Before we jump right into my top ten albums of 2016, here's a collection of my top tracks of 2016 (some of which can be heard below):
Suede - 'No Tomorrow' / The Weeknd - 'Starboy' / Christine And The Queens - 'Tilted' / David Bowie - 'I Can’t Give Everything Away' / Jamie T - 'Tinfoil Boy' / Clare Maguire - 'Spaceman' / Mitski - 'Your Best American Girl' / Weezer - 'Wind In Our Sail' / Rae Stremmund - 'Black Beatles' / Band Of Horses - 'Hag'.
10. The Coral – 'Distance Inbetween'
The Coral have reached indie heritage status alongside the likes of British Sea Power, constantly delivering quality records. The break since 2010’s Butterfly House (2014’s release 'The Curse of Love' was recorded in 2006) seems to have done the group a world of good. 'Distance Inbetween' might be their most focussed record to date, with their signature psychedelic sound never sounding better.
9. Jamie T – 'Trick'
Kicking off with the brilliant 'Tinfoil Boy', 'Trick' is Jamie T’s most impressive effort to date. Any descriptions of Jamie T as a “one-man Arctic Monkeys” are made totally redundant with this album, showcasing the strength of his songwriting as he skips through several genres successfully with ease.
8. Anderson Paak – 'Malibu'
In a year of great releases from the likes of Rae Sremmurd and Danny Brown, 'Malibu' stands out the best R&B/Hip Hop album I listened to in 2016. Fusing hip-hop, funk, soul and R&B, Paak has created a warm, joyous album that heralds the arrival of new leading player in urban music.
7. Mitski – 'Puberty 2'
'Puberty 2' is one of the most personal, unflinching albums released in 2016. It’s made all the more compelling by the fantastic fuzzy, distorted indie rock sound that recalls the likes of Pixies and Weezer.
6. Warpaint – 'Heads Up'
Warpaint are growing in confidence with each record, allowing more of their personality to shine through their music. This record sees them loosen up, moving away from the cool distance of their earlier records to create something dancier, warmer and catchier. 'Heads Up' is their best record to date as a result, and an album to get truly lost within.
5. Eagulls – 'Ullages'
You know you’ve heard to a special album when it stays with you long after it finished playing and unfurls more details with subsequent listens, which 'Ullages' does. There’s a distinct atmosphere than Eagulls create on the album, which is dark and introspective yet inviting with its dream-pop melodies that bring to mind The Horrors and The Cure. The leap in their musical template from their self-titled debut to 'Ullages' is huge, so who knows where they will go next?
4. David Bowie – 'Blackstar'
I won’t forget the moment when I put on the news in the early morning and saw one of my heroes had passed away. Initially I thought it was a story about his new album, 'Blackstar' before I read the headline properly, which made it all the more shocking. It was like I’d lost a friend.
Bowie introduced me to so many different genres of music, from glam to soul to electronic. His passing changed the way I would listen to 'Blackstar'. When I listened to it one morning on the way to work, and I just didn’t want the album to end. While reviews of the record have understandably been impacted by hindsight bias, there is no doubt that 'Blackstar' is by equal means both graceful and challenging, and stands alongside the best works of the greatest music artist of the last century.
3. Beyoncé – 'Lemonade'
Many are saying in a world of Spotify and Youtube that the album is a dying artform. But just like the Test match in cricket, the album remains the definitive test of an artist’s talent. Given her incredible back catalogue, the best compliment I can pay 'Lemonade' is that it’s Beyoncé’s best album to date.
Having someone as influential as Beyoncé deliver records of such quality will hopefully inspire other artists to continue to pursue recording albums rather than just focus on singles. In a time when someone can be the US President arguably because of rather than in spite of their misogynistic rhetoric, for Beyoncé to deliver such an empowering message for women cannot be underestimated.
2. Whitney – 'Light Upon The Lake'
I was gutted by the breakup of Smith Westerns. However, both lead singer Cullen Omori, and guitarist/drummer Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich’s new band Whitney, released excellent albums in 2016. Whitney gets the nod here as 'Light Upon The Lake' is a more complete, layered album. Recalling the likes of The Byrds and The Band, 'Light Upon The Lake' is a beautiful collection of songs that would bring peace and calm on the most tumultuous of days.
1. Suede – 'Night Thoughts'
Similarly to Roxy Music, Suede were more commercially successful after the departure of one half of the songwriting partnership (Brian Eno for Roxy Music, Bernard Butler for Suede). Despite this, a critique leveled at the band in the post-Butler years is they have become more predictable, not quite delivering an artistic, ambitious statement on a par with the incredible 'Dog Man Star'. 'Night Thoughts' changes all of this.
Taking confidence from the brilliant comeback record 'Bloodsports', Night Thoughts is a sweeping, concept album inspired by the hopes and fears of parenthood, and it’s an absolute triumph. While the likes of Pixies, Libertines and Blur have reunited and delivered new records with mixed results, Suede are delivering some of the best music of their career, reflecting the outstanding talent within the group.
Read more of our Best Of 2016 posts here, and more from Rajan here.