Top 10 Albums of 2016
While we all naturally look forward to Christmas and New Year, the end of the year is also a time to reflect on some of the year’s ‘Best Ofs’. So with 2017 just around the corner, we’re going to take a look at our favourite albums of 2016.
2016 was a year of the big hitters when it came to record releases with everyone from Radiohead to Nick Cave to Leonard Cohen to both of the Knowles sisters all releasing a more than decent enough addition to their back catalogues. And while they haven’t quite made our cut, some other biggies have. So without further ado, here’s our hopefully eclectic Top 10 Albums of 2016.
10) The Hotelier – Goodness
Genre: Alt Rock
Standout Track: Goodness, Pt. 2
One of the best smaller releases of the year was The Hotelier’s third record, Goodness. If you’re familiar with the Massachusetts-based band, Goodness would probably have come as somewhat of a surprise with a more mature and mellower offering than their last offerings. Having said that, there’s still plenty of hooks and emo-fuelled tales of angst flowing from a record which never breaks tone throughout.
9) Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Standout Track: One More Night
Unlike some soul records, Michael Kiwanuka’s second studio album, Love & Hate, is not something to make up the background noise at your dinner party. Right from the epic 10 minute long opener ‘Cold Little Heart’, you know you’re in for something special. Both reflective and observational, Kiwanuka lays himself bare while still turning a sharp eye to society without ever patronising. By far our favourite soul record of the year.
8) Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Genre: Indie Rock
Standout Track: No Woman
If 2017 provides a better sound of the summer than Whitney’s debut Light Upon the Lake, we’ll be very happy indeed. Think Bon Iver with elements of American folk and country when it comes the Chicago-based band’s tunes. Packed with emotion and intimacy, Light Upon the Lake is as timeless as it is relevant.
7) Angel Olsen – My Woman
Genre: Indie Rock
Standout Track: Shut Up Kiss Me
Angel Olsen has long been one of the best singer/songwriters currently working in the States today, but with My Woman – her fourth studio album – she’s managed to finally produce something worthy of her talent. The eclectic record is part-folk, part-country, part-indie, and is as insightful and heartfelt as it is musically adventurous.
6) Mitski – Puberty 2
Genre: Indie Pop
Standout Track: Your Best American Girl
New York-based Mitski Miyawaki is now touring her fourth record Puberty 2, and it’s undoubtedly her best yet. Going by just Mitski, Miyawaki’s trademark searing riffs and often vicious vocal performances have been put on hold for the vast majority of Puberty 2, with a reflective coming-of-age record which usually gets distracted by sex. Ambient, visceral and charming, Puberty 2 is one of the best pure indie pop records of the year.
5) Frank Ocean – Blond
Standout Track: Pink + White
As Bowie’s Blackstar wasn’t even expected, Frank Ocean’s follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange was probably the most anticipated record of 2016. And thankfully Blond doesn’t disappoint. It’s dignified, down-tempo and lacks the bells and whistles many of us assumed a long hiatus would bring. Instead what you get is an assured and consistent record of depth, emotion and beauty. And the best bit? We’d bet his best is still yet to come.
4) David Bowie – Blackstar
Genre: Art Rock
Standout Track: Lazarus
While the clear jazz influence and the improvisations that it brings are unmissable, Blackstar is still a showcase for all the mesmerising things nobody does quite like David Bowie. His voice is as rasping and heartfelt as ever, and there’s a catchy melody at every single turn. It’s dark for sure, but make no mistake this is still a pop record first and foremost. When it was released, nothing really made sense about Blackstar. But knowing what we know now – and more importantly knowing what he knew then – it’s Bowie’s long beautiful goodbye. And it couldn’t be more fitting.
3) Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Standout Track: Am I Wrong
The last couple of years have offered up some of the most accessible R&B records in recent memory. Last year Kendrick Lamar gave us arguably the hip-hop album to define a generation and while nothing quite reached those heights in 2016, Anderson .Paak did his best with Malibu. Rooted firmly in funk, soul and – just like Lamar’s To Pimp Like a Butterfly – in improvised jazz, .Paak’s second album depicts the highs and lows of modern day America with a tangible groove.
2) Kaytranda – 99.9%
Standout Track: Together
Yes, 99.9% could be played from start to finish at your New Year’s party but Kaytranda’s debut record is so much more than 15 tracks of floorfillers. Whether he’s inspired by the roots of hip-hop, house, or funk, Montreal’s Kaytranada has complete control over the proverbial dance floor, switching between tempos and moods throughout this modern dance masterpiece.
1) Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Genre: Indie Rock
Standout Track: Vincent
Car Seat Headrest are now onto their tenth album in just six years. What started as the solo love-project of frontman Will Toledo has quickly turned into one of the most prolific bands either side of the Atlantic. While former records have been worthy of a listen or two, Teens of Denial surpasses anything the group have ever done with a cleaner and more polished record which still packs all the moody and melodic lo-fi pop you’d expect from the band. It’s 70-minutes long for one thing, which means this cautionary tale of drugs, confusion and the sense of belonging could easily waver into the mundane. But the real achievement on Teens of Denial is this guitar record never lags and always surprises. And for us, it’s the best listen of the 2016.