Top 25 Albums of 2016


By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

December, other than being a month where we encourage Santa’s capitalist greed, is the ideal time for critics of all entertainment to compile a list of the greatest things to drop in the previous 12 months. I’ve already talked about the worst tracks and albums of the year so as we say goodbye to 2016, with a sigh of relief no doubt, it’s time for me to discuss what came out that didn’t make my ears bleed.

As always, I’ll be welcoming a great bunch of guests throughout this piece, ranging from musicians to writers and even including activists! They will all be having their say on what records they just couldn’t put down throughout this piece and if you want to see more of their stuff then you’ll find their links in the credits! On top of that I have Will Albin-Clark to thank for the lovely graphics So with the mandatory introduction out of the way, let’s get this show on the road.

So with the mandatory introduction out of the way, let’s get this show on the road, starting with some honorable mentions:

25. Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

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I know what you’re thinking: what’s Biffy doing so down on this list? Has blinkclyro become a traitor? The truth is that I did dig the seventh offering from Scotland’s bearded rock gods though not as much as I had anticipated due to the unwarranted hyping up of a Biffy 3.0. Despite this, there were plenty of tracks such as On A Bang and Animal Style that showed a glimmer of hope for the future of the band as well as packing in In The Name Of The Wee Man which, while not featuring on the standard edition, is one of the greatest things Biffy have come out with in years. On top of that, the dirty yet simultaneously beautiful production gave the impression that Biffy Clyro may come out with something that could give their old grungey/prog-rock days a run for their money.

24. Trash Boat – Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through

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I’ve written the words “pop punk is back and better than ever” or some sort of paraphrasing of that enough times that the most dedicated readers could make a drinking game out of it. More often than not the acts representing the scene tend to be from the UK and Trash Boat have continued this trend with their debut record, packing a fuck ton of angst that easily makes it one of the most emotion-driven albums I’ve come across all year. Not only that but more often than not, the band seem to be aware of when it’s right to let the lyrics, which range from visceral to heartbreaking, take a back seat and let the instrumentals doing the talking with some somber guitars being a pleasant alternative to the cliche chugging alternative. Any fans of Neck Deep and the likes will find their new favourite act after just one listen.

23. Prince Daddy & The Hyena – I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving

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Fusing all the elements that make FIDLAR a face-meltingly good time with a Deadpool rate of cultural references and painful self-loathing, Prince Daddy & The Hyena have come out with the hidden gem of 2016. Had it not been for a recommendation due to my enjoyment of The Hotelier, I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving may have very well disappeared amongst all the AAA records that dropped this year but the pure passion that can be felt from the fury riddled delivery of both the vocals and instruments makes it worth a listen to anyone with even a slight interest in punk music.

22. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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While he may have a tendency to have a social media breakdown just as regular as his wife will post a selfie and his ambitions may have resulted in him accumulating a great amount of debt, there’s no doubt a great sense of this being art. Just like the most prolific artists who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work, Kanye has crafted a record that radiates hip hop greatness embedded with a gospel sound as well as his own, despite the few times he colors outside of the lines.

21. Jeff Rosenstock – Worry

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In a year that has pretty much become the embodiment of doom and fear, Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY is suitably titled as well as channeling all those feelings of hopelessness. To Be A Ghost is a perfect example of this, starting off with isolated guitar before slowly unraveling into a cynical commentary on society, mainly touching on internet culture and how issues such as police brutality aren’t taken seriously until they’re considered trendy. Thankfully, the record is upbeat with its instrumentals so that the whole time spend listening isn’t spent being gloomy, rather positioning itself as this year’s punk rock brother to Pimp A Butterfly.


•James Clayton (@jamescrywank) of Crywank

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My two favourite albums this year were ‘Telephone’ by ‘Noname’ and ‘The Dancer’ by ‘Cocaine Piss’. I can’t really decide between the two of them. ‘Telephone’ i find myself putting on over and over again. I don’t have a favourite track and I just listen to the album all the way through, It’s a super chill release that’s ideal to just have on as background, but incredibly rewarding lyrically and musically when you give it your attention. It’s easily my most listened to album this year and I’m still not bored of it. ‘The Dancer’ I just had a really visceral response to. It really made me want to move and stretch and be stupid and break stuff by dancing, it made me gesticulate more although I have also had a lot of listen throughs just sat with the lyrics which are really pure.

•Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

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Motörhead – Clean Your Clock (Live in Munich)

Are we allowed to do live albums in this? Well fuck it, we’re going to anyway. This isn’t the best album I’ve heard this year, but the symbolism behind it makes it an iron-clad ace. Just over a month after this album was recorded in Munich, Lemmy Kilmister would be dead, days after his 70th birthday. One of the worst days of my life, I lost a hero, an influence and an inspiration, and the world would never look the same again. Whilst this album isn’t No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith, it shows that the commitment to his band, the love for his fans and the fact you had to kill him before you could stop him touring makes it a total masterpiece. Whilst the vocals are a stretch and the tempo a bit slower, Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey still bring the thunder. Notable highlights include classics such as Stay Clean, The Chase is Better Than the Catch, Dr Rock and of course, the double fisted assault that was is, and ever shall be Ace of Spades into Overkill. Illness was slowly killing Lemmy, but he still managed to bring the snarling blues, including that delightful solo in Stay Clean. I can’t even play Stay Clean on bass, and I’m a healthy 23-year-old. What this album represents is Lemmy’s will to bring the thunder, and the unwavering commitment to his band and his fans, and the last battle cry of rock and roll’s last true warrior. This isn’t the best Motörhead live album that’s out there, sonically, this isn’t the best album I’ve heard this year, but undoubtedly in the circumstances, you won’t hear a single better performance this year.

Metallica – Hardwired… To Self Destruct

Eight years. Eight years since Metallica released an album. Compare that to the above of Motörhead where they released a new album every eight minutes, and still managed to blow your face off every time. However, whilst many will disagree, the eight year wait has been more than worth the wait for the sonic assault that is Hardwired. Bursting back into our faces in August, the title track was a steady reminder as to just why Metallica sell out stadiums and move units. We’ll never have the eighties Metallica again, but at many points, including Hardwired, Atlas, Rise!, Moth Into Flame and Spit Out the Bone hark back to the heavy thrash past of ‘Tallica, with a light sprinkling of NWOBHM in parts, and a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. Admittedly the latter is a bit shit, it doesn’t sound like a Motörhead track, but the lyrics and the video more than make up for it.  This isn’t Metallica’s best work, but one would argue it’s been their best since the Black Album, maybe even …And Justice for All. As much as we’d all like to see a second coming of 1980’s Metallica, how fucking boring would they be if they’d just done every album as a loose bastardisation of Kill ‘em All? As a modern-era Metallica album, it’s as close as to the past you’ll get, just some good ol’ thrash-ioned metal.

Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis

I actively fear the day I won’t get excited over a new Biffy Clyro album, but Ellipsis didn’t disappoint me in any way shape or form. Whilst I can’t exactly put my finger on it, this new album feels more mature, more modern compared to Biffy records of old, but still feels like business as usual. Highlights of this album include well, bloody hell, Wolves of Winter, Animal Style, In the Name of the Wee Man, Herex, Friends and Enemies, Flammable, On a Bang, and despite the fact that this song reminds me of my ex-girlfriend constantly, Re-Arrange is still a massive tune. So there you have it, fuck what anybody else says, Biffy have yet again delivered the goods, and their arena tour just gone was something to behold. If the Biff aren’t at the top right now, they’re on a fast and hard course towards it.

Honourable mentions here go to Radiohead for A Moon Shaped Pool, the dearly departed David Bowie for Blackstar, Bring Me the Horizon for their stellar Live at the Royal Albert Hall with a Full Fucking Orchestra and They Played It Never Fucking Ends, which I was at, and it was as the kids say, ‘lit’. Honestly it’s been a shite year so if you’ve got any thoughts or feelings on what I’ve picked here, please go and fuck yourself. Regards.

• Anna Cowan (@L0VESlCK) of Girls Against (@girlsagainstanna

 

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It

My album of 2016 is not one which I think is necessarily the ‘best’, or even it being the most impressive, in amongst a year of such incredible new music. Indeed, perhaps I should have chosen one of them, as I know with this choice I may be deemed a bit lame. But, the heart wants what the heart wants (okay I’m definitely being deemed as lame now) and for my album of the year I’ve chosen I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It by The 1975. This is an album which I will always associate with this year; the first time I listened to it I was applying glitter to my face and dancing around the room with Hannah and Anni (fellow GA members), which is such a lovely memory for me. Each song relates to a period of time in 2016 – some incredible and some very, very bad – yet all fragmented and significant, which is why if I had chosen any other album I know I’d have been lying. ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘This Must Be My Dream’ are two songs which stand out as tracks of particular importance in relation to 2016 – both bangers, which basically sum up the weird unpredictable and non-linear nature of 2016 for me. So yes, judge me all you like, but honesty is best right?

•Andrew Barr (@weeandrewwImage may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

 

 

 

 

3. “Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino

Before this release, Donald Glover was already known as a man of many talents. He writes, stars in and directs the FX series Atlanta, as well as performing stand-up comedy and releasing 2 successful rap albums under his Childish Gambino pseudonym. However, on “Awaken, My Love!”, as the artwork hints, Glover delves into an entirely new universe, experimenting with a brand of psych-funk, which he pulls off masterfully. On the first track – the six-minute, choir featuring epic single “Me and Your Mama”, Glover screeches over an electric guitar riff, showing off a vocal range that will surprise even Gambino fans. On the record’s early tracks, Glover contorts this vocal range in various manners, on top of some of the best production work on any record in 2016, and brilliantly orchestrated backing vocals. The real standout is “Redbone”, the most straight-up funk song on the album, which is driven by percussion and complimented brilliantly by some Prince-esque shrieks from Glover. The rest of the album hears Glover channelling a different era of funk on almost every track – to varying degrees of success. However, this is no doubt an incredibly strong record, and a timely reminder of this is served on “Stand Tall” – another six-minute track, showing just how scintillating Glover can be when he gets it right.

2. “Painting of a Panic Attack” – Frightened Rabbit

I wrote a full piece on this record on Blinkclyro back in May, where I didn’t make any secret of the fact that I loved this record, and it has been on heavy rotation ever since then. Evolving while staying true to your roots is one of the most difficult lines for a band to tread, but, as I said in the full review, Frightened Rabbit make it seem effortless on “Painting…”. From the ambient organ of opener “Death Dream”, this feels like a Frightened Rabbit album. Their signature fast and loud style is present on many tracks (“Break”) but the sound that defines “Painting…” is a much sparser electronic sound created by synths and drum machines, giving the songs a real sense of spaciousness (“Still Want to be Here”), which is not a quality that could be applied to any of Frightened Rabbit’s earlier works, but it is a sound which they execute masterfully, and that works in tandem with Scott Hutchison’s distinctly Scottish vocal. Throw in the fact that Hutchison is one of the best lyricists in the business, and the result is a near-perfect record.

1. “A Moon Shaped Pool” – Radiohead

As soon as it became common knowledge that Radiohead’s 9th LP was dropping in 2016, it was almost nailed on to lead thousands of white boys’ album of the year lists, and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be an exception to that.  A Moon Shaped Pool” sees Radiohead, a band who have innovated throughout their entire career, pioneering once again. However, the innovation on this record is more subtle; rather than the in-your-face electronics and glitches on Kid A, “AMSP”’s innovation is hidden in regular enough song structures (the recurring piano on standout “Daydreaming” wouldn’t sound out of place on a top 40 ballad) but on repeated listens, the genius of this album is clear to see. “AMSP”’s signature sound is the marriage of the electronics which Radiohead have been famed for and Jonny Greenwood’s classical orchestration, creating an atmosphere that is equally welcoming and chilling (“Present Tense”). The record ends in something of a fan favourite – “True Love Waits” has been played live since 1995, on just acoustic guitar, but here is a haunting piano ballad, emphasising Thom Yorke’s unquestionable genius – both as a lyricist and vocalist. Any Radiohead album may always have been one of the frontrunners for album of the year, but “A Moon Shaped Pool” isn’t just any Radiohead album, but another masterclass from simply one of the best bands of all time.

Honourable Mentions

  • I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” – The 1975
  • 22, A Million” – Bon Iver
  • The Life of Pablo” – Kanye West
  • Ellipsis” – Biffy Clyro
  • Colouring Book” – Chance the Rapper

 


20. Crywank – Don’t Piss On Me, I’m Already Dead

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Self-loathing had never sounded as good as it did when the “worst named band in the country” Crywank dropped Tomorrow Is Nearly Yesterday And Everyday Is Stupid back in 2013, an album that manifested all the existentialism and pessimistic thoughts that run rampant in James Clayton’s mind which had fueled most of the act’s work since the therapeutic beginnings of their aptly named debut James Is Going To Die Soon. At 12 tracks long, Don’t Piss On Me feels a lot more polished and cohesive despite the limitations Crywank endured which ranged from financial troubles to logistic ones. Instead of giving up on this project when times got tough, the band manages to assemble what is essentially a love letter to fans with the staple qualities that has kept the connection between the two of them so strong. It feels delightfully fresh at points, especially on the latter half of the record, but it does enough “old school” Crywank to make listeners feel at home.

19. Codist – Nuclear Family

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Nuclear Family provides a breath of fresh air into Scottish rock music while also paying ode to the very bands who made the genre what it is: like a musical Force Awakens if you will. A whole range of Codist’s influences can be felt from the get go with tracks screaming blue album era Weezer.  Things get off to a particularly smooth start with Zamboni which, while also containing deformed sounding vocals like Sudden Valleymanages to use it in a more appealing manner. Variety is key with this record as shown by the dreary waters it checks through on Puddle, which manages to bring back memories of Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”. Codist has most definitely delivered a debut album that delivers on the promise of previous releases whilst also showing glimmers of further potential in bucket-loads. The quintessential debut album.

18. Moose Blood – Blush

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While not as strong as their debut record I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time, British emo rock act Moose Blood managed to avoid the dreaded sophomore record curse with the misleadingly bright pink adorned Blush. It’s easy to assume that the album would be far more light considering the artwork as well as the lead single Honey, however, the record gets into some deeply personal territory such as Spring where frontman Eddy Brewerton signs faintly about losing someone close to you, asking over softly plucked guitars “The way you died, did it hurt at all“, delivering one of many raw and emotional lines that Blush has to offer. Far more accessible than their previous work yet featuring some of their darkest work, Moose Blood have achieved a true feat in delivering an emo album that anyone can appreciate.

17. The Weeknd – Starboy

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While outlets such as Pitchfork may claim that The Weeknd’s follow-up to last year’s Beauty Behind The Madness is uninspired and pop drivel, it’s clear from the get go of Starboy that it’s far from that. Take the eponymously titled tracked which features a beat produced by Daft Punk that wouldn’t be amiss on a collection of Yeezus B-Sides or a futuristic RNB banger in the form of Secrets. In a year that saw pop/ RNB stars like Drake and Rihanna fall from grace with disappointing releases, The Weeknd manages to fill the void with a record that has a fantastic range of features and manages to keep your attention until the very end.

16. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

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Undoubtedly the best record the band has ever released, Painting of a Panic Attack is by far the dreariest and bleakest music Frightened Rabbit have ever released yet easily the most cohesive and enjoyable. The record’s genius lies in its seemingly copy and pasted heartbreak formula when first glancing at the track titles only to throw an absolute curveball with introspective and equally depressing songs. A lot of the tracks on this album are much slower and more somber than anything Frightened Rabbit have ever committed to record before, and this works beautifully in highlighting Scott Hutchison’s simply stunning lyricism. “Still Want to be Here” is a simple enough song musically with distant guitar notes and frequent electric drum sounds but Hutchison’s lyrics about his feeling of isolation in his adopted home of LA make it such a standout. “400 Bones” continues in the same vein, as Hutchison brutally addresses the faltering intimacy in his relationship.


•Phillip Ivers (@philipivers) of Codist (@codistbandPhilip Ivers

Pity Sex – White Hot Moon

The final gesture from Michigan band Pity Sex is also their crowning achievement. The album owes as much to Dinosaur Jr as it does to early 90s shoegaze, the infinite-sounding guitars suffocated in fuzz. They’ve expanded on the sound from their debut by writing more complex arrangements and experimenting with different guitar tones and textures. Singers Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake make heartfelt pleas to absent lovers and at times lyrically cut to the bone, with “Plum” being a prime example of Drake’s candidly emotional lyrics. Pity Sex have realised what their sound is on “White Hot Moon”, it’s a shame it’s the final sound they’ll make on record.

LVL Up – Return To Love

Solid indie rock made by a bunch of guys from Purchase, New York. A wee bit Guided By Voices and a wee bit Neutral Milk Hotel, LVL Up know just where to tickle me when it comes to influences, and they have some damn good hooks to boot. The band has three separate singers/songwriters and it’s kinda hard to tell them apart sonically, but that only contributes to the album’s flow and cohesiveness. Lyrically, the album deals with big themes such as religion and mortality but never feels like they’re cutting off more than they can chew. This is slacker rock going widescreen, just listen to “Five Men On The Ridge” and try not to fall into the aural chasm they’ve opened.

Katie Day – Flood Network

Flood Network is a complete anomaly, and by far the most unique set of songs I’ve heard all year. Katie Dey, a Melbourne-based bedroom-pop producer, processes every instrument to within an inch of its life, creating an equally thrilling and terrifying 32 minutes. Stuttering beats, high-pitched multilayered vocals and a plethora of squeaks and squawks all get piled on top of each other to provide minimal breathing space and maximum paranoia. The album is divided up into 8 instrumental interludes and 9 schizophrenic pastiches of pop songs, with the soaring “Fear O The Light” and morose “Debt” standing out as highlights. A great album to listen to when walking down the street past people unaware of the utter abstractness you are currently experiencing on your headphones.

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh) of Sweet White ( )

THE CHRISTMAS KID

3. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!

From the moment I first heard “Me And Your Mama”, the first single from Gambino’s newest project, I knew it would end up very high up in my end of year list. It wears its influences very much on its sleeve (think band’s like Funkadelic and, to a lesser extent, Chic) but Glover has managed to put his own spin on that sound and really has released something special. Songs like Boogieman and Riot evoke the same feeling as the aforementioned forefather’s of the genre do, but also offer a fresh take on the style of music. Not an easy feat by any means. Left-field, psychedelic and just plain weird, listen to it ASAP and check out his performance of Redbone on Fallon if you haven’t, it is sensational.

2. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep…

If you’d told me like, 2 years ago that an album by the 1975 would end up almost being my favourite release of the year I’d have laughed in your silly wee face. But here we are. I Like It When You Sleep is, in my view, nearly perfect in almost every sense. I remember the first time I heard Love Me I had to act like I hated it because I didn’t want to seem like a massive hypocrite but damn it I can’t help liking what I like. This is a deeply personal album, with Matty really laying his soul bare (especially on the album’s two closing tracks Nana and She Lays Down) but it’s the range of musical styles on show that really makes the album for me. From straight up Indie-pop (The Sound) to soulful, electronic ballads (Somebody Else) to full on 80’s worship (Love Me) ILIWYS is the sound of a band at the top of their game, and I really hope they stay there for years to come.

1. Joyce Manor – Cody

Fuck me this album is absolutely amazing. For me, it’s absolutely flawless. It’s funny, sad, heavy, relatable, it’s everything I look for in an album condensed into a lovely wee 24 minute emo package. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being in your late teens and entering early adulthood and really not knowing what you want to do or where you stand. Songs like Eighteen, Last You Heard Of Me and Over Before It Began will tug at your heartstrings whereas album opener Fake I.D (the song with the funniest lyric of the year on it) will have you dancing away without a care in the world. As I said before, it’s only 24 minutes long, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album AND the lead singer of the band Fun. really likes it as well. Do you think you’re above listening to albums recommended by Nate Ruess? Of course you don’t.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: 1. Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis 2. Pup – The Dream Is Over 3. Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gales 4. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition 5. Chance, The Rapper – Colouring Book

 

Cheers for reading, and cheers to Liam for asking me to contribute! Namaste x

•Josh Adams (@jxshadams) of Alt Music Box (@altmusicbox_)

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Blackstar by David Bowie

It’s almost impossible to separate The Thin White Duke’s final LP from the context of his untimely passing and the influence it had on the end product, but even without the tragic backstory that informs most of the record, “Blackstar” is still a breathtaking record. Taking its cues from avant-garde jazz and alternative hip hop, Bowie’s twenty-fifth studio album pulled no punches in its musical and lyrical experimentation – see the whaling brass in “Tis A Pity She’s a Whore” or the double-meaning twists in the words to “Dollar Days”. In a year where modern icons such as Beyonce and Radiohead met their match in the form of newcomers like Chance the Rapper, Bowie gave us a parting statement every bit as powerful, relevant and exciting as the new kids on the block.

Blonde by Frank Ocean

The myth that surrounded the character of Frank Ocean only seemed to develop after the release of his debut “Channel Orange”, the critical success of which had a similar growth in the years in between it and the arrival of “Blonde”, his second album proper – so much so that when his website updated earlier this year, the Internet had a full-blown meltdown, the likes of which not seen since people found out you can share memes with strangers. What finally arrived on August 20th 2016 showed listeners an abstract and dream-like palette of sounds, which added, rather than subtracted as one might initially fear, to Ocean’s trademark emotive vocals. “Blonde” ran deeper, hit harder and questioned more thoroughly than its predecessor without raising its voice beyond more than an admission in a confession booth, and in the process proved that pop and R’n’B had plenty of room to innovate and excite still.

A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

The arrival of a new Radiohead album in this day and age heralds the kind of response that sits comfortably between the announcement of a cure for heart disease and the second coming of Christ, and the Oxford boys’ 2016 effort was no different. “A Moon Shaped Pool” brought back the heart and soul into the band that was notably absent on their last record, the intriguing but lacking “The King of Limbs”, via Jonny Greenwood’s once-decorative but now key gorgeous orchestral arrangements and the resurrection of previously abandoned works-in-progress, such as “Burn The Witch” and “True Love Waits”. But it was the new songs, like the driving “Ful Stop” and the haunting “Daydreaming”, that proved to the world that there was still plenty of fuel in the tank for modern rock music’s best band.

 


15. Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

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It’s an achievement in itself for an artist to still be evolving eight albums into their discography but what’s even more commendable about Ty Segall is how he still manages to sound just as refreshing as ever on his latest LP. Swapping out his tendency for getting all the notes right on his first attempt, Emotional Mugger embraces its pure oddity and is all the better for it, each track sounding an unapologetically odd yet enjoyable as the next. Emotional Mugger may have fallen under the radars of many but with its garage and noise rock aesthetic worn on its sleeve, it’s definitely an LP worth a listen to.

14. Joyce Manor – Cody

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When Joyce Manor hit out with Never Hungover Again, a rip-roaring pop-punk fuelled record full to the brim with angst and emotional transparency, the band managed to solidify themselves as one of the most entertaining rock outfits around, a view that had been upheld by their fans from as early as their debut record. With Cody, the band’s fourth record to date, Joyce Manor have continued to deliver the tightest and most compact album of their career so far that is “short but sweet” personified. There may be less thrashing but Joyce Manor hasn’t stripped back any audacity that they’ve displayed before and certainly don’t hold the listener’s hand, especially on the opening track Fake ID which, while having a silly line about Kanye West, ends on a pretty harrowing few lines. Cody may be over as soon as it has started but it’s a record fuelled by an act who haven’t lost sight of what they’re good at and a record that definitely benefits from repeated listens.

13. Skepta – Konnichiwa

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“We ain’t seen nuttin’ like this happen before. Who’s seen the country flip on its head like this, fam?” says fellow grime MC Chip, saying what we’ve all been thinking for months now: how the fuck did Skepta do this? Grime, a genre many thought had stagnated in the early 00’s, somehow started to dominate the charts and even won a Mercury Prize award over the likes of Radiohead and David Bowie. Konnichiwa does all the talking, whether it be aggressively on Crime Riddim, which packs a delightful retro game beat, when calling out police brutality or tenderly on Text Me Back.  Skepta has managed to provide another monumental release into the Grime narrative: Stormzy may have told everyone to shut up but what we have here is a warm, albeit fierce, Konnichiwa.

12. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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Was there ever any chance of Frank Ocean being able to overcome the humongous hype his follow-up to Channel Orange had accumulated since his long lasting absence from music? Maybe not but the result of four years silence Blond was at least enough to cement the great talent that the former Odd Future member possessed. While his previous work was instantly accessible and featured hits such as Pyramids and Super Rich Kids, Blond turns things down a notch to craft songs that you may need to approach a few times to eventually appreciate. What we get is an album full to the brim with emotionally charged songs, that thankfully rely more on Ocean than the guests appearing, and reassures listeners everywhere that the man hasn’t lost his mojo.

11. Weezer – White Album

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On their latest use of self-titling, this time called The White Album, Weezer seem to have grabbed a blank canvas and merged all of the band’s greatest attributes, resulting in the band’s best album since PinkertonThank God For Girls is more of a dip in the pool rather than cannonballing into it but as a first single it definitely lured listeners in with its sweeping guitars and all out wackiness. Analysis of the lyrics will have any old school Weezer fan overjoyed with their trademark nerd rock ways, digging into the culture of D&D while also having some fun with the hot topic that is feminism, playing with some stereotypes and going as far as to re-enact Genesis 2. The callbacks, both lyrically and instrumentally, aren’t just brief bits of fan service, instead, they’re reminders of what the band can do and will immediately top just a few seconds after you recognize them. The nerdiness is even more introverted, the romance even more anxious and fleshed out than before, and the grunge-pop sound even more satisfying. You can shout it from the rooftops: Weezer are back and better than ever.


•Tom Fraser (@crimeturtle) of Codist ()

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LVL UP – Return to Love

This album has been the ultimate grower for me this year. Like a big mushroom on a vine it has weaved its way into my subconscious, subjecting those around me to many a hum and many a hum. After the triumph that was their last album, Hoodwink’d, I was intrigued to find out what kind of transition the band would make to their first album on Subpop and, let me tell you, guys, it’s pretty spot on. At first I was hooked by Cut from the Vine which, to me, seems like the perfect amalgamation of Weezer and Pile’s slower numbers. Following that I had the album on repeat for months and new favourites emerged with each listen. At the moment The Closing Door and Spirit Was are my earfriends but I implore you to buy it and find your own personal favourites.

Pinegrove – Cardinal

For me, Pinegrove are a love born out of procrastination. Whilst studying for exams I took it upon myself to check the recent Audiotree sessions which may or may not have been the best decision of my academic career. Every song on this album fits neatly on a charm spectrum. Sometimes this charm is delivered in the poppy, upbeat chords of Then Again and other times it oozes from the simple lyrics and tight instrumentation of New Friends. The only downside of this masterpiece is that it has crystallised my hypothesis that one day I will be an old man sitting on a porch sipping moonshine from an icing bag while my bloodhounds hunt corn in the nearby fields.

Uncle Ben’s Express – Spicy Mexican Rice

A cheap and filling lunch, this glorious pouch will have you singing from the steeples and definitely doesn’t contain too much sweetcorn. I also really enjoyed The Pooches new album, it’s very, very good.

•Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

ethian

3. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Arguably this year’s most anticipated album once The Life Of Pablo had been and gone, was also one of the year’s biggest surprises. When Ocean finally broke his four-year silence with a non-commercially appealing visual album, it would have been easy to assume this was his way of justifying a four-year absence whilst also appealing to a wider audience with a studio album that more resembled his beloved debut Channel Orange. However, when he released Blonde shortly after, this was far from the case. At first listen, it could appear that Blonde falls short of Channel Orange in several areas, lacking mass appeal tracks such as Pyramids and not seeming to have as strong implications to sexuality, and race as one might have expected. But for me this is where Ocean shows his genius, from the very fact that on the cover the title is spelled differently, Ocean refuses to be defined as one thing or the other, displaying his ability to create anything he wishes. Blonde is the masterpiece that we were hoping for and is only the beginning for one of the most exciting artists living today.

2. Daughter – Not To Disappear

By far the album I’ve listened to the most this year, Not To Disappear is just so overwhelmingly absorbing that it becomes more complex with every listen. Daughter manage to achieve a perfect balance of an atmospheric sound that incorporates enough surprises and twists that prevent it from becoming formulaic or forgettable whilst also making it simply beautiful to listen to. On top of that, what makes this album truly spectacular is the sharp and disturbingly dark and hopeless lyrics spliced between the musical beauty that make Not To Disappear such an emotive listen. Such a carefully produced masterpiece of despair is further enhanced by the sheer emotional power in frontwoman Elena Tonra’s voice that further transcends the album above almost everything else 2016 had to offer.

1.David Bowie – Blackstar

I cannot possibly give this album justice in 150 words but it is without a doubt my favourite album of 2016. It is a testament to Bowie that this album is unlike anything he had previously released, even in his final days he was still evolving and transforming as an artist, refusing to adopt an arrogant or complacent attitude, instead still having a willingness to innovate and that is the very thing that made him David Bowie. When I first listened to this album before David Bowie died, I couldn’t help but feel there was something more to it, it almost felt prophetic, and then after his death this album just developed a whole new meaning that revealed it’s true purpose. Each track is a perfect combination of what Bowie still had to offer and what we already adored him for. In particular, Lazarus is a touching swansong that gives the album a layer of depth that only Bowie could possibly comprehend fully and solidifies Blackstar as one of the defining moments of his career and the perfect goodbye.

•Dan Drennan (@reptoid_prince)

Image may contain: one or more people

 

Algae Bloom – I am everyone I have ever met

Wolftown DIY is an absolute treasure trove of great UK Screamo bands, so it’s fair to assume that anything they release I’m going to be at least slightly into. That being said, I was in no way prepared for how much I love this record. Combining my favourite elements of Healing Powers (also on Wolftown) with some fantastic use of samples and a more stripped down approach to the heart-on-yr-sleeve-tear-out-yr-throat sound found on most modern screamo records, Algae Bloom have released a beautifully devastating album full of tense buildups and incredibly cathartic releases.

Beast Jesus- In Various States of Disassembly

I don’t really have much time for a lot of modern Shoegaze bands* but Manila’s Beast Jesus incorporate the walls of guitar and the plaintive vocals with fucking massive riffs and a dash of noise-rock. While this might be a short EP, it makes a big impact. Both the carnival-esque riff that makes up most of the second half of Scoliosis Backbrace and the blissed out guitars of Double Tuck make perfect sense here, as well as the blasts of noise and feedback that pop up all over the EP, most notably on Velvet Thunder. Absolute banger pals. Absolute banger. *Flakes and Colour of Spring are tite af and aren’t included in this putdown.

Chance The Rapper- Coloring Book

Ever had a really nice time? A wee moment in time where everything was just dead good and you smiled a bunch? The first time I listening to Coloring Book was one of those times for me. Same Drugs is a standout, being an absolutely gorgeous look at how two people can fall away from each other due to a lack of shared interests, told from the perspective of Peter Pan to Wendy. At the same time, Angels and No Problem are massive party bangers, the latter of which blesses us with a 2 Chainz verse that isn’t completely awful. If that isn’t the sign of a great album then I don’t know what is.

Henry Loveday () – Musician (Click here to hear his tunes)

henry loveday

3. Feelin’ Kinda Free – The Drones

If it’s not creating serious intensity with abrasive, distorted noise and jolting rhythms, it does the same with dark, unfurling ballads – punctuated by a fiery vocal delivery, and pensive (sometimes darkly humorous) lyrics. This album is densely layered with a healthy variety of tones and influences, but it maintains cohesion with instantly memorable melodies and palpable emotion. I’m inspired by the number of refreshing ways The Drones have found to make something equally engaging and visceral as it is thoughtful and experimental – It’s everything I’d want in a garage/psych rock album in 2016.

2. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown

It seems that Danny Brown’s goal is to be remembered as a brave, unique artist. I feel he’s achieved that – not only in his previous albums, but also in his refusal to rest on his laurels. All the emotions, experiences and humour from his previous albums show up here, and he backs them up with such novel, genre-bending songs and production that what you hear is not only very odd, varied, and emotional, but also pretty much incomparable. An incredibly high standard of experimentation and character has been set for Hip-Hop with this album.

1. Blackstar – David Bowie

The influence David Bowie has on me isn’t just through his incredible contributions to music, but in his will to explore and appreciate music. He left us exactly as we knew him: hopelessly immersed in the elation music brings. This album is so beautifully composed, evocative in its lyrics, and sonically presents something of a modern take on Low & Heroes (my favourite era). Every time I hear it I’m overwhelmed by his presence and devotion. Despite how influential and enjoyable his catalog certainly is, I feel there could be no stronger testament to David Bowie’s artistry and conviction than Blackstar.


10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead

Band Adulthood – a term coined in an interview in the back catalogues of music aficionados Pitchfork. In layman’s terms, a band’s adulthood is when they’ll start to release albums that, for the average listener, is passable but for the devotees is another milestone in their favourite band’s discography. This is usually around the time when many say the act in question are past their time and should put their instruments to rest. If we try to apply this logic to Radiohead, we’d be struggling. The band has somehow avoided this pitfall altogether, cavorting melodically past adulthood and transcending into an immortal state, despite Thom Yorke and co. all pushing 50. Many cynics will criticise reviews so positive for being fuelled by not only hype but love for the artist themselves but A Moon Shaped Pool manages to leave a positive imprint on the listener’s mind after every playthrough. Swapping out paramount guitars with ambient keyboard sounds and creating this irresistible, distinct sound makes it clear that you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but Radiohead will certainly lead the class.

9. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Death Grips - Bottomless Pit

Dwelling into what made your glory days so, well, glorious can be a dangerous task: pull it off and fans will see you as a perfectionist. Fail and others will assume you’ve run out of ideas. Thankfully it’s the former for Sacramento hip hop, rock act Death Grips, a band whose delivery of music has been almost as un-relentless as their sound. What we’ve got on our soon to be destroyed plates here is a meal worth drooling over. A sonic assault on the senses, Bottomless Pit manages to both repulse with its intentionally gross and manipulative lyrics while treating the listeners to some of the most aggressive performances Death Grips have ever crafted. The standout track, though, without a doubt, is Three Bedrooms In A Good House, a song that cannot be tamed. Full to the brim with some classic MC Ride brutal imagery, “Cyborg swelling pregnant can’t abort”,  the reversed instrumentals are further enhanced by the always brilliant production that is present on every Death Grips release. Displaying the accessibility of The Money Store, the punk influences of Ex Military and the utter craziness of The Powers That B, Death Grips can’t seem to falter on their golden run.

8. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

960

No one can conjure up depth into their songwriting from nowhere and Modern Baseball’s two frontmen, Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens, have had no shortage of the kind of experiences that can lead to an album as personal as Holy Ghost. Since You’re Gonna Miss It All, Ewald has suffered the loss of a family member and Lukens has undergone rehabilitation and both through their lyrics have had to do a fair amount of growing up from their angsty songs about girls and being awkward. An album of two halves but with both just as strong as the other, any fears that Modern Baseball would be incapable of following up on their first two acclaimed records can be put to rest. Modern Baseball won’t let personal issues define them, instead they will use their position to help them develop as people. That’s what makes this record so important and the incredible performances from every member is what makes it such a treat to experience.

7. Touche Amore – Stage Four

touche-amore-stage-four

From opening track Flowers And You, Touche Amore send you on an unrelenting journey through the mind of frontman Jeremy Bolm following the passing of his mother having fought a battle with cancer for many years. It could be easy to fall into a cycle of saying how sad he felt but the unrelenting ferocity and irate delivery that Bolm uses to describe his psyche is an absolute spectacle, especially on Displacement where he sings “she gave me her best, she swore I was her heart, I couldn’t worship the god that let her fall apart”. Skyscraper offers some form of closure and helps to shake up the sound as Touche Amore channel some National elements. The voice clip of Bolm’s mother saying “Hi Jeremy, I just wanted to tell you that just, finally left the hospital. Um, and we’re going to drop off a prescription at CVS so I probably won’t be home when you get there okay? Bye bye” is enough to make the most stone cold of people blubber like a baby. Stage Four shows the way music can be used as a coping mechanism and, just like another album this year, is a perfect example of a record being capable of acting as a fitting send off.

6. PUP – The Dream Is Over

Pup

In the same way that it’s near impossible to find a Californian punk act who don’t sing about drugs, so to is it difficult to talk about PUP’s sophomore album without falling into a cliche that every review has fallen into by addressing this album’s title: after visiting a specialist, frontman Stefan Babcock was bluntly told “the dream is over” due to the fucked up condition his vocal chords were in. While this revelation may have torn the band apart, it wouldn’t be very punk to let this get to them and as a result, The Dream Is Over stands out as one of the most solid rock records of the year.

 As the title of the album would imply, The Dream Is Over is very much about being rock bottom. The self-deprecation that manifests the record is unrelenting and even the titles of some of the tracks like “My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier” helps hammer this home. There’s also songs like “The Coast” that are aware of this and try to learn from it with the lesson from it being that some things can’t be changed and we’re not to blame though the imagery of dead bodies under the ice isn’t any less haunting. In the band’s own words, The Dream Is Over is a “rowdy, noisy clusterfuck” and while it may hark to a low point in their personal lives, this visceral record highlights an act who, health warnings or not, are unstoppable.


5.

gambino-header

No one this year has shaken up their sound as much as Donald Glover has. Going from hip-hop to funk is quite the transfer but one listen after Awaken, My Love, you’ll be thinking Gambino has been doing this for years. The record is a total love letter to not only funk but black music in general with Glover channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix from the get-go with opener Me And Your Mama, hollering over rampant guitars that’ll shake you to your very core. On top of that, there’s the Marvin Gaye influence throughout with some of the most seductive delivery on display here as well as some nice new touches like the vocoder effect used on Redbone that turns Gambino’s voice into an unrecognizable entity.

It’s been such an achievement that George Clinton, one of many influences on this record, is overjoyed with it saying:

When I did hear it, it sounded like a cross between P-Funk and Prince influence. I’m proud that he’s into the funk and glad him and others are bringing some new funk back.

From start to finish, Gambino does enough to make sure the album isn’t just a simple rehash of what has been before. His previous hip-hop efforts may have been divisive amongst critics but Awaken, My Love is one groove that everyone can get down with.

4.

bon-iver-header

An album adorned with cryptic messages both in its songs as well as its artwork, 22, A Million does little to shake off Justin Vernon’s title as being one “of the greatest living artists”. The focus on electro as opposed to the bread and butter acoustic Bon Iver had mastered on their previous records ties into all this and help 22, A Million to feel like even more of a burst of fresh air and evolution. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” is cataclysmic as its very core, constantly erupting with bizarre electronic instrumentals veering into lo-fi waters yet Vernon’s ability to drive the song over this and the audibly loud handclasps is a testament to the man’s vocal ability.

While it seems to be near enough impossible to avoid the cliche comparison,  this move very much echoes the same shift that constant innovators Radiohead made on Kid A which, to be fair, is an album that shares similar themes of anxiety throughout so maybe it is pretty apt to contrast. If For Emma, Forever Ago was a lone heartbroken man making music in a cabin in his forest then 22, A Million is that same man veering further into the trees and shrubs and seeing where the path takes him. 2016 has brought with it an abundance of amazing records but none of them sound quite as alien or amazing as this.

3.

chance-header

“Blessings keep falling on my lap” Chance The Rapper wistfully chimes and he couldn’t put it any better on his first proper foyer into mainstream territory. Acid Rap blew up and got him a shit-load of attention which he hasn’t let go to waste with Coloring Book, a bombastic release that reinforces Chance’s status as one of, if not the most important rapper in hip hop alongside Kendrick Lamar. Coloring Book isn’t a one trick pony though. It’s a layered hip hop gem that manages to deliver a consistent, ever enjoyable sound while never losing its integrity.

Even with some features from the biggest artists in the world right now like the aforementioned Mr. West and Justin Bieber, none of the tracks which they appear on are totally reliant on being cameo pieces. Arguably the best track on Coloring Book, Same Drugs further touches upon this subject by using an allegory to the classic Peter Pan tale to reminisce about the past and question the present. It’s an endearing song that acts as a nice change of tempo, from what can only be described as “bangers”, that solidifies Chance’s future by displaying his versatility.

2. 

bowie-header

When news broke back in January that music icon David Bowie had passed, little did anyone know that it would be one of many horrible bits of news to arrive in 2016. However, despite all the numerous celebrities who sadly passed away, Bowie’s seemed to hurt the most and Blackstar was the ultimate grievance for not only those who loved his work but those who had never given the man a listen. Influenced by some of the oddest artists such as last year’s album of the year To Pimp A Butterfly as well as Death Grips, Blackstar is undoubtedly the best work Bowie has produced this century, exploring genres like jazz with such curiosity and expertise that it could arguably best the same artists managing to inspire one of the most universally recognised artists.  The themes and lyrics that run strife through the seven track running time, especially on Lazarus that seemed to hold more relevance after Bowie’s aforementioned passing. Blackstar is an extraordinary piece of music and art which, much like Bowie himself, will live on forever. This late in to his career, it’s crazy that Bowie can still surprise as much as he does on here. The themes of nihilism and mortality runs strife through the seven track running time, especially on Lazarus that seemed to hold more relevance after Bowie’s aforementioned passing. Blackstar is an extraordinary piece of music and art which, much like Bowie himself, will live on forever.

1. danny-brown-header

“You ain’t heard it like this before. They don’t do it like this no more” projects a warped sounding Danny Brown on the insanity fuelled When It Rain and he isn’t wrong by any stretch of the imagination. The Detroit rapper has consistently pushed the boundaries of his genre and, much like other hip hop heavyweights such as Kendrick Lamar, innovated by delivering music that is so unusual yet feels perfectly normal by Brown’s standards. Ever since his sophomore album XXX, no offense to his debut The Hybrid, Brown has managed to amalgamate his own quirky and vibrant vocal delivery along with witty lyricism to be, arguably, the greatest in his respective genre.

Brown’s work has no doubt been molded by this Detroit upbringing however Atrocity Exhibition’s DNA consists of some major influences, not least being J.G Ballard’s compilation of novels that shares the same name. Ballard’s work is noted not only for its unusual structure but also what stories it includes with such titles being “Plans for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy” and “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan”.When addressing the controversy surrounding his novels, Ballard claimed that “it was an attempt for me to make sense of that tragic event.” With this LP, it seems like Brown too is trying to do the same, creating content to better understand the tragedy that he’s faced and conceptualize it.

Every inch of this record has been painstakingly crafted in a way to immortalize Brown’s work in the highest quality possible. Although he may bring in some artists along for the ride, Atrocity Exhibition is a one man show where Brown is the eyes and ears for the listener: and with the amount of stuff he’s on, that’s as scary as it is enthralling.


Thanks for reading the annual blinkclyro.com best albums list. First of all, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed this year, especially Will Albin-Clark (@peachishwill) who not only designed the header image for this post but the top 5 album designs which all look stunning. 2017 looks set to be even bigger and better: you can be sure that blinkclyro.com will be here to keep you up to date on all the quality titles bound to drop as well as the rotten ones to avoid.

Big love, Liam x


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