Favorite album of 2016: Fakebook cannot be Yo La Tengo's best work, because it's a covers album. This year's Stuff Like That There appears to violate the same principle, because so much of it is Yo La Tengo covering themselves, but I hear it as an aesthetic statement. New, heartfelt versions of old songs like "Deeper Into Movies"—once a noise jam, but here a quiet catechism—imply the band has come to understand itself in middle age. This album is the sound of artistic maturity, and it is beautiful.
What I listened to most: Prince Buster died in September, relatively unremarked amid the waves of mourning for Bowie, Prince and George Michael. He lived on my stereo, though, in the vertiginous drop from saxophone flutter to overdriven bass on "Freezing Up Orange Street" and other classics of early sixties Jamaican ska. Fabulous Greatest Hits is aged cheddar for people who tasted Velveeta and concluded they don't like cheese.
Best live show: Yo La Tengo played the newly renovated Wilma the way god plays nature: as a presence, an underlying logic, a totalizing experience. The difference is that Yo La Tengo was actually there. (Dan Brooks)
Favorite album of 2016: This year saw further erosion of the bro-country wall o' schlock. Sturgill Simpson's Sailor's Guide to Earth never quite grew on me, but Texas songwriter Jack Ingram delivered a great rootsy kiss-off to Nashville with Midnight Motel. The album includes a dedication to "Funky Donnie Fritts" (Kris Kristofferson's longtime keyboardist) and a song called "Blaine's Ferris Wheel," which has a backstory worth the price of admission.
Actually listened to: The guilt in 2016's guilty pleasure comes from letting David Bowie's Hunky Dory languish in my record collection until he died. When the sun returns, throw your VR goggles in the garbage and plug this in as you walk along the river. The phased piano of "Eight Line Poem," the rich Beatlesque uplift of "Kooks" and the roomful of acoustics on "Andy Warhol" deserve your undivided attention as you stroll through the real world.
Best live show: Missoula is crawling (sometimes literally) with talented musicians, but many local bands could take a note from Dwight Yoakam. His September show at the Wilma was a master class in stagecraft and showmanship. His band, decked out in spangly brocaded jackets, displayed a clear affection for the crowd as it blazed through nearly every hit in his catalog with nary a breather, including a generous Merle Haggard medley. Guitarist Eugene Edwards lit up the theater with his sly smile, moving and playing like a hybrid of James Burton and a runway stripper. (Ednor Therriault)
Favorite albums of 2016: I really liked the about-to-completely-implode-but-still-riffing vibe captured on CCR Headcleaner's Tear Down The Wall. It reminded me a ton of Idaho's Caustic Resin, a band that always seemed to be on the brink of collapse. Big Business' Command Your Weather was a career-topping album and opened a new frontier in that group's sound, and Minneapolis punk band Citric Dummies put out Life is So Horrifying, a fast record that demonstrates how vibrant and excellent punk can be.
Actually listened to: I really enjoyed listening to Pye Corner Audio, a British dance outfit that seems to be a guy and his laptop and synthesizer. It's all instrumental and sounds kind of like John Carpenter over Daft Punk beats—like a reboot of a good Cold War movie soundtrack. I also recently got a reissue of a 1970s Zambian band called Ngozi Family. Sabbath-influenced Zambian Christians never sounded so good.
Best live show: Some really great bands played Missoula this year, including Jonny Fritz, Absu, Divers, Timmy's Organism, Wolf Eyes, Danava, Red Fang and Lee Fields. Each was top-shelf for different reasons, but I think it's a dead tie between Big Business at the Badlander and Purling Hiss at Stage 112. Both shows left me completely giddy for about a week. (Josh Vanek)
Best album of 2016: As if I would pick anything besides Joyce Manor's album Cody. I am wearing a Joyce Manor T-shirt right now, the one that I bought at the band's October show at the Badlander, which in future years I'll remember as the last gasp of my mosh-pit emo-punk mid-20s. I'm in my late 20s now—shit's serious. But thankfully it's not super serious on Cody, a pop-punk album with more Weezer-y aspirations than Joyce Manor's previous three albums. Even when the lyrics are plain ridiculous, they'll still get stuck in your heart: "Tell me what you think about Kanye West/I think that he's great/I think he's the best."
Actually listened to: Against Me! has been my favorite band for about 10 years now and it's still on a roll with its July release, Shape Shift With Me. Laura Jane Grace is still belting out inspiring punk jams. She's singing specifically about her own trouble and strife as a trans person, but the cathartic expressions of personal crisis are as relatable as ever. Blast Against Me! in your car when you feel like the odds are against you.
Best live show: Does a puppet sci-fi rock opera count? During a hazy, hung-over mid-summer day I saw Bat Honey perform a bacon-themed puppet opera at the Bike Doctor with surprisingly well-crafted songs, slapstick humor and little felt bacon puppets on sticks. Adorbs. Would see again. (Kate Whittle)
Best album of 2016: The combination of garage-punk attitude and Roy Orbison-style croon makes Angel Olsen's latest album mesmerizing. My Woman oscillates between sneer and purr, with songs like "Shut Up Kiss Me" and "Never Be Mine" standing out as perfect examples of Olsen's songwriting brilliance. She's an artist who is doing her own thing, and My Woman, her third release, one-ups her previous work.
Actually listened to: Even though she has a newer release, I couldn't stop listening to Lydia Loveless' 2014 album Somewhere Else, especially "Really Wanna See You" and "Head." That obsession led me back to revisit the tunes of Fred Eaglesmith and, oddly enough, some old Dwarves albums.
Best live shows: Adia Victoria performed to a pathetically empty room at the Palace in late July, but she belted out her gothic country blues as if it didn't matter, taking time to talk with the audience about, among other things, how much she enjoyed eating a Mo Club burger. Two days later, the Psychedelic Furs played to a much bigger crowd at the Wilma and I expected little beyond some mild nostalgia. As it happened, Richard Butler put on a spectacularly flamboyant performance—on par with the theatrics of David Bowie and Prince—and charmed the crowd to the last note. (Erika Fredrickson)