Since Bandwagon has already chimed in with our thoughts on the best albums of 2016, we figured it'd be illuminating to see how actual musicians would rank the year's releases. Following up on Part 1 last week, we now present Part 2 with a whole new crop of talented artists.
Blonde | Frank Ocean
I have a serious love-hate relationship with Blonde, and yet it probably has the most start-to-finish plays in my library out of all the albums that came out this year. There’s a frustrated internal dialogue in me that ricochets between “Hang on, where are the tunes? Are there really no drums on this? Wait, why are you doing this guitar thing again?” and “Oh, I see…yeah, wow ok, I get it. How the hell did he do that?”
I suspect there’s this weird mishmash of technical mastery and blissful ignorance when it came down to the execution of its production, but the magic of Blonde ultimately lies in its fearless, schizophrenic-like storytelling.
Teens of Denial | Car Seat Headrest
With a lyrical dexterity that flits between precocious self-reflection and instant anthem-worthy catchphrases, this is a painfully self-aware yet oddly joyful sounding record that takes a good, long piss over the plight of millennial apathy and ironic self-loathing in the face of aimless possibility. “You have no right to be depressed / You haven’t tried hard enough to like it / Haven’t seen enough of this world yet / But it hurts, hurts, hurts, hurts”. This album needs to be in a time capsule as a commiseration for all the things that made us feel about having the shittiest year in recent memory.
A Man Alive | Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
This was a lot of fun to listen to.
It’s engaging and intelligent pop music that’s rhythmically bombastic, peppered generously with plenty of weird, lo-fi ear candy comparable to slightly more well-known contemporaries tUnE-yArDs (Merrill Garbus actually helped to produce this album) and St Vincent (even Thao’s phrasing sounds like Annie Clark’s at times, not to mention the fuzz guitar/bass lines and signature John Congleton drum treatment). Production aside, all the songs stand strong on their own.
Malibu | Anderson .Paak
Thank god for Anderson .Paak. This one ticks all the right boxes of what a modern soul / R&B / hip-hop record should be.
It sounds coherent, it feels good, and constantly pushes boundaries while doffing a hat to foundations of the genre. All the fat has been trimmed here – musicianship is top notch, songwriting is on point, production and arrangements are uncompromisingly refined, every featured artist carries their own weight to serve an expansive yet personal and effortless sounding record.
You Want It Darker | Leonard Cohen
“I struggled with demons, they were middle-class and tame.” Lugubrious and deadpan humour is classic Leonard Cohen, but this record also takes a much deeper turn inward to examine making peace with the world and oneself. We’re going to miss you, sir.
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
Didn't think it was anything special at first listen, but after giving it some time to sink in, the album just gets better and better. It’s bleak, melancholic and very endearing. They have certainly made broken hearts rain. Can’t stop listening to the Thom, Jonny & CR78 sessions that they have posted online.
Examination Of The Eye Of A Horse | MoE
Been anticipating the release of this album. Have always loved what they do… great song writing, strong lyrics and wonderful musicianship. It’s hard to feel the grit and energy of a band like MOE on a record, but I think this album does it. Such a well recorded and well produced album.
Money / Pigeon | The Psalms
‘Money’ is one of my favourites from The Psalms…so imagine my disappointment when it was not in the previous release People Eating People. The drumbeat for ‘Money’ is absolutely SICK. Love how it’s complicated but still groovy and that cymbal work… argh! Glad that they decided to release these two tracks as an EP.
Blood Bitch | Jenny Hval
Chee Wai, from The Obs recently reminded me of this album and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit. The arrangement is so well done and there’s so much detail in each track. Love the flow of the album and how it unravels into a narrative.
Konnichiwa | Skepta
GRIME = my guilty pleasure. Have heard it enough to decide that it’s worth a mention.
Remixed with Love by Joey Negro Vol.2 | Joey Negro
Weighing in at 30 tracks, and a follow up to the stellar Vol.1 release, this is all disco and soul heads can ask for. So many great classics reworked in the classic Joey Negro style that still pays utmost respect to the originals, but updating it for modern ears.
New Times | Darker Than Wax
Exclusive 15 track compilation from Darker Than Wax that is included with our G-Shock collaboration watch in conjunction with our 5th anniversary, this represents exactly what we stand for more so than in any other official release of ours. Spanning multiple genres, all drenched in soul…. and you get a thumbdrive too!
#savefabric | Various Artists
Another monster release (111 tracks!!), this Bandcamp release definitely gives you the most value for your buck for 2016. Essentially a fund raiser compilation, but this one doesn’t just give you a whole bunch of fillers.
Majority of the tracks are actually good, and truly embodies the diversity of electronic music that characterises Fabric. From jacking house to electro, hip-hop to drum & bass and garage, acid to deep, dark techno - no club music fan should sleep on this.
Return of the Sample Jesus | Cuthead
Soulful and jazzy instrumental hip-hop and raw sample-heavy house very reminiscent of staple MCDE sound. Both styles are effortlessly represented and exhibits great maturity in the understanding of approaching the 2 genres.
Malibu | Anderson .Paak
Soul, hip-hop, lightly seasoned with jazz, four to the floor vibes, all wrapped up in an extremely fluid way without sounding contrived. Laid back in delivery but heavy in soul. I also love the balance with the live and the “sampled” sound.
No One Deserves Happiness | The Body
The Body melted my brain when I first listened to 'Christ, Redeemers’ and this record takes it to the next level. This record is dark, loud, bleak, dirty and depressing - a combination that is oddly comforting.
Puberty 2 | Mitski
It’s the kind of record you can relate to without you having to dive deep into it. What appealed to me the most is definite Mitski’s voice which is so dynamic and emotional.
The Catastrophist | Tortoise
I’m a sucker for instrumentation. I’ve always been a fan of how Tortoise delivers technicality and eccentricity in a musical way and this record delivered that.
Umbrella Mistress | Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
When Omar released news that he was going to release a record every month in 2016, I thought he was crazy and that all the records would be too weird or sound the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Umbrella Mistress was the surprise of 2016 because who knew Omar was capable of being “indie”. 'Winter's Gone’ is great - listen to it.
Your Name | RADWIMPS
First song that played when I watched Your Name totally got me excited for the entire duration of the film. I had to find out who the band was and found out that RADWIMPS scored the entire soundtrack. The record to make me fall in love with J-Rock all over again.
Patterns of Eternity | Adriatique
A fitting first release for Adriatique’s new label Siamese, this three-track EP got me hooked from the first time I heard it. There’s something special about the title track ‘Patterns of Eternity’, perhaps it’s the way they put the hypnotic synths together with the driven bass line. It makes me want to close my eyes and sway my arms from side to side.
Exhale | Amelie Lens
I remember hearing the title track ‘Exhale’ for the first time while looking for new music and I was completely blown away, and immediately listened to it a second time.
This track is a bit of a slow-burner, and keeps you in suspense until that well-timed climax, and still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. (P/S: I think Eddie Niguel had a hand at mastering this… it must be why it sounds *~THIS~* good.)
Face Your Fears | ANNA
When I need to bring up the energy of the room, I often find myself looking for a track from ANNA and this EP does just that. There’s a long build-up to the climax of the track, but y’know what they say, all good things are worth waiting for.
Interstellar | Fur Coat
I like my music deep and hypnotic and Fur Coat’s debut EP hits all the right spots. Techno served with a side of emotions, exactly how I like it. The beat of the drums and the long blasts of the sub bass makes this a dance floor favourite.
Howl Inn | DOTT
This EP comes from DOTT, who I think is one of South East Asia’s brightest and most promising producers of the moment. ‘Keys To The Night’ is my favourite track from his Howl Inn EP, works like a charm when I have to wind down the energy towards the end of a DJ set. A great track to listen to at home too, especially when I’m chilling out after a big weekend.
Under The Sun | Mark Pritchard
Top album for me right from the get go. It’s open-mindedness consumes me with every listen.
99.9% | Kaytranada
Dizzy chops with a good measure of house and funk thrown in makes this a wonderful sunny soundtrack to this rather dreary year.
Malibu | Anderson .Paak
Nothing better than this album to kick back to when life gets rough. All done in pure effortless style.
The 13th Floor | Invisibl Skratch Piklz
The world’s best turntablists produced an album. I really wished it was longer. Nuff Said.
The Ride | Hidden Turn
Beat abstractions on a halftime tip, Hidden Turn crafts out a mental soundscape like no other.
LVL 11 | LEVELZ
So much diversity and synergy from this Manchester crew, love how they are reinventing bass, grime, jazz and hip-hop music in this album.
Who is Richie Brains | Richie Brains
Exit Records have been killing it with their releases this year, but this is my favourite. The supergroup flexing their distinctly dubby, autonomic sound is a very welcoming and fresh respite in drum & bass.
Nature of Evil | Psychic Mirrors
Got a first taste of ‘yacht rock’ watching Psychic Mirrors’ live in New York, and been hooked ever since. Whole album is a hypnotic amalgamation of synthy, kitschy, disco-boogie madness.
Nothing More To Say | The Frightnrs
Fantastic release by Daptones, the bluesy rocksteady with a tinge of bittersweet melancholy that resonates with the band's tragic history. Hits me in the feels every time.
Loungin’ | Kerem Akdag
Been a good year for jazz, with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, BBNG and Yussef Kamaal. Adding to that list, Kerem Akdag's Loungin’ on Darker Than Wax showcases the clever manipulation of contemporary jazz by weaving in bossa, blues and funk influences.
Views | Drake
It's drake. It's emotional, smooth and gets us in our feelings so hard. Bringing out all the softbois in us all.
Half Of My Love | FAUXE
Having been around the man as he crafted this album, it rings through in all the songs that he put a lot of effort into his full length debut. With every song representing a different part in his current life, the album perfectly encapsulates the talented bastard in the perfect way.
The Passion Project | Lido
Late on the bandwagon (ha), this EP from late 2015 blew us out of the water when we heard it. It also helps that one of the catchiest songs on there is named 'Ashley', who just happens to also be our beautiful manager.
Prelude 101 | Zet Legacy
One of our favourite lyricists from across the causeway, Zet Legacy kills it with his performances on this album. From the posse cuts to the turnt up singles, it makes us all believe that we can all become rap stars soon.
3001: A Laced Odyssey | Flatbush Zombies
A sizeable influence in moulding us into the rappers we are today, this trio keep pushing the envelope with their psychedelic and hard hitting raps, slipping into the comforts of their own unique styles to create this dope debut album.
Bloodline / Sientelo | Florentino
My ass is planted in dancehall / reggaeton riddims pretty heavily this year, and Florentino is definitely one of my current faves. This was recently released on Swing Ting label which is also my current favourite label. Check out his Tu y Yo EP too if you haven't.
Musik | Fox
Fox is an artist that i have much love and respect for, his vocal is magic! It's hard for me to do a DJ set without playing at least one of his tracks or a track that features him. My fave ones out of this garage, dancehall and UK funky packed EP (also released on Swing Ting) are 'Vacio' (also produced by Florentino) and 'Big Man Ting'.
Jung'hall Special | Think Tonk
I think Think Tonk is a relatively fresh music project but also best to describe my current favourite sound. The title of this EP speaks for itself, "Jung'hall" (jungle-dancehall), heavy business!
Tribes | Oceantied
India has got a proper scene for underground music with many talents - and Oceantied, who's fresh out of RBMA 2016 is definitely one on the rise. This self-released EP should be release on big labels like Teklife or Hyperdub. Just saying.
Dubsmash | Kiat
I remember seeing Kiat's vinyl at Eastern Bloc Records store in Manchester and feeling proud. Kiat is definitely the don putting Singapore on the map (musically).
A Seat at the Table | Solange
She cool af and was exactly the right vibes I needed. Chill and doing her.
Telefone | Noname
Noname has always been fresh since I listened to her and that album was just what I needed this year. Creative flows and the rich music to it.
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
This album shaped my decision to release the album. And well its Radiohead. They just do whatever they wanna do.
22, A Million | Bon Iver
This album shaped the next decision to start writing the next LP for me. It was fresh af and to witness him do what he wants to do is solid. No fears.
Recluse | Intriguant
Besides the four I've mentioned, this was out of the only few albums I listened to fully this year. And I had the chance to listen to it in full and fully blew me away with his honesty and hard work he puts in it. I can't describe it. Its just an experience. And please listen in full to get it. Thank you.
99.9% | Kaytranada
The amount of guest collaborators is as diverse as his blending of genres in this album. This is an ideal album to introduce to friends who aren’t familiar with hip-hop, jazz or funk. It’s like the kueh lapis of music - it’s colorful, tasty and it never gets old.
Nearness | Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau
A good song is like a good conversation. And these two master musicians know how to speak the language that is music. In a world full of tracks that are filled to the brim with production magic, this was a well-needed change of pace, and space for my ears.
24K Magic | Bruno Mars
Blending modern-day pop production techniques with the arrangement styles and sounds of old, Bruno really knows how to write chart-topping hits album after album. This nostalgic ear worm is on a whole other level though. Those synth sounds are gorgeous.
In My Room | Jacob Collier
This musical protege’s album is chockfull of reharmonization goodness. I can’t even. I just can’t.
Collapse | Seiho
I love it whenever a track blends good sound design along with smart harmony and production techniques. And this whole album is full of that. 2016, you’ve been good to my ears.