Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two Best of 2016

8. Mitski
Puberty 2
(Dead Oceans)

For my money, there was no more thrilling musical moment on record in 2016 than the chorus's arrival in Mitski's "Your Best American Girl." It's a cathartic, powerful moment, one a lesser (or more obvious) artist would foretell with a more prominent drum fill or guitar riff, but Mitski lets it wash into the mix organically, like a wave's crest crashing into shore, its salt waters blurring vocals and guitars, noise and melody, triumph and regret.
Puberty 2 is full of dizzyingly fluid moments like that, ones that leave you feeling equal parts impressed and off-balance. Mitski meshes stark emotionalism with sonic eclecticism, her hurt songs strung out on indie rock's mad dashes from quiet to loud to quiet again. She has an R&B singer's sense of melody, but a '90s fuzz rocker's taste for dissonance — and in the space between, she weaves some of the year's most beautifully sad songs.
Ryan McNutt