Thursday, 15 December 2016

Albums of the Year 2016: The Top Ten

1. David Bowie - Blackstar
For 3 days this was merely just a great Bowie album. Then, in reverse biblical fashion, on the third day David died, and the record suddenly took on a whole new complexion. To me, this is now one of the greatest artistic statements about death ever made. From the lyrics to the hidden messages in the cover art (a version of which is now tattooed on my arm) this is the perfect, transcendental way for Bowie to leave us.

2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Far removed from the last couple of Radiohead releases, this entrancing record was the sound of a band embracing their maturity. It also seemed to free up Yorke and co to explore their back catalogue with abandon, and the live shows that accompanied this release were a riot of hits mixed in with the new record. If this turns out to be their last release it's a great way to go.

3. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
My favourite 'guitar band' of the year, Car Seat Headrest have a massive back catalogue that I trawled through at length having only heard about them in 2016. But the new album is the pick of the bunch, as well as having the best track titles of any album this year. And even though they had to recall all the vinyl due to an issue with a track by The Cars that they were 'interpreting' as part of one of their songs, which meant it was delayed about 3 months, it's still my most played vinyl of 2016

4. Underworld - Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future
The best album that Underworld have made for at least 15 years, this record brings family, emmotion and contentment into theor music for possibly the first time. As a result it sounds like a band enjoying themselves for the first time in a while, ready to explore what it feels like to be getting older and to be happy about it.

5. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
From its complicated track titles to its never straightforward music, this is a record that can be hard to find a way into. For me the moment came when I listened to it all the way through on vinyl for the first time - from then I was hooked. Justin Vernon is ploughing a unique furrow here, and it feels to me like each time he goes off to work with someone like Yeezy or James Blake it frees him up a bit more to experiment with his own music.

6. Christine and The Queens - Chaleur Humaine
The new act of the year for me, Christine and The Queens not only make sophisticated and softly subversive pop music, but also have the most engaging and enthralling live show I've seen for years.

7. Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
A record that oozes both quality and soul, and sounds like something that's been lurking in some dusty vaults since the 70s (in a good way). From the lead single 'Black Man In A White World' to the title track and beyond, this is probably the best produced record of 2016, something that's matched by the quality of Kiwanuka's songwriting. Pure class throughout.

8. Francis and The Lights - Farewell, Starlite!
Having made the best video of the year for 'Friends', the lead single from this track, Francis followed up with an album that sounds like Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver made a record together (and wouldn't that be a good idea?). It unashamedly wears its heart on its sleeve, and is all the better for that. Guaranteed to make you feel better and put a spring in your step if you're having a bad day.

9. Anohni - Hopelessness
Without wishing to sound like a pseud, this is an important record, and one which deserves your attention. Dealing with weighty political matters in a way that very few songwriters can, it also sounds unique, something which is very difficult to schieve in an age where pretty much everything has already been done before. At times it's a difficult listen, especially on 'Obama', but don't let that put you off. As bleak as its title may be, this is a record that will enhance your life.
10. Beyond The Wizards Sleeve - The Soft Bounce
Probably the least well-known record in my selection, this project is the brainchild of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris. It sounds like 60s psychedelia and 70s krautrock all rolled up into one, and features guest vocalists like Hannah Peel, Euros Childs, Blaine Harrison and Jane Weaver adding their own talents to the prodigious duo. A min-warping listen.

11. James Blake - The Colour In Everything
12. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo
13. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
14. Gold Panda - Good Luck And Do Your Best
15. Glass Animals - How To Be A Human Being
16. Kojey Radical - 23 Winters
17. Jack Garratt - Phase
18. Lambchop - Flotus
19. Polica - United Crushers
20. Romare - Love Songs: Part Two
21. NZCA Lines - Infinite Summer
22. Clark - The Last Panthers
23. Frank Ocean - Blonde
24. Factory Floor - 25 25
25. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
26. The Avalanches - Wildflower
27. Alexis Taylor - Piano
28. Jamie T - Trick
29. Mystery Jets - Curve Of The Earth
30. Saul Williams - MartyrLoserKing
31. Jagwar Ma - Every Now & Then
32. Skepta - Konichiwa
33. Oscar - Cut And Paste
34. Mark Pritchard - Under The Sun
35. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound
36. Bullion - Loop The Loop
37. Oddisee - The Odd Tape
38. The Gaslamp Killer - Instrumentalepathy
39. Wild Beasts - Boy King
40. Animal Collective - Painting With

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