In music, as in almost every other aspect of life, the year 2016 was an epochal one.
The death of David Bowie in January set a tone of significant, untimely loss that'd be sustained by the passing of Prince in April and Sharon Jones in November, among too many talented others.
Bowie, a trendsetter to his grave, was also the first of a few artists to release albums in 2016 that derived strength from their proximity to death. His jazzy, enigmatic "Blackstar" manifested just two days before he died, A Tribe Called Quest lost member Phife Dawg midway through recording surprise farewell album "We Got it from Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service," and Leonard Cohen confronted the reaper in his own inimitably poetic way on "You Want it Darker" just three weeks before passing at 82.
2016 was also a turning point for the industry itself, with streaming substantially surpassing downloading as the main way people listen to music. Yet more of 2016's best albums were entwined with this economic sea change. Not mere releases but events, Beyonce's "Lemonade" and Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" drove subscribers to Tidal, the former redefining the possibilities of the visual album and the latter deconstructing what an album even means.
In what might be remembered as music's most eventful year in decades, these were its best albums: