rhythm Nation)

6. Lana Del Rey, “Honeymoon” (UMG)

7. Elle King, “Love Stuff” (RCA Records)

8. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Django & Jimmie” (Legacy)

9. Robert Earl Keen, “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions” (Dualtone)

10. Father John Misty, “I Love You, Honeybear” (Sub Pop)


Charlie Zaillian

1. Beauty Pill, “Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are” (Butterscotch)

2. Major Games, “Major Games” (self-released)

3. MF, “Confetti” (Sickroom)

4. Health Problems, “Winners” (Virgin Spring)

5. Viet Cong, “Viet Cong” (Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye)

6. Follakzoid, “III” (Sacred Bones)

7. Protomartyr, “The Agent Intellect” (Hardly Art)

8. Broken Water, “Wrought” (Night People)

9. Sufjan Stevens, “Carrie & Lowell” (Asthmatic Kitty)

10. Torche, “Restarter” (Relapse)