I really never do this sort of thing, at least not that I remember, but I thought I would for once. The list is only based on what I’ve heard so there are quite probably some amazing albums out there but as I haven’t listened to them I can’t include them. I’d be quite happy to be pointed towards anything that is a ‘Must Listen’ from this year though. Oh, and there may be some debate around which year some of these were actually released, but they are near enough.
I really can’t rank them so they are alphabetical by artist.
Arca – Mutant
Writing for Exclaim!, Daryl Keating said Mutant“is an album that is eventually rewarding, but only to those who are determined to follow its scattered pathway to the satisfying, aggregate end.”
Be – One
ONE is the soundtrack to artist Wolfgang Buttress’ multiple award winning UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo – an installation that highlighted the plight of the honeybee, focusing on the importance of pollination. The music on the record is a constantly changing and evolving symphony – the sound of a dialogue between bee and human.
Björk – Vulnicura Live
A live version of Björk’s highly-acclaimed, Grammy nominated, eighth studio album, ‘Vulnicura‘. I was unsure of it at first, but grew to love it, the original, and the Strings version.
Carl Matthews – Mirage – Tape – Years
Sent to me as part of my subscription to ‘That Special Record’, information was sparse, to the point that I had to create the Discogs entry for it myself. As I wrote after first listening to it : I played the album as soon as I arrived home with it, and my expectations were entirely wrong, it is absolutely brilliant and having listened twice now I cannot fathom why this isn’t massive, I like it that much. Imagine for a moment that Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were asked to get together and produce a soundtrack to a movie of a Philip K. Dick novel whose main theme is how our increasing reliance on technology is eroding our humanity. That, to me, is this album. It has the sweeping vistas of Tangerine Dream but also the intricacies of Kraftwerk and the repetitiveness of both (Note to reader: I love repetitiveness).
David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)
My first press vinyl copy is mint, still in the wrapper, I can’t bring myself to open it, though I have listened to it on other formats a lot this year. Losing Bowie was a shock, but the songs on this album somehow help to deal with that loss. I have found myself liking his later work much more than the earlier albums perhaps because they are not as familiar, but since ‘Earthling’ I really loved what he was doing.
De LA Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody
I had the chance to see them, I did, at the Assembly in Leamington Spa, a small venue, but I couldn’t go on that day, then this came out and by god I regret not going. In my head it was going to be all ‘Me, Myself & I’ but this is another thing altogether. Why it isn’t appearing in everybodys 2016 list is a mystery to me.
Eluvium – False Readings On
A worj of stunning beauty. Do you ever not play albums too much because you don’t want to get so familiar with it that it stops making you feel the way you did when you first heard it? I do, with this album. I’ve heard it a dozen times since I bought it but could easily have listened to it much more than that, but I ration it, because it makes me e
Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’ is one of my faviourite albums, and I’ve liked almost all the output of Explosions In The Sky, which makes me somewhat biased as I know this album did not get rave reviews from all quarters, though it duid get an 80 at Metacritic, which is pretty good. I have the Deluxe edition, red vinyl, transparent vinyl with one side etched, fold out cover and poster, it’s a lovely thing and the music is brilliant.
FP-Oner – 6
Another from ‘That Special Record’, one that I really wasn’t sure about at first but over time I have certainly grown to love it and not that much time either. I often wonder how profesional critics can make a judgement so quickly on some records, as there are many that a couple of plays is not enough to make an accurate judgement. In case you are wondering the genre is Deep House, though I don’t really know what that is.
Future Sound Of London – Environments Six & 6.5
Technically two albums, but released at the same time and I have the rest of the series that are availablae on vinyl (annoyingly, one of them isn’t). I have loved FSOL since Elizabeth Frasier sanf on the Lifeforms 12″, they create music that always interests me in some way. It’s full of textures and odditiues and it just somehow works, it so often fits right in with what I want to listen to.
Ian William Craig – Centres
Pitchfork said: Ian William Craig’s Centres is a swirling and alchemical blend of drone, keyboards, and manipulated vocals. The more time you spend with it, the further you will want to get lost in it. – I agree
Ital Tek — Hollowed
There’s a cohesiveness here hard to miss, an emotionally-charged aura and elegantly precise feel that runs from Hollowed’s surging opening notes to its final, poignant fade. – Somebody else wrote that, but I agree. I’ve only recently been listening to this but even so, its good enough to go straight into my albums of the year.
Jherek Bischoff – Cistern
This is Neo-Classical, again, no idea exactly what that means but I saw it in store and picked it up without having heard a single note. Well, limited edition of 500 on Gold Vinyl with a die cut inner sleeve is quite the bait for me. I looked it up – Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of “classicism”, namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint. I don’t think it matters to be honest, I like it, that’s what matters.
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things – Volume One & Two
I don’t think I’ve made any secret of my love for ‘Stranger Things’ and it was an easy step to move from watching the TV series to picking up the soundtracks, which are so evocative of the time the show is set, recalling Tangerine Dream in particular but alos John Carpenter and others.
Mark Pritchard – Under the Sun
I don’t have this album on vinyl, I do have the 12″ that Thom Yorke sings on though and I’ve streamed this album a lot. The music is deeply atmospheric and richly impressionistic. It includes vocal performances from the aforementioned Thom Yorke as well as Linda Perhacs, Bibio,
Mogwai – Atomic
This is technically a soundtrack, made up of reworked music from contributions to the BBC 4 documentary Storyville – Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, which was a chronological history of nuclear disaster from Hiroshima onward. it is music of life and death, hope and fear, war and peace, atomic and organic. Stand out track for me is the opener, Ether, but I do love Mogwai and there’s little of theirs, if anything, that I dislike.
Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
Housed in a ridiculous scratch card cover, complete with 5 cent piece, this is the seond of Jaars albums I’ve really liked (The other being ‘Space Is Only Noise’). I say ridiculous only becasue it is almost guaranteed to be ruined, which is how I look t it, just by the coin moving about inside the plastic sleeve, perhaps that’s the point.The music is electronic, both odd and familiar at the same time, and has a political message running through it.
Poliça – United Crushers
This is not considered to be their best effort by many reviewers, and it is overtly political, but I liked it a lot. It has tunes, catchy ones despite the sometimes awkward/difficult subject matter, and plenty of hooks. Sometimes I just want to listen to songs and this gives me that.
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
It’s Radiohead, it’s brilliant, I love it.
Roger Goula – Overview Effect
The ‘overview effect\ of the album title is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface, referring to the experience of seeing the reality of the Earth in space. There before them is this tiny planet, filled with life that is only protected by a fragile and thin atmosphere. When viewed from space there are no national boundaries, no politics, no conflicts, there is just this “pale blue dot” that gives us life and we must do everything we can to protect it. This album is a beautiful creation.
Saåad – Verdaillon
Another from ‘That Special Record’, upon listening to this I wrote the following: through my own imagination or by design, I am transported to catacombs, to a room in the back of a church where there is water being scooped from a font, to the end of a service where a full house lays their bibles down on the pews in unison. Workmen repair something broken in an out of the way apse, monks, hoods up with faces hidden in shadow chant as an old but magnificent church organ sustains long chord changes. And then there is the ambience. It sounds almost ridiculous to me as I write it but much of this music is constructed around a church organ, an instrument I never thought would dominate any album I would ever own, but the sound of it, in it’s original setting with giant reverberations make it a powerful, dark, brooding thing at times, but at others it invokes all those memories of church services attended as a boy where everything was so very serious, and mysterious, to the child dressed up in his Sunday best and not knowing what was going on, only that it must be very important. At other times the organ is uplifting, spiritual even, bringing light to the dull lives of the listening congregation.
SKEPTA – Konnichiwa
An album that takes no prisoners. In his own words: “They tried to steal my vision/This ain’t a culture/This is my religion”. ‘Shutdown’ is brilliant, in fact the whole thing is. I don’t know much abut grime, but I know when I hear something exceptional.
Swans – The Glowing Man
This is supposed to be the final album for this iteration of Swans and it is both delicate and diamond hard in equal measure. Swans have in their time drawn from no wave, art-rock, industrial, sludge, drone, folk, and many more while disregarding genre boundaries. It’s a glorious piece of work spread over six sides of vinyl.
Tricky Featuring Dj Milo* & Luke Harris – Skilled Mechanics
Here we are with Tricky, who I find it difficult to be objective about having pretty much been into everything he’s ever released, even those albums that were somewhat panned by critics, like Vulnerable which includes covers of The Cure’s “Love Cats” and XTC’s “Dear God.” Both of which I liked. Everything he does is always compared to Maxinquaye, which really was a masterpiece, but we have to look beyond that and this is an album of great tracks.
Xiu Xiu – Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks
The Angelo Badalamenti score for Twin Peaks is pretty much perfect and this years re-release in damned fine coffee coloured vinyl was a wonderful thing, so this album that covers the whole score by Californian band Xiu Xiu had a lot to live up to, and it does a great job, It’s a different perspective and already well known pieces that, while not exactly breathing new life into the music, offers a different perspective on it. It was released for Record Store Day, and then re-released afterwards, presumably because it sold well.
Thee majority of albums that appear in all the Best Of 2016 lists that are popping up all over the place about now aren’t here. Metacritic collects most of these lists and combines them into one big list, this is what they have:
||Points/Album / Artist
||87 Blackstar by David Bowie
||92 Lemonade by Beyoncé
||87 Blonde by Frank Ocean
||89 A Seat at the Table by Solange
||88 A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
||90 Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
||95 Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
||75 The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
||89 We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
||87 My Woman by Angel Olsen
||87 22, A Million by Bon Iver
||85 Malibu by Anderson .Paak
||83 Hopelessness by Anohni
||86 Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest
||92 You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen
||87 Puberty 2 by Mitski
||73 Anti by Rihanna
||79 Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop
||75 I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It by The 1975
||73 Hardwired… To Self-Destruct by Metallica
||Hero by Maren Morris
I only have two from the above list, wich i see as a good thing actually. Of those there I’ve listened to ‘Puberty 2’ by Mitsky, didn’t like it much, “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” by A Tribe Called Quest which I did like but I haven’t listened to it enough, and that’s it. Over the chrismas period I’ll try and listen to the others to see what, if anything, all the fuss is about.