Tuesday 27 December 2016

My Top 20 Favourite Albums of 2016

We lost a lot of good musicians this year. But that isn’t to say 2016 has been an awful year for music. In terms of albums, there have been some impressive releases this year that show we can all still look forward to the future with optimism. Here are my personal favourites.

(psst! if you like lists don’t forget to check out my favourite and least favourite tracks of the year. You can also check out my favourite albums of 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

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20. Here Comes Washer – Washer

Brooklyn rock duo Washer serve up this satisfyingly slovenly dish of angsty lyrics over rugged twangy guitars. There’s even a song about getting drunk and eating the sun.

19. You Will Never Be One Of Us – Nails

Sugary song titles like ‘Life is a Death Sentence’ and ‘Made to Make You Fail’ and some crushingly heavy riffage make up this intensely savage sonic onslaught from US grind warlords Nails.

18. Crux – Jaggery

Self-proclaimed ‘avant-rock’ fellowship Jaggery from Boston meld Bjorkish vocals, dark strings, soft pianos and jazzy percussion for a genre-defying listen.

Favourite tracks: ‘War Cry’, ‘Venus in Transit

17. Painting With – Animal Collective

The Baltimore psych-pop madmen return to form with this cartoonishly brilliant blend of squelchy synths and signature barbershop vocals.

Favourite tracks: ‘FloriDada’, ‘Bagels in Kiev

16. Junk – M83

French-American synthpop cosmonauts M83 go lovably corny on this new record, embracing slap bass, sax solos and pianos rolls for a playful pastiche of everything we love and hate about the 80s.

Favourite tracks: ‘Go!’, ‘Tension

15. Take Control – Slaves

The Tunbridge Wells punks get angrier and more unhinged on this exciting follow-up to last year’s Are You Satisfied?, continuing to boast the same rawness and sense of humour.

Favourite tracks: ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, ‘People That You Meet

14. Cashmere – Swet Shop Boys

Injecting their Asian roots into Western hip hop, Riz and Heems comically and daringly tackle the stereotypes and prejudices facing their ethnicity to a backdrop of Bollywood-sampling beats.  

Favourite tracks: ‘T5’, ‘Zayn Malik

13. Imperial – Denzel Curry

Florida rapper Denzel Curry spits some of his meanest and fastest bars to date, whilst instrumentally fusing his love of trap and psychedelic for some formidable bangers.

Favourite tracks: ‘ULT’, ‘If Tomorrow’s Not Here

12. Levitate – Lone

UK electronic producer Lone brings back the nostalgia-soaked video-game-vibes and rave stabs of Galaxy Garden, whilst incorporating newfound electrifying elements of jungle.

Favourite tracks: ‘Alpha Wheel’, ‘Triple Helix

11. Eraser Stargazer – Guerilla Toss

Boston brain-curdlers Guerilla Toss throw together dissonant guitars, squealing synths and screechy vocals for a challenging but ultimately exciting dose of noise rock.

Favourite tracks: ‘Grass Shack’, ‘Color Picture

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10. How to Ruin Other People’s Futures – Losers

Pummelling percussion, seismic synths and acrobatic vocals make up this new hard and heavy selection of inventive anthems from loud London electro-rockers Losers.

Favourite tracks: ‘This is a War’, ‘Chainsaw’, ‘Car Crash

9. Magma – Gojira

Whilst still showing off their ear for a monstrous riff and a beastly drum fill, French metal stalwarts Gojira streamline their sound into a more atmospheric and primal approach to heaviness that is entirely their own.

Favourite tracks: ‘Stranded’, ‘Magma’, ‘Pray

8. Blank Face – Schoolboy Q

Gaudy gangsta rap badass Schoolboy Q throws down some of his most creative and catchy cackling over a diverse palette of beats.  

Favourite tracks: ‘Groovy Tony’, ‘Kno Ya Wrong’, ‘Big Body

7. untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick serves up these allegedly ‘unmastered’ leftovers from last year’s To Pimp A Butterfly LP and the result is still better than most the official albums released this year.

Favourite tracks: ‘Untitled 01’, ‘Untitled 02’, ‘Untitled 07

6. Splendor & Misery – Clipping

A space-themed hip hop opera – this wild new album from Californian experimentalists Clipping takes their sound to cinematic territory, Daveed Diggs continuing to swank his impressive knack for storytelling and speed.

Favourite tracks: ‘Wake up’, ‘Air Em Out’, ‘A Better Place

5. Limeade – Ehiorobo

New Jersey soul artist Ehiorobo delivers this ridiculously fun concoction of foody lyrics, bubbly crooning and innovative self-produced electronica.

Favourite tracks: ‘Fondue’, ‘Gilderoy Lockhart’, ‘Heir ToThe Sugar Honey Queen

4. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown

Squawking Detroit rapper Danny Brown dons some of his most avant-garde instrumentals to date, whist delving into the dark thoughts of a decadent drug addict on a downward spiral.

Favourite tracks: ‘Really Doe’, ‘Ain’t It Funny’, ‘WhiteLines

3. 99.9% - Kaytranada

Haitian-Canadian EDM producer Kaytranada effortlessly bounces between house, hip hop and urban soul, whilst never sacrificing the flourishes that make his music unique. There’s something in the sparkly tones he uses and upbeat melodies that feels individual to him no matter which genres he delves into. His ability to pick similarly unique vocalists and guests and draw the best out of them only adds to his talents.

Favourite tracks: ‘Together’, ‘Glowed Up’, ‘Vivid Dreams

2. Bottomless Pit – Death Grips

Whilst the experimental hip hop group continues to grow more extreme, they’ve abandoned some of the progginess and word salad that gave the first half of their previous LP The Powers That B pretentions, delivering an album that’s as catchy and cohesive as it is challenging. Despite MC Ride’s angry yelling and the hellishly distorted beats, the hooks and grooves are more infectious than ever before and the lyrics have much more punkish clarity.

Favourite tracks: ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’, ‘Spikes’, ‘Trash

1. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest

20 years have passed since the NY hip hop veterans'  last album, and yet A Tribe Called Quest feel more relevant than ever. They’ve stuck to their original jazz rap sound, but modernised it with effects and creative sonic ideas, whilst tackling current topics such as the rise of Trump and police brutality, criticising the present but simultaneously keeping an optimistic outlook on the future. All the guest features are flawless from Andre 3000 to Kendrick Lamar. It feels like they’ve taken all the best of hip hop and squeezed it into a perfectly crafted album. The fact that Phife died this year and that that it’s the group’s final album only add to the poignancy.

Favourite tracks: ‘The Space Program’, ‘Dis Generation’, ‘LostSomebody


Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Blonde – Frank Ocean
Gore – Deftones
Anti – Rihanna
Blackstar – David Bowie