Best Albums of 2016: Musician Picks (Part 1)

Best Albums of 2016: Musician Picks (Part 1)

Now that you've heard from us, get to know the albums that have moved musicians in Singapore and the Philippines this year.

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Starboy | The Weeknd

I feel this album contains everything little thing you've ever loved about The Weeknd. Very well written. 

Still Brazy | YG

An instant LA classic. Modern day Pac in my opinion. With such a strong protest song like "FDT", I'd say he's become the voice of our generation with this album. 

Malibu | Anderson .Paak

Full of originality, from his voice all the way to the stories told through the songs on this album. This is his best album yet. 

Blonde | Frank Ocean

Well worth the wait after Channel Orange

Coloring Book | Chance The Rapper

Definitely a carefully thought out musical masterpiece. I just love the sheer honesty of this album. Still Chicago but optimistic. 

I always have a difficult time assessing the music I end up listening to, because there's some inner algorithm dictated by some function of me I don't yet fully understand. These five albums — maybe — made me feel the most, or were essential as scores to the visuals of defining moments from this year, or that just stuck with me for whatever reason.

I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it | The 1975

Wholly aware of all the shit that critics give The 1975 (what's not to scoff at — baffling self-seriousness, requisite xmm fanbase, "obnoxious" frontman), I haven't stopped putting this on in the car + every other mode of transport while on the road this year.

I don't just enjoy this album ironically or as some kind of guilty pleasure, either — some of the songs are really the kind of beautiful and sad that I genuinely want to see and feel when I listen to music. 'A Change of Heart' and 'Paris' are descriptive and elaborate photographs that detail a melancholy that isn't meant to be examined: the furthest thing from cathartic, efforts that skirt around the problem and talk every possible detail around it to tell it. 'If I Believe You' and 'Nana' sound childish and petulant and painful to me and I love them for it.

It also helps that half the album's tracks are fun festival sing-along jams.

Farewell, Starlite! | Francis And The Lights

Melody might be the thing I love most about music (and I really, really, really love lyrics) and the songs in this album are it for me in that respect. They're cinematic, atmospheric and epic, and the way the melodies are housed in their harmonic

They're cinematic, atmospheric and epic, and the way the melodies are housed in their harmonic vocoder skins and tight rhythmic homes make me draw associative lines to things I've seen and felt but heard no sound to before ('See Her Out (That's Just Life)', 'It's Alright to Cry').

Idealist | Mind Enterprises

Deadpanned bassy dream pop and hooky dance music reimagined, Mind Enterprises' debut LP is one of my records of the year for its fresh, selective and succinct marriage of EDM and neo-psychedelia. It's like a wistful, dreamy Bildungsroman full of naïveté, awkwardness, shameful starry eyes and growing pains.

The Rains EP | Henry Jamison

Henry Jamison is the growing-up follow-up to what Conor Oberst was to my adolescence that I knew I needed the moment I heard his songs on Akira Records' catalogue.

The songs on The Rains represent my favourite things about folk music: verbose, vivid imagery and heart-wringing guitars that are, in this case, framed in especially inventive and beautiful production.

His lyrics paint beautiful romantic pictures ("Maybe we take a longer way to a cosmic homemade place to stay / Spinning lanterns in the field until the end of days", "On that erstwhile May morning / I took the six downtown to Spring and I was writing something elegiac that I never learnt to sing") and I sit a very humbled and honoured label-mate. 

Warm on a Cold Night | HONNE

Feel-good sexy car jams are a must for every season of life, and luckily for me, there were HONNE's and Bruno Mars' this year to tide me by.

This album is Bill Withers and Al Green if they had Ableton Live and the sample libraries of 2016. 'Good Together' has been somewhat of an on-the-road anthem for this year's tour season (proving, very well, memory soundtrack potential!). I just love how HONNE are as much classic, good-ol' soul with delicious bass lines as they are downtempo, chill Majestic Casual oozing with lower mids. They're also a real party live.


For the sweeping imagery, gut-wrenching lyrics and soundscapes, 'Speak Up Selah', and that voice.

For All We Know | NAO

For being the love-child of Jack Garratt, Janelle Monáe and Sam Rui. First discovered her on a Disclosure track, but this album is just damn shiok. The most disruptive and organic addition to the new wave of London-born R&B. 18 tracks of bliss.

24K Magic | Bruno Mars

For the pop lover in me, the gorgeous array of 80’s synth leads, that one Halle Berry cameo, the first seven seconds of 'Straight Up & Down', and the ability to turn any random noun into a hook.

The Wilderness | Explosions In The Sky

For the constant sensation of being gracefully thrown off a cliff, for being the soundtrack to so many lives, for the brutal distorted drums on 'Disintegration Anxiety', and for the concerted effort to (in my opinion) go more pensive. 

Blonde | Frank Ocean

For the blue balls on the release, rule-breaking guitar riffs, and I-know-that-feels lyrics “Every night f***s every day up / Every day patches the night up”, “I let go of my claim on you, it’s a free world”.

Inch was busy playing water balloon dodgeball at time of publishing to provide her answers. Stay tuned for an update.

Blackstar | David Bowie

Malibu | Anderson .Paak

You Want It Darker | Leonard Cohen

Schmilco | Wilco

Where Have You Been All My Life? | Villagers

This year... I haven't really listened to much that I uncovered this year. I've been mixing the album (coming out 11 Mar 2017) so not much time for new listening.

But I've been listening to two albums, spilled over from late last year, and one album from this year mostly.

soma | .gif

soma is such a lovely album with a story-like flow and also, getting to play with .gif on bass at Neon Lights (also coming up at NYE ;)) really cemented the album as a staple of mine for 2016. I love how they sculpted the album and how it sounds so surreal. 

Stretch Music | Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah 

Needless to say, I've been listening to the usual suspects in R&B, jazz and hip-hop, but finding Christian Scott really bewitched me. I listen to his album daily and it just pushes me back and forth in time. Sick instrumentation but with a whole lot of meaning and intention.

The Second | Derrick Hodge

Derrick Hodge's The Second was an instant favourite even before it came out, especially after listening to The Real, his debut album. I anticipated this almost with my entire being and it didn't disappoint.

untitled | The Good Life Project

The Warrior | Tim De Cotta

I daresay the next two albums I've heard in 2016 to complete my Top 5 aren't released yet. I've been working tirelessly with Adam Shah and my fam at The Good Life Project to produce our two separate releases — GLP's and my solo record next year — but hearing it the whole of this year has been such a joy. We can't wait to let you hear both of these works of art in 2017!!!

Konnichiwa | Skepta

Grime has grown tremendously and this is one of the essential albums you need to know. This is the album that won the Mercury Prize 2016 over other great releases of this year, Radiohead and ANOHNI. 

3001: A Laced Odyssey | Flatbush Zombies

This has to be the hip-hop album of 2016 for me. Out of all the hip-hop albums that came out, this stood out for me with its blend of "old-skool" flavor and boom bap with that modern edge.

Save Yourself | SBTRKT

There were too many great electronic albums of 2016 but SBTRKT's Save Yourself stood out for me as it was released under the radar. Featuring great songs with frequent collaborator Sampha (looking forward to his debut album coming out in Feb 2017) and The-Dream!, which was a huge surprise act for me. Still on repeat for me.

Body Wash | Mndsgn

Stones Throw Records has always been one of my favourite labels, releasing tonnes of great albums this year like Nxworries (Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak), but I'll have to go with Mndsgn.

He was actually just a beat producer in his early days but it was a challenge posted by label head, Peanut Butter Wolf that he had to create an album by singing on all the songs he produced. And it came out magical.

Sept. 5th | dvsn

Discovered this album on pitchfork “best new album”. Straight out from Toronto and Drake’s Label, OVO. When it first came out, no one knew who was dvsn. But personally, this was one of the most honest R&B albums of 2016 for me. Do not sleep on this.

Credible mentions: Nicolas Jaar's Sirens, Sepalcure's Folding Time.

Coloring Book | Chance the Rapper

Chance's third mixtape definitely makes it to my top three. It sounds significantly different from Acid Rap. Most of his songs in this mixtape still makes me swoon. Despite being an agnostic, I could feel the soul and "blessings" coming down emanating on each tracks. Props as well for bringing in Lil' Yachty to collaborate with him.

Standards | Into It. Over It.

They've done it again, except even better. I love how they went full analog for this record with the help of John Vanderslice's studio called Tiny Telephone (where some of Death Cab for Cutie's tracks from Transatlanticism were recorded).

It's one of those records that don't stick with you at the beginning but once you continue to listen repeatedly, you'll find yourself humming (or crying) along to some of his somber tracks.

Stage Four | Touché Amoré

This record has got to be the most heartbreaking album from them, especially if it was written for the vocalist Jeremy Bolm's mother, who succumbed to cancer. Their emotional intensity has tripled since their last record while taking their sound to another whole new level. A must listen if you want to reflect on the ephemeral nature of human lives, particularly ourselves and our loved ones.

Valuables | Enemies

They've just recently played their last show ever but I'm so glad they got to release this gem before breaking up. It's quite bittersweet to listen to knowing that they made this album sound really well without considering to support their latest material with a regional tour.

Abendrot | You Blew It!

If each album of You Blew It! were a phase, then this album is what growing up should sound like. They've matured so much since their earlier material and I happen to age along with them. Abendrot sounds less aggressive compared to Keep Doing What You're Doing yet they were still able to translate their spunk well.

Wildflower | The Avalanches

The Avalanches take me into another realm, where everything is magically psychedelic and nothing hurts. For some, this was a heavily-anticipated album ten years in the waiting.

For me, it was my first introduction to a legendary band. This album consists of an insane amount of sampling taken from 60’s psychedelic music, incorporated with old school hip hop beats and disco elements. You’ve also got to check this out: an epic fan-made music video in which every pop culture reference you’ve ever known interacts and parties with each other in an alternate universe. Pure genius I tell you! 

The Raveonettes' anti-album 

This anti-album is such a fascinating concept! The Raveonettes subverted the idea of an album and went the complete opposite way.

Instead of releasing a cohesive album, they chose to release a track every month instead, calling it a "Rave-Of-The-Month". Each song is so disjointed and schizophrenic and incredibly beautiful. In my humble opinion, I think it’s one of their best works till date. The production work on this is pretty crazy too. My favorite tracks are ‘Excuses’ and ‘This Is Where It Ends’. I’m still waiting on that final drop though.

Heads Up | Warpaint

Warpaint truly transcended into otherworldly creatures on this magnum opus of a record. It took me ten good listens to dissect it and get my mind blown to pieces.

Despite being slow burning and low-key, this album is a real grower. The more I listen to it, the more I discover all these intricate details hidden within which leave me in awe. These girls can do no wrong! I just love Jenny’s unorthodox bass lines, especially in 'Heads Up'. Favorite tracks off this are 'So Good', 'The Stall' and 'Whiteout'. 

Nonagon Infinity | King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

If you’re looking for some delicious psych rock to head-bang to and melt your face with, look no further. These guys actually make Tame Impala seem pretty tame in comparison. (Oops, no offense! I still love you, Kevin Parker)

This album is jam packed with frenzied, intense energy with an explosive barrage of awesome guitar riffs. I reaaally want to catch them live some day.

Light Upon the Lake | Whitney

Here lies the sepia-tinted soundtrack to my alone-but-not-lonely solitary days. It accompanies me while I sit under the golden sun and reminisce about what could’ve been and wallow in those perfect happy-sad feelings.

Golden Days’ is the ultimate road trip song which makes me want to pack my bags up and travel to Portland with a bunch of old friends and sit around a nice warm fire in the woods. We will have existential conversations about the transience of life and revel in the beauty of good company and piping hot s’mores. Every track on the album is just so effectively simple, catchy and delightful. 

Mariner | Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas

A marriage of the greats.

Darling (OST) | Giona Ostinelli

If there's one OST you need to listen to this year, it's this one.

The Moon Lit Our Path | Tempel

An instrumental post-metal release that will blow it's nose on your band's CD sleeves.

Devoid of Light | Uada

Trust me on this. Old school done fresh.

Light Falls | Wreckmeister Harmonies

For the lonely hearts on lonely nights.

Malibu | Anderson .Paak  

I've watched his NPR Tiny Desk concert at least 28 times. The man has too much swag — his voice is so expressive and versatile, and he can drum while he sings. His writing is buoyant and colourful and rich and fun. My favourite jam of the year.

Blonde | Frank Ocean

This left me speechless. It feels like frank is speaking his thoughts as they come to him, candidly and just to you, in a little room. Musically and conceptually, a gorgeous, brave, sprawling masterpiece.

ISLAND-01 | Yllis

I haven't been so stoked about new local music in a really long time!!! Fresh, exciting, hypnotic, utterly mesmerising.

August is the cruellest | The Observatory

Powerful, poignant, and politically important. This hit me hard, especially at the launch — so immersive and raw. I've never known a band that really bares it all like The Obs.

A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead

There aren't a great many things that can make you delight in existential emptiness and revel in your own nihilist crises. It isn't groundbreaking or brilliant; I've just really missed them. It's great to have them back.

IEKS | Trian Kayhatu

I don't think it takes much to recognize a gem when you hear it and Trian effortlessly stands out, and I say this with so much confidence.

Beats or no beats this guy can solicit so much emotion from the listeners. And it's not just about complexity but it's also about how deep he can go with his music. I rarely hear anyone that can catch my attention the way Trian does — that's why this guy’s art will always have a special place in my heart.

From the groove down to the intricate approach to harmony down to how he just knows how to marry all these elements into a divine textural love soup. This still takes my #1 spot. Sorry, Frank Ocean.

Canopy Stories | Euglossine

I think the world needs a little more of Euglossine. It's daring, it's charming, it's warm, intelligent and thought-provoking in its own unique way.

Peaks and valleys of tonal and modal movement seamlessly woven in by ethereal electronic soundscapes that craft the perfect space anime world I’d want to live in. This is that rare fusion musical experience I’d invite everyone to indulge in.


I’m a huge fan of abstract rap/hip-hop and music that addresses certain social issues and I guess that's why this album happens to speak to me so much.

It says so much behind the obvious façade of weird internet metaphors, "memefication" and the weird interludes that sometimes I can’t even decipher. It’s very #META and I guess that's what I like about it — speaks up a lot on the things people don't like talking about: from politics to crew beef to nepotism and feeling existentially trapped.

Though it may seem like a tough listen for most, my take on it oscillates from dope to weird every time the song changes but I guess that's its charm. Maybe it was meant to be raw and sloppy to complement the grit it's supposed to portray. if the elephant in the room of 2016 was reincarnated as a rap tape I think this would be it. Definitely one of my top releases this year.


Eyedress’ rap side project Wicca Mane is by far some of the best experimental rap shit I’ve heard coming from Manila.

Bringing together psychedelic hints of juke, trap and hazy hip-hop while spitting some real life shit about Manila. Hard not to love this because it's everything I wanna hear and say in a rap album.


Calix for me is this year’s underground rap hero.

Ditching typical self-hype and promotional swag raps and replacing it with highly political bars that could easily get him in trouble with the government. It's the kind of hip-hop that pushes a strong message and pushes for significant changes in society. Breakout Satirist is easily one of the most engaging rap tapes I’ve heard this year and it's equally as substantial.



CELEBRATE | Tiny Moving Parts


GRANDFEATHERED | Pinkshinyultrablast


AMNESTY I | Crystal Castles


VOICES | Wormrot


I pick up music really slowly, so a lot of these albums weren't released in 2016, but this is what I listened to in 2016 nonetheless.

Wellness | Last Dinosaurs

I was hooked onto the first album and I loved how the second album turned out. I even have Sean's signature on my camera.

Dopamine | BØRNS

Is it a girl? Is it a boy? Still obsessed with this album and it's varying influences at the moment, even though it's more pop than usual for me.

Currents | Tame Impala

This one has been a long-stay since it came out, doesn't get old.

Gravity X | Truckfighters

FUZZ. (Stopgap guitarist) Yew Jin introduced me to this album and I was blown away.

I want in your head | FRIDA

We've shared the stage with FRIDA both in Melbourne and back home. They just released their EP as we left Melbourne, I bought it on the spot, great band.

22, A Million | Bon Iver

Definitely Bon Iver's most ambitious album to date. I love hearing a particular medium pushed to the extreme, so faults that are unique to that medium alone are emphasized. You have tracks like "29 #Strafford APTS" where you can hear the tape breaking, and when I first heard that in the song, I literally screamed.

Rojus (Designed to Dance) | Leon Vynehall

I am a devout follower of the religion that believes Leon Vynehall can do no wrong, and his first LP is a very strong statement from one of the most singular voices in house music!!

As The Low-Hanging Fruit Vulnerabilities Are More Likely To Have Already Turned Up | Jesse Osborne-Lanthier

My favorite release this year from one of my favorite labels, Halcyon Veil. Violently crushing experimental electronic music and at the same time, I find it deeply meditative!

Entrañas | Arca

While not necessarily an "album," this one, continuous statement by Arca is an exercise in therapeutic expulsion. This release is definitely darker and heavier than "Mutant" (which was his last album before this), which makes me love it even more!

Alpe Lusia | Stimming

He secluded himself in a hut in the Italian alps to write this record, and I was really glued to his social media pages for updates as he was writing the album. Stimming is definitely one of my favorite minimal house producers, and this album further solidifies that fact for me!